Dancing About Architecture

Whither Buttholes?

Touch & Go Records reports they're "sad to announce that all records by the band Butthole Surfers appearing on the label have been deleted." That announcement is the latest news in a story that began in 1996 when, says the label, the Buttholes sued the Chicago-based indie to stop them from selling the band's back catalogue, which includes Psychic... Powerless... Another Man's Sac, Cream Corn From the Socket of Davis, Rembrandt Pussyhorse, Locust Abortion Technician, Hairway to Steven, and Widowermaker! This action "came as a shock" to the label, which felt their relationship with the band had been good even after the Buttholes signed to Capitol. Touch & Go says they're appealing the court decision that forced them to cease production and distribution of the above albums. Repeated calls to Butthole manager Tom Bunch and band members went unreturned, so it's unclear what the band plans to do with the recordings, though they definitely will not be releasing them on drummer King Coffey's Trance Syndicate label, says Trance's Craig Stewart. Capitol's Maria Malta says she doesn't know if the label plans to take part in the distribution of the former Touch & Go albums.

Either way, this summer may go down as the Great Butthole Drought, since the court decision has put much of the band's back catalog out of print for the nonce, and the Surfers' new album, tentatively titled The Last Astronaut, has been bumped back yet again. This delay is a big one, too; Malta tells the Chronicle that Capitol is now "projecting" an unspecified fall release, and don't call them, they'll call us. An article from Internet news service http://www.muzic.com reports that the band's "A&R man just didn't hear a single, so the Buttholes will now be `reworking' some of the tracks," to which Malta responds: "You can't believe everything you see on the Internet, but I wouldn't be surprised." Rumors are beginning to spread that the bond between the band and their record company may be wearing thin. Malta says she's not heard of any enmity between the two, but admits that until she hears more from the band's management and the label's A&R people, she doesn't really have much of a clue what's going on.

Cash For Jazz

"[The Roy Hargrove concert last month] wasn't a benefit," explains Austin Jazz & Arts Festival's Harold McMillan. "It was supposed to be, but it wasn't." I get his drift; the Jazz Fest (formerly the Clarksville Jazz & Heritage Festival) fundraiser had been scheduled opposite the first night of South by Southwest and the Austin Music Awards Show, and was poorly attended, to say the very least. Last Sunday's performance by Nicholas Payton at the Victory Grill wasn't exactly a windfall for the fest, either, but with a new baby arriving on the day of the that show, McMillan has been too busy to get frustrated. He says simply that "it becomes difficult to identify Austin's jazz audience and get them to come to shows," insisting that, "We're still planning on putting on the best show we've ever done this June." That's June 7-14, with the event culminating with two days of jazz in Waterloo Park (a departure from the fest's usual Pease Park site). McMillan continues looking at the positive side of things, noting that 50-60% of those who did attend Payton's show (see "Live Shots") said it was their first visit to the Eastside venue, and that they loved the it. Still, he wonders where Austin's jazz fans have been hiding and also frets about the difficulty in finding corporate funding. "[We] need the same support that a lyric opera or a symphony needs," he says. "A lot of our potential corporate sponsors haven't come to agree with us on that." Those wishing to help the jazz festival can call 477-9438 for more information.

Louis Meyers, Now on Patrol (for the Dark Side)

"You can say that former SXSW employees Annie Melvin, Darcie Fromholz, and Brenda Hutchison are all working for what is now called `the Dark Side' by a certain unnamed director of SXSW," says a representative for the Lousiana Music-New Orleans Pride Festival (LMNOP), former SXSW director Louis Meyers' new music festival, which takes place this coming week in Louisiana. (Says current SXSW kingpin Roland Swenson of the above quote: "That's very funny.") Running April 27-29 (in between the two Jazz Fest weekends in a city that really appreciates its jazz), LMNOP opens with a keynote speech from Ellis Marsalis and includes a number of Austin acts including El Flaco, 81/2 Souvenirs, Shatzi, Merchants of Venus, and Killer Bees, along with a host of native New Orleans bands and others from around the world. It also features SXSW-like panels such as "Union Do's: What the American Federation of Musicians Means For You" and free musicians' workshops: check http://www.OffBeat.com/LMNOP for complete listings. Many are comparing the fest to the early years of SXSW, which brings up a point: Is New Orleans ready for a bunch of musicians and crazy people showing up en masse on an annual basis?

Rubin's Union Suit

No, Mark Rubin hasn't joined the Picket Line Coyotes or the Scabs, but he has found himself in dutch with the local chapter (#433) of the American Federation of Musicians. He says he's received a letter stating that he violated two of the union's bylaws via his work on The Newton Boys soundtrack and faces a $1,000 fine and/or expulsion from the union. Rubin says he has to empathize with a union official working in a right-to-work state; "It's like being the wine editor at the Salt Lake City newspaper" and doesn't deny the violations, but he finds himself in a tough position. On the one hand, he says he's only received contact from the union nine times in the eight years he's been a dues-paying member, "none of which involved me getting any money," while on the other he admits to having "this weird Woody Guthrie thing about unions," and doesn't relish the thought of being blackballed. The problem, as well as the reason you may never have heard of the union, is largely related to the abovementioned fact that Texas is a right-to-work state, and the fact that the union is more geared towards helping the wedding performer and lounge act type of musician than what we think of as the typical Austin musician. In any case, Rubin goes before the board next Wednesday to discuss the situation.

Mixed Notes

The Vallejo clan has finished working on their new album for TVT Records, tentatively titled Beautiful Life. Recorded at the Record Plant in Sausalito, the album is scheduled for a June or July release...

Uprooted: The Best of Roots Country Singer-Songwriters, out from Shanachie Records, is notable in that fully half of the artists contained thereon hail from these parts. Kelly Willis, Don Walser, Ana Egge, Trish Murphy, Dale Watson, Libbi Bosworth, and Wayne Hancock are all represented on the comp, brought to you by the label that's recently released efforts by Sara Hickman and Sue Foley...

We've finally received the official word from Arista Records regarding the fate of Arista Latin. The story is basically the one reported in this column last week; the Latin division will be shuttered, and some of the artists on the roster will move under the BMG umbrella through an agreement with BMG US Latin, while the others "evaluate new label deals both inside and outside the BMG family." (That's record company talk for "shaking in their boots.") Rumors are still racing about further "changes in the wind" at Arista Austin, mostly centering around management changes...

Also being confirmed this week is our assessment that it must have been a stenographer that had State Rep. Lloyd Doggett calling Austin the "Loud Music Capitol of the World." Doggett's office quickly issued a statement shifting blame...

The Lance Armstrong Foundation's Rock for the Roses show coming to the Austin Music Hall on May 23 ought to have a few people running to the ticket counter. The lineup for this starfest includes the Wallflowers, Tonic, Whiskeytown, Semisonic, Cherry Poppin' Daddies, and a bunch more...

Rhino Records' upcoming Blues Masters Volume 16, Harmonica Classics, will feature Austin blues harp player Gary Primich's song "The Briar Patch" from his Company Man CD...

Big Foot Chester play an in-store at Sound Exchange this Friday, 6pm, while this Saturday's free show at Blondie's is all surf, with three capital "S"; Sandblasters, Squid Vicious, and Sir Finks...

Miles Copeland's Texas-friendly Ark 21 label has announced that they're re-releasing Wayne "The Train" Hancock's 1995 debut, Thunderstorms and Neon Signs and will be adding a feature to the reissue that they say has become a "mainstay" at the label: audio liner notes featuring Hancock discussing the making of the album. Another mainstay at the label is at least one zany quote by Copeland per press release, and here's the one for Thunderstorms: "I boarded `the Train.' I'm still on. And I ain't getting off. It's great to see more and more cats diggin' the experience." Go see Hancock at Stubb's this Saturday and maybe you can get him to offer an "audio liner note" analyzing Copeland's comments...

It'll be just like Kiss vs the Phantom of the Park this Friday at Flamingo Cantina when the robotic FishRmen '98 battle Sinis for rock & roll dominance over earth. Seriously, this is bust-a-gut material here (and both bands actually do "kick ass," just as a bonus). The Cantina folks point out that this is their first weekend rock show in a year, and that accordingly, all four bands (Voltage and Human open the bill) are promising something special. Be there or get yer own smoke machine...

Here's the opening sentence of a press release from a certain traveling rock festival: "Smashing Pumpkins, Paula Cole, Marcy Playground, and Fastball have been added to a H.O.R.D.E. festival line-up that already includes Blues Traveler, Ben Harper, Alana Davis, and others." There's dual significance here; first, that an Austin band is finally going to play the main stage at this event (Davíd Garza has also been tapped for some second stage appearances), but also that Fastball is already being mentioned in the same breath as Cole and the Pumpkins. Whew! Now the question is whether or not Miles Zuniga will ever get one of his songs released as a single again after the success of Tony Scalzo's hit "The Way"...

Two local film makers shooting a short movie starting in May are searching for local bands to submit music to be used in the film. All styles & sounds are welcome. Call 349-9278 for more info...

Finally, to the two local bands whose names were spray painted on our offices (and other buildings around town), would you like to confess up front, or do we have to call out our Samoan lawyers?...

- Contributors: Michael Bertin, Raoul Hernandez, Andy Langer, Margaret Moser

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More Dancing About Architecture
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The last installment of "Dancing About Architecture."

Ken Lieck, Jan. 3, 2003

So Long, Slug
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