ANGRY YOUNG SUN RA FAN

Back in 1997 I found myself marooned without employment. I had just returned from a two-month trip abroad, rampaging alone through USA, where I was predominantly stationed in Cleveland OHIO as a (AHEM) session bass player, Brazil, then to Paris for a few hours (I will explain later), The UK, Italy, and then the USA again. After a few days fart-arsing about, I picked up work at Sony Music initially answering the telephone and taking orders from stores (I found that I was pretty good at this). After this I found myself at HMV Records, a Leviathan of a chart-store, in the country/jazz/easy-listening/soundtracks section.

As luck would have it, I found myself fascinated by jazz music because on the whole it sounded utterly alien therefore cryptic and interesting to me. I had no idea what the fuck was going on when I heard a Cecil Taylor record but I made sure I blasted the stereo and jumped around my room with the door closed. I rushed out and bought the unbelievable Sun Ra biography “Space is the place” by John Szwed. It proved to be a mind-blowing and influential read. As a musician, if you can’t learn something from Sun Ra, you may as well jump inside a wooden coffin with a set of nails and a hammer and seal yourself in.

I made a habit of at lunch times eating from a dungeon-like restaurant on George street across the road from HMV, due to the conveyor-belt rapid service. The grey spaghetti carbonara that was glue-like and overly garlic-laced was $5.00 a generous plate. Perfect for me at that stage of my life even if the food was a bit inedible. Habitually I would unfurl the hard cover Sun Ra tome and slam the vulgar pasta down. For the life of me I can’t recall the name of this rat’s nest nor do I wish to.

One such lunch time accosted were I by the restaurant owner – a skull-like Eastern European visage of a creature – he hovered over me with his presence as well as his sustain and gain, loitering unwelcomingly, my eyes meeting his ghastly gaze mid-slurp. I recognised this man as the proprietor, by my past observation (more like cursory glances) of his demeanour, his general presence. He barked at his staff like a well-worn bugle, pushing them this-way-and-that.

My meal was then suddenly interrupted by this foreskin of a man: “What are you reading?”.

“Sun Ra’s biography”

“Who is Sun Ra?”

“Sun Ra was a jazz pianist and composer”.

“WHAT KIND OF JAZZ? I HAVE NEVER HEARD OF HIM”

“AVANT-GARDE”.

With each offered reply, the hostility from this man (and probably from myself) went up a notch. It sounded like the Skull did not like me to begin with. People who look like they perform experimental surgery on others for laughs generally speaking, don’t warm to me. They don’t warm to anyone. Finally, the prick stopped beating around the bush.

“Avant-garde music is RUBBISH”. His bile rose like molten lava through his tube until they formed words designed to stab my person.

“In your opinion Avant-garde music is rubbish” was my counter-offer.

“My opinion is more important THAN YOUR OPINION”. He really was a shaved ape of a man. And he was asking for it.

“In your opinion, your opinion is more important than my opinion. In my opinion, my opinion is more important than your opinion”. Smart-arsedness and outright anger rose up in me in equal measure. I had lived this day many times over, EVEN BEFORE I JOINED THE HARD-ONS.

“YOUR OPINION IS NOTHING!” The skeleton really was furious now.

“AND YOU ARE A FUCKWIT! IN MY OPINION” I spat. Still seated. Still chewing.

“GET OUT OF MY RESTAURANT!” bellowed the cruel phantoma.

“I’ve not finished mate”.

The frantic fuckwit bolted to the counter. I knew what he was up to immediately. I shoveled the vast ropes of unholy glug down my throat

“HERE IS YOUR MONEY BACK! GET OUT!” He threw a five dollar note on my table.

The smart-arse in me overtook my anger immediately at that point. I continued eating. This of course made him EXPLODE.

“GET OUT! GET OUT!” His voice went up an octave. I loved it.

I got up very slowly, like a wounded rugby league player rising to play the ball all the while trying to milk a penalty for a foul-shot, still fork in hand, still bashing “food” down my throat, fully knowing the old fuck would not dare lay a hand on me. I had a fork in my hand.

Finally, I rose, wiping my mouth with one of their napkins, smiling like a lucky alley cat. A burly goombah escorted me out and he looked like he wanted to smash me right there-and-then and I do not blame him because I put on a good show for the rest of the diners. Provoked, mind you.

For the next week, I asked my co-worker Scott Bradbury to accompany me after work to the top of the stairs that led to the basement that was the restaurant. You see, immediately after this episode I by chance ran into a young woman who was an employee at that establishment. Overwhelmed and embarrassed by what had occurred to the max were she, and she gleefully explained that the horrid proprietor had the week earlier welcomed Pauline Hanson into his restaurant, being a donator to her wretched little political party, he of course barely tolerated Asians. She figured the guy must have reeled from seeing a long-haired Oriental cunt in a torn VENOM T-shirt reading a Sun Ra hard-cover biography IN HIS RESTAURANT funking out the joint. Hence his hostility and initial provocation. This led me to believe that I needed to take my friend Scott to the restaurant for a good time.

Once we reached the restaurant, I would pick up the advertising sandwich board outside the restaurant and hurl it down the long stairs. Of course it would make a sensational din. The commuters at the bus stop would look bemused but somehow, my purposeful presence eluded to some kind of justification and meaning rather than sheer random Australian buffoonery. To see Scott double over in pain as his laughter reached 10 on the dial made me extremely happy. I was killing two birds with one stone, taking revenge and making a friend have a good belly laugh.

This went on merrily until on around day 5 I yanked at the sandwich board to hoist it over my head for a hoik, only to find the fucken thing chained to the wall. It was AWESOME while it lasted

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BACK-IN-THE-DAY

A couple of years ago, outside the Manning building at the University of Sydney one Sunday early morn, I found myself lugging thousands of records for the “Rock N Roll Markets”, on behalf of my work. Covered in salty sweat was I, happily toiling away until a middle-aged unfit-looking complete stranger belched out the following words at vulgar volume for the whole world to hear: “HEY YA FUCKEN SOFT-ON!!!”.

Reeling from having been smashed verbally with such unheard of original and witty and may I add UNINVITED abuse, I glared at this abominable snowman of an oath with unparalleled intensity, the type of which only orientals with good inside knowledge of human torture methodologies can dispense.

This fellow stall-holder later sheepishly apologised to me, muttering with his head down and arms folded when I visited his stall to see what junk he had, such words as “hey Ray, you weren’t offended were ya? I used to go and see the Hard-ons back-in-the-day”.

“BACK-IN-THE-DAY”, those poisonous, vile, vapid senseless four words in such awful sequence, that immediately conjure up a pathetic longing for a bygone era of good times and promise – a hope for a lost era that in all likelihood did not exist at all, a yearning for a time of infinitely thinner waists and thicker hair thatches, a meaningless search for a meaningless idea of nostalgia – as if the present and/or future was THAT FUCKEN BLEAK.

“Mate, I wasn’t offended at all. What’s the best price on the Specials LP?”

You see, he knows me from such wondrous recordings of the Hard-ons as “Yummy”. “Love is a battlefield of wounded hearts”. “Dickcheese” and so forth. I don’t know him from a bar of soap. Somewhere inside, this familiarity he held for me induced his mouth to severely outpace his sense of decorum.

Last Sunday, as luck would have it, I was cutting absolutely sick at the Hurstville Civic Centre. It was one of those Records and Collectibles (comics, figurines, trading cards etc) conventions and the atmosphere was dense with nerdiness. And as luck would have it, that stall-holder of preeminent wit was there in all his I-miss-the-80s white-boy wriggle. You ask, how did this citizen announce himself to moi?

“MISTER WONG! MISTER WONG! I’VE LOST MY TRAVELLER’S CHEQUES!!!” I hear being SCREAMED a few metres away. Quickly turning around mid-record flick (there were some beauties in the box I was inspecting) to perhaps lunge and strangle, I see the ungainly post-punk polar bear, all in black as usual, pork-pie hat glued to his head of course, to let all and sundry know that he saw Madness live “back-in-the-day”, grinning at me like a split ripe watermelon, as if what he had just blurted out was somehow uncannily as brilliant as say, the work of Bill Hicks or, say, Neil Hamburger.

For those of you who do not know, the screamed sentence was a reenactment of an American Express TV ad in Australia from “back-in-the-day”. Here it is:

 

A little like  the tune “I like Chinese” by Monty Python, it was used by those brilliant casual racists of Australia back in the 80’s to constantly remind us slant-eyes that we were not only different but FUNNY. Laughing at, not with, I just used to love that about Australia. “Go back to where you came from!!” Why should I? I came all the way here to beat you in maths. I am not going ANYWHERE till I’ve taken your job, or your dole money. I haven’t decided which yet.

I quickly turned and carried on fossicking for underpriced Black Sabbath records as I had done for most of my life, comfortable in the knowledge that the infinite and eternal search for GOOD RECORDS must never be interrupted by garden-variety fuckwits.

Anyway, later on I SAW IT. There, it was in full view: a pang of regret. Remorse of some degree. An acknowledgement of the fact that any exclusion filter no longer (or perhaps never did in the first place) exists for that highway between brain-and-mouth, and that he feels apologetic to me for it.

It resulted in an unbelievable discount when I bought records off him

 

KANGAROO ROCK

Back in 2008, 2009 or was it 2010? The Hard-ons miraculously managed to score an ALL-AGES SHOW at Manly Youth Centre, Kangaroo street, Manly.

It had been a long time since we’d played an all-ages show, let alone at the legendary “Kangaroo Rock”. Perhaps the last time the Hard-ons had played there was for our farewell concert back in 1994. We had already broken up since the beginning of that year, and the Kangaroo Rock show was part of our final tour.

And many years later, there we were again. This time, with Peter Kostic on board instead of Keish. Middle-aged yet brutal and loud, I wondered what the hell was in store for this line-up after all these years at this fabled venue.

The night started well. Local kids COFFIN were on stage and carving it up, a bunch of rock grommets lacking in stage experience, being so very young but making up with daring-do and enthusiasm. They put forward genuine youthful power that night. We were all impressed.

After a while I was summoned back to my regular station at the merch table whereupon I was immediately set upon by bald oldies and their sprog, the good ol’ days were longed for and I was wished well for the immediate future i.e. our set. They want middle-aged long-hairs with their shirts off, they were gonna get it.

A young urchin in dazzling surf-wear sidled up to me. Around seven years of age were he, this tousle-haired youngster, bright eyed and over-flowing with the desire to be a part of whatever was happening tonight i.e. loud-as-hell punk-metal-pop-rock hybrid from suburbs so far away from Manly that one needs to apply for a visa two weeks in advance to travel there, YES it is over the Spit bridge.

“Are you in the Hard-ons” asked he genuinely non-rhetorical of course.

“Yes mate I am”.

“MY GRAND-DAD LIKES YOUR BAND” says he, grinning like a split overripe watermelon.

Well didn’t that induce the W.C. Fields in me to burst forth.

“Fuck off will ya….” mumbled I, looking down at the floor.

In 2013 my wife gave Anna birth to our first child, a wonderful daughter. Since then, I’ve been hugely less curmudgeonly believe me

“LET DONALD OUT”

I entered the train carriage and went straight downstairs. I sat facing a middle-aged Chinese couple. I don’t normally like to travel backwards but today I couldn’t be arsed hoiking the seatback.

The Chinese couple were extremely animated. Speaking Mandarin, they were conversing about something that required extreme volume.

My telephone rang. Over the amazing din of these two’s chin-wag , I could barely hear the person on the end of the line. The fault also partly lays with my dreadful hearing, no doubt caused by years of untold hearing damage, no doubt caused by years of blasting music.

I was a little annoyed. Have these two not heard of CHINESE WHISPERS? “Thank you guys. I couldn’t listen to the phone call thanks to your loud chatter”.

If they were giving out gold medals in ignoring fellow Asians these two would be Michael Phelps and Mark Spitz. probably my imagination but I think the volume went up a notch and these conversational Merzbows continued hammer and tong. China 1. Korea 0

Then it appeared. Trapped gas journeyed its way through my pipes until I was able to lift one side of my buttocks slightly and let one rip and although it wasn’t anywhere near my top 20, it had decent pedigree and a sense of decorum prevents me from boring you with details of my recent food intake.

Having heard my Donald, the middle-aged Chinese couple abruptly halted their conversation, their slitty eyes meeting my slitty eyes. On my lips appeared a gleeful smirk, having audibly purged myself of unwanted funk. China 1. Korea 1

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DOES HUMOUR BELONG IN PUNK?

DOES HUMOUR BELONG IN PUNK?

2001: One of the bands I play bass for, Nunchukka Superfly played with Geelong punk rock legends WARPED at a big glitzy venue I have forgotten the name of. The venue in question was a huge joint, a multi-roomed affair with a couple of levels.

Downstairs was a hall perhaps of 1000-person capacity. We played upstairs in a glassed-off mezzanine. From our level we could take a gander through the massive clear panels into the sea of punters in the hall downstairs. Unsatisfied with the view from above, I ventured downstairs to the gigantic hall, to see what the fuck was going on. In case I missed out on something.

Downstairs, there was no band. There seemed to be just a cunt operating a CD player. Blasting through the P.A. at vulgar volume was some non-descript pop-punk that was tremendously popular at the time, the type enjoyed by the young hordes of the day, NOFX, Millencolin, Green Day, Blink-182, I don’t fuggin-know-what. A thousand drunk pop-punkers were going well off to the CD player. May I say, back then I was only 35 going on 36, but already turning into a turnip of a curmudgeon – which, again, to be fair, ran in my family. Apparently. Hurrummmppphh

Personally, let me say right off the bat I’m not a big fan of “pop-punk” as we all know it. But so what. Stiff fucken shit. Since when does my taste in music matter anyway? I love Public Image Limited, Chrome, X-Ray Spex. Big fucken deal. So what. It’s a free country.

But let me tell you. When I went back upstairs to where Nunchukka Superfly had just finished our set, WARPED were already playing and far out – they were absolutely blazing. The lead singer/guitarist Benny, he of the interesting Cadbury Top-deck chocolate hair and round but extremely handsome face was in particular cutting stupidly sick, all genuine charisma, bluster and pure talent squirting out of every pore of his being. I was blown away by the power of their live performance and quickly became giddy with unadulterated musical bliss. It was to put it mildly: PUNK AS FUCK.

Two wallet-chained baseball-capped pop-punkers had drifted upstairs for reasons unclear. Upon witnessing the blistering WARPED pummeling away on stage, one of them waited patiently for the tune to end, only to bellow “PLAY SOMETHING PUNK!!!”.

Well, my orgasm was suddenly and rudely interrupted. Maliciously I tried in vain to summon the ghost of Rob Tyner, so that he may return from the infinite afterlife and give these two Famous Stars-n-straps-clad dills a real what-for. But in reality I just groaned under my breath. The band of course were oblivious. As usual there was not enough room up there for all the endorphins and idle cat-calling.

PUNK- what the hell is it anyway? I am going to confess right now – I do not know. What is more – I care EVEN LESS.

I saw an advert in the newspaper about an upcoming episode of “Masterchef” where the “punk pastry-chef” whips up a magical dessert. Excited with the possibility of witnessing something “punk” on commercial TV I watched this episode to only learn that the chef had a Mohawk and a lip-ring, but I could not for the life of me find where the rest of PUNK was to be found. In fact, can somebody who charges $100.00 for a plate of food even be remotely considered “punk”?

Again, I do not know. Again, in 2016 I guess it doesn’t fucken matter

OF ASIANS AND PENGUINS (part 1)

2013:

Unlike some citizens, I rarely dawdle when crossing any road. So, imagine my surprise when one day, as I walked spritely across a busy street in the Sydney CBD, I nearly get hit by a cab. Clearly in my favour: a green light for pedestrians, leaving no doubt as to the legitimacy of my little saunter when suddenly, an apparently impatient taxi driver turned left in front of me necessitating me to skip backwards in the air to avoid being struck. And perhaps in shock, or in awe of his own audacity, there, the vehicle abruptly stopped, blocking my path. And there I stood, anger flowing liberally. Had I walked too slowly or inattentively whilst looking at my “smart-phone”, perhaps such a reaction from the taxi driver could be explained even if it is inexcusable.

I did what any average resident of Sydney would do: I executed a side-kick into the rear panel of the Silver Service, my Tae Kwon Do training from a distant past suddenly exiting hibernation with full vigour, all the while screaming “YA FUCKEN CUNT! YA FUCKEN CUNT!”: My snapping boot to the vehicle was a cracker. These modern cars – their panels are just no match for a puny Asian limb the thickness of a match stick.

The taxi blasted off and came to a screeching halt, the whole rear of the car visibly lifting with inertia rather comically when stopping. The driver, he of sub-continental extraction screamed back at me “YA FUCKEN CUNT!” which I thought was rather unoriginal, the only different slant offered being a distinct accent. By this time, a red mist had dangerously descended upon my psyche and henceforth spewed “YEAH MATE – YA WANNA FUCKEN GET SMASHED?” etc etc ad nauseum.

The driver thought better of the situation. Correctly he summarised that TIME IS MONEY and getting into rubbish situations (of his own making) was eating into any profit. And so he accelerated into the distance, burning his Pirellis rather unnecessarily but making a statement nevertheless (the statement being: I got no time for this. That’s why I got pissed off at the Asian prick in the first place: so impatient was I, in my quest to deliver myself a passenger, that I let a slow pedestrian get to me).

And then, there I saw HIM: standing like a teapot, hands on shabby hips, having already crossed the street in the kerfuffle – a vagabond with a refugee Samsonite, that unmistakable laundry bag of vertical blue, red and white stripeage, a baseball cap with multilayers of grease and solidified funk hiding a lamentable thatch of unintentional dreadlocks, the unholy stench of stale urine, the weight of the world self-evidently stooping his once-no doubt-broad and parallel shoulders.

Without really raising his voice, as if to add gravitas or perhaps pathos, as if to prove to the world that his words are measured and considered, unlike my recent outburst, this bum of no fixed address offered “ya wanna behave like that mate you can go back to where you came from”. Yes. THAT old chestnut. THAT break-glass-in-case-of-emergency-Australian tradition, those dreaded words that make brown and yellow skinned people all over Australia break out in perspiration, that John Howard is my Spirit Animal mantra ill-gotten and ill-used by people who stew within, looking for things and people to point their ugly finger at.

“Are you talking to me or the Indian taxi driver?” quizzed I, unintentionally summoning De Niro a little bit.

“You ya fucken prick. GO BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM”.

At that point I emptied my considerable reservoir of empathy. Along with it, a fair bit of milk of human kindness exited, as it would, such is the collateral damage and by-product in cases like this when the red mist has still enveloped your being.

“I noticed you don’t own a lap-top. If you had a lap-top you would be able to double click on Google Earth and visually take evidence Australia’s proximity to Asia and Antarctica. Which explains why there are Asians and Penguins in this country. So just deal with it you racist cunt. Anyhow, I gotta go now. I got a job to go to. Taxes to pay. Restaurants to visit with my loving family. Have a great day”. The bum stared at me. I stared back. The bum turned and shuffled off.

By this time a ring of nine-to-fivers had gathered in their masses, sucking on styrofoam coffee cups, puffing on fags, all no doubt being enthralled by the slightly extra-curricular excursion from everyday office life.

You could say RAY: 1, HOMELESS MAN with Racist outburst: 0. But I have to confess. The red mist cleared within a matter of minutes after I gave the bum what-for. As the homeless man trudged off sadly and fatalistically in the direction of Hyde Park, shoulders drooped perhaps lower than ever, I felt immense pain for him. That pain lasted for over an hour. At lunch time, whilst eating a turkey sandwich that tasted like recycled paper in the pavilion, I re-lived that incident over in my brain: rewinding and even slowing it down a little to get good details remembered. In the end, as horrible as I felt, I went with what Australia taught me. If a stranger screams something racist at you, give a little back to them by pointing out their unfortunate short-comings. Once again, I thanked Australia for reminding me every now and then, that I am different. BUT ALSO:  I thank Australia for still being the best Goddamn place in the world to live. I thanked Australia for taking my family in and being a better and kinder country than Korea, my place of birth.

WHAT I DID ON OUR HONEYMOON

WHAT I DID ON OUR HONEYMOON:

2011 October: My wife Anna and I flew to that fabled city of Adelaide for our honeymoon, with the purpose of driving away from it, along the unfathomably spectacular Great Ocean Road, along the belly of this great country, in an Avis Hyundai.

We quickly checked into the five star hotel – chosen for its proximity to the exciting, bustling and eventful  Hindley street and its price (it was severely discounted when booked on-line). I immediately bolted into the bathroom to inspect the porcelain bog and sure enough – a thin paper sash, what the Japanese call “OBI”, encircled the seat. On the sash were the magical words “SANITISED FOR YOUR PROTECTION”.

I tried to think of a happier moment than RIGHT THAT INSTANT alas QUE EST PAS POSIBLE. I quickly telephoned Michael Fewings, the long-serving Hard-ons tour manager and sound engineer, stationed as he was for the long-term, in the fine city of Adelaide, in case he had a restaurant recommendation for the first night of our honeymoon trip. An Indian joint several blocks and 15 minute-walk away piqued our interest and off we went – through the guts of the CBD on that fine Monday night.

7.00pm : the city seemed deserted. We saw a young man leaning against the entrance of a convenience store smoking. An Asian student was busily sending an SMS at the bus shelter, seated. The city was dreadfully quiet, but that was rather appropriate and what we wanted on our honeymoon – UNEVENTFUL surroundings, more the chance we’d pay each other deserved attention.

The very next day we drove away from the city and made a beeline for Mount Gambier (with its unique and utterly mesmerising cobalt-blue crater lake). The day after we of course continued our journey direction South-East, in order to get to the Great Ocean Road. Never for one minute had I forgotten how desolate, bleak but wondrous this part of Australia is. The only times I’d been here had been in  hire Toyota Taragos with the Hard-ons or Nunchukka Superfly on tour. It really is an alluringly beautiful and vast country.

It was day 3. Since Adelaide then Mount Gambier – Anna and I had counted on one hand the number of people we saw on the open road. We drove into the Victorian town of Heywood. We needed petrol. It seemed that the town consisted of two roundabouts, one petrol station, one Chemist and two pubs.

We drove up to the Gilbarco to fill up. On the other side of the petrol pump was an empty Holden ute. Two stickers on the rear window were clearly visible. One sticker said AC/DC in their classic lightning bolt logo. The next sticker alas was a map of Australia with the landlocked and charming words  “Fuck Off We’re Full”.  If I had seen the driver I would not in a million years have pointed out that AC/DC were in fact a band of immigrants.

What’s more I would not have bothered to tell him/her that in my recent research into this vast wonderful continent, we were not THAT FULL. I would not have bothered to offer anything witty like “perhaps the sticker would be more accurate to say FUCK OFF WE’RE DESOLATE AND BLEAK or FUCK OFF YOU CAN DIE OUT HERE IF YOUR RADIATOR SHITS ITSELF or FUCK OFF WE’RE INTOLERANT”.

What would it achieve ? It’s our honeymoon. We’re in his territory.

We continued our journey and in less than an hour we were in Port Fairy and THERE we saw it: a family of subcontinentals in a trendy coffee shop chowing down on organic artisan sourdough sangers. A double shot of espresso was slammed down by me and it blew my head off, I loved it.  The dusty forbidding Heywood petrol station seemed a light year away.

Australia – it’s my home, and it really is the greatest place on earth to me