Arthur Lee is in love with Love. And Love is Arthur Lee.
In the late '60s, Lee's surrealist songwriting made Love a psychedelic cult object--1967's Forever Changes remains a high point of the paisley-and-bubble-writing era. But despite a rabid following, Love seemed destined for Trivialand, especially when California slapped the guitarist with a 12-year sentence on a weapons charge, later debunked. Now, though, Lee is free after six years of unjust prison time, and he's on a belated mission to make Love a household world. It's a status Lee deserves. As he will be the first to tell you. So feel the word of Love:
Willamette Week: Has your popularity increased since your incarceration?
Arthur Lee: It's exploded. We played in Madrid, and these people sang along to all my songs. If you asked 'em how to get to the market in English, they couldn't tell you. In Sweden, I played with a full orchestra. I wish I could afford to take them on the road. But once you hear my new music that I've orchestrated, I hope it puts that Forever Changes album up on the shelf where it belongs, because I'm sick of playing it!
So the shows are going well?
We just did 21 shows in Europe, and if I was a prizefighter, I'd say I had 21 knockouts. In England, I got invited to Parliament. And when I was there, they asked me how many times I'd been to the White House. Man, the closest I came to the White House was livin' in a white house!
Must be sweet after what you've been through.
Now, if you're gonna talk about jail, make sure that you say we got the conviction overturned. That's the important thing, man. 'Cause the press--I don't trust 'em. I did all these interviews in Europe, and while I was there I had this dream. I dreamt I was in my backyard, and suddenly I saw a rattlesnake. So I grabbed a spade--you know, a square-tipped shovel?--and chopped its head off. Then I saw another, and chopped its head off, too. All these rattlesnakes were journalists with some idea about me, and when they come to see my show, unless they really have something against me, I blow their minds.
Jeff "Rattlesnake" Rosenberg
Love with Arthur Lee plays Friday, July 26, at the Roseland Theater, 8 NW 6th Ave., 224-2038. 9 pm. $20.
Making Hate Real Again
The Country Teasers are violent, alienated and bigoted. What's that all about?
Ben Waller, frontman of the Country Teasers, confesses: "I like violent imagery."
No big news to anyone who has absorbed the Country Teasers' shambling odes to alienation, an oeuvre studded with lyrical gems such as "We are the Hitler of comedy/ And everybody else is a Jew," and wherein women are "holes," men unclean, the handicapped lazy. The didactic singer/narrator of these songs, meanwhile, portrays himself as the supremely confident King of Lies, a personal agent of Satan.
"I like right-wing shit," proclaims the Scotsman. "It appeals to me because it is hideous. I'm not interested in making anything pretty, beautiful or poetic."
Indeed, the Country Teasers will not immediately endear themselves to the politically correct. Nor, in fact, to the socially functional or marginally humane. But beneath the surface-level cruelty lurks an intent to inflict positive social change.
"The best way to get political ideas across is to be ironic and use the language of hate to make the point," says Waller. "I just adopt the evil language, the way bad people talk."
Before the Teasers began this mission of subversion in 1993, Waller says he was one conflicted lad. "I was just isolated," says Waller. "I didn't have any friends a'tall throughout my school days, in fact. I was just full of hate, really."
Even after two substantial, U.S.-produced releases and a compilation of import obscurities, the Country Teasers remain harder to handle than a greased pig in the rain. Dominated by Waller's leaden vocals, the Teasers lumber, waltz and crash in a quasi-pastoral aural landscape of atonal, flaccid guitars and tinny percussion. Occasionally, a Moog synthesizer enlivens the embittered mood. It is acidic and uncategorizable music, combining the languid morbidity of Joy Division, the intellectual imperative of the Fall and, most importantly, the deconstructive rebellion of Pussy Galore.
"Pussy Galore sounded historical," says Waller of Jon Spencer's seminal, experimental wedding of industrial noise and '60s garage rock. "They could have come from anywhere in the past 50 years." By inserting a country-music template, Waller felt he had a perfect formula. "I love that rough sound. If you sounded like that, you could never have a bad gig. You would be invincible."
Waller, by the way, claims he has mellowed over the years. This week's Teasers show should provide a chance to see if that is true. Sam Dodge Soule
The Country Teasers play Thursday, July 25, at the Blackbird, 3728 NE Sandy Blvd., 282-9949. The Bassholes, The Hunches and the Hospitals also appear. 9:30 pm. $7. 21+
MUSIC NEWS & GOSSIP FROM HOME & ABROAD
HISS and VINEGAR
DAVE CARTER, R.I.P.
Sadly, we learned last week that Dave Carter, half of beloved Portland folk duo Carter & Grammer, died of a heart attack on July 19. Carter apparently succumbed at his hotel in Hadley, Mass., while the duo was touring. Carter and partner Tracy Grammer won huge acclaim in folk circles for their literate, mysterious songwriting. At this writing, memorial plans are not available; we suggest you check www.daveandtracy.com for further information. In the meantime, our condolences.
GIRLS ROCK CAMP: MASSIVE
In happier news, damned if last week's second-annual Rock and Roll Camp for Girls didn't offer a spectacle to defrost the most cynical heart. The camp, held in a community hall at North Mississippi Avenue and Shaver Street, welcomed scores of girls from around the country (and media sleazoids from NPR, YM and WW who came sniffing around for copy) for a week of hands-on music training, general consciousness-raising and fun. Last Tuesday morning found Sleater-Kinney guitarist Carrie Brownstein leading all campers in stretching exercises and a singalong. Combat-booted counselors steered rambunctious groups of 8- to 17-year-olds from activity to activity. Not to get all weepy-eyed, but there is something undeniably cool about seeing pre-teens learning the ins and outs of amp feedback or mastering Black Sabbath songs. Check out www.girlsrockcamp.org for updates and info regarding the camp's future.
BILLY RAY'S: THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED
Neighbors of Billy Ray's Neighborhood Dive (2216 NE Martin Luther King Blvd., 287-7254) can rest easy--no more of that nasty live rock and roll is planned for the lo-frills bar. After battling area residents and city noise officials, the Dive ran smack into the Oregon Liquor Control Commission last week.
It seems the Dive's original booze license made no provision for live music; when the bar tried to get its papers amended, OLCC said no dice, citing the noise issue and alleged neighborhood disturbances some blame on Dive patrons. Now, manager Brinda Coleman says the Dive has agreed to scrub amped music, close its backyard patio at 10 pm and add extra security during peak hours--all moves designed to placate neighbors and the OLCC. Coleman says plans in the works to keep people coming include karaoke nights, DJ events and "unplugged" music on weekends. "Nothing real cheeseball," she promises. "Quirky, but cool." The OLCC, meanwhile, continues an investigation of alleged vandalism and hooligan behavior some neighbors say is associated with the bar.
WORDS: NOT JUST FOR NERDS ANYMORE
Lawdy bless the 2 Gyrlz art conspiracy. After scandalizing and exciting the minions with a series of not overly normal performance art/music events, the Gyrlz announced plans last week to start a quarterly magazine. A debut date for the pub, which will focus on "under-represented forms, genres and...communities," ain't available, but they're already looking for contributors of all sorts. Ex-Anodyne editrix (and WW contributrix) Tiffany Lee Brown is fielding queries at email@example.com.
Email gossip and horse-track tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.