Followers

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Punk Heart

The Punk Heart:

1. Is inherently wounded.

2. Questions even the most simplest of thoughts.

3. Is angry, but not from Hate, but from Love.

4. Understands the need for a place called home, but never wants to be there… for too long.

5. Likes to be alone, but needs to express their compassion towards others, and this drives them completely crazy.

6. Understands that music is a necessary component for living a fulfilling life, but knows that music is not life itself.

7. Sometimes wishes that life was as simple as a well constructed three chord song.

8. All too often wants to burn it all down, but then realizes it is not qualified to rebuild it.

9. Wants to learn to be good at everything… so it can burn it all down.

10. Like a good buddhist teacher, hangs out by the door of enlightenment, but never goes in. What the fuck is one suppose to do with enlightenment?


The Punk Heart needs to feel its own blood pumping, or else it doesn’t know that it is still beating, that it is still keeping itself alive.

Monday, December 19, 2016

THE NEPHEW WHO MADE SANTA REAL

T
THE NEPHEW WHO MADE SANTA REAL
My older sister has a daughter, my only niece. And I only have one nephew. His mother, my younger sister, is a single parent. When she was pregnant I promised I would be around more to help, more than I was with our niece. But life always seems to get in the way, and once again I have not been the best uncle I could be, but I feel I have had my moments. I really do love this kid she named Levi. 

 Anyway. He has had an ongoing fascination with Santa Claus. Not just around Christmas, but all year round. In summer you can catch him sitting with his legos building a perfectly crafted Santa with reindeer and sleigh. Sometimes out of clay, sometimes, with crayons, but always to perfection and with personality. To me that is a sign of a real good artist, where you can look at a detailed or even simply drawn image and it somehow comes alive, like it has a soul. He can make this happen in the most simple of creations. 

Earlier this year he and his mother drove together to Indiana to purchase a real antique sleigh, 120 years old. The man who sold it was offered more money from another buyer, but then heard that a little boy who loved Santa and loved giving gifts wanted it, so he sold it to my sister, a few hundred dollars less than it would have cost for another customer. It was the exact Sleigh he wanted. You could see its resemblance in his drawings.

Every time I visit Levi he presents me with a drawing from his collection. They are always well crafted, and if they do not feature a Santa, then they feature a super hero, often both. A good Imagination makes things like that possible. Something in him is attracted to figures who try their best to help others. Often my sister would wonder if the mild obsession with Santa was somehow hurtful to him. But it never seemed to keep him from making friends or getting work done or functioning like a regular boy. 
Levi is by far one of the last of his age to believe in the existence of Santa, and somehow over the years the kids coming to the realization of the contrary while around him did not deter his devotion. 

Well… A couple days ago, Levi sat my sister down and told her to be straight with him and not to lie. He asked if Santa was real. And my sister had to tell him, "No." He got very sad and began to cry. He is also at that age where a human begins to realize that all things die, and somehow these concepts of non-existents and death combined and the weight of this information hit him hard. My sister told me he was going to stay home from school the next day, and I said I would stop by. I worked out things that I could say to him, to make him feel better about Santa and even about himself. And then I felt I over-rehearsed it and thought it wouldn’t feel real, and then I decided I would just play it by ear. Today, he just seemed like he needed a male play pal for awhile, so we had a drawing contest, then we just threw balls at each other. Later he tried to kill me with a sword but luckily I found the Truthful Glove of Surrender so he had to get whirled around on my back till he was dizzy. 

Then he showed me his amazing, real to goodness sleigh, with antique cushioned seats and metal rails. It was outside in the snow but it was covered with a canvas to protect it from the elements. He said, “Mom and I are saving up money to buy a shed for me to put the sleigh in, and a place for me to go to draw.” I said that sounded marvelous, then picked him up and tickled him, then he screamed and laughed, ripped off my glove and then I no longer had the Truthful Glove of Surrender so I had to release him. After a few moments of silence I said, “Are you Ok?” He looked away and his eyes sunk to the ground. I put my hand on his shoulder, he teared up, and politely took my hand off. “I’m very sad.” And I just said, “That’s Ok.”

They drove me to the train station as the snow began to fall. Through the frosted car window he saw a cup on a vending machine outside the station. He said, “uncle John, knock that off for me when you get out.” “Do I have to?” And he with a serious smile said, “Yes, you do.” So I did. When he was out of view I picked it up and through it in a garbage can. On the train I felt bad that I did not say the things I meant to say, so when I got home I told my sister so, in an email. I pasted the paragraph I had planned to say to him in some order or fashion. She said it was beautiful and that Levi responds positively to compassionate things like that, and she asked if she could read it to him. And I said Yes. So she did. I don’t know how he responded but I hope it helps in some way.


“The things I feel you see in Santa are in you. Santa is kind, you are kind. Santa gives gifts, you like to give gifts. Santa brings joy, and you bring joy to your mom, grandma, your uncle and your friends. Santa Claus will always exist in your heart, because you are more real than he could ever be, and so he will always be around within you."

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Screeching Weasel and Ben Hamper



I found this photo on the internet, but there was a logo printed over it. Luckily I was able to purchase a hard copy of this photo from an online company. I came home from Japan and on my table piled deeply within a stack of mail, was the package containing this print. I am not sure why I like this photo so much. I think because it shows us as just a bunch of guys hanging out, doing the things we chose to do, to keep busy, to fill our time on this earth, to maybe accidentally make something of ourselves. We are silly but also there is a glimmer of serious business, and perhaps a dark brewing of disagreement and fragmentation. We are both clean cut and filthy, innocent yet already full of road weary experience. We were seeking adventure yet still holding anxiety close to our suburban sheltered fears and doubts about death from accidents, skinheads who hate our band, and shows cancelled from lack of interest and shitty promoters, being stranded in small towns and big cities, at any time, on a mountain road or stuck in a winter storm. We are not famous, but we are not unknown. We are the lineup that most will view as the best the band ever had, yet to us, then, we were far from being as good as we could be. We were still learning how to play the basics of punk rock. We were equal in charisma and talent yet we were plagued with an imbalance of vanity, assholery, compassion, insecurity, and need for control. We would soon implode, but at that moment in the van we were a unit who played punk rock with a veracity that has made us legends amongst a particular group of music lovers.


Pictured from lef to right: Richard the Roadie, Dan Panic, Ben Hamper, Dan Vapid, John Jughead, Ben Weasel.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Suicides of Tojinbou


Ever since I excommunicated myself from the Mormon church, when I was 15, I have been more a man of Logic and Coincidence, with some Chaos and Absurdity thrown into the batch. I lost most of my spiritual beliefs over time, they were absorbed by more pertinent things to me like creativity and the beauty to be found in the simple. Superstition is now just memories of a wild imagination as a child. After rereading Kierkegaard in my early thirties I had regained a strong understanding of the importance of belief, and have reincorporated it into my life, but now without religion attached to it. Mostly I know it is important to believe in people and to trust the inexplicable feelings we often cannot come to copes with.

This post has gone to a place I didn't expect. What I really wanted to share, which I suppose the aforementioned paragraph gives some backstory to, is this: When I was at Tojinbou with Shogo and Akiko, while standing on the jagged rocks looking out over the Sea of Japan, they told me that this was one of the most popular places in Japan to commit suicide, so much so that the city installed a phone booth with a bowl full of coins to use to make a call and a hotline to dial for support. This is pictured below. They also told me that the island just across the way, Oshima, was a place of unsettled ghosts, the ghosts of the thousands of suicides. Then Shogo turned to me very seriously and through broken English told me that people say that at night you can look out over the cliffs towards the island and witness arms stretching out from the sea. This is no joke, and they are not ones to pull a prank on me. Later that night when we were looking through our photographs, we spotted this strange picture of me sitting on the rocks. Take a look. And tell me that that isn't weird!




Sunday, July 3, 2016

Weasel Logo silk screened into the internet machine





Years and years ago, a few days before hopping in a Chevy Malibu to travel across the country, touring with our, at the time, fledgling punk band, I purchased a do-it-yourself silk screen kit. The way these things worked seemed to me to be some kind of modern day magic. I spent a couple days making a shit ton of concert shirts. I built a wooden frame, stuck the screen in it, and sat Paul Russel’s legendary Weasel logo, against it under a sun lamp, covered in some kind of magical chemicals. Then I coated the screen in an otherworldly goo, and when I washed it off the logo had wondrously adhered itself to the screen. To this day the silk screen making process is still magic to me! But the silk screening repetitive work itself is all too real. I unwrapped and spread dozens and dozens of blank t-shirts across my floor, and one by one I poured paint into the wooden frame and squeegeed even levels of it across the screen, and then slowly lifting it up revealing the logo, anxious each time that I was going to fuck up the design. Which did happen quite a few times. We still sold those fucked up shirts too, just at a cheaper price. We couldn’t afford not to. After hours and hours of repeating this process, all night and into the morning, covered in paint from head to toe, I was surrounded in my room with drying concert shirts. Getting out of their was like playing Hot Lava, except I didn’t have a couch to stand on to protect myself from burning my skin. I jumped, crawled, wavered, and nearly fell quite a few times till I got to the exit. I think about this every time I happen upon this photo on the internet. I was pretty damn proud of those shirts, with or without one of them being warn out on the body of this well known rocker. This came up because of wandering down memory lane preparing for my next youtube album archive episode.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Jughead On... Series

Jughead goes through his catalog of records, chronologically, from Screeching Weasel, to The Mopes, to Even In Blackouts, listening to each record once, refreshing his memory and then spontaneously going through the songs to see what he remembers and what tickles his fancy about the song and the recording.


Saturday, June 18, 2016

KONSENTO

After two years working in Japan, you start talking a language between Japanese and English with your assistants. I am slow to pick up a language, but I did realize today while engaging in this kind of conversation with my assistant, that a random English or Japanese speaker walking by may have no idea what we were talking about. Along that way of learning, there are words that are just the same as our English words but slightly askew. The Japanese have a separate alphabet for these words called, Katakana. I kind of like the system, in general when you look at a word you know if it is a Japanese word or if it is imported from another culture. For instance one day near the beginning of my stay here I asked "I could really use a donut, what is Japanese for Donut?" And my assistant replied, "Donuto." That made me laugh. It surprised me that they wouldn't have their own word for it. It is not as simple as just adding an "O" to the end of some words. Bare with me for a moment while I explain something you may know. The Japanese language doesn't have a consonant free from a vowel except for the consonant "N" All consonants are followed by a vowel, so Donut becomes, in Katakana, "Do Nu To." One of my fellow Wizards was joking with an assistant, I can't recall exactly what about but it had something to do with them checking his costume that he was wearing at the time, and he put up his hands and said, "You have my consento." And both our assistants started giggling uncontrollably. We thought they misunderstood him in some kind of sexual way, so he started to explain, as best he could, in simple English, the many meanings of consent, contracts, obligations, and of course, the importance of giving consent. They nodded their heads, looked at each other bewildered, and we just moved on with our day. A few days later while I was with another assistant she said, "Offu Seto (off set) On Seto (on set) consento!" She was just enjoying the sound of the words, and she started to laugh. And then I realized, "Hey maybe that word does not mean what we think it means." She said she would draw me a picture of "Ko n se n to." And I, of course, laughed. She drew a picture of a plug and an outlet… “Konsento” means “Electrical Outlet.” So my fellow wizard had put up his arms and said to them without knowing, “You have my electrical outlet.” The strange thing is their word “Konsento” is in Katakana, which means it derives from an English word, but in no definition in english do I see the word being used to mean anything electrical. Perplexed, today I finally looked online and found the answer:
“It is 和製英語. Sometime around the 1920s, employees at 東京電燈会社 created a device which consisted of a plug and outlet. This was called コンセントプラグ "concentric plug". Outlets without the plugs are now referred to as コンセント. "Ko N Se N To" Needless to say, English "concentric" does not make much sense.”
So, now you know something new.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Friends at Odds

I may eventually write a post about the sad misunderstanding and use of the term “appropriation” and how its overreaching need to protect destroys potentially wonderful, inspired, and influential moments in lives of people who explore cultures beyond their own. (I don’t deny the negative implications of actual “appropriation” I am merely saying that I believe it is often used by people who don’t understand how a foreign culture perceives itself and how it is abused. Actually the bigger problem in Japan is that Japanese tend to excuse Westerners for their actions NOT because they think we are appropriating but because they think we are oblivious to their customs and that expatriates ignore the inherent responsibility of a citizen to adhere to a countries rules and social mores. That is why we get away with shit that the regular citizens don’t, because they think we are ignorant.) But right now I just want to glory in the belated present my friend Benjamin Knights just gave me. After a day of hiking for me, and a day of hard work for Ben, he called me into Osaka City to take part in a photo session athttps://www.facebook.com/japanesecosplayphoto/. It is a company run by a Japanese/American couple. The Japanese woman who runs the place took great care to help make us as authentic looking as possible for the price we were paying. She spent a great deal of time, past closing hours to get our costumes looking good. She even allowed us to take the time to go online to study the added strap over the shoulders, holding the sleeves back, that a Samurai in battle would do. Ben and I were filthy, and we both agreed that the dirt and exhaustion would add to that battle-worn characteristic of a warrior. In my scenario, my caption for this photo, Ben and I grew up together, took the same training, fought side by side, but a growing political/social difference began to separate us. And now we are face to face deciding whether integrity of beliefs is thicker than friendship.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

EIB Record Titles


I have had many friends that are masters of appropriating pre-existing material . It is a form of creation, that views with a critical eye, the creations of others, and steals to make it one’s own. Many of my actor friends are good at this, it is also a technique that Ben Weasel used on almost every Screeching Weasel record title. I was never very good at this, this technique is often a surefire way to capture an audiences attention. You have to have a keen understanding of pop culture, and underground trends, and how to accurately listen to the pulse of your audience. I can never sense things too far outside myself to use such tools. With many elements of Even In Blackouts, it was my goal to be wholly me, in the moment and hoping to discover a few universal truths, not appropriating a complete concept but to borrow parts and mingle them with my own jumbled ideas. (Of course, mixed and influenced by the amazing creative voices of the musicians and friends I have been able to work with.)
(What I nurtured through my love of 70s concept records combined with Ben Weasels take on it, was to admit that during a period of time, an artist is creating from a certain point of view, and one cannot escape from this point of view, until the facets of it have been fully explored. So in Screeching Weasel then with me in Even In Blackouts, we began to explore loose concept records, admitting that a collection of songs marks a point in time, when although they may seem diverse, are really a study from one frame of mind, striving to be manifested through multiple perspectives.)
What follows is a music geek’s interpretation of my album titles for Even In Blackouts:
Myths & Imaginary Magicians:
This is a reference to the first song I wrote for EIB, Missing Manifesto. The song itself is about: Will the art we make excuse the behavior we conduct while achieving our goals? If we create good art it justifies our self destruction and our asshole behavior to others, if it does not create impressive art, we are just another asshole in a sea of stupidity. It also had to do with the idea of trying to live up to a perception of the self from the outside, do we become what we are perceived to be? Do we fight against what others believe us to be? How do we just try to be ourselves when the myth gains strength over time? The imaginary magicians part was my criticism of this striving to be in control of your own myth, to me it is like striving to be a magician with no audience that really matters, complicating our relationships because it seems enigmatic and complex. (This album is predominately about my obsession with my friend Peter’s Suicide and the decaying of my working relationship with Ben Weasel.)
Four Shadows on a Wall:
This is a title that I worked on with Dan Lipman. Even In Blackouts uses, as themes, glowing, shadows, and the affect of light, as a metaphor for trying to find meaning in our lives through the pursuit of art as a living, and also a more literal reference to being able to play in blackouts. The concept behind the title is more about fun wordplay than meaning. Most of the meaning came after the title was decided. Dan and I liked the concept of combining the fact that there was now only four of us with the idea of Plato’s shadows on the wall of a cave. And when Dan brought this up, I was excited, because it alluded to my prior themes of trying to break through the illusions to see what is really there. Is it just shadows? Are we just superficial? Can we actually get to a deeper meaning through the used of lyrics and music?
Zeitgeist’s Echo:
Zeitgeist, the literal translation from the German is Time Ghost, or the spirit of the times. This title was my more puffed up view of what I was trying to do with EIB. I thought I was trying to break barriers, but I was never sure if they were just barriers of my own making or barriers of music in general. I guess I was always hoping my band would be creating something unique, but ultimately what became more important is creating something I had never done before, to use guitar chords I had never used before, and to challenge Liz, who after the first record, I realized that she was an amazing singer who’s talents exceeded my own understanding of music. She helped me challenge myself. So the idea of the Echo, was a puffed up belief that in general the world was producing art that imagined itself “of the time,” but was really just living in an echo of what had happened previously. It was a title to force myself to try to break my preconceived notions of what a band was supposed to be doing.
Fall Of The House Of Even:
I had been studying the Edgar Allen Poe short story Fall Of the House of Usher, when my band began to fall apart, and all that was left was me an Liz, and a new drummer, Bice, who lived hundreds of miles away. Liz freaked out when the Lipmans left the band, and she believed it was the end. But I had experienced in Screeching Weasel a similar change of ranks between Boogada Boogada Boogada and My Brain Hurts. I knew that an overhaul like this COULD lead to a more fruitful arrangement of musicians and friends. (In this case Gub Conway & Phillip Hill) I had also been going through a break up, of a sexual nature, and much of this came out in the writing too. I had asked the new member Gub to contribute some songs, and I told him that I had been playing with the idea of decay and hauntings in the style of Edgar Allen Poe, specifically the affect of ghosts on our decision making in the present, how our baggage never really goes away. This record is where I learned that I could still commit to concept records and trust Gub to write alongside me, to join in the concept, to try his hardest to understand what I was trying to do, and to commit fully to making it work in his writing for the band. Bice and Phillip used to say that there job was to try to make musical sense out of the fucked up ideas Gub and I would create. I always liked that idea. It was comforting.
Thresholds From The Basement:
We had no label and no money. Fans helped us raise the money to build a studio in my basement and to continue onwards. The record is about doors. That is what I told Gub. I told him to write songs about the moment of walking through a doorframe. This records is about the moment of change. It is about those moments we pop out of ourselves and watch from above and witness ourselves moving from one chapter in our lives to another. The added layer I gave myself was to see this concept through very personal relations with my family. The concept behind song titles, of which we only committed partially, was to create ones that were not easily remembered. I had a good time with this for many of the songs on the record.
So, there it is. I hope you found some enjoyment in reading this, and that it may cause you to listen to these open-veined-songs we created for you.
John Jughead Pierson

Friday, April 1, 2016

Here are two contrasting pieces that I continue to perform almost 15 years after they have been written for the show Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind.  Maybe now that the New York Neo Futurists have put them to film, I can let them rest.
Our goal at the Neo Futurists is to write personal material that has insight into what is going on currently in our world and also to simultaneously create a way to emotionally connect with our individual audience members.  And since I have done this for nearly 20 years and the short plays we write change out every few weeks, it has give me plenty of time to fail and to grow.  I have probably created over 350 of these short pieces.  These are not examples of my best live work, often the best work for stage is made only for the live experience of the stage and when brought to another art form, for differing reasons, it just doesn't have the same affect.  It becomes something else.  So these two pieces are more in the category of writings that I thought could be transformed to be something else.  One based more in Tragedy, and one in Comedy.  Which is which will make itself obvious in viewing.


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Hammer For Demolition: Guitar as Friend


I have called myself an actor and a writer but to this day I still have a hard time calling myself a musician. When I began my rock band career in 1986 with Ben Foster, I could barely play. My influences were heavy metal guitarists, Randy Rhoads and Brian May, but I could not for the life of me pick or strum guitar like them. When Screeching Weasel started playing out, I would break at least 2 to 3 strings a night. I battered the shit out of them with a tense hand. I have learned to relax, to use thicker strings and thinner picks, but that feeling is still there. Guitars have always felt like a foreign object in my hands. Now 30 years later while analyzing myself as a guitarist I realize that I had always treated the guitar more like a tool than an instrument, like a hammer. I had to pound sound out of this device, that was the only way I could make it work. It wasn’t a precision crafting tool of a seasoned carpenter, it was the rough edged hammer of a demolition crew. And causing such pain to my guitar made it special to me, so I never became a connoisseur or collector of expensive guitars. I did not collect the best crafted instruments, I did not know a good guitar wood from bad. I did not hear the difference when I replaced my guitar bridge with a Flair Pen cap. I am not a materialist, I am a man who humanizes objects till they become special to him. My 3 electric guitars over 30 years were friends, but friends that I could destroy, and I felt they were OK with that. I started Even In Blackouts to try to become a musician, and all I can say is this Actor/Performer/Writer/Wizard will never achieve musicianship in this lifetime. I have come to terms that this is a self imposed endless battle, and that is OK, it won't stop me from trying. It’s been an amazing road, and I would never give up my days on stage. On my death bed (hopefully many many years from now), I can only hope these memories of being on stage, of pounding the shit out of my instrument, remain intact.