Ep. #90: The Jesus Lizard Week with Mac McNeilly

The Jesus Lizard Week celebrating the release of BOOK continues with drummer Mac McNeilly. Here, Mac and I discuss some background on how BOOK came together, how it taught him more about his bandmates, the bond forged within the band through years of working and living together, his special relationship with David Yow and how Yow was heartbroken when Mac left the band, the book’s emphasis on interests that musicians might appreciate more than others but Mac’s belief that non-playing fans have just as much insight about the Jesus Lizard as anyone else, how the band were serious musicians but not serious people, Mac’s take on the David Wm. Sims/Steve Albini dynamic and why Sims says Shot is the best album released by the band, how the term “legitimacy” might be ascribed to the band’s 10-year run in the 90s where they went from underground heroes to “major label sell-outs,” why the band felt compelled to make decisions that sustained them as adults with families, how the cultural climate seems to have softened when it comes to notions of credibility, how the band’s ‘re-enactment tour’ went, how it’s possible the band was better than ever in 2009 and that the tour wasn’t based in any nostalgia, whether or not the band explored new song ideas or might in the future, never saying never, Mac’s interest in some footage of the band playing in Chicago in 2009, his current, respective musical projects with people from Butthole Surfers, Machines of Loving Grace, Stabbing Westward, and more and how he’s been pushing his comfort zone as a player, that time Mac was struck by lightning and thrown 20 feet into the air, and that’s it.

Related links: akashicbooks.com/catalog/the-jesus-lizard-book/ vishkhanna.com


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Ep. #89: The Jesus Lizard Week with David Yow

It’s a very special week on this show because I’m dedicating four episodes to interviews with every founding member of one of the world’s greatest rock and roll bands, the Jesus Lizard. David Yow, Mac McNeilly, Duane Denison and David Wm. Sims each ended up in Chicago at some point in the late 1980s and then they went and changed things. They were a dangerous, precise, profane, and devastatingly great band for 10 years, making amazing records and playing great shows from 1989 to 1999 and then they came back to play some more shows in 2009. This past March, a Brooklyn-based publishing house called Akashic released BOOK, a gorgeous coffee-table photo book that captures the life and times of the Jesus Lizard via thoughtful essays and reflections about a truly significant past. Beginning in February, I tracked down each member of the Jesus Lizard and we talked about BOOK. It took a while to get everyone pinned down but we did it and, for whatever reason, here am I at episode #89 of this show I make in Canada and I’m dedicating a week to the Jesus Lizard, who played their first show on July 1, 1989, Canada Day, at a Chicago restaurant called Bangkok Bangkok opening for Slint and King Kong. Here David Yow, who was on this show 80 episodes ago, and I discuss where the idea for BOOK came from, why there was a desire to make it themselves, who they wanted to get to contribute to this story, his hang-ups about some aspects of how the band was represented and promoted historically and why he insisted on designing BOOK, Henry Owings of Chunklet and his role in making this project come to life, the Polaroids that document various eras of the band and people who are gone, David’s nipples, buttcheeks, and penis and how his stage presence wasn’t sexual, why David was drawn to ‘danger’ as a performer, the book’s interweaving chronology and unique structure, why Yow’s participation as a voice in BOOK is relatively slight, how the Jesus Lizard might present themselves as a ‘musician’s band,’ why more dudes than ladies gravitated towards the band, how funny Duane Denison is, David Wm. Sims’ prickly relationship with the Jesus Lizard’s long-standing recording engineer Steve Albini and what Yow thinks of the albums they made together, Yow’s drunken shenanigans in the studio and Albini’s unique mic-ing techniques, why Down was the band’s worst album, whether or not BOOK marks the final chapter for the Jesus Lizard, casting Catherine Zeta-Jones in the biopic about the band, Yow’s desire or lack thereof to be in any bands these days, how close the Jesus Lizard came to writing new songs together when they ‘re-enacted’ in 2009, David’s plans as an actor making movies, David’s new cat pun book Copycat: And a Litter of Other Cats, my cat Gary and the body issues the world has imposed upon him, and that’s all.

Related links: akashicbooks.com/catalog/the-jesus-lizard-book/ vishkhanna.com


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Ep. #88: Vanessa Dunn of Vag Halen

Vanessa Dunn is the lead singer of Vag Halen, one of Toronto’s most exciting and confrontational rock bands. On Facebook, they describe themselves as “Toronto’s feminist art rock band that brings the bad with a dash of ass! Armed with a repertoire of classics, Vag Halen muff dives into the salty cock rock waters, blowing nether regions with their commitment to all things queer and all things rock.” Having seen the band myself, I can verify that that is all totally, totally true. Vag Halen storm Guelph on April 12 for a set at Kazoo! Fest at Van Gogh’s Ear. The band is on at 11:30 PM sharing a bill with Whoop-SZO, Biblical, and Legato Vipers. Here Vanessa and I discuss the pizza in Parkdale, growing up in Scarborough and celebrating the suburbs, where Vag Halen came from and what it might stand for, Katie Ritchie of the Organ, good Van Halen (David) and bad Van Halen (Sammy), how the band covers songs by different cock rock, hair metal bands who are male-centric, as an attempt to assert and understand the role of women and queer culture in such realms, the sexy, revealing attire and stage presence of Vag Halen, the power and cultural contributions of Tawny Kitaen and Miss Elizabeth, Vanessa’s acting background, whether or not we’re well past the era where musicians can get away with blatantly misogynistic and homophobic aesthetic stances, Nirvana’s decision to perform at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with women like Joan Jett, Kim Gordon, Lorde, and St. Vincent filling in for Kurt Cobain, why Axl Rose is the worst, most complex person, how personas or behavioural patterns in musical genres can perpetuate problematic lyrics and attitudes, running into Alice Cooper at a restaurant, Vanessa’s love of Depeche Mode and the Jesus and Mary Chain but her passion for hard rock, whether Vag Halen will ever write its own songs, the generally positive reception for the band in Toronto and Vanessa’s place as a role model, what’s new in Vag Halen’s set these days and why things are gonna get heavy at Kazoo! Fest, and nothing more.

Related links: twitter.com/VagHalen kazookazoo.ca vishkhanna.com


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