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Listed: Tom Smith

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Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists determined by our favorite artists. This week: To Live and Shave in LA's Tom Smith.

Listed: Tom Smith

I’m from Adel, Georgia, a very small town in the corrupt, unfeeling heart of the Bible Belt. Don Fleming lived two blocks away from me. Ray McKinnon, who currently portrays “Reverend H.W. Smith” on HBO’s Deadwood, lived half a mile from my subdivision. Both were a year behind me at the local high school. It still seems odd that we all emerged from such a strange place.

I first sang publicly at the First Baptist Church, I suppose; as a cub scout I got some local press cooing through versions of Beatles songs at a PTA meeting. Country and gospel were my parents’ favorite musical styles; my older sister dug the Rolling Stones. My main interests, however, seemed to augur the path I would take as a musician. I lived to destroy my folks’ hi-fi console (e.g., I would spin the turntable wildly around its axis, set its tone arm on or near an album’s runoff groove – my mom’s South Pacific soundtrack was a favorite target), and blast the console’s speakers until either my sister or my dad would rush into the living room with threats of malice. My uncle gave me a short wave receiver in the late 1960s, and I was sucked into the world of pure sound. (So, I guess I’m a sort of hillbilly musique concrete neo-baroque.) I played drums in the high school lab band, and joined an otherwise all-black funk group on timbales when I was fifteen. My first paying gig was at the Ebony Club in Adel in 1971. It also marked my first beer (cold can o’ Bud), and my first kiss and ear nuzzle from a black girl. Blissful days…

Along the way I got into prog, fusion, Krautrock, proto-metal, and glam. Roxy Music’s first two albums had a massive impact on my thinking, and Eno’s “non-musician” trip pretty much set me on the course I find myself stumbling through today.

Don and I began playing together in 1975. We recorded a lot of material; most of it still exists, and some of it is fairly decent. Punk hit us like a shock wave rippling through the 1940s Alamogordo scrub. Patti, Pistols, Slits, Damned, Adverts, Wire, Richard Hell, the Saints, Ramones (only their first two albums, though), and then Subway Sect (singles), the Pop Group, TG (I joined their fan club in 1977!), and PiL. Lee Perry’s Super Ape, Albert Ayler’s Spirits Rejoice, and Xenakis’Diamorphoses were of equal import. (FYI: I still have my original 1970 vinyl copy of Spooky Tooth/Pierre Henry’s Ceremony…)

Boat Of began in Athens, Georgia in late 1979. My first marriage (Mary Rockwell, painter Norman’s great-grand-niece) went off, with insuperable hitches, in December, 1980. My son Evan Augustus (after dub titan Pablo), was born March 30, 1982. When Boat Of’s Carol Levy was killed in a car crash outside of Athens in 1983, fuck, I went a little mad. I joined the USAF as a Chinese-Mandarin linguist, but was released after a year due to my not being “appropriate Air Force material.” My roommates at the Defense Language Institute must have really hated those Whitehouse albums.

Upon my discharge, Don invited me to DC to join Velvet Monkees. From April 1984 we rehearsed non-stop, but I was dismissed in short order – I had been forbidden to sleep with Jay “The Rummager” Speigel’s ex-girlfriend, but of course she and I hooked up almost immediately. I was pretty bad in those days… Soon after (July ’84), Jared Hendrickson and I formed Peach of Immortality. We officially released two albums, and recorded more than a dozen others that were never issued. In September 1985, I joined Pussy Galore, rehearsing and touring with them until February 1986. Peach of Immortality slogged it out until 1991, but the initial To Live and Shave in L.A. demos were in circulation by May 1990.

I moved to Miami Beach in 1991, where I worked at Telemundo as a sound engineer. Met Rat Bastard soon after – we formed the core of TLASILA. A second marriage occurred in November, 1993. It also ended in divorce. Traumatic doesn’t begin to describe it – the Wigmaker documents the aftermath. Miami resident Doris Wishman became a friend; she shot a video for us, and I in turn acted (badly) in her direct-to-tape opus Dildo Heaven. She was a member of my wedding party; I gave a eulogy at her wake. TLASILA recorded and toured from 1992 to 2000, releasing eleven albums in the process. We called a halt to proceedings in August 2000; seven “clone” spin-off groups whirled about in the aftermath. I formed OHNE in September 2000 with Schimpfluch Gruppe’s Dave Phillips. A September 2001 tour was postponed after the 9/11 terror attacks, but we successfully toured central and eastern Europe in April-June 2002. Released a CD on Mego; two subsequent live albums, recorded in Belarus and Russia, have also been issued. We tour Finland, Estonia, and Russia in November 2004.

I’ve produced a trunkload of albums for other artists over the years – Harry Pussy, Sightings, Scissor Girls, Brian McMahon (Electric Eels), Silver Apples, Splotch, Duotron, Frosty, Jeez, I forget ‘em all. More than 40, though. Some are good, others less so. My style, such as it is, is mega-invasive. Dennis Bovell’s productions of The Slits and The Pop Group made a lasting impression. His fingerprints are all over those albums – I detest reserve, and for better of worse I’ve followed his lead.

I’ve been “signed” to Menlo Park Recordings since 1995. Marc Weitz, Menlo’s head honcho, is an amazing guy, totally cool. I owe him an endless debt of gratitude, especially for allowing Wigmaker time (five years!) to properly gestate.

In 2003, Gerard Klauder and I began the Smack Shire label. We’ve released three albums, with another slate of four to soon follow. Gerard and I also record as a duo under the unwieldy moniker Memories of Underdevelopment (after Tomas G. Alea’s 1968 film). In a knot of Escher-esque synergy, our debut CD, Throat of a Black Kitten, will soon be issued on Menlo Park.

To Live and Shave in L.A. reformed in December 2003. Our new album, God and Country Rally!, will be issued by The Smack Shire in either May or June (or July, at the latest). We tour the northeast and central States in September. The line-up is Don Fleming, Rat Bastard, Mark Morgan (from Sightings), and Andrew W.K.

I turned 48 on April 10th. 6’3”, hazel eyes, vegan, etc.

I burn through an extraordinary amount of music, and make no bones about it. David Bowie may have been slightly off the timeline when he suggested that copyright would be dead in a decade, but we’ve long since entered the grey market slipstream, and his prediction (perhaps pilfered from more prescient sommeliers, Theorists, or post-hypertext tarts) may yet prove true. Everything is available, and most everything is, necessarily, ignorable. Still, it’s hard for me to resist unreleased Beck, Bogert and Appice sessions, and although I must often wait a few days, even months, to complete an acquisition (pesky bastards go offline without the courtesy of an instant message, leave for extended vacations, tend to barbaric pastimes like job and family), the goods eventually come to your door. Just last night, while exchanging emails with Thurston Moore, I informed him that I’d downloaded Sonic Nurse weeks before; as he almost always sucks up to me, related taunts have taken an increasingly sapid flavor. I see To Live and Shave in L.A. albums offered in the shares of members of increasingly less esoteric trading cabals. Huh? From my perspective, it’s akin receiving a standing ovation (or at least a manageable case of herpes) from an overzealous fan. (Uh, those especially demented enthusiasts – okay, that one crazy Tunisian dude in Marseille in 1998 – who would be driven to such shameful displays, that is.) I could care less about being bootlegged; of course, my albums don’t generate income for anyone, so there’s nothing to cry about in the first place. Ethically, this is a fairly untenable row to hoe. So, it is with blithe indifference that I present this Listed. I am already in Hell - other torments cannot faze me.

Too busy? Me too! I’m in grad school, completing post-production tweaks for three forthcoming albums, livin’, lovin’. I get most of my listening done at the gym or in my car. Why? Can’t otherwise sit still. Haven’t bought a CD for myself in at least a year (although I recently ordered a pair of raggacore singles from Midheaven, and I purchased two Linkin Park DVDs for my Russian girlfriend’s eleven-year-old daughter; their demo, bulls-eye, non?). Needless to say (so I shan’t say it), the whole fucking industry needs to be destroyed. The solution? One which many of you have doubtless long adopted. I create mp3 data discs for easy stacking. Depending on bitrate, I can pile upwards of 25 jungle dubplates, six to ten compact discs, or an entire Bear Family box set (I’ve been grooving to their eight-disc Jerry Lee Lewis Classic compilation of late – not as great as I thought it was gonna be, but damn good) on a single coaster. Set the controls on the cross-country glider, ask the student staffer to change the monitors from Lifetime and Fox News to something slightly more amenable (though if I arrive too early, when the Zetas are astride the stationary bikes, I have little choice – I’ve seen every episode of The Swan), and we’re off. (I prefer my iPod when bicycling, but for indoor sports I usually reach for the older format. A nagging reflex.)

For instance, at this very stinkin’ moment I’m burning a disc comprising:

Cheetah Chrome Motherfuckers/I Refuse ItPermanent Scar (1983)
The DiodesTired of Waking Up Tired (compilation, 1998)
Sinéad O’ConnorComplete Remixes (private comp., 2004)
Stavöstrand & SkuggRheinsberger EP (2004, 12”)
Wojciech KilarAngelus (2002)

At 675 megs, a tad slim, but the O’Connor stuff (which I’ll probably never get around to listening to) was ripped at 320 kbps. As gestures go, very thoughtful. (That noted, I absolutely loathe the lossless audiophile twats. Whenever a new Prince boot emerges - which is, let’s face it, about five times a day – the LAT are impelled to convert the fucker to the dreaded .shn format. I begin to shake, froth, shake!)

Soundboard recordings of each of the recent Pixies reunion gigs have appeared (usually the morning after), but as I’ve never remotely been a fan, I’ve ignored ‘em. Kinda thought about burning a couple for a cute indie chick who sat in the fourth row of the Intro to Mass Media class I taught last semester – she said she dug Television – but my Kim Deal aversion got the better of me. Owing to a dishonorable component of my personality, I snapped up late April’s Low flood. I kinda liked The Curtain Hits the Cast alb back in the day (it was a Caroline promo), but 1.7 gigs of their snailcore catarrh represents an impulse download if there ever was one. “Violence” is a cool song, however (although IMHO they blow it with the “silverware” line).

Okay, the aforementioned disc is burnt, so what’s next? Another.

This one is also slightly embarrassing, but, with genre utterly obsolete, I must walk as I talk. 699 megs, comprising:

David SylvianTown Hall, NYC (boot, 5 May 02)
Gussie P.Conqueroaring Lion in Dub, Vol. 1 (2000)
Johnny Winter & Black KangarooRehearsals, SF (boot, 10 Aug 73)
LoveFour Sail (1969, remastered expanded version)
The MonkeesLive, Phoenix (boot, 21 Jan 67)
MotionEvery Action (2004)
UtIn Gut’s House (1988, 2x10”)

Man, how I love the latter release – I must have six copies of it lying about the archive, but, what the Hell, I download it whenever it’s posted. Just can’t help myself. Ut… Jacqui, baby! Such a perfect group… (They really fucked up with the final, Albini-helmed album, of course. Kiss of fucking death.) Wish I’d seen ‘em live… Did see The Pop Group, natch (Mudd Club, June 1980), ditto Pistols (with pal Don Fleming, Great Southeast Music Hall, Atlanta, January 1978 – I later had an exquisite seven-year affair with the then-girlfriend of the leader of the obscenely wistful Sha-Na-Na rip-off droids who opened for them), Levene/Wobble/Lydon PiL (twice, Atlanta, 1980), Suicide (with Blondie opening, CBGB, 1977), Ramones (many times, 1976-7, Atlanta and NYC, though everything after Leave Home sucked ass), Only Ones (!) (supporting appalling ATL ersatz punks The Restraints, 1978)…

Apropos of nothin’, Jesus, how I abhor The Clash! (Okay, “Riot” through “Complete Control,” but it’s all offal after.) Saw ‘em, through, 1979. The chick that Fleming and I kinda fought over for a while is visible in a photo panel on the reverse sleeve of London Calling… (We lived in a very small breeding pond.)

Anyway, I’m through burning for now – I’ve a flight to catch in two hours, and I need to get my precious ass in gear. Not sure if this lil’ screed has been remotely illuminating, but my C.V. is pretty much out there for anyone to peep. I dig it all, save, uh, contempo country, 95% of MTV’s crud, most indie shit, and all metal, regardless of the supposed toxicity of the sub-genre. And of the stuff I loathe, Hell, it can always be detourned for one’s pleasure. (So, yeah, I dig it all! Blah, etc.)

Recent faves, in no particular order:

Pat O’Daniels and His Hillbilly BoysOn the Radio: The 1939 Broadcasts (comp., 2004)
Arild AndersenThe Triangle (2004)
Abdel Halim HafezKariat Al Fengan (1976) (rapturous)
Archie SheppA Sea of Faces (1975)
Tapper ZukieMusical Intimidator (2xCD comp., 2004)Various Artists – Ethiopiques (any volume in the long-running series’ll do – they’re all superb)
Loretta LynnVan Lear Rose (2004) (again listened to it day before yesterday during a sprawling, 50-minute I-85 traffic snarl – her voice has thinned, yes, and there are many wonderful moments)
Various Artists – The Venda Drummers (comp., 2002)
Johnny BurnetteThe Complete Coral Recordings (comp., 2004)
Modul – Isol (2004)
The BeatlesA-B Road (some maniac has been posting the raw Nagra reels from the Shepperton Let It Be sessions – each day of recording is represented by a four-to-six disc boot box; so far, going from January 21 to January 29, fifty fucking CDs have been uploaded. If you thought the Rhino Handmade Funhouse stuff was pushing it, just wait until you’ve heard Macca croon “’Til There Was You” 611 times…

Oh yeah - kisses and heartfelt thanks to Lizzy Mercier Descloux, who left most of us without warning. Adieu…

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