Non-fiction writings

 

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January 24, 2018

After A 10-Year Absence, Japan’s Green Milk from the Planet Orange Return to Their Second Home

If you were active in the local club scene in the mid-aughts, you'd be forgiven for thinking Green Milk From the Planet Orange was from Portland. Between 2004 and 2006, the Japanese prog-rock trio played a half-dozen frenetic, window-shattering affairs at now-forgotten local stages—one memorable show saw them draw a severely over-capacity crowd to the Tube in Old Town.

Then the band flew home to Tokyo and went dark for nearly a decade. Nearly 10 years after the release of band's last album, 2007's You Take Me To the World, a new recording appeared on Bandcamp. Appropriately, it's called "Phoenix."

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December 12, 2017

Paradise Recruited a Legendary Producer to Make the Most Ambitious Portland Rock Album of the Year

The dream of the 1970s is alive in Paradise.

"We actually had a plan," says Tamar Berk, the Portland band's vocalist and organist. "We were gonna start a band from the '60s and move them into the '70s, as if we lived at those times."

These days, that kind of high-concept rock'n'roll is rarer than phone booths. But the members of Paradise like to think big. The band has no delusions of grandeur. With serious day jobs—Berk is a school teacher, and her partner, guitarist Steven Denekas, works in advertising and design—heavy touring isn't possible. Since getting together eight years ago, though, they have been slowly unfurling an ambitious recording career. And their new album, Dawn of Paradise, is their most grandiose yet: a double-LP rock opera, produced by the guy who engineered Quadrophenia.

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November 21, 2017

Bill Murray’s Best and Worst Musical Moments, Ranked

Though he's rightfully thought of as an actor and comedian first, Bill Murray's musical career predated either, fronting a Chicago garage rock band as a teenager. And while he chose not to devote himself to rock stardom, he inadvertently achieved it anyway. From his recurring crooner skits on Saturday Night Live in the '70s through his more recent guerrilla karaoke drop-ins, it's clear that music moves the man.

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May 31, 2017

Just When Daniel Ash Thought He Was Out, Poptone Pulled Him Back In

It took only nine years of retirement before Daniel Ash started losing sleep.

"I just woke up at four in the morning and had a complete change of heart," says Ash, who, alongside contemporaries like the Cure, helped invent goth rock as a member of Bauhaus. "Everything just changed completely on its head. It's very, very obvious we need to do this after all these years of not doing it."

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May 3, 2017

Jeff Vandermeer’s Borne is a Psychedelic Dystopia with an Evil Levitating Bear

I dreamed about Borne (MCD, 336 pages, $26) the night I started reading it. The book invited my mind to fill in gaps where previously there weren't even borders—between hope and despair, sure, but also between drugs and insects.

Jeff VanderMeer's novel is a dystopia nearly psychedelic in its strangeness, exploring the cockroach-like ability of humanity to survive in the aftermath of environmental crises we ourselves created.

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July 2017

The H Word: Kiss the Goat

 

After the serpent, the goat is widely considered the most evil animal in mythology, literature, film, and music. From biblical verse to Baphomet, Black Phillip and beyond, the cloven-hoofed mammal has long been maligned. But the majority of these allusions are surface-level references to a beast that is broadly misunderstood.

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May 31, 2017

What Does 'Quiet Horror' Mean? Five Horror Writers Weigh In

This is a very literal interpretation, but the first thing that comes to mind are those deadly silent nights when the temperature drops below freezing. I grew up on a goat farm in the woods. Countless nights I drifted off to the pattering drizzle of rain, croaking frogs, the lumbering air brakes of log trucks taking the bend that hooked around our property. The road teed off at a deep snowmelt creek. Each winter some poor soul would miss the turn or hit a patch of black ice. One time someone lost control of their vehicle...

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December 27, 2016

Portland Punk Lifer Sam Henry Looks at 60

Conventional wisdom maintains that when punk started, the likes of the Sex Pistols and the Ramones leveled the playing field and put music back in the hands of the people—people who often picked up instruments and started bands before even learning how to play them. But, Sid Vicious aside, most of the first generation of punk musicians knew how to play, and play well. And one of the finest drummers to allow punk to derail his life and career was a Portland boy named Sam Henry.

"I was born legally blind," says Henry while leaning his face into a menu at Side Door. "So I had extensive ear training when I was very young, and I didn't know it. 

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April 27, 2016

A Rock and Roll Fairy Tale for Freaks and Geeks

Sing Street is a new wave rock & roll fairy tale set in early '80s Dublin. Fans of quality nostalgia fare like Freaks & Geeks will revel in its references.

A fifteen-year-old boy (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) seeks to escape the harsh reality of his brutal schoolmasters and splintering home. Under the tutelage of his hash-smoking, dole-surfing older brother, he discovers Duran Duran videos and Cure albums. In an effort to woo an aspiring model named Raphina (Lucy Boynton), the young man conspires to start a band of his own. 

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September 6, 2016

Five Things Geezer Butler Wants to Do After Retiring From Black Sabbath

Terence "Geezer" Butler helped build Black Sabbath's wall of sound with four mighty bass strings and a clever quill. He's the lyricist for all your Ozzy-era favorites, and boasts the second-longest tenure of any original member after guitarist Tony Iommi. WW caught up with Butler midway through The End tour to ask about his doomsday masterplan after the final curtain call.

1. Write a memoir, if I can remember anything.

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February 25, 2016

13 Reasons Why Black Sabbath is the Most Important Band That Ever Lived

Black Sabbath is currently in the midst of its final tour, appropriately titled The End. After Ozzy went solo in 1979, there was no reason to think that these guys would ever be on stage together again. The 1985 Live Aid set and Ozzy’s 1992 Costa Mesa concert encore whet fans’ appetites for an inevitable reunion that’s lasted fitfully since 1997. Now, following the 2013 release of their career benchmark number 1 album,13, the Sab Four is taking one last swing.

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December 7, 2015

Rush at 40: Still Breaking Boundaries, Still Down with the Nerds

Gary Lee Weinrib, better known to the rock world as Geddy Lee, was born to Holocaust survivors in the subdivisions of Toronto. He joined a fledgling version of Rush in 1968, and shortly thereafter, he dropped out of high school to make a career in music—and succeeded beyond all reasonable dreams or aspirations. He’s won Best Rock Bassist in Guitar Magazine six times. His band has recorded more consecutive gold and platinum albums than any other group besides The Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

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April 15, 2015

15 things never to say to a Portlander

You’ve seen a few episodes of Portlandia, so you think you can navigate the quirky culture of this town like a pro, right? Better read this first–here are 15 things never to say to a Portlander.

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July 8, 2014

Live Review: Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 7/5

Approaching the Schnitz on Saturday evening made it clear that Nick Cave's return to Portland was nothing short of a goth holiday. It was date night in black, and anyone who was turned away from his sold out Crystal Ballroom show in 2008 had made damn sure not to make the same mistake.

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August 20, 2013

Iommi Bloody Iommi

When Black Sabbath—heavy metal's widely acknowledged patient zero—announced a reunion of its original lineup in 2011, promising a tour and an album of all-new material to be produced by Rick Rubin, it seemed too awesome to be true. And it was: Drummer Bill Ward declined to accept the "unsignable" contract he was handed, leading to still-ongoing interband acrimony (Ward has been erased from photos on the Sabbath website) and causing Rubin to push Portland-born Rage Against the Machine drummer Brad Wilk onto the throne.

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April 1, 2013

R.I.P. Robert Zildjian, Founder of Sabian Cymbals

Cymbal-making was in Bob "RZ" Zildjian's blood. As the first generation of his family to be born on American soil, he helped shepherd in a new era of Western prosperity for the 350-year-old family brand. And when tradition got in the way of his career and aims for Zildjian, he cemented his reputation as a passionate innovator by founding Sabian -- now the second biggest cymbal manufacturer in the world.

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September 7, 2006

De-evolution Is Real!

"If anyone in 1980 had shown you 2006 in a crystal ball, would you have believed them?" asks Devo founder and bassist Jerry Casale? I'm sure my 7-year-old mind would have been disappointed by the lack of jetpacks, but otherwise he clearly has a point. Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh met at Kent State in the early '70s and went on to create one of the most influential art-rock bands of all time. Over 30 years later, their message is more relevant than ever, and their best music sounds far fresher than most of the nouveau new wave that's been foisted on us in the actual 21st century.

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