I woke up in a small room somewhere in New York City. It was bare save for an armchair, a cat called Sweetface, a television monitor and a loudspeaker the size of a bubble car. What was happening? I was in the Rotten apple to interview Sonic Youth. They were no where to be seen.
Simultaneously the television monitor and loudspeaker crackled into action. "Yo! Jack Barron. Welcome to Ciccone Youth mansions. Please make yourself comfortable. There's beer in the fridge. First question please."
On the screen were four people who identified themselves as King Poopy D the Royal Tuff Titty, The sigh, Fly Fly away, and SS Beats Control. The names I could handle, the colours were to much though. Poopy was blue, SS red, Fly green, and The Sigh a multi-hued. They looked like free gifts from some hippie-scum breakfast cereal.
"First question please," roared Poopy again, brandishing a placard saying Ciccone Youth are shit but Sonic Youth are worse.
--So where are Sonic Youth?
"They don't exist anymore," Poopy snarled. "Sonic Youth were a band we occasionally played in for fun, but they were wimps. So we've incorporated them into the ranks of Ciccone Youth along with Jimi Hendrix, The Ramones, improv-core guru Bill Asshole, uh sorry, Laswall, who all play on the new Ciccone record, 'The White(y) Album'."
--But I always thought Ciccone
Youth were just a one-off with their cover of 'In to the Groove(y)'.
What's the relationship between Sonic Youth and you?
Poopy: "Did you ever read Superman comix? Do you remember the Bizarro version? In Superman comix there's an alternative universe called Bizarro. In this world Superman does every thing totally opposite to his character."
The Sigh: "Yeah his world is square instead of a circle."
Poopy: "He helps crime. Louis Lane is a real ugly skank and Jimmy Olson is a rent boy for the rich. Well, Ciccone Youth is our Bizarro idea."
The Sigh: "Yeah take it from King Poopy D, on the mic."
Poopy: "We're into like flopping from one reality to the next. In fact it's a practised art amongst us at this point."
--Is this behaviour heavily drug-induced?
Poopy: "Well we don't consider it drugs. HakHakHakHak!!"
The Sigh: "We consider it more a cyborg sacrament."
So why are Ciccone Youth a separate
full time project now?
Fly-fly: "So we can all take drugs."
Poopy: "Well, people are allowed to play in different bands. I play in this other band called Sonic Youth. It also happens that Steve, Kim and Lee also play in this same band. Where Sonic Youth is like four dickweeds from the lower east side, Ciccone Youth is a much more like a universal consciousness. It had a lot more members."
--Are there any musicians you're
influenced by or respect?
Poopy: "Even if we say somebody blows, we still respect them for they are fellow musicians. All except on person that is. And that's Terence Trent D'arby. Gawd, gimmie a twelve gauge shotgun so we can rid the world of his evil. D'arby is a total forced Bullshit kinda guy. He's ugly. His radical vocal stylisation is totally bogus and outdated, real regressive. D'arby is probably a nice guy but artistically he's a dimple on the butt of 20th Century music. To us Rhys Chatham is pretty much the mahatama figure to Ciccone Youth whereas Glenn Branca is for Sonic Youth. Ya dig?"
Uh. Rhys Chatham is a largely unsung figure in the New York demimonde through whose massed guitar ranks Branca himself plucked as well as members of groups like the superb-reverb Band of Susans. Poopy insists Ciccone are culturally sons and daughters of Chatham's distortion overtones. Certainly the Youth are closer in heart to Rhy's precision textures than to their namesake, Madonna. Even so that somewhat undersells just how frenzied sections of 'The White(y) Album' are with its gutted guitars gurgling like lunatics fighting inside a bucket. Whether this record which isn't the cover of the Beatles' 'White Album' that many expected, will actually ever hit the shops is, however debatable. Already its release date has been put back to January 1989.
--So why 'The White(y)Album'?
Apart from its Beatles' connections there are also possible racist connotations,
Poopy: "Well we're supreme racists. We want to overthrow the white race, 'cos they've given people like us short shrift. Have you ever heard 'Guilty of Being White' by Minor Threat? Read the lyrics to that and you'll get a better idea."
--Do you want to explain a bit
Poopy: "No. What do you want to know? It's called 'The White(y) Album'."
The Sigh: "Yeah. Why do they call you Jack? Hahahahahahaha!"
Poopy: "Three years ago we said we were going to do 'The White(y) Album', and now we have. Simple as that, bud."
--I thought you said you were
going to cover the Beatles' White Album?
Fly-Fly: "No, we always said we were going to do 'The White(y) Album'. It's just a case of the press getting things wrong as usual."
Poopy: "That's right. Everyone thought we were going to do the Beatles album, but what the fuck."
The Sigh: "And that's why we decided to embark on this project - to produce a trail of savagely stinking shit in defiance of pseudo-good taste."
If, reckons Poopy, The Ramones are the worst band in the world then they come second by a long leg in the big suck stakes to Ciccone. When I tell them I believe 'The White(y) Album' is good all-round family entertainment the Youth get boisterous. They insist they have deliberately made the most risible album the world has ever heard, and to prove the point they want it pressed on faeces coloured vinyl. "You want to know how bad 'The White(y) Album' is, bud? Well listen to this!" yapped Poopy.
The TV monitor went more blank than a junkies stare. Thank you, Lord. Looking at it was like having smarties for eyes. I scuttled to the refrigerator. But, before I could hoik a ring-pull, the opening percussive quarkand infernal noise machine of 'Needle Gun' - "I was all made with needles and guns, can ya dig it" - smashed out of the speaker. Sweetface, the cat, had kittens on the spot.
'The white(y) album's opening track cracked the Madonna posters adorning the room and my unopened bottle of Carona exploded into froth-flecked glass as backwards guitars went !gnarraK !gnarraK !gnarrK.
I tried the door.....desperately. Locked! There was no escape as Ciccone Youth's hippie-hop wacked its feet through the floor. A long tune with instruments lashed up like warp-factor whips flailing on the back of an underage boy cut through. Later I was to learn that it was called 'Platoon II' and had supposedly been commissioned as a soundtrack by Oliver Stone for his follow up to his first Vietnam movie. In between, 'Macbeth' was rendered in a MacDonalds, a poignant poem about first love was ravaged by samples of James Marshall Hendrix, 'Making the Nature Scene' was crucified and resurrected from Sonic Youth's past, and Robert Palmer's 'Addicted to love' was given the full hate treatment. Meanwhile, bits of LL Cool J's drumbeats poked out like dirty toes from torn socks, and two cool rock chicks talked about managing the group Dinosaur Jnr over a background of Neu.
Yes, indeedy, 'The White(y) Album' is the worst sonic insult ever, so baaad it's brilliant. A measure of its creative vision is that the most outstanding cut is accurately called 'Silence'.
"How do you like the 'Silence' track, bud?" Unholy trappist monks with their habits caught in a snare! The speaker and TV monitor had electrocuted into activity again. Uhm, it's really noisy.
The Sigh: "It's really a John Cage cover. We sped it up though. The titles are more important than the songs. It took us four months to get this album together. One month to record and three to come up with the titles."
--Don't you think the public will
get a bit confused by this album of yours? They'll think it's the
pukka new Sonic Youth wax where in fact it's Ciccone Youth smearing KY
jelly over our ears?
Poopy: "Christ, who cares! We're not out to confuse people. We're also not that interested in putting out records per se. It's sort of a horrible necessity. In fact in future we're not going to put any more records out. We're just going to make the music exist. We're working on creating some kind of micro-chip which you can implant into the back of the head, so you can jack into the music. So we're trying to get ready for the future. Not that we're the future, but we consider ourselves ready."
--I heard that in your role as
Sonic Youth you were getting sued by photographer/film maker Richard Kern?
Poopy nods his head in the kind of floppy way that becomes a man who says he eats designer drugs for breakfast and hasn't been straight since he was twelve.
"Yeah Kern is suing us. Richard Avedon is suing us, Disney is suing us, Lung Leg is suing us and the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu are suing us. What do you think of them, the JAMS? Isn't that total weasel-core or what? They might sample other peoples music and go 'We're soooo gooofy!' but their ideas are awful. It's like, yeah hah hah. It's not as funny as Fierce Records, that's for sure."
--Your album has some good music
but also a lot of in-jokes, like wanting to be Dinosaur Jnr's manager and
the 'Silence' track. Aren't you fleecing the public with this one?
Poopy: "Yeah, but so what? Those things you mentioned aren't really jokes, they're serious compositions. Heh-heh. I mean people used to think Cage was really a joke, and then they finally realised he was. So we're here to sort of settle the score as far as analysing tone is concerned."
"I mean do you know the fundamentals of a note. Can you analyse a tone? Cage did and that's his claim to fame. He was like just 19 years old. How? Well, he just thought about it. I'm not quite sure what. But you have to know this if you're going to write about Ciccone Youth. We're really into New Age music, things like Swans' 'Children of God', that's like the bible of new age. By the way is this for NME?"
Saved by the Bell telephone Company.
"Hi! This is Iggy calling," comes the instantly recognisable tar-pit voice over the youth's intercom system. Ciccone cream themselves. Part of the ensemble, Sonic Youth. played with Iggy Pop in London a while back when he joined them on stage at The Town And Country Club for a howling version of 'I wanna be yr Dog'. They've been rehersing with him ever since.
"Okay Jack, here's the crack. Iggy is going to be the new singer of Sonic Youth," crackles Poopy later. "I can't sing anyway, no matter how hard I try, and he needs some decent songs. It's the perfect musical marriage, consumated in hell."
The music community, is still split down the middle at the momnet by the furore surrounding sampling. Some bemoan that this new technology has led to creative decline. Others believe it has opened up unlimited artistic horizons. Ciccone Youth, who lift everybody from Madonna to Mussorgsky, refuse to get old about the issue. They couldn't give a C-io about it.
--There's a lot of sampling on
A roar rips through. Youth are not happy with this line of questioning. Poopy tries to spit at me through the TV monitor. SS Beats' eyeglasses make a spectacle of themselves by falling off his nose. Fly-Fly's hair turns red with rage and The Sigh gets his willy out and waves it angrily at me.
"Sampling! Erk!Erk!Erk!" chokes Poopy. "It's not really sampling, it's whole hearted ripping off!! We didn't want to jump on any technological band wagon or anything. We just wanted to steal blantantly from these records. We're not trying to hide anything. We took bass drums off LL Cool J records and Run DMC records. We took stuff off Jimi Hendrix and, well, what are they going to do? Beat us up? Hak!Hak!Hak! Call my old man? I don't care. We're not gonna go to jail. We're not gonna pay them money. We're into like a physical confrontation, none of this fag stuff about our lawyers will call your lawyers. We'll pull the plug on their lawyers and slash their tyres."
The Sigh: "Actually we're trying to override the court system. What we'd like is duelling at 20 pace, but we'd have it in like a rock club enviroment onstage."
--What would be the preferred weapons?
The Sigh: "Pistols for sure. Handguns. 357s."
--That's a bit quick, not very painful.
The Sigh: "Yeah, well you have to draw it out a bit, get into the last rights of humanism."
Fly-Fly: "Then you whip out the bazooki." (a new, more potent, form of crack).
The Sigh: "Yeah, you whip out the bazooki. Get them really loaded and square off at 20 paces. And as they're walking apart, after all that bazooki, the shots are likely to stray. Then things can get interesting for the audience. Of corse the doors are locked so they can't get out."
Poppy: "Meanwhile we'll get cheap guitars and string them with like piano wire and clip them into ragged edges so the ends are real pointy, and we'll just like jab them mindlessly into people's faces if they disagree with us. It has nothing to do with egomania either."
--Do you think your an egomanical group?
The Sigh: "No, I
think we're egoslavic. Hahahahah! We just consider ourselves
metal fresh, a belligorama of sound."
"Look bud, Ciccone Youth would like to do some cocaine now," leers Poopy polishing his stainless steel nostrils.
"yeah. Do you have any?" demands Fly Fly.
interview is hereby terminated," rasps Poopy in a voice like a circular
saw biting through a leg.
Instantly the TV monitor and loudspeaker shut down. Silence unfolded without a wisper. Like John Cage on 45.
The fate of Ciccone Youth hasn't been decided yet. Rumours were that they signed to K-Tel - "The only label that understands us" - for a massive $5.50 deal. Hippie spume doesn'y come cheap in 1988. K-Tel thought the deal was robbery of the first degree and the deal fell through. In view of this the Ciccones have had to take up their day jobs again as Sonic Youth. The Latter are due to hit these shores too soon for comfort.