underground since'89

send vinyl, tapes and zines for review to:

tobi vail P.O. Box 2572 Olympia, WA 98507 USA

email mp3's, links, photos and flyers to:


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Interview with Zarjaz from The Tronics

The Tronics are the best band but nobody knows about them. All that is about to change because a label from New York called What's Your Rupture? is reissuing their music. I found out about them from Jon Slade from Huggy Bear/Comet Gain in the late 90's but they are from the punk/post punk era. One time Jon and I were at a record fair in Brighton and we found a box of Chainsaw Fanzines w/ Tronics flexi discs in them. They were not for sale but were they free? I can't remember. We got a few copies. There's a really cool Tronics interview in the fanzine that I have somewhere. For a long time that is the only information I could find about them. I found all their records with Jon's help and started collecting Zarjaz records. Eventually a website appeared. From the website I discovered they also released a tape, which they made available on CD. Then, in 2005, Zarjaz came to see my band Spider and the Webs play in South London. Mabel from Hello Cuca had contacted him via the website to tell him that we covered a Tronics song (Shark Fucks). It was the last night of our tour and he came to the after party, bringing us a bottle of champagne for the hootenanny. We stayed in touch and I interviewed him last year but forgot to turn the tape recorder on. Whoops. These questions were written by members of Comet Gain and me at a Sunday pub roast.

1. how did the latest releases of the tronics with what’s your rupture? come about?

People have been asking me to reissue Tronics since 1983. When Alan McGee came to me in 1983 he wanted me to re do Tronics. Of course I was too involved in other things and I think this may be the basis of why he has acted so maliciously towards me over the years since.

About a year ago people around me managed to convince me that any reason I had to withhold Tronics was not as great as the people wanting it and I should let them have it, so I got together with What’s Your Rupture?. Kevin Pedersen at WYR? is an important figure in rock n roll. I know, I have seen quite few and I can recognize them.

2. are there any plans to play live?

The Tronics releases have been in the planning stage for a year now and plans to play live have been running parallel. They haven’t managed to come about yet but they will. I mean, well how difficult is it to get Zarjaz on stage? I won’t be playing a Tronics revival or playing under the Tronics name but I will be playing quite a few Tronics songs live.

We are hoping to set up some low key, intimate appearances, here and there, with just me and a guitar, to celebrate Love Backed By Force and then follow that up later on with a full rock n roll band line up, in conjunction with the planned Tronics singles retrospective on WYR?

It’s going to be awesome. Marilyn Monroe is going to be there. Bo Diddley is going to be there. Edie Sedgwick is going to be there.

3. which do you like better - the future or the past and why?

“Love the one you’re with.” When I’m there, either in the past or in the future I love it. Most of all I don’t really relate to the present.

4. what is your favorite period in history?

Probably the time of Nero or just before the French Revolution.

5. what have you been doing in Croatia?

I usually end up in the sea.

6. what's your favorite period of pre-history? (Jurassic, Triassic, cretaceous?)

I tend to go for the Cretaceous. I collect dinosaur teeth and most of the ones I have come from that time.

7. are you interested in the megatooth shark? what is your favorite shark?

The Charcharadon Megalodon by far. This creature was so unimaginable and beyond belief. Remember, this looks like a great white but it’s the size of a jet airliner. I have some Megalodon teeth. Other than that I love all sharks, even tichy ones.

8. how did you meet gabby from the tronics?

I saw her on Bond Street and asked her if she wanted to play some music. She was an actress and wasn’t involved in music at all. We had an interview and a try out rehearsal and she was in. After Tronics she went back to playing Shakespeare on a big stage.

9. who's your favorite guitar player?

Bo Diddley.

10. tell us about baroqueabilly!

The style first began to come over me during the recording of Love Backed By Force. At the same time I had always been experiencing hauntings and weird things. People might say I have hallucinations or I imagine them. I see people. Sometimes they are from the past, sometimes they are black people. I hear things. Sometimes they call my name. The earliest thing I can put my finger on that I heard was a little girl singing, that follows me around. I can feel that she is near sometimes but I never see her. I used to be so confused and concerned by this that my music was going hand in hand with ghosts/hallucinations and supernatural signs/imaginings and I would talk about it openly hoping someone would explain or help.

After a time I began to meet/have visions of dead people who were telling me things. Once I walked into a room full of ancient people who told me I was the Emperor of Rome, descended from Nero. Another time I woke up with my bed surround by them saying “come to us.” They have been with me all the way, showing me things and telling me what to do. If this seems unbelievable to anyone I would say to look at La Leggenda Del Block (II) (2009), or, Oh Praise The Lord With One Consent (download) (2011) and ask how on earth can someone like me, from a very humble background, with no training in classical music or history, or school for that matter, come to make that?

Around 1982, fans at Tronics gigs started calling me Zarjaz, which was a word in the comic 2000AD. I decided to end Tronics and apply the name to my work from then on. Now this may all be a supernatural happening or a psychological problem but by 1983/84 I was living it. I gave everything I owned away, that I didn’t need to operate, like recording machines and my keyboard and surrounded myself in the past and the future. I made the music with a synthesizer and with reference to Clockwork Orange in order to make classical pop music, accessible to ordinary people. If anyone takes the time to look at LLDB they will see that it is more loyal to the music that was actually written than many mainstream classical music releases, made by so called experts. Eventually this would lead to catastrophe.

During this time I was also working on a video project that was to become a three hour slow motion series of dream like images set to my music. The film was called Lustratio, which is an ancient Latin word for purification. While I was making the music I was also videoing, but more importantly editing, all in slow-mo. When I got off the monitor my vision was blurring and I began to see the whole world moving in slow-mo. At the same time I had a terribly troubled relationship with a girl who insisted on taking a lot of speed and alcohol. This made her quite abusive and malicious. Like many troubled relationships I was caught in the trap of keeping the relationship going when I should have got out. One day this girl told me that she had 8 abortions of my babies. Having a baby was one of the greatest things that could have happened to me. I totally love children and I always felt this was a sadness in my life as my circumstances were not good to have a baby. At that time I was confronted with this horror, out of my head, while seeing the world in slow-mo, I looked down and saw children hanging on to my trousers. It was the last straw and I totally went through the floor and ended up in hospital, facing years of psychiatric treatment. I became unable to play musical instruments or read music. I decided to put Lustratio away and make sure no one ever saw it. This was the troubled end of baroquabilly, at least for the time being until I worked my way back to release La Leggenda Del Block (II) in 2009.

I think my classical music as pop music idea in 1983, has been more than exonerated with the pop scene taking on classical music recently, all be it safely but not forgetting to mention Paul McCartney, with his classical pop music, saying things I said in 1983.

11. is it true that you were in a band with tony james?

Around 1982, Tony James asked me to be the front man for his new band. I recorded a vocal over a demo they had of Be Bop Alula. My ideas were totally different to Tony James and I had been working on futuristic, Clockwork Orange, cyber punk rock n roll, since 1981. I already had wardrobes full of futuristic clothes and sets of pictures and video for Lustratio, in knee pads, jet boots and neon hair, baroque clothes and neon red baroque wigs.

Tony James told me the band would be called Nazi Occult Bureau, so because of that I said no to joining. I also saw only trouble looming for them, bands being relationships and relationships being what they are sometimes. But I did suggest that he did bass on some songs I had and I recorded demo songs with him including Inter Block Rock and Luna Love, both being futurist rock n roll anthems.

By 1983, baroquabilly took me over completely and I needed to go with it, so I left Tony James and dedicated myself to making futurist classical pop music. I knew Tony James would have some success with his band but the next time I saw them they had procured a new singer from the New Romantic scene and called themselves Sigue Sigue Sputnik, but Tony James had plagiarized the basic concept of the futuristic Clockwork Orange cyber rock n roll, from me. I have never blamed the other members because Martin Degville joined after me and I never knew him and also, Tony James tended to keep me and the others separate, in different rooms. I only ever discussed my ideas with him, never with the other guys. This has made me feel that he was manipulating

It was at this time that I had the great trauma in my life. While I was undergoing psychiatric treatment and unable to really deal with the situation, I saw the culmination of the plagiarism in the Sputnik record Albinoni vs Starwars, showing a half futurist, half baroque man, drawn by an artist from the comic 2000AD, on the front cover.

Tony James likes to keep these details in rock n roll history quiet, not even mentioning me or my huge influence in any official propaganda. Today the band is split in a terrible struggle, fighting for royalties and who wrote what.

12. what is your favorite band (or bands) of the 78-81 time period?

The Ramones. Teenage Jesus. Red Balune.

13. how did you distribute your records? did you self-release?

Mainly through Rough trade but distribution was much better then than it is today and also independent really meant independent and not financed and promoted by mainstream labels as it is today. Distributors were much more open then, even International ones and that’s how the first Tronics cassette became the first indapendant cassette album to have world wide distribution and recognized so by the NME in 1982.

14. when we hung out in london last year and drove around the city I sort of interviewed you, but I didn't tape it. I remember you talked about some riots on the kings rd and trying out for 'the beatles'....can you recount some of what we talked about that day?

One of my first music industry experiences was in 1978, with Jock McDonald, who some might remember being a manager of John Lydon. I responded to an advert to audition for a Beatles show. The audition was held at the Speakeasy, off Oxford Street. I went along just for the experience not expecting to be chosen. I was called to the stage and asked which Beatle I was, so I said all of them. I played She Loves You. They told me they would call me if they needed me and I left. Jock approached me at the door. He was working there as a resident DJ/promoter. Jock said that it was a set up for publicity. The auditions were fake and they already had the musicians arranged. The best thing was that he thought I was great. He also invited me to go back to the punk club nights that were happening there, with my name on the door. This introduced me to some amazing experience. What’s more, Jock allowed me to use the Speakeasy to audition early Tronics musicians and form my band there.

When I first started going there I normally saw the club manager who was a very astute person. The last time I saw this man he was sat over a pile of paperwork, a twitching, nervous wreck. I heard later that someone had hit the guitarist Denny Lane over the head with a sledge hammer the night before, inside the club. The club closed down soon afterwards.

During this time a situation arose where the old Teds or Rockers were taking offense to the new Punks using Ted clothes and paraphernalia and putting safety pins in them. This lead to a lot of fighting on the streets in London between the two cultures. The kings Road in London was a particular flash point. The road had always had a long standing tradition as being a meeting place for Rockers, in particular on their way to Brighton for the “Brighton Run.” This was a yearly meeting and run on motorbikes to Brighton. There is a very famous tea stand on Battersea Bridge, just off the Kings Road that has become a traditional meeting place for Rockers, Bikers and vintage car enthusiasts.

There were similar conflagrations during the 1960’s of Rockers fighting the newer Mods but these mainly occurred in Brighton at the destination of the “Brighton Run.” Gangs of Rockers would fight gangs of Mods throughout Brighton but mainly a big punch up on the beach. By the end of the 70’s the Rockers were facing trouble both at Brighton but also on their traditional doorstep, the Kings Road, from the Punks, who had set up camp there, mainly through the connections to Malcolm McLaren, who had a famous Punk shop and meeting place there.

Every Saturday, at the height of Punk, the Rockers would gather in the middle of Sloane Square at one end of the Kings Road and the Punks would gather at the Worlds End. At around 1pm, both groups would march up or down the Kings Road and meet in the middle for a fight.

Friday, February 3, 2012

hello it's 2012

photo by Armin C. Antonio

dear jigsaw readers,

hello. it's 2012, I know! I know you know. I messed up. Amy Yao contributed a Best of 2011 list and it was supposed to go up on January 22, which was Chinese New Year...but it didn't happen. Human error. So I will get that up (maybe as a January 22 post, so look backwards if you are reading this in the future!) soon and then move on to the next thing.

Just briefly, the first show I saw in 2012 was The Corin Tucker Band at The Midnight Sun. This event was put on by The Olympia All Ages Project, the folks who brought you The Northern. It was a pretty killer show. Western Hymn opened up. Then Broken Water Played. The Corin Tucker Band headlined and they played all new songs. I have now seen two of their shows. The first one, I think, was a huge show in a giant theater in Portland and it was their first show ever (pretty sure?). This show was kind of the opposite, in the sense that it was a tiny show and didn't sell out but in a way it was similar because they played all new songs, pretty sure they are still learning them/writing them. I thought that was a bold move, because, as someone who is working on new songs, I hesitate to play shows until they are totally finished these days. Why? youtube of course. As a fan I love youtube. As a person-in-a-band, not so much. The songs have to be done when you play a show (ANY SHOW) or else you have to be willing to record a live record at EVERY show to the point to where you are like, ok fuck it. I guess this is an example of how the authority of the author is being challenged by technology (see The Art of Immersion by Frank Rose for more on this idea, review by me forthcoming) ...which ok...if I'm playing drums, what do I care? But if I'm the SINGER SONGWRITER I want to just shoot lasers out of my eyes when I see people recording the shows! Like ok, just stop! Please? Or better yet, don't start.

Anyhow, I digress. The show was cool. Ok I will be honest. I missed the first part of Western Hymn, the first part of Broken Water AND the last part of The Corin Tucker band but that is because part of what we do at shows is hang out right? I mean, there was a lot of walking around and going back to the apartment to meet people and hurrying back to the show to hang out and then my mom txted and was like "when is Corin playing, is it sold out? I am coming to the show" and a friend wanted to know if it was "the real Corin Tucker" or maybe something like "Courtney Love" the band, which is actually Lois and not the singer of Hole. Anyhow, the new songs seem to be shaping up, I look forward to hearing the record and maybe next time I see them play live they will be playing songs they've toured on for awhile so it won't be so hesitant and reserved.

Then Olympia had insane weather so I missed a few shows I was meaning to go see...Hysterics...Crude Thought...Wolves in the Throne Room/Broken Water...oh well, there will be other times to see those same bands. OH. I did also miss going to see Craig Extine's first solo show with Sedan opening up but I do recommend checking out his new album, which is available on CD or tape if you like the acoustic songs on that last Old Haunts Record. I think there was another show that night. Oh yeah, Nudity and maybe Dead Head? Cool bands, will try harder to see them next time. For reals.

On Sunday I did manage to go see Hey Girl, Blues Druid and Pierced Arrows at The Brotherhood. The guy from Hey Girl is like a cross between riot grrl era Allison Wolfe and Will Shatter from Flipper. Totally amazing. They actually remind me of Flowers For Funerals, an early 80's pre-Bratmobile percussive ensemble that did death rock post punk versions of John Waters movies in song form. (But I bet nobody reading this has ever heard that band.) When the girl from Hey Girl sings, they sound kind of like The Pixies or Blood on the Wall maybe. I felt like I was in Arcata when they were playing. I don't know what that means. During the show I was standing in line for the bathroom. A woman said "do you know the band?" I said, which group? She was talking about Hey Girl. She knew the band. She was stoked. I asked about her connection. She said she works with the singer, the guy singer. I said, "oh, where at?" and she said "Brewery City Pizza". Then she paused..."You, know, Pizza Girl??" I didn't know if that meant SHE was THE Pizza Girl or what, but I thought it was a pretty cool interaction. Blues Druid has Dave Harvey on drums and a good bass player. The guitarist kid was skilled but not super soulful in my opinion. It was a groovy groove, that's for sure. Pierced Arrows were ok, not super great. James said it was their best show yet. I don't know because I haven't seen them that many times. I did hear a rumor that Fred and Toody will be playing a set of country ballads somewhere in Portland sometime soon.

Ok that's it so far. I recently was hanging out at Dumpster Values/ Phantom City and everyone was working on stuff -- Perrenial was busy assembling new releases, Broken Water were working on sleeve art for an upcoming 12" and Mary Jane from Polly Darton was laying out a tape cover while she was working the counter at Phantom City. What was I doing? Waiting to use the printer so I could edit some interviews for Sham Pants.

Stay Tuned. 2012 is gonna be a good year.