My boyfriend once crashed a Catholic-sponsored seminar called "Don't Sell Your Soul for Rock 'n' Roll," in which concerned citizens listened to "Hotel California" backward to sleuth out the malevolent messages hidden within. While the PTA members were busy getting their undies in a bunch over the Eagles, my guy's headphones were vibrating with the sound of the Feederz: "Jesus entering from the rear/ Fucking you in the ass/ Just another faggot/ In just another Mass." If only the good people had known, my boyfriend might have been arrested or at the very least chased out of town, an experience with which Feederz frontman Frank Discussion would have empathized.
In 1981, a few years after Discussion opened fire on his first audience with an assault rifle filled with blanks, the fervent anarchist fled Phoenix to avoid prosecution. He'd distributed a letter to high school students that was allegedly signed by then-Superintendent Carolyn Warner and which assailed education, future employment, and other generally accepted social constructs. Naturally, Discussion relocated to San Francisco, where the Feederz made headlines again when the singer performed at Gilman Street with live crickets glued to his head and a dead cat and dog strung around his neck. (He eventually threw the animals into the crowd, probably wrecking the minds of some nascent vegans.) Feederz records were equally as challenging and controversial as the band's shows. Ever Felt Like Killing Your Boss bore the line, "Vandalism: Beautiful as a rock in a cop's face," and was covered in sandpaper intended to mar any other record with which it came into contact; Teachers in Space offered a picture of the exploding space shuttle Challenger and the question, "If you think it is humiliating to be ruled, how much more degrading is it to have to choose your masters? Don't vote." Inside, Discussion's acerbic wit and unflinching gall made mincemeat of politics, economics, and religion, inciting fans to vandalize, sabotage, loot, loaf, create, destroy, revolt, and, above all, circulate homemade tapes. It's somewhat ironic then that Teachers, which bears the reminder, "Refusal to pay is your only real freedom of choice," now fetches hundreds of dollars among collectors -- ironic, but not funny, according to Discussion. To rectify matters, he recently teamed with San Francisco's Broken Rekids to remaster and rerelease both albums on CD -- complete with "subvertisements," sandpaper, and footage of the famed Gilman show. From the level of disgust aimed at corporate punk rock and delusional left-wing do-gooders in the new liner notes, it's not surprising that Discussion also has a fresh batch of rancor planned for release in the fall. To tide you over until then, the Feederz will demonstrate what a punk rock show is really all about on Thursday, June 13, at the Justice League with Songs for Emma and the Tramps opening at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $10; call 289-2038.
As owner/producer/engineer at Los Angeles' Radio Tokyo Studios, Ethan James worked with groups such as the Bangles, Jane's Addiction, X, Black Flag, Minutemen, Descendents, and Sonic Youth. He also gained considerable notoriety for his Radio Tokyo Tapes, which spanned five releases and documented the L.A. scene as nothing else had. After a time, though, James became weary of rock music and turned his attention to earlier musical traditions. He was especially captivated by the odd, droning quality of the hurdy-gurdy, a mechanized string instrument that was used by European monks during the Middle Ages. After buying one of the contraptions, he built another of his own, then he sold his studio and never looked back. Since then, James has become America's pre-eminent hurdy-gurdy man, recording numerous albums of original and early music, as well as contributing to tracks by the rock band Wild Colonials, pop singer Ricky Martin, and Middle Eastern master Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Driven by his anomalous passion, James has played on street corners, in rock clubs, at Shakespeare and Mozart festivals, for films and commercials -- anywhere such a distinctive instrument might belong and more than a few places it might not. Listening to James' recordings, it's easy to see why he still considers the hurdy-gurdy a living instrument, able to evolve in texture and context. To pass on his knowledge and fervor, James presents a historical lecture and performance on Saturday, June 15, at the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park at 1 p.m. The event is free with museum admission (discounts for those who come by bicycle or public transport); call 750-7145.