Friday, June 27, 2014

"American Band" came from pissed off...American band. Don Brewer explains

There are all kinds of stories about how the song "We're An American Band" came to be, and I had to ask Brewer, I'm sure for the hundredth time, about it. It never made it into the book, Detroit Rock City, but I'm always interested in all things Grand Funk, as everyone should be,

Don Brewer, drummer, Grand Funk, on writing the song, “We're An American Band”: There was some rumor goin’ around at times -- and I’ve seen it written, over and over, actually, I think I even saw it on Wikipedia –that we came up with the concept for “American Band” because we got into a fight with Humble Pie one night about who’s better, the English bands or the American bands. That wasn’t the case at all. I came up with that concept for “American Band” from us being sued by Terry Knight, traveling around from town to town, being sued at every city we were playing at, and I’m goin’, in my head I’m goin’, ‘we’re coming to your town, we’ll help you party it down. ‘That what I thought was happening, and then later the term came up -- popped into my head -- ‘we’re an American band.’ I needed a tag line for it. It had absolutely nothing to do with the English bands or anything.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Typical week in the life of Mitch Ryder’s great band, Detroit

Johnny Bee was among the best of the older subjects I interviewed for Detroit Rock City. Once he started telling stories, he didn’t seem to be able to stop, which is why he was included in quite a bit of the book. You can’t deny his greatness and his experience.
I decided to focus on the band Detroit because it represented Ryder’s last big chance to make it big. He made a great album and no one seemed to notice.
When I was interviewing Ray Goodman, who played with Mitch for a while, he mentioned he had some outtakes from the Detroit album sessions and we went into the control room of Goodman’s home studio. Sure enough, there were versions of songs with Johnny Bee singing, demos, and some covers I’d never heard, including a Sly and the Family Stone tune. I mentioned that it would be great to see that stuff released as a deluxe reissue double lp and connected Goodman up with Bob Ezrin, who produced the album. Maybe someone will have the good sense to organize that some day.

Johnny Badanjek, drummer Mitch Ryder, on Detroit (the band):

We played everywhere, anywhere, all the time. One summer, we played two sets on a Friday night in Detroit and we stayed up all night then headed to Carbondale, Illinois. Go to the hotel, a Howard Johnson's. They put us in back where the pool is and no one can see us. After Carbondale, we drive to St. Louis, play, go to another Howard Johnson's to finally sleep, then catch a 7 a.m. flight to go to Washington DC to play the May Day rally with the Beach Boys. There's like 200,000 people there. We play and Steve Hunter wears his Army uniform. Not a great idea for the time. We play and leave, we're going back to National Airport and the Army comes in and starts giving everyone shit, it got real violent. But we’re out of there. We got back to the airport and flew back to St. Louis and drove two more hours back to Carbondale, Illinois, and played two more sets without any sleep. We haven't gone to bed yet since before the May Day show. Then we went back to the hotel with 15 girls and everybody got naked and was using the sauna and swimming. This was how we were living. We had real bikers hanging around us all the time, you know, bikers love Mitch. They all wanted to hear “Devil With a Blue Dress On.” We were also playing a lot of Hell's Angels parties and all the outlaw clubs. We'd play and they'd all be fighting. It was like a crazy wedding party or something. We’d play for an hour and a half and we’d take a break and the whole place would break out in a riot. The guy in charge would go, “Play! Get up there and play! Maybe they'll stop.” The Outlaws, the Vigilantes, all these biker gangs, they’d have us in to play their parties.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Dennis Thompson of the MC5 on playing over the volume of Sonic Smith and Wayne Kramer

Dennis Thompson, drummer MC5: Well, I wasn’t impervious to the volume when the boys bought Marshalls.  You see, back in those days the PA systems in the clubs we played were very very primitive. And drummers were never mic’ed.  So the guys had Marshalls and they played hard and loud, the volume was on 10.  I had to develop a style of playing extremely hard for the drums to cut through that wall of electrical sound. I had blood blisters underneath my skin, calluses on every one of my fingers on my left hand.  They would all explode every time I played so my left hand was just raw meat.
What I didn’t like about it was that I couldn’t play anything more delicately. You know, something more on the lines of, you know, 32nd notes and double-stroke rolls and things that require your wrists and not your arms. I had to use wrists and arms and play really fuckin’ hard for the drums to cut through.  I would get comments all the time that, you know, ‘Dennis you gotta play a little louder. ‘

So I would just hit until I was just really, really playing hard.  I was breaking cymbals.  Sinclair used to be so pissed.  But I was breaking 22” cymbals, one a week.  I’d go through 20 or 30 drum pairs of drumsticks per two shows, three shows. We used to order them by the gross, 5B and 2S.  Big.  2S is lumber.  That’s how you learned how to play the rudiments, with the big fat sticks.  Heavy sticks, so it builds up your wrist.  I’d break a rim on the snare drum, bass drum pedals, bass drum heads, tom tom heads. Unbelievable shit that I wouldn’t do now because nowadays you’ve got the remote in-ears and I’ve got the sound just the way I want it, dialed in, ‘cuz I’ve got a 16 track mixer. But back then, like I said, the band’s putting out a loud, ferocious sound that you had to play over.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Niagara on Ron Asheton in the later years - Detroit Rock City outtake

NIAGARA (Destroy All Monsters, Dark Carnival) : Ronnie ended up being a millionaire when he died. He would call me and say ‘I’m almost there.’ He really lived it up.  He bought all these collections, the Nazi stuff.  He bought a ceremonial dagger for like $12,000. When things started back with Iggy, he had money and he would say ‘you like this furniture?’ And I’d be like, ‘no, no.’
Whenever he went up north with the Colonel, he would buy me things like a fur coat.
Even after we split, he would come over and we’d stay up all night and talk and he’d stay the night and get high. So he used to stay here a lot. Then he got his place up north, near the lake up by Saginaw.[Michigan]. We used to hang out at antique places and he’d come in and they’d say ‘Ronnie, I got something you might like.’
He bought a decent place, more modern, perfect for him. Ronnie did the right thing. He always said ‘I’m only going to live 10 more years.’
When I was with him we bought a '66 Cadillac. We must have had some money at that time, because I was with him then.  
When he died, Ronnie was supposed to go out with us, January 4 is the Colonel’s birthday. So he called him a few times, and Ron didn’t answer which was normal. Ronnie never answered his phone, he just let it go to voice mail. But now the voice mail was full and that never happened. So a couple days later, Colonel said to me, ‘this is bad, there’s something wrong.’
I thought Ronnie was going to die but I wasn’t sure this was it. So we called [Asheton girlfriend] Dara, who Ronnie bought a house for a few doors down.
We called her and said ‘go see Ronnie.’  She said, ‘we had a fight, fuck him, he’s a clown, I’m not going over there,’ and finally she said ‘ok.’
It was the middle of the night and she went and called us back and said he’s dead. He was in his bed. Ron was not taking care of himself and he would not go to a doctor. Those tours were really strenuous and he was always on stage doing his thing. One night he woke up and his nose was running and he put a Kleenex in it and when he woke up there was blood all over it.  Something had burst.
He had been diagnosed with high blood pressure, and he wasn’t fat, he had like, from waist down he was so skinny and he had been losing weight.
He was so skinny with the Stooges that he always looked bigger.
Anyway, he was smoking and drinking and taking the high blood pressure pills, which he ran out of and he wasn’t going to get more.
I was always telling him to think about it. Ronnie hated anything new and I never got him started back on the pills.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Feds response to Juggalo gang lawsuit: No damages

It has received no attention, but the federal government filed its initial response in April to the action filed earlier this year by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan on behalf of Juggalos, who claim that their constitutional rights to expression and association were violated by when the FBI designated them as a gang in 2011.
“Plaintiffs lack standing to challenge a report known as the 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment, an intelligence assessment made by the National Gang Intelligence Center at the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” the introduction to the response states, a common argument in such cases.
The response goes on to claim that the plaintiffs – four Juggalos and the two members of Insane Clown Posse – showed no direct damages due to the gang assessment.
It also claims that the alleged damages cited in the complaint, which was filed in January, did not come at the hands of the defendant. That would be a base-covering assertion, just in case the court didn't buy the 'no damages' thing. 
“To the extent the allegation of injury by the FBI’s intelligence analysis is plausible, any injury involves the conduct of independent third parties, not before the Court, who are not even regulated by the Defendant agencies,” the argument reads.
The defendant is the U.S. Department of Justice. Read the response here.
There is a highly dubious assertion near the end of the fed’s response, which is a fairly standard petition and asks that the case be dismissed.
“The [National Gang Intelligence Center] does not collect or maintain information that does not relate to criminal activity.”
This is quite a statement in light of Edward Snowden’s disclosures last year regarding surveillance conducted by the federal government on U.S. citizens, which includes accessing Google and Yahoo accounts.
No decision has been made regarding the motion to dismiss, although it would be an eyebrow raiser if any court were to let this one go away without more argument. The fun will come if it gets to discovery, where the feds will be required to disclose more information.