John Bartles has been spinning out tapes of his stuff since the mid 80s. I first learned of him when he sent a tape to KGNU called The Orange Album. I think he lived in California then. He's somewhere in New York state now. Anyhow, there was this song called Cut My Own Head Off that caught the imagination of all the deejays who were alternating on an afternoon show called The Cassette Underground -- where the idea was that we played nothing but tapes, mostly homemade ones. This song by Bartles was about how he couldn't find anyone else to cut his head off so he hadda go and do it hisself. He sounded pretty disgusted about that. He also sounded drunk. An ominous and campy chorus echoed the sentiment, sounding like an evil barbershop quartet. It was a Cassette Underground hit! Eventually that Cassette Underground show died cause I moved out of Boulder and no one else was willing to cue up all those damn cassettes. But I'm keeping the torch alive with Under The Floorboards on sporadic Saturday nights, playing homemade cassettes and anything else that's weird! That presented a potential problem for playing Bartles, though, cause the music is practically straight by Under The Floorboards standards. Some of it is even just the blues, and none of it gets as out there as I generally aim for. But the thing with Bartles is he ain't interested in making musical or aesthetic statements. He's just out to have a good time and say what's on his noggin. And sometimes that's just good enough! Not that he'd care. One of his tapes is called Snot For Everybody. Another's called Go Fuck Yourself. Well, that oughtta give you some idea of where he's coming from! But his is a jovial misanthropy, not bitter or smug. Merry Christmas, Motherfuckers!!! One tape's all about dogs, from the dog's point of view, with songs like Lick Me and We Don't Want No Dry Dog Food Around Here and I Took A Dump To Show I Love You. But he gets political, too. The song American Hypocrite describes how people try to get themselves on both sides of an issue so they can feel "good" about themselves without having to take any real stands. He skewers William F. Buckley, Rush Limbaugh, and ol' Prez Clinton -- Rhodes Scholar Hog Caller -- all with equal angst and glee. "Castrate The Masses!" he growls on a tape on which he does the vocals for a band called Arpad (on Godiva Records 653 Monroe Ave. Rochester NY 14607). Bartles doesn't care if you think his music's too normal or that his lyrics are too outlandish, he's just doing what he feels like and digging it. And the results are pretty fun and interesting, and sometimes they'll hit ya right in the solar plexus too! Bartles, PO Box 106, Livonia Center NY 14488.
The one and only Winona Righteous grew up in the deep south of Louisiana. She currently resides in Denver, Colorado, although she envisions a return to the South someday; maybe soon. She feels deep ties to her origins, even though the lyrics of her songs often paint her early years with nightmarish images. The first time a mutual friend told me of her music, he said it sounded like Julie Andrews. When I heard it I could see his point, up to a point: she knows how to sing -- she has a trained voice which sounds almost operatic -- and she knows how to write melodies, some of which are downright sing-songy (almost like show tunes); meanwhile, however, the songs describe such things as being consumed by a snake, suffering adolescent sexual neuroses, retreating from Mom's scolding into menacing fantasies, and The Black Coffin. Winona cites as her mature influences Kate Bush, Danielle Dax, and The Legendary Pink Dots, though she also bears the scars of her early influences: the Carpenters, Baptist hymns, classical training, and childhood traumas. She says her soul hails from a distant galaxy and that her purpose "on this dying planet is to sing and play her songs of the trials and tribulations of her assimilation into the hostile human race; and to share her message of peace, love, and bizarre sexual ritual in hope that the human race may still be saved." After making a tape called Winona Righteous Sings on which she is primarily accompanied by her own keyboard and sound effects, plus a few additions from friends, she formed a band called Wryeteous Pybayk Jammbory which fleshed out her songs with the full shtick of guitar, bass, and drums, although the drummer played on a pared down set which gave the music a more tribal feel than rock. They played some gigs around town to usually small but appreciative audiences and recorded a tape they released themselves called Welcome To The Diskumfort Nursery. In addition to Winona's songs, there's a hallucinatory group improv backing her spoken word. A great song of theirs called Soul Holes got released on a local CD compilation called Cyberpuncture put out by a local label called The United Endangered Front (PO Box 554, Englewood, CO 80151). The drummer, Tikk Huntiere, made a couple of guest host appearances on my radio show; presenting his collection of the latest trance-drone offerings from Europe, since he was a lot more up on that stuff than me. For a variety of reasons (aren't there always) that band has broken up and now Winona does the occasional, special, live performance (including an upcoming appearance at Death Equinox '98) backed by guitarist Alan Smith while she continues to write, learn technology, and maintain a vegan lifestyle. A compendium of her material without the Pybayk has been released on tape by another local label, Stupid Records (865 Northridge Rd, Highlands Ranch, CO 80126), and a retrospective of the Pybayk is being planned for CD release on Elevator Records (15242 Moss Way, San Antonio, TX 78232). "She will coax these howling beings out for one hell of an interplanetary party! Righteous!"