Matthew T Grant


Tall Guy. Glasses.

Homage to Saccharine Trust

Until the appearance/Of a lone ocean bird/Skimming over the choppy water/Airily eyeing after anchovies/And occasionally glancing at the people/Who had come to be at the beach/On the winter solstice – from “Estuary,” by Saccharine Trust

I think it was in the late summer of 1981 that I jokingly suggested to my friends that we go see a concert at the Whiskey A Go Go featuring the Minutemen, Saccharine Trust, and the Meat Puppets. I had not ever heard any music by these groups and was probably just amused by their names, especially the Meat Puppets.

Who knew, then, that some four years later these would actually be among my favorite bands?

Indeed, it was in the spring of 1985 that I went to see the Keystone Palo Alto installment of what SST billed as “The Tour.” The bands involved? SWA, Saccharine Trust, The Meat Puppets, the Minutemen, and Husker Du. I had gone mainly to see the Minutemen, having had my mind blown over the preceding months by their magnum opus, Double Nickels on the Dime.

The Minutemen totally rocked, as they did every single time I saw them. SWA was forgettable. The Meat Puppets, oddly enough, left no impression (though later in my life I devoted significant turntable time to Meat Puppets II and Up on the Sun, and, in fact, if I were inclined to recommend any band from that era now, it would probably be them). Husker Du were a white noise blur and my rock concert companion (Eric!) and I left during their set.

The band that ended up haunting me, however, was Saccharine Trust. Jack Brewer, the singer, was dressed in a banana yellow leisure suit; Joe Baiza, the guitarist, had a piece of spin art taped to his guitar. They produced a very angular and spastic kind of punk noise with Baiza given to hacking out long, experimental lines while Brewer—curly haired, baby faced—spit his beat-inspired words. At one point, Brewer hit himself in the forehead repeatedly with the mic until it drew blood. Later, he took off his belt, tied it around his neck, and awkwardly jerked himself into the air with it over and over again.

Read the rest of this entry »

Overindulging in Innovation

Note: This was originally posted to Aquent’s Talent Blog back in March of 2007. I’m reprinting it here because I referenced it here. Also, I refer to Scott’s book as “The MYTH of Innovation,” though the actual title reads “MythS,” which is actually saying something quite different! – Matt

At a recent marketing conference, the catchphrase was “innovation,” as in, “We’ve entered the age of the ‘innovation economy,'” or, “Today, innovation is the key to differentiation.” Given the premium placed on innovation, a colleague who attended this conference wondered aloud how job seekers could best communicate their ability to innovate.

As a way of answering that question, I’ll direct you to a recent post on innovation hype I found on Scott Berkun’s blog. Berkun has book on the myth of innovation coming out in May, so you’ll have to wait until then to get the whole story, but he states his basic perspective fairly clearly in the aforementioned post: No matter how ubiquitous the invocation of innovation, actual innovations are fairly rare, and, as far as success in business is concerned, rarely necessary.

From the job seeker’s standpoint, if the job you are applying for requires that you demonstrate your ability to innovate, the only real way to do that is to point to innovations you have actually brought into being. Keeping Berkun’s words in mind, however, be prepared to exercise caution and refrain from portraying drastic improvements or significant changes as something they are not, namely, innovations.

Of course you could also follow Berkun’s advice and, when a prospective employer says, “Tell me about a situation where you introduced a real innovation,” simply ask, “What do you mean by that?”

A Disappointing Film About Norwegian Black Metal

I watched the documentary film Until the Night Takes Us and was disappointed. I really think it fails on every level.

Neither a true “history” of black metal (Norwegian or otherwise) nor a revealing portrait of the genre’s main innovators (Fenriz of Darkthrone and Varg Vikernes of Burzum), the film never even raises the questions it should answer.

For example, wherein lies an engagement with or appreciation for this genre, especially in its purest, “necro” form (as one might find it on Emperor’s Wrath of the Tyrants, for example, or Darkthrone’s incomparable, Transylvanian Hunger) as an aesthetic experience?

Sure, Fenriz and Varg talk about choosing the crappiest amps and mics, etc., but why does the result sound so compellingly haunting?

And, frankly, how did it even become a recognizable genre and how do we categorize its defining characteristics?

On the other hand, where is the discussion of the neo-Nazi ideology associated with this music, so associated with it, in fact, that there is a sub-genre known as NSBM, or National Socialist Black Metal? I use the term “sub-genre” here guardedly since some of the genre-defining artists have produced music that falls squarely in this dark realm.

On that last front, why don’t the filmmakers actually call Varg on his bullshit?

For example, during the segment about his trial for the murder of Euronymous, Vikernes states that he was given a stiff sentence (by Norwegian standards, not American) because, in his words, the authorities wanted to say, “We don’t tolerate this kind of rebellion.” What kind of rebellion was that exactly? Stabbing a man, fleeing from you in his underwear, to death?

Varg is also shown saying, “It’s very hard to recognize the truth, when you are bombarded by lies all the time.” This may sound noble, until you realize that this is the kind of “truth” he’s after:

If we have a positive relationship to our homeland, to our blood, to our race, to our religion and to our culture we will not destroy any of this with modern “civilization” (id est capitalism, materialism, Judeo-Christianity, pollution, urbanization, race mixing, Americanization, socialism, globalization, et cetera). The “nazi ghost” has scared millions of Europeans from caring about their blood and homeland for sixty years now, and it is about time we banish this ghost and again start to think and care about the things that (whether we like it or not) are important to us.

Finally, why do they let it slide when Hellhammer—known for saying things like, “Black metal is for white people”—refers to the man Bård Guldvik “Faust” Eithun (erstwhile drummer of Emperor) killed as a “fucking faggot”?

I’m sure they’d fall back on the “we’re letting our subjects speak for themselves” ethos of some documentarians (and if you’re reading this, please feel free to comment!) but even there they don’t let their subjects speak enough or at length. One of the most interesting segments involves Fenriz being interviewed by a German journalist (in which he says, “We’re not just sitting around in a trailer camp listening to Anthrax!”). Why couldn’t we have more of his views or ramblings (and, while we’re at it, a conversation about his use of the phrase “Norwegian Aryan Black Metal” back in the day)?

For good or ill, I don’t tend (any longer) to reject music or other works of art based (solely) on the politics or behavior of the maker.

Nevertheless, I firmly believe that one should at least explore the ways that politics and aesthetics inform and influence each other and, if only on a personal level, ask ourselves why our response to something, on a visceral level, may be positive when we would reject it on an intellectual level.

Anyway, if you have the time and interest, Lords of Chaos is a much more satisfying account of black metal, its origins, and its consequences.