May 1421, 1998
Kramer Vs. Kramer
Shimmy Disc's main man pops up.
by a.d. amorosi
Kramer is that sunburst, acid-blasted wild childthe iconoclastic producer/performer who practically started America's dirt-art-alt-rock scene (finally someone to blame) by producing and/or discovering Pussy Galore, GWAR, King Missile, Urge Overkill, Shockabilly, Half Japanese, Royal Trux, White Zombie, Ween, Galaxie 500, Bongwater and countless others.
When I inquired about an interview, people at Shimmy Disc told me that he was a bit gun-shy about talking to the press. But he trusted me enough to agree to respond to my questions via e-mail.
Can you make up for lost time by releasing all of this stuff?
No. I don't equate the two issuestime and art.
Is it more fun to dream than to do sometimes?
I love dreams just as much as the next immature artist, but I do prefer the real thing. I can be a homosexual in my dreamsfunand I can also fuck women I can't fuck in real life, like Isabelle Adjani and the singers in my bandsmore funand I can play in bands with Ringo and T. Rexas much fun as I can bear- but I don't invest in it at all. It's like the movies. Fantasy. I certainly prefer doing to dreaming. I have no desire to be in a coma.
Much of the new record sounds like a mantraa crafty, funny, elegiac one. Why does it sound funny and spiritually evocative to me? And why set it in the desert?
I have no idea why it sounds the way it sounds to you, but I am flattered by your impressions. Like other artists I admire (and without seeming too self-involved, which is always a sinkhole that the artists easily fall into), I like different people to perceive my work differently. It ought to have many meanings for many people. I don't like art that's supposed to say one thing over all other things, so at least as far as your question is concerned, I'm humbled by your reaction. Regarding the desert, I was inspired to compose while driving around the Las Vegas desert in Penn Jillette's hot pink Bronco, which he lovingly calls The Pink Death. It's about the murder of love, the death of friendship, the instability of events and places and the flux of identities. It's like a John Cassavetes film wherein one never knows what someone is going to do, totally opposite of what people expect from films and music nowadays. People want to see characters (and hear music) that does not challenge them to experience what the artist is experiencing. In music I can assure you that no one goes to see Marilyn [Manson] expecting to see him do something they've never seen him do before. Quite the contrary; they go to see him go through his motions and all his posing, just as they go to McDonald's. They know exactly what to expect, and again, just like going to McDonald's, it's comforting to them. They are not challenged by his ridiculous antics. Unlike my days [producing] with the Butthole Surfers, when people went [to shows] because they had no idea what Gibby was going to pull, nowadays they know precisely what they will see. Marilyn Manson is utterly safe by comparison, and the music scene has tumbled downward as a direct result of this kind of pandering to people's expectations and desires. No one is truly challenged anymore.
Can you tell me about the Bongwater problem? If collaboration became so problematic, why approach it again with such vigor? Especially in Glen or Glenda, which seems, very slightly, to carry on the ambitious lit-kitsch of Bongwater?
I'm glad you said "slightly" because there just isn't any theater or funny stories in Glen or Glenda. I would hope that the only real similarities between the two are my compositional style. (Tammy Lang and Penn Jillette are the best lyricists I've ever worked with. Magnuson was a storyteller.) It took six years to do another band. I would call that extraordinary caution and restraint. I'm still cautious and I don't really trust anyone to be loyal. Besides, I am precluded from discussing it by the agreement I signed with her that ended the dispute.
What were Shimmy's aims when you started and what are they now?
The purpose of Shimmy Discas if you've never heard this beforewas to release music that no one else cared about. Now they care. Cool. The present goal is to continue achieving our initial goal in helping unknown artists and non-commercial entities survive in this arena of mediocrity - such as Nine Inch Nails, bad theater such as Marilyn Manson, and hapless girl-rock such as Lilith Fairwhere being the same as other artists is rewarded and music is constantly recycled and resold. No wonder young people nowadays are not loyal to the music they claim to love. Why should they care at all with nothing out there to really care about? Shimmy Disc continues to offer an alternative to all that and I continue to be proud of that fact.
Kramer, Tony Maimone and Laddio Balako play Upstairs At Nick's, 16 S. Second St., Thursday, May 14, 928-0665.
SPACEJUNK: Brenden Olkus, his Fearless Films and the Weiss boys at Eighth Street Lounge bring in bad lieutenant Abel Ferarra and his soundtracking pal Schoolly D to discuss the pitfalls 'n' uprisings of filmmaking on Monday, May 27. Look for mo' info next week. By the way, I never got the chance to properly commend everyone at The Palmer (and to dis anyone reneging on their promise -you know who you arefor laying down the groove for DJ Cosmo's medical costs weekend last After the sleek Philly soul victory of last weekend's Sylk 130 show, King Britt and Dozia start up Back2Basics at Pompano Grille with DJs Gigi 'n' Justin, door by Darian, an outdoor deck and a promise of live gigs Venue reviving: The New Market Cabaret (former LaBelle spot, now owned by Philip Roger Roy) at Head House Square as booked by Rich Fravel and Bryan Dilworth looks ready for late May. Not new (but New Park booked) is George's Fifth Street Cafe on Fifth and Gaskill Legendary porno star 'n' director Ron "the Rhino" Jeremy makes a clothed appearance at Thee Dollhouse May 19 and 20 Jammin' to the break of dawn are trance rockers Disco Biscuits, dropping a Hydrophonics/Megaforce label debut, Uncivilized Area, with gigs at the Khyber on Friday, May 15, and HMV on Tuesday, May 19, to back it up