Profiles in Outsider Music – Klaus Nomi

Klaus Nomi (born Klaus Sperber) was a war child born in Immenstadt, Bavaria in 1944. His early life was indeed a cabaret. In the 1960s, Klaus worked as an usher at the Deutsche Oper in West Berlin where he sang for the other ushers and maintenance crew on stage in front of the fire curtain after performances. He also sang opera arias at the Berlin gay discothèque Kleist Casino.[4

He migrated to New York in the early 70’s and maintained body and soul as a pastry chef. His love of singing and opera was encoded in his DNA. He retained a voice coach while living in New York even though he had no particular plan or prospects. He prowled the gay nightspots in the East Village and rubbed shoulders with a rogues gallery of wannabe and soon-to-be celebrities of the emerging new wave of Punk.

Klaus Nomi was an outsider icon for the ages. He brought his love of opera and new music to New York as Glam was on the wane and Punk was entering its first trimester. David Bowie inhabited the role of extraterrestrial artiste and gay icon to perfection. But it was a construct soon abandoned. Klaus Nomi was the real deal. He was never of this world or of his time. Outsider musicians often inhabit the nether region between inspired ineptitude and fractured genius; Nomi’s uncommon musicality and otherworldly aspect shattered even those loose parameters.

Klaus was merely a bit player in the NY arts community until he hooked up with the silly and lighthearted “New Wave Vaudeville” review. Most contributors possessed far more enthusiasm and audacity than talent. Enter Klaus Nomi in full makeup and spacesuit. Armed with his formidable contra-tenor and falsetto voice, he stunned the audience into silence with a zero context version of “Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix” (“My heart opens to your voice”) from Camille Saint-Saëns‘ opera Samson et Dalila. He then robotically receded to the rear of the stage and disappeared into a cloud of dry ice, white noise and hysterical adulation. A true extraterrestrial with a voice from heaven to match. A star was born.

Acolytes gathered around him, a band was formed, writers were commissioned, and gigs piled up. Such was his celebrity that a typical Nomi gig would see New Yorkers lining up around the block. Local TV News further heightened his profile. However, his Manhattan cache gave lie to the famous Sinatra lyric from New York, New York; “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere”. Attempts to expand his audience beyond the confines of the Big Apple failed to move the needle. Then David Bowie came…

Bowie had a notoriously wide antennae when it came to new developments in art, fashion and music. The erstwhile starman caught wind of Nomi and invited him to sing backups for three songs on SNL for a national TV audience. The gig changed Nomi’s life overnight.

Nomi took note of the oversized, cartoonish tuxedo Bowie wore that night and had one custom designed for his stage act. It became his trademark along with a receding hairline that he repurposed into an exaggerated widow’s peak. An RCA recording contract soon followed as did label sponsored music videos that were awash with noir, alien mystique. A second album was recorded, and a European tour was in the works. All systems were go and the booster rockets were ready to engage. At this point, Nomi de-materialized, dying from AIDS in the year 1983 at the age of 39.

Nomi was among the first in the art community to fall from HIV/AIDS. He was afflicted so early in the epidemic, that he didn’t even know what malady he was suffering from until TV news detailed the symptoms of the new “gay plague”; sadly Nomi checked all the boxes. There was not yet a firm conclusion on how it was transmitted. As a consequence of the fear and ignorance associated with the new disease, Nomi died in hospital alone, abandoned by terrified friends who (today) would have gathered to share love, hugs and support.

Klaus Nomi streaked across the sky in the blink of an eye, and the dramatic trajectory he enjoyed in his short, sweet life can only be described as…operatic.

Jandek releases new CD – Dublin Friday

Authored by Dale Nickey:

More Jandek ?  >>> Houston ThursBrussels Sat / St. Louis Fri


JANDEK – Dublin Friday (CD)

Corwood Industries (0820)


Word salad surgery…

Corwood Industries has just released Dublin Friday – a live acoustic set of guitar/vocal pieces, I have given up trying to read logic into Jandek’s release schedule. This performance dates back to June 11, 2008. The venue is The Douglas Hyde Gallery in Dublin Ireland. As of late, Corwood’s releases tend to hopscotch back and forth in time without any explanation or pattern.

Dublin Friday seems a companion work to Houston Saturday (2011), which employed the same solo acoustic format. Indeed, Corwood included a DVD version of the Houston performance (along with Dublin Friday) in its latest care package to this reviewer, so it’s clear they see the linkage as well. However, where Houston Saturday (2011) was a song cycle totally in thrall to lust, love and human connection, Dublin Friday is totally absent any sentimentality, romance or emotion. If it were a book, I would describe it as an eight chapter novella set in a Kafkaesque parallel universe of the mind. Or perhaps, Finnegan’s Wake on Ambien.

On Dublin Friday, It’s tough to gauge how much of the lyric content is composed or extemporized. It’s apparent The Representative has stockpile of phrases and images preloaded – while at the same time – his delivery suggests a cut and paste methodology. Evocative phrases are delivered in random order with no consideration to narrative. There are times you can hear Jandek trying to stay a step ahead of himself, reshuffling his mental deck on the fly. The songs on Dublin Friday (as do many of Jandek’s compositions) occupy the nether region between automatic writing and conventional song craft. At this performance, Jandek’s internal clock set set between seven and nine minutes per piece. Only Part Seven deviates from this time frame, coming in at 5:41.

The Representative of Corwood Industries has dispensed with song titles for this release. Instead, we get eight selections titled “Part One”, “Part Two”…etc. However, the eight selections scan like segmented parts of a conceptual whole.

That being said, Dublin Friday is a strong and involving set. Jandek ‘the man’ keeps reviewers at arms distance, so the intent and motivation behind this set of non-stop, non-sequiturs will forever be open to conjecture.


What follows is a track-by-track analysis of the songs found on Dublin Friday:

Part One – A protracted and meandering guitar introduction paints a desolate musical landscape. What follows is a clutch of lyric snippets that stop and start maddeningly. Short unfinished phrases cut and pasted together. Example: “You see the general terms basking in the gentle hues. To make things clear, he said nothing.”

Part Two – A delicate, pin-prick guitar intro precedes more florid word play. Part Two describes abandoned journeys and thoughts inadequately expressed. Jandek seems trapped in some kind of emotional stasis. The Reps guitar work is active and possesses a harmonic logic that reveals itself only to those willing to invest in repeated listens. Sample lyric: “He said nothing enthralled by demeanor, ravished by the movement of hands…”

Part Three – This selection promises something more in the realm of a structured narrative. But, that’s just a come-on. Musically; The Rep is exploring richer, darker tones than he did in Part Two. However, no threads are maintained. Example: “Tell me I’m not mistaken by the holocaust of vision, the break-up of a sentence. It’s only that…I mean. It’s all so obvious.” Oh, is it?

Part Four – Some recognizable harmonic motifs threaten to emerge throughout this piece but are ultimately stillborn. After some introductory improvisation, the artist finally intones, “The cacophony of gestures, flew about like secret symbols, or martial arts chopping phrases, into bits of a conundrum.” The guitar work throughout Dublin Friday is oddly appealing and involving. Later in the piece, The Representative expresses his desire for a ‘box of surprises’. The Representative demonstrates a command of subtle dynamics throughout the piece. Nice ritard ending.

Part Five – Part Five starts off with some clacky single string work, Jandek continues to toss his existential word salad… “Imbued with his blustery bellow, and his promenade of gestures like a floating benevolent cloud that captures your imagination when you’ve nothing to do.” A fairly symmetrical song structure ultimately reveals itself as the vocal verses alternate with guitar breaks that further explores the wild, interval leaps in the songs intro. So far each piece seems to have its own musical identity. However lyrically, entropy and confusion still reign supreme; or to quote The Representative, “To interrupt this madness would be catastrophic”.

Part Six – At this juncture, Jandek’s limited harmonic palette begins to reveal itself. However, despite the musical groping and meandering, interesting motifs continue poke their head out into the light, then wither and recede just as quickly as they came. Instrumentally, this piece less busy and employs descending lines in lieu of the nihilistic noodling of the previous piece. Again, the landscape is strewn with faceless people, saying nothing and revealing nothing. The narrator’s use of evocative phraseology only succeeds in plunging the listener further into the dark.

Part Seven – A guitar intro mines the lower registers of the instrument. “You simply must understand. Let’s begin where it all started. All is agreed. I will not repeat. The conviction pierced fleshly barriers of sound.” Elsewhere: “He said nothing, and they acted like he was saving the world”. As with all the selections on this CD, the song’s conclusion is met with pregnant silence followed by sustained, reverential applause.

Part Eight – On this, the final song, Jandek’s amps up the adrenaline, strums a little harder and gets a tad more bellicose. Unidentified people are saying nothing. In fact, this entire eight part odyssey could well be summarized by the phrase. “My heart is shaken by this witness, he said nothing.”

Upon first hearing, Dublin Friday exhibits the familiar traits that have denied Jandek a mass audience for decades. The cold, brackish exterior will forever scare off the casual listener.

It makes sense that music journalists are the most fervent ambassadors of his work. We are forced to pro-actively listen to this music as part of our job, and it’s in these requisite, repeat listens that Jandek music begins to reveal its layers. Despite first impressions, this is not throwaway bullshit. Neither is it pop craft. It’s something different; and I’m relieved to say, it’s as honest and purposeful as any music currently being created. We can come along for the ride or not. Jandek will never thank you for coming. He plays, and we either show up or stay home. The Representative is one of the few musical artists who understands art shouldn’t give a shit and it doesn’t apologize. The muse just issues forth its nectar or poison from its pustule or pod when it no longer can be contained. A work such as Dublin Friday allows us to witness the act of creation with without filters. It’s not entertainment. It’s pure spectacle.








JANDEK – “Los Angeles Saturday” (DVD Review)

Authored by Dale Nickey:

DVD Cover

Jandek – “Los Angeles Saturday” (DVD)

Corwood Industries (0819)


Jandek’s Hollywood Premier… 

Jandek has just released his latest work “Los Angeles Saturday”, a DVD of his first Los Angeles performance on May 24, 2014. A special performance to me personally, as I was there to witness the event. Press credentials allowed me to crouch at the corner of the stage three feet away from The Representative of Corwood Industries. I was in closer physical proximity to the man than anybody else in attendance.

So, I have a unique perspective from which to judge the merits of the DVD presentation. It was pro shot with one center camera, alternating with shots originating from the right front corner of the stage. The same area I happened to be shooting stills and video footage of my own. Which is to say, many of the side angle shots reveal the exact view that I had at the corner of the stage.

What this DVD strains to capture is the vibe. That unquantifiable ambiance informed by smell, temperature, humidity, lighting, chatter and ingested substances. I suspect all of Jandek’s live DVD’s are absent this dimension, as are most filmed performances of live music.

Corwood Industries allowed me to interview band members but not The Representive of Corwood Industries himself; and it was in my interview with band member Kris Bernard that I discovered the musicians contracted for this gig (Kris Bernard and Emily Curren) had never played on stage before. Moreover, they had never played musical instruments of any kind before their induction into the ensemble. This fact was fascinating and revealing. But, a fact that never would have seen the light of day had your intrepid reporter not investigated. My interview with Kris Bernard revealed how Jandek transcends (or bypasses) the conventions of human music making. Moreover, the music this night sounded just as “Jandekian” as music performed by seasoned musicians on other records and performances.

So here, I republish my original impressions of the concert for your consideration. The inside information revealed here may (in part) contribute to your experience viewing the DVD. Included is a transcript of my phone interview with band member, Kris Bernard.


Jandek Live at The Echo – Los Angeles (May 24, 2014)

Imagine you find yourself in the ultimate dystopian incarnation of Los Angeles. Blade Runner come to life. A societal structure beyond the control of those who inhabit it. A basic social infrastructure still exits, although it’s unraveling daily. You still have paper currency, markets to buy food and goods, and if you travel to the darker, stranger recesses of the city, Art. Someplace, somewhere in a disintegrating megalopolis of 10 million, a band plays in a dank, dark temple of song, conjoined in the sacred audience/performer covenant. However, what band is this? And, what kind of music would they be playing?

Those were the pictures my mind painted while observing the dark and intense set by Jandek on a balmy Los Angeles Saturday. The Representative of Corwood Industries has not yet exhausted of his bag of tricks. He gifted us with a desperately energetic band of three women which produced a joyful noise laced with estrogen and innocence at ear splitting volume. The dark stage and club ambiance contributed to the illusion of being part of a very exclusive secret society. It was a thing to behold.

After the original performance venue, “The Church On York” lost its permit, The Jandek performance went off as scheduled at the The Echoplex. The club was jammed with several hundred Jandekophiles. And, if my informal straw poll is accurate, the demographic of the typical Angeleno Jandek enthusiast skews decidedly towards anglo, polite, attractive, educated late-20’s to early 30’s Alternative music fans. Good demo for Jandek, bad news for the barkeep, who saw precious little activity at the watering hole. Of course, the seven dollar draft beers might have been a deterrent as well.

The common topic of pre-show conversation revolved around which Jandek would show up. Would he perform solo? Would he go ambient for a two hour stretch? Or, would he improvise on electric guitar atonally as he did on the live album “Houston Saturday”? To say there was a pre-gig buzz, would be an understatement. History was about to be made, if only for a cult of a few hundred.

Jandek rewarded us with a generous sampler of his various musical personalities. The big surprise was the appearance of lead singer/spoken word artist Sheila Smith. She was pretty much group spokesperson and focal point while The Representative hopscotched from instrument to instrument. However, the show opened with The Artist sitting on a stool at the front the stage armed with his acoustic guitar and his voice. No “Hello Los Angeles!” was offered by the artist or desired by the audience. In fact the club was dead silent while the artist fiddled interminably with a plastic bag of ‘who knows what’ to retrieve a suitable guitar pick. I saw Andres Segovia perform at the Dorothy Chandler pavilion in the seventies. That crowd was unruly by comparison. This portion of the show consisted of prepared and composed acoustic songs, “Whiling the Night Away” and “Hallway”. Both were effective and very well received.


Jandek then put down the guitar and his charismatic female ensemble took over the stage. He grabbed the microphone and proceeded to engage in an improvised spoken word smack down with front lady Sheila Smith. The piece will probably end up with the title “I Got It” because the exchange revolved around who had what and why, although it was never specifically revealed what “it” precisely was. Smith played the role of “Da Rep’s” lust interest with sass and brio. Many in the audience wondered if the hormone drenched stagecraft on display was psycho-drama or the real deal. The Representative himself, was animated and engaged. He then strapped on a Fender Precision bass and more interplay with Smith ensued. This portion of the show was clearly performed without a net or prepared music. Jandek’s bass playing was inspired, energetic, and filled the room with his unique, harmonically ambiguous presence.


Clearly, The Representative was relishing his role as The Zen Master of chaotic convergence. The third act of the set saw the artist sit behind the drum kit. The ensemble out front jammed and free associated while the man himself proved a capable –albeit idiosyncratic -skin beater.

The fourth and last act saw our hero strap on an electric guitar and lead his ensemble in a classic Jandekian demolition of all discernable melodic or harmonic structures. Then, too soon, it was over and the man in black left the stage and disappeared into the night. An encore was desired and called for, but we all knew The Representative would not engage in such a hackneyed Rock and Roll convention.




After the concert, I had the opportunity to speak with multi-instrumentalist Kris Bernard. She was a member of Jandek’s ad-hoc ensemble convened exclusively for the L.A. performance. She played bass and drums. Her back story is nearly as compelling as the performance itself. Kris had never performed on stage before May 24, 2014, and even more remarkable, had no prior musical training or experience on any instrument at the time of her induction into the group.


Dale Nickey (DN): Before the gig, were you familiar with Jandek’s music?

Kris Bernard (KB): “I was, I have a couple of his records. How all this came to pass is, I played one of the records for my boyfriend. He basically had a reaction that I thought was funny, so I tweeted that.”

(DN): What was the tweet?

(KB): ‘I played a Jandek record for my boyfriend, he immediately hated it, mid-way through he said he wasn’t sure about it, and then by the end of side one he loved it.’ So I tweeted that”

 (DN): Which record was it?

(KB) “The Living End”

 (DN): How were you contacted for the gig?

(KB): “I was contacted on twitter by Sheila. She told me Jandek was going to be playing in L.A. I told her I was definitely going. Then, she asked me if I had any musical experience, and I said no. So I thought she wanted to form a band, not realizing she had any association with Jandek. I asked her where she lived in L.A., and she told me she lived in Houston. I still didn’t know what was happening. At a certain point, she told me she was going to form a band to play the same night as Jandek. I thought this was going to be an opening band. I didn’t know it was going to be Jandek.”

(DN): Had you ever had any musical experience before you got up onstage with Jandek?

(KB) “No. Well actually as soon as I found out about the show. I have a friend who gives music lessons, so I got three hours with him, with a guitar, a bass and on drums. But it was a very limited amount. And, I basically forgot everything since a month ago.”

 (DN) Remarkable, I would not have known you had zero experience as a musician.

(KB) “That’s good.”

 (DN) When you told Corwood that you had no musical experience, it didn’t matter?

(KB) “I think that was their preference.”

(DN): What do you do?

(KB) “I used to do web design, and now I’m project manager at a tech company.”

 (DN): As far as preparation, was there any rehearsal at all?

(KB): “No. I had anticipated there would be. We met at The Echo at 2:00 p.m. We waited a long time for the sound guys to get set up. Finally the sound guy went like, ‘do you guys want to try some of your instruments?’, At that point The Representative from Corwood said, ‘yeah, why not?’ Like it hadn’t been thought of before, But, because the sound guy suggested it, they’re like ‘OK, sure let’s do that’. So I picked up the electric violin and I just kinda started hacking away at that. And it sounded really rough. But that (sound-check) was basically the only thing we had other than a prepared set list which was not about songs, but just, ‘at this point you’ll work on this instrument, and at this point you’ll work on that one.’

(DN): No keys or riffs or anything like that?

(KB) “No, not at all (laughs).”

(DN): You mentioned your boyfriend, was he in the band at all?

(KB) “Yes Marcus Savino, he’s the one who played at the end.”

(DN): As regards free form music, it takes a certain fearlessness to stare down 300 people packed into a club. A lot of trained musicians won’t do it. Was there apprehension? Did you have to slam down a couple of Tequilas?

(KB): “Well, I definitely had some Tequila. But, I think, for me I was most comfortable on the drums. That was during the second set I played two songs on the drums. That was definitely my favorite part. At the third and fourth set, I was on bass. And the third set I was supposed to do some improv vocals and I don’t think I got anything out. So that was the least comfortable part for me.”

(DN): I don’t want to get tabloid, but with Sheila onstage, there was a lot of sexual energy or interplay with The Representative. Was that shtick, or was there something going on?

(KB): “I don’t know the workings of their relationship.”

 (DN): So you never met Sheila before the gig?

(KB) “No. Nor had I ever met Emily (Emily Curran)”

 (DN): Do you think you’ll ever meet Jandek again?

(KB): “I would be surprised. Although I am from Texas. And so, I think I’ll be in Houston sometime this year. I’ll definitely try to reach out, but I don’t know if it will result in anything.”

(DN): I want to get to the soul of the man. But I’m as interested as anybody else in preserving the mystique. Did he introduce himself to you as anybody?

(KB): “No. He didn’t actually introduce himself at all. At the point where there were introductions, he didn’t say a name at all. He just said hi. He was so nice. From what I’ve read from other press, he doesn’t refer to himself as Jandek at all, but instead, as The Representative. But he did not call himself that either.”

 (DN): I’ve heard he is well spoken.

(KB): “Yes.”

(DN): After the gig did you toast each other or say ‘Nice Job’ or anything?

(KB): “Yeah, when it was just the five of us up in the green room, the Representative seemed to be really pleased with it. He said it was one of the best shows.”

(DN) Did anyone mention that this show would be released on CD or DVD? Was it filmed?

(KB) “Yeah it was. So I think it will be released. That’s the sense I got.”

(DN): Now that this has happened, do you have any plans to pursue music?

(KB): “You know it’s funny, Marcus and I are together so I live with a drum set, but I’ve never played it ever. But it’s in my basement. I had so much fun with the drums, I think I’m gonna continue to play with it.”


The interview was winding down. Kris Bernard’s story was compelling. However, my desire to get inside the soul of the man was left unrequited. Then, before we rung off, Kris turned the tables and asked me a question……


(KB): “Can I tell you something he said before the show that I will probably have with me for the rest of my life?”

(DN): Absolutely.

(KB): “One thing the representative said to all of us was…‘there are no mistakes, if you think you made a mistake, go further into that mistake, and then it’s not a mistake.’

Click here to visit Corwood>>>>

Photos by DN






Jandek on DVD – Houston Thursday

Authored by Dale Nickey:


 JANDEK “Houston Thursday”

Corwood Industries (0818)

Filmed live at Mango’s in Houston Texas – July 12, 2012

Prepare to get punked….

“Houston Thursday” sees The Representative of Corwood Industries (aka Jandek) getting down to his industrial-punk roots. In stark contrast to Jandek’s recent trend towards extended compositions; “Houston Thursday” is a taut, no nonsense sprint through 16 songs. The majority of the numbers clock in at under three minutes with only the final track (Glass Boxes) breaking the four minute mark at a tolerable 09:37.

Don not attempt to adjust your screen at the start of this DVD. The opening image is an indistinct (but intentional) blur that had me fiddling with my remote. However, once we gain admittance to the venue, the videography reveals itself to be creative and mood appropriate. Front woman Sheila Smith is the visual focal point of this performance. Sporting a pageboy hairstyle that is reminiscent of Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction; Smith shouts out verse over thick slabs of Guitar, Bass and Drums. The Representative of Corwood Industries confines himself to electric guitar for the entire set. His fully bearded face is seldom seen. Mostly, we get shots of the man from the waist down or close ups of his hands playing the guitar.

In keeping with the fast and furious spirit of “Houston Thursday”, here is a brisk wind sprint through the track list:

My Letters – DVD opens with artsy fartsy camera work set against a staccato eighth note groove. Droning metal mayhem sets the pace for the remainder of the set. Opening missive, “You don’t understand my voice”.

Emergency – Old school thrash quickie for the A.D.D. sufferer. The homer crowd is clearly into it and cheers lustily after each number. Smith advises, “You should learn how to ride a bike”.

Your Designs – Concise little ditty that answers the musical question, ‘who gives a shit?’ Key lyrics, “I don’t want to know your designs, I don’t want to know your thoughts, I don’t want to have a clue about you. Not knowing is better… You confuse me, you confuse everyone…” Well done.

Dallas Bitches – Nice razor wire guitar work from The Representative in support of Sheila Smith’s rant about…well…Dallas Bitches.

On The Metro – Prickly echoed guitar squall set to a nice bass hook and syncopated drum work. Sheila likes cars about as much as she does Dallas Bitches.

Walk Talk Leave – Sheila looks amazing. But, she’s pissed because people are jackoffs. “They exist to resist”. They are also crappy listeners; because apparently, they have water in their ears.

Asked For A Refund – One of the longer entries at 3:20, The Rep kicks things off with a space needle guitar intro. Then Sheila testifies, “They cut me open and I did not bleed…they sewed me back up”. Sheila’s desire for a refund remains unrequited.

Can’t Hear You – More auditory problems ensue as Sheila laments “I can’t hear you, even while I am listening”. One of the few selections on “Houston Thursday” that courts dispensability. Nice bass line though. The Representative finally makes his verbal presence felt with two well timed grunts.

Floor – Throughout “Houston Thursday” The Representative of Corwood Industries (aka Jandek) mixes in liberal amounts of echo to pleasing effect. Moreover, his guitar work boasts an atonal cogency that is eye opening. Part way through “Floor”, the bassist and drummer ‘floor it’ unexpectedly and drive the tune into a nice concrete wall ending.

Chit Chat – Sheila regains control of the stage and eloquently communicates her inability to communicate. The Representative kills it on guitar. One of the best tracks on the DVD. Really could have gone on a bit longer.

Sit On Your Feet – Speed metal drumming in support of The Representative. Smith sits at the feet of The Representative in another paean to ineloquence.

Not Think – Nice jazzmeat drum solo starts things up as The Representative does some higher register lead guitar work suitable for a slasher flick, then dives down to some thick, lower register improvisation that brings to mind some of Robert Fripp’s more anarchic moments.

Books That I Read – Lo tech/high concept camera angle brings us into the audience for the first time. Guitar, Bass and Drums come at each other from all directions – fists flying – until a sudden breakdown ends the piece. Impressive.

Beholden To You – Still viewing from the audience, the band slams in and we find Sheila (stage right) kvetching about being too short for the microphone. The Representative guides the way with a wall of red noise, then switches gears to some nuanced lead work and back again.

People Will Talk – Dumb as dirt drumbeat starts in support of Jandek’s wall of grunge. Close ups of Sheila evoke the image of a pretty little Goth princess who could murder you in your sleep after giving you the best sex of your life.

Galveston – Sheila Smith scores more face time and the camera clearly loves her. Key lyrics, “She’s in charge, she’s responsible, she takes care of us all. We love her, but we don’t know her.” And, “I moved to Houston after the flood.” Sheila also states unequivocally that she doesn’t believe in renters insurance. Jimmy Webb run for your life.

Glass Boxes – Weirdest thing, my reliable old hi-fi receiver packed up and took a shit right before this track commenced. Spooky. Anyway, viewing this without sound gave me an appreciation for the videography which appears to be a single camera shoot. The vibe of the music is captured and augmented by creative use of angles, movement and light (or) lack thereof. Textbook example of DIY Punk videography – if there is such a thing. Musically, “Glass Boxes” is a slow burn monologue that finds band and Sheila playing off each other. Smith describes a visit to an art exhibit where the artists are housed in glass boxes. Armed only with a pamphlet and instructions to keep smiling, the narrator tries to make sense of it all without much success. After some initial musical fireworks, the flame of the song flickers and slowly extinguishes itself courtesy of a delicate drum beat fade out. Show’s over.

Houston is Jandek’s hometown. It makes sense that he would do some of his best work on his home turf. “Houston Thursday” is a refreshing change-up from Jandek’s supersized offerings in recent years. Fans of L.A. speed-punk merchants – The Minutemen and noise-pop purveyors Beast of Beast will find comfort here. This DVD also reveals Sheila Smith to be a key player in Jandek’s late period renaissance. Among the many live DVD concert performances that inhabit The Corwood Industries catalog, “Houston Thursday” stands as one of the best.


To visit the Corwood Industries catalog click >>


Jandek on DVD – “Brussels Saturday” (Review)

Authored by Dale Nickey:


Brussels Saturday

Corwood Industries (0817)

Filmed live at Ancienne Belgique – Brussels Belgium 4/19/14

Latest release from ‘The King of The Outsiders’

Musical artist Jandek has just put out “Brussels Saturday”; a live concert DVD that represents his ninety-third official release (counting LP’s, Audio CD’s and DVD’s). Yes you heard me, ninety-third. Many of his releases are multi-disc sets; all of which contain original material not reprised on other releases. They are manufactured and released by Jandek’s company Corwood Industries based in Houston Texas.  The only address is a P.O. Box number that has remained the same from 1978 to the present day.

If you find yourself rubbing your brow muttering…Huh?…Wha?… Let me explain.

Jandek slithered into the consciousness of the Rock music press in 1978 with the release of “Ready for The House”; an LP containing music that couldn’t be adequately described or reviewed due to its primitive and abstract qualities. The album contained absolutely no information about the artist, the music, or the locale and date of the recording. On a typical Jandek release you got nothing but a grainy, black and white cover photo (with no graphics) and a back cover listing only the album and song titles. The music was delta blues from a distant, alternate galaxy. A brittle – seemingly out of tune – acoustic guitar was strummed haphazardly, supporting equally tuneless meandering vocals. I’ve previously described the production quality as sounding like a field recording from a segregation unit in some remote mental health facility in rural Pennsylvania.

Jandek would go on to pursue this identical template for the next nine (or so) albums. Jandek’s records could be bought through mail order only. Music Journalists were entranced by his unwillingness to grant interviews or divulge personal information. In a day before the internet, the true identity of Jandek was subject to wild speculation and urban legend. One particularly outlandish theory held that Jandek was the mentally challenged child of a loving and generous Texas oil baron who wished to indulge his progeny’s love for music. A theory since debunked.  A feature film documentary about the man “Jandek on Corwood” was released in 2003. It only succeeded in raising more questions than it answered.

Similar to his records, The Corwood Industries catalog was a stark, black and white affair that only listed titles and catalog numbers. No artwork, bio, or explanations of content were offered. It had all the charm of a police rap sheet.  However, the prices were reasonable and Corwood Industries even picked up the shipping tab. It’s only been in the last two years that Corwood Industries has stepped into the new century, adding an email address, buy-buttons and album art to its page.

Click to visit Corwood >>>>>>

The pace of Jandek’s evolution has been glacial but continuous. His second period in the 80’s and 90’s, saw collaborations with other (uncredited) musicians and experimentation with electric instrumentation and more refined audio quality. Jandek then went through a harrowing three album acapella period. 2004 marked his ‘modern period’ when he shocked the world by performing live for the first time. In 2013 he issued a nine CD set of quasi-classical piano nocturnes “The Song of Morgan”.  He has since granted a magazine interview and continues to put out concert DVD’s that empirically document the actual existence of the man we know as Jandek, but who never refers to himself as Jandek. He only acknowledges himself as “The Representative of Corwood Industries”. Our current view of Jandek is that of a well-spoken, black clad, urban troubadour of the pre-apocalypse.

So with all that, we now have “Brussels Saturday”. Jandek’s new release is an attractively staged and filmed DVD document of his concert in Brussels Belgium on April 19, 2014.

Lead track “In my Mind” opens with the stage framed in black, bathed in blue Indigo lighting and populated with companion and co-conspirator Sheila Smith on fender bass and brunette beauty Annelies Van Dinter on keyboards and vocals. The opener finds Van Dinter reading from a music stand which (I assume) contains lyrics penned by The Representative of Corwood industries. The man himself is on drums, punctuating the mood with mallet fills and cymbal splashes.  The music is meditative, light on dissonance and heavy on atmosphere. Van Dinter sings in a mopey, dusky voice that eschews arty pretention and immediately brings to mind “Nancy Sings” – the stunning album cut from Jandek’s “Chair Beside A Window” (1982). We’re reminded of the artistry and nuance imbedded in Jandek’s work when he is moved to outsource singing duties to a more conventional practitioner.  Clocking in at 9:07, “In My Mind” is a suitable opener that doesn’t overstay its welcome.

“Friday Morning” clocks in at an imposing 37:20 and finds the trio playing musical chairs with the instruments. Jandek mans the keys, Sheila is on drums and Van Dinter moves to bass. After some tentative noodling, Jandek settles into a slow walking bass and delicate right hand improv that could have been lifted straight off his monolithic 9 CD album “The Song of Morgan”. A few minutes in, Jandek introduces some softly uttered spoken word. The girls seem content to contribute only understated percussion and droning bass. The camera work is likewise understated and unfussy; and seems a two shot enterprise. As the piece progresses it is reminiscent of Jandek’s stream of consciousness marathon, “Athens Saturday” from a few years back. Van Dinter bass work is intuitive and inventive given the restraints of the piece. Annelies Van Dinter is a real find and one wonders if she’s a local artist contracted for one gig, or will occupy a recurring role in the Jandek saga.  The meditative mood continues with dissonant, abstract note clusters from Jandek at the keys, the harbinger of a musical storm soon to come.

Jandek lyrically returns the themes of the ocean and water quite often. He is constantly drifting, questioning, professing love and his need for a reciprocity of emotions. Sometimes his voice maintains a soft, keening monotone while at other times it’s a plaintive howl of uncertainty and frustration.

On “Phantom Touches” Jandek mines familiar territory. Sheila grabs the mic and The Representative grabs a Fender Stratocaster. What follows is a dissonant, brackish and discomforting guitar improvisation with Van Dinter revealing herself to be as expert and inventive on drums as she is on keys and bass. The absence of bass guitar is hardly noticeable.

On “Maybe You’ve Died” Smith’s spoken word rant is obviously directed at Jandek. She confronts him with his own mortality. After some preemptive dancing and writhing she admonishes her man for not returning calls, or responding immediately to her texts, causing her to exclaim, “you might have died!” and further causing her to wonder, “what if you died, would the morgue call me?”.  Jandek will turn seventy in October.

Closing piece, “The Blue Sky” is a gorgeous conclusion to the set. Smith carries the piece with some spooky and transcendent piano work that’s evocative of Ray Manzarek on Angel Dust; Jandek grabs the mic and a lyric sheet, his body twisting and hunched over in the rapturous, psychic anguish of a deep, life concluding love. Van Dinter contributes understated acoustic guitar. On “The Blue Sky”, Jandek is delivering high-octane emotive art, and seems transported to another place entirely.

So there we have it, Jandek’s latest sojourn into the outer limits of sight and sound. If Jandek is sound weaving the emperor’s latest line of fashion, it is a profound and inventive illusion that he has maintained for thirty-seven years. The records continue to issue forth, and concerts continue to sell out. We now know who Jandek is. But, two questions stubbornly remain unanswered. Why? And, the far more important and foreboding…How long?

Lost and Found – Lene Lovich (The Mata Hari of Rock)


Authored by Dale Nickey:

Britain in the late 70’s was the place to be if you were a strong, creative and unusual woman artist. 1977 gifted the world with Kate Bush, 1978 brought us Chrissie Hynde. Finally in 1979, a braided, shrieking, East-Euro dervish of a woman kicked the door off its hinges and twirled into our consciousness like some transgender, Rock and Roll incarnation of the Tasmanian Devil. Her name was Lene Lovich.

Please think of Lene (pronounced lay-nah) next time you watch Lady Ga GaCindi Lauper, Dale Bozzio or Bjork. Lene Lovich was unusual before unusual became the new normal. She will always carry around the inaccurate tag of New Wave ingénue. But that’s like saying Jimi Hendrix played rock and roll. Yeah he did, but that’s just part of the story.

Heading into the second half of the seventies decade, the debris of 60’s counterculture was still smoking and smoldering. Though Britain was undergoing the upheaval of punk, in America it was still a boutique industry. And, though gender roles were starting to change, women were still expected to occupy a certain place in the music landscape. Joni Mitchell sold a lot of records when she wore jeans and crinoline and sang about being, “strung out on another man”. However, when she jazzed things up and became more of a ball buster, her sales dipped. Emmylou Harris, Carol King, Karen Carpenter……the list goes on; long hair, jeans and “just touch my cheek before you leave”. Glitz? Glamour? That was selling out to the man. Plastic soul. Even strong, intelligent, ‘fuck you’ women artists had to toe a certain line and content themselves with being “the chick singer” in a successful band (Example: Grace Slick, Stevie Nicks). Black music you ask? It was Disco or die.

One could argue that Lene Lovich was the first commercially successful Outsider woman artist. If you check out her backstory, you’ll find that being different and unique was Lene’s only available option and not a jaded construct.


Lili-Marlene Premilovich was born in Detroit,  March 30.1949 to a Yugoslavian father and an English mother. It was an unpleasant and intolerant urban environment for someone of Lene’s European sensibilities.  Lene described herself as the “Wednesday Adams” of the school she went to. Clearly, her Outsider roots formed early.

Reprieve came in the form of a move to Britain with her mother when Lovich was age 13. Even though Lene ended up in Hull (arguably ‘the Detroit’ of Britain), young Lene flowered in a way she would never have done in America. She found her muse by the same method many seminal British artists did; she attended art school. She studied drama, sculpture and learned to play the saxophone. She worked as an Oriental dancer, a Go Go girl, a voice over artist, lyricist-for-hire and busked the London underground. She absorbed many diverse influences and her drive to realize her musical vision was relentless. The fact that she was pushing 30 by the time she signed to Stiff Records (1978) was probably a positive thing. When Lene finally did hit big, she was a mature woman who knew who she was and what she wanted. Moreover, the themes of independence and self-determination would become lyrical cornerstones of her art.


Lene Lovich was that rarest of all animals, a virtuoso with no formal musical training. Lovich developed her vocal technique by making sounds and noises on her walks to school; testing her range to see how high she could go, and then dipping down and see how low her voice could go. She was extreme and fit in perfectly with the Punk/New Wave zeitgeist that thirsted for all things strange and thrilling. She could swagger down low on a verse and then kick it into the stratosphere on a dime with death defying shrieks and screams in the chorus. However, her excesses were always musical. Listen to “Bird Song” (on the album Flex). It affects me physically every time I hear it. Sometimes it chills the spine; sometimes it brings tears to my eyes. But it’s not background music for other pursuits.

Lene Lovich (along with Bush and Hynde) were girls of a different feather. All the aforementioned were hot, strong and under the thumb of no man or record label; nor did they need to ghettoize their art as women’s music. Lene Lovich is still with us tours Europe regularly. Do revisit her music and see her live if you’re lucky enough to have her performing in your town. She is a force of nature and irreplaceable. And, for those of us who are settling into our recliners for a very wintry and climactic final act, she’s divine inspiration.


Click Here to visit Lene >>>>



Top 10 List – Non-Traditional Holiday Songs – “Everybody’s Waiting for The Man with The Bag” (Brini Maxwell)

Authored by Dale Nickey:

# 10

Early in the new millennium, New York drag icon Brini Maxwell (aka Ben Sander) lit up the stodgy Style Network with The Brini Maxwell Show; an offbeat home improvement/cooking program that gave helpful tips on how to make stoplight dip, proper escalator etiquette (you stand in front of your date going down), and decorating your home with thrift-shop art. Think of a younger, hotter Martha Stewart crossed with the sauce and sass of Eve Arden (yes, I’m that old). 1960’s kitsch with an industrial strength twist.

The show was so subversive and had so many layers of irony, it’s a minor miracle that it lasted two seasons. In a perfect world it would have gone mega.

Brini also sings. “Everybody’s Waiting for The Man With The Bag” is one of my holiday favorites. But, I consider Brini Maxwell’s version definative.

Morning Music Funnies # 2 (Captain Beefheart) TV Commercial – 1970

In 1970, Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band were riding high after releasing their double album “Trout Mask Replica”. Sales were promising, the critics declared it a masterwork for the ages. Frank Zappa was onboard. Obviously the band and Reprise Records thought the follow-up, “Lick My Decals Off Baby” was poised for some sort of breakthrough. Didn’t happen.

However, this burst of misplaced optimism gave us the late night TV spot for “….Decals”. A piece of Dadaist outsider art veiled in the cloak of crass pop commercialism.

Profiles in Outsider Music (Volume 3) UNKNOWN HINSON


Unknown Hinson – (b. 1954 –       )

Authored by Dale Nickey:

This Outsider is not only the greatest guitar player you never heard of, he’s also the funniest. Unlike many Outsider Music icons, he has no diagnosed mental condition or obvious pathology. There is no artistically transcendent ineptitude. Unknown Hinson (real name Stuart Baker) is a totally calculated and self-aware construct. The Unknown Hinson character has been carefully crafted with a compelling and ridiculous backstory. Unknown Hinson never breaks character and never refers to his alter ego Stuart. However, his rootsy, guitar mastery and songwriting are so bracingly authentic and hilarious; he easily earns his admittance into The Muse Patrol’s – “Outsider Music Hall of Fame”.

He may have appeared as a faint blip on your radar screen as the voice-over actor who played the character of Early Cuylor in the animated comedy Squidbillies. He also played it straight as the hired-gun guitar slinger in Billie Bob Thornton’s short lived rockabilly band the The Boxmasters. His trademarks are an exaggerated Southern drawl, a comically undersized snub-nose pistol and a pair of jet-black glued-on sideburns that suggests the demon spawn of Bat Masterson and Bela Lugosi. Indeed, Southern Gothic vampire chic hangs heavy around Hinson as he has been described as “The Hillbilly Vampire”. He chronicles his distaste for heavy metal music with note-perfect demonstrations of the guitar style on video.

Hinson’s early years were troubling and fascinating. He named himself after his MIA father whose name is listed on Hinson’s birth certificate as ‘Daddy: Unknown’ He was given a guitar by his mother at an early age. After her mysterious disappearance, he hit the road and joined the circus; where he learned the impressive skill of lifting 25 pound weights with his tongue. A series of trumped up criminal charges (3 counts of murder and 19 paternity suits) landed him in prison for 30 years. Upon his release he went forth into the world with his guitar to reclaim his rightful musical legacy.

 As a live performer, Hinson shows himself to be a virtuoso in most American music forms including – Country, Blues, Rockabilly and Blues Rock. Search his video archives and you will also find Hinson doing an expert parody of British Psychedelia. His recorded discography boasts song titles such as: “A Black and Blue Christmas”, “Satan in a Thong”, and “Your Man is Gay”.

Both Stuart Baker and his alter-ego Unknown Hinson are enigmas wrapped in a black bolero jacket and ribbon tie. His unique mixture of chauvinism, audacity and virtuosity are at once alluring and wonderfully obnoxious.

Unknown Hinson may remain among the great unknowns. Unknown Hinson announced his retirement from touring in 2012. Stuart Baker’s  beloved wife Margo died in 2013. Hinson and Stuart seem destined to preserve their mystique and Outsider credentials for the ages.





JANDEK – “Houston Saturday (2011)” – Album Review


Artist – JANDEK

Corwood Industries (0815)


More Jandek? Click >>>>song-of-morgan/maze-of-the-phantom/houston-saturday


Authored by Dale Nickey:

In the world of real estate it’s all about “location, location, location”. In the world of Outsider Music the corollary would be, “perception, perception, perception”.

Jandek has just released a new album titled, “Houston Saturday (2011)”. If this sounds familiar, it should.  Earlier in the year, Jandek released a live album, “Houston Saturday”. Two entirely different animals. Jandek doesn’t like to make it easy, does he?

“Houston Saturday (2011)” is the album this reviewer has pined for.  It’s a live album recorded at the Menil Collection on December 17th, 2011. A no-nonsense brace of tunes with only acoustic guitar and voice (save the spoken word opener). This new record has the feel of an intimate studio recording. Indeed, the audience is eerily silent until long, sustained applause is heard after the final song. The sound is big, warm and round. It’s probably the best recorded acoustic guitar sound  The Representative has ever committed to record.

The album is a swift moving song cycle devoted to love – both requited and un-requited. And, the perspective is from either a devoted lover, ex-lover, secret admirer and/or stalker. Maybe all the above.  Jandek’s patented death letter blues are refreshingly absent from this record. Although, I do admit to picturing (at certain points) a bound and gagged love object listening wide-eyed and terrified to her captor’s heartfelt balladeering.

One can glean from the lyrics that The Representative likes to walk. It’s hard to imagine him driving or taking public transportation. He evokes the image of a black-clad wandering troubadour of the pre-apocalypse, head up, cataloging raw emotions and all else that resides above the horizon; trees, sky, buildings etc…..

Which brings me back to the subject of perception. It’s amazing how the unfamiliar can become familiar. After two years of listening and writing about Outsider Music in general (and Jandek in particular), perception and perspective seem to calibrate and shift as a defense mechanism against insanity. I can now listen to Jandek with an unbiased ear, conversely, the James Blunts of the world now send me screaming into the night.

Just think about the B-52’s for a second. Remember how off-the-wall they sounded when their first single, “Rock Lobster” came out?  The template consisted of shrieking female singers, 35 dollar keyboard sounds, a gay tone-deaf toastmaster and twig-dry electric guitars with no bass. That sound eventually bled into the mainstream and yielded platinum sales and MTV ubiquity. Similarly, one could easily imagine (early 20th century blues artist) Charlie Patton as “The Jandek” of his time and place.

The performances on “Houston Saturday (2011)” are surefooted and classic Jandek. There has been an evolution. Some of the tunes are more composed than others. Clearly, Jandek still likes to walk the high-wire and extrapolate lyrics on the fly when the spirit moves him.

I’m wondering how musicologist Harry Smith (curator of The American Folk Anthology) felt upon discovering the creepy-crawly backwater roots of the genre we now call American Folk Music. Maybe he felt like I feel when I listen to “Houston Saturday (2011)”. I feel like I’ve plunged my shovel into the earth and hit the slab foundation for a new traditional music; a distant future’s new “Old Weird America”.

Wouldn’t that be something?


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