|And then the chimney
Blogger: Cary Grant
Date: Saturday, February 24, 2007
feature/interview: Rich La Bonte!
|it gives me great pleasure to present to you one of the more overlooked and astonishingly BRILLIANT cat on the 70s DIY scene ... both an accomplished sci-fi writer and musical eclectic ... Rich La Bonte! back in 2006 or so i wrote all 'bout him here* and the material he had posted on his website [www.flatdisk.net] from long gone 70s eps and an album or two as well. he had posted his favorite tracks in an order of his own choice, and i found the whole mess totally mind blowing. imagine a singer, a REALLY GOOD singer, i mean the man performed in the original Godspell, doing homespun pop mellowisms that float yer head right off into never neverland back to back with insanely hep and speedy punk/new wave ditties that crunch and buzz round the room ... and his voice works just as well on these too ... like a less pretentious tom verlaine ... and on the psychy ooze he sounds both turns lou reed after whippets and john lennon's airier moments which in american form through all kinds of looking glasses come out sounding like pure BOBB TRIMBLE which is crazy in and of itself, but i'll bet you one could be easily fooled by a few of these tracks. but various comparisons aside, Rich is a way-cool songwriter and musician crossing all kinds of 70s boundaries firmly embedding him in my chimney shrine to other heroes of a similar stripe like Todd Tamanend Clark, R. Stevie Moore, and George Brigman. they all lived it from the hilts of their living rooms and the bad assness of this flows forever on every thing they cut. Rich gets the least recognition of any, and it still surprises me. this shit aches for a JUICY 2-cd reish set like the todd clark ish ... like whoa ... so anyhow ramblings aside, i'll let the man open up his vaults for all of you as we discussed his musical past over e-mail the past week. and i encourage a plundering of his uploaded mp3s here ... my favorite collection is the "We Are All Experimental Models" one which plays like an album ... and a gorgeous stirring one at that. without further ado, here's the words from the man himself:|
|1) how would you classify your music
in the spectrum of sounds that was the 1970s? i hear such an array of
styles in your work, face melting psychedelic folk rock that soars into
the sky, and oozing proto-plasmic punk material that totally demolishes
- what were your influences?
2) did you play live much? if so did you have a standing band for any period of time?
3) how did your work as an author affect your musical creativity?
This is a blog, right, because I started to answer the first question and I realized I was answering all three, so here goes. (Minimal editing.)
I am born eclectic. My influences started in the
50s. By the 70s I was pretty much formed. I got a tape recorder from my
dad when I was 11 and figured out how to record a piano backwards.
Thatís true and I still love that sound. The first two singles I bought
were Bird Dog by the Everly Brothers and Great Balls of Fire by Jerry
Lee Lewis, and both were a big leap for me. Before that I liked what I
heard on Top 40 radio and saw on TV. Later, a jazz drummer named Dick
Kilgore got me into Monk and Mingus and Art Blakey. I bought an electric
guitar at that time and started playing, mostly singing in garage bands.
I had a pretty good voice and as no one I knew could cut Beatles, or any
of the vocal oriented stuff of the day, I did Jagger and Eric Burdon and
Dylan covers. In 1965 I went to
The huns gave me working capital, so I bought every
album and single I could get my hands on. The group was a Stones / Kinks
cover band at heart but we matriculated into six part harmonies and folk
rock and originals. We played 40 songs with a play list of 80, three
hours, two times a week on the average and it was a union band, by which
The band went through two incarnations and
dissolved. I left
Godspell gave me enough money to buy a Teac 4-track
SimulSync 15 / 7 ips recorder and a slightly used
In the late 70s I moved to Hollywood with 500 LPs
and Shari Famous to become the Patti Smith Group of the West Coast but
we really got into the local bands instead and I started writing reviews
for local rags and FlipSide a couple of times.
Rich & Famous had no live act for at least the first three years. FlipSide kept ragging us so we got a good band together eventually and did the rehearsal halls but never played out. I didnít care and she did. After Shari and I broke up, she put together a band with Larry Alcorn and played out for a while and then worked with Pat Bag (The Bags) in a group called Buffyís Ghost. (There was no BtVS at that time. The name was a Family Affair / Anissa Jones reference.) She was in the Twirling Butt Cherries for a while too. I was in a band called The Clones with Chuck Wada of The Motels who wrote and played great but couldnít sing. He thought he was the next Darby but Darby had better words. FlipSide came to see us and told me I could do better. Only time I ever played bass in a three piece and I never did it again. Play live for money, I mean.
Big anglophile, BTW. My record collection, when I had one, was very English. Anthrax to Wire. But also big on Brian Wilson and Beach Boys (separately, please.) West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. Agent Orange. Still have some of the old records, transferred from vinyl to cassette to CD.
I got my first computer in the early 80s. It was a VIC-20. I could never afford an Amiga, so I went from there to a C64. Did chip tunes on both. Learned BASIC. Got a job with a system integrator and into PCs at the same time. (The Commodore pays off!) Got into mods. Learned HTML.
Wow, this is so too long. Last question: I wrote fiction before I played an instrument, but after the backward piano. I read everything science fiction when I was a kid. I learned guitar to write songs. I didnít start thinking about writing actual books until the late 80s. Yes, Iím writing another one now. Once you figure out how, itís hard as hell.
Hey, are you gonna grade this?
|4) did you consider yourself apart of
the punk movement?
5) to what extent were drugs involved? (don't feel obligated to answer if you wish to be private in this regard - simply, i enjoyed the song Weeds very much.)
6) were all of your records pressed on fLAtDiSk?
7) if you weren't playing live so much, were the records just sold mail order then?
8) do you still keep in touch with kim fowley? how did you know who his father was?
Iíll try to keep it more on track this time :o)>
I considered myself apart from the punk movement
but Shari Famous is younger than me by about a decade so I always
considered her a part of it and I was along for the ride. We were
champions of "new wave" when we first arrived in
I started smoking pot in
My records came out on the Moxie,
Like most independent labels in LA during that
period, we were distributed by
Bomp and another company (Greenway,
maybe? I forget the name.) We also placed them ourselves at stores like
Rhino Records on
I haven't kept in touch with Kim in this century. He left LA for a long while in the 1990s and he doesn't do email. I hear from my friend Deborah Patino (famous make-up artist, RasZebra, Ringling Sisters, etc.) that he's back there now. We parted as friends and despite his reputation I don't have a bad word to say about the guy. He is every bit the living legend and he's worked with everybody from Doris Day to The Plastic Ono Band. When we did the Son of Frankenstein LP he told me that I was the first person to produce him since Phil Spector. (Another challenge for rock historians because I don't know what record he was talking about.) Kim is the consummate rock independent.Kim's father was Douglas Fowley, a character actor in the golden age of
|9) what is your connection to r.
stevie moore/wfmu (i remember hearing that song for irwin)?
10) what is the story behind the mayan canals part of mayan canals?
11) tell me a little about your new stuff (music wise and literature)?
As I remember it, I was living in West Orange NJ and editing film in NYC working as an assistant to Mark Rappaport for a film Ted Steeg was doing for United Technologies (or somebody like that) and I was writing songs with Shari Famous and she introduced me to Irwin Chusid at WFMU. This is 1976, maybe?
Irwin let us do some little bits for his show on
tape and we recorded Drums
Along the Maple Wood later when we lived in
Mayan Canals. I'm into the Maya. My family has a
distant native North American bloodline (Menomonee) and when I was a kid
I was puzzled about native origins. The Maya were a genuine mystery at
the time and they were obviously victim to white anthropological
prejudice - in the 1920s it was commonly believed that Maya cities and
temples were built by whites who somehow found their way to
The mostly instrumental stuff I do today started
with mod files
in the early 1990s. I got pretty good at writing mods once Impulse
Tracker arrived from
My hardcopy books are science fiction and fantasy. I wrote the first two in the late 80s and sent them both at once to Ballentine Books, which was my favorite sci-fi publisher. A reader at Ballentine sent me a polite rejection that said: "Keep trying." I decided not to and the first two languished for years. In 2000, I put them out myself as ebooks. In 2001, I started Simple Deities and even though I still couldn't get a publisher or literary agent to actually read it, I did enter a Cinescape Magazine literary contest and Simple Deities placed as a finalist. I continued with The Greater Future, which falls into the rather unique sci-fi fantasy detective mystery genre, and introduced my detective Mike Fixx and his cohorts. Mike returned in Many Teeth (2005) and I decided to take a year off from writing. I officially started the new one in January. From 2002 to 2005 I tried to get publishers and agents to read them, but the book business is strictly pay as you go, much like the so-called major record labels. My attitude now is the same toward both: they are dinosaurs who will pass away in time because they are no longer needed. The web makes it possible to self publish anything, music, books, movies and even a television series. All you need in the 21st Century is product and a web connection. You can only buy my books online [plug http://books.richlabonte.net ] but they are available all over the world thanks to Amazon and Barnes & Noble.Well, I'd definitely say that is a wrap (or rap, at least.) I do want to add that my daughter Aimee [plug http://pancakeandlulu.etsy.com ] encourages me in all my arty pursuits and that keeps propelling me forward. Where I am headed I have no idea, but it's a cool ride :o)>
|Here are some earlier reviews of files on this site from Cary Grant's Blog|
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
calling rich la bonte... rich la bonte... rich...
a few posts back i mentioned rich la bonte's early 80's psych/weird LP called Mayan Canals, and the fact that the author had posted some of his old recordings from the 70s and 80s on his website with a wealth of newer recordings, which didn't interest me as much as the stuff from days yon past. the reason being la bonte covered alot of interesting ground back in those days... ranging from at times sounding like a cross between Bobb Trimble and Todd Tamanend Clark, to writing great catchy glam-psych ditties, and folksy ballads with punk flavorings (read ala velvets) + an electro-punk-wave song dedicated to Irwin Chusid of WFMU fame1 the guy was a renaissance man... and i do not lie, this stuff is really good! i'm saying he deserves a compilation of this seminal stuff as much as clark or trimble, or any other 70s under the table wizard... i've taken the liberty to post these songs here, because they are already posted for free over at la bonte's site. rich, if you want them taken down post a comment and maybe bestow upon us more unreleased material too. i, at least, am quite impressed.
shanghai express - great velvets/beatles (ya go figger... but lsiten) ala 70s transmorgification... phased vocals, great melody, beautiful song. from the author: "Written on learning that Marlene Deitrich had fallen and broken her leg (seriously!)" from 1972
deep beneath - great 70s-style psych that would ooze nicely off any private press landmark.... great lyrics over mean fuzz and wha wha and fucking GREAT songwriting. author says: "Written in the West Village while playing Godspell in the 1970s."
dreamin' - the kind of little ditty lennon and mccartney would put on the white album, but with phased strumming guitar, small talk off to the side like how the beatles always snuck those purposeful bits of conversational detritus onto songs. recorded in hollywood 1980.
murder - weird punky bit of the wave... vocoder-ized assessments of society over noodle guitar and distortion. purdy cool. sometimes sounds like lou reed. written in 1981, hollywood.
NJ Blues - another great song! POPS right off the bat with great hookiness and echoey vocals. recorded in 1974.
she want no alibis - great fuggin' punk-synth twerp whine with flexi beat and a back to 50s via the beatles breakdown. GODDAM FANTASTIC. recorded in 1983, written in hollywood.
sonia's song - soft ballad, harmony vocals. rather beautiful actually, and well-written, but may not appeal to many.
bright yellow star - great glammy slip 'n' slide... rundgrenisms slip in once in a while beautifully. 1st song on mayan canals lp from 1981.
postcard - other than the vocals for the main part of the song which are purposefully froggy, this song is the most Trimble-esque of all those provided here. really could pass for Trimble no questions asked on the in-between parts where he sings up high. really great song rooted in a beatles dynamic, just like Trimble's 60s-itis. also from mayan canals.
drums along the maple wood - funny song written for mr. chusid. mentions the residents, eno, john cage, how people used to always request peter frampton, etc. nice soundbit of irwin at the end.
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