mister hot sex himself...

james marlon magas.

Screeching, clutching, clawing, pounding. Thick, black rimmed spectacles, fine pompadour, and sharp suit. What you see on-stage: Buddy Holly’s bigger, tougher, crazier doppelganger. The fearsome visage, the demented baritone that pummels your ears with frightening tales of solid ghosts, black bubbles, and sexy rivers... take away all that, for just a moment. Off-stage, Mr. Magas is even-tempered, well mannered, and a nice guy all around. Like Clark Kent, sorta. Nothing like the formidable image he presents when rocking out.
BUT: when rock boredom rears its ugly, yawning head to exhale its foul, sleep-inducing breath upon the face of the earth, you can be assured that Marlon Magas, like Superman, or maybe more like Bizzaro Superman;
will BE there.

by Richard Jaspering

RJ:  Well.. I was going to ask how your 4th of July was, but it’s already well past the 4th.. oh well. It’s still relevant! Kinda. Well, no. Weren’t you practicing with Lake of Dracula on the 4th last year, or maybe that was in ‘97.. having your facts straight ain’t cool. Anyway, how was your 4th of July?

MM: In order to escape the oppressive heat and humidity, I found refuge in a urine scented, air-conditioned, two-dollar movie theater, and saw a dumb movie called ENTRAPMENT--a heist movie starring Sean Connery. It was kind of a ripoff of a GREAT heist movie called GRAND SLAM. 

RJ: Tell us ALL about this new PLAST-XCORPION.. spare no details, great or small. 

MM: PLAST-XCORPION started out as a band called PLASTIC SCORPION. I wanted to replicate
the sound of those cars with huge sub-woofers in their trunks that cruise by and rattle the windows. So we had to have bass. The first person I sought out was Jessica, who played bass in Lake Of Dracula. Bill Skibbe was the logical candidate for drums--the two of them played together in a band called Jaks. I thought it would be fun to have two bass players, so I called Fred Lonberg-Holm, who tried out for LOD. (Holm would play bass only during rehearsals, and Jeff Day played drums. There is NO released material by this LOD line-up! -ed.)
Plastic Scorpion played one show with the Beast People, Nautical Almanac and Caroliner.

RJ: What is “E Tanta Paura”? Because you said, a while back, that Plast-X contributed a cover of
this song to a compilation.. 

MM: E TANTA PAURA is an Italian giallo; the title translates to "TOO MUCH FEAR."
The main title theme is a GREAT fucked up song, that, to my knowledge, has never been released. I wanted to recreate it in high fidelity, Plastic Scorpion style. We actually never recorded it. Plastic Scorpion didn't really hold together as a band, mainly due to conflicting schedules, which didn't really allow for any momentum to build. I stole the name back for my solo music, and changed the spelling to PLAST-XCORPION, which looks better graphically. Not to say, "Plastic Scorpion was all me.", because it certainly wasn't. I just thought it was a great name, and since the band only played out once, I felt it was "fair use".

RJ: Tell us about your new solo stuff.

MM: Since the idea of Plastic Scorpion was to replicate dance music, why not go whole hog and use the medium to its fullest potential.  I picked up a Roland Groovebox and I've been fucking
around with that a lot.  Every time I come up with something that I think that's worth releasing, the next day I come up with something better, so I omit the previous day's work.  With so many possibilities, it's hard to know when to stop.  That's probably the biggest obstacle to actually getting the stuff out--no, I take that back--money is the biggest obstacle.

I'm hoping to have a techno label in full swing, soon.  I want the ability to send it off to the pressing plant without having it sit around--that's one of the reasons that techno labels are so cool--you don't have to come up with a whole LPs worth of material, and wait for the artwork to come back from the printer, etc, etc...you just send it out and that's it.
You're already moving on to the next idea.  Another reason electronic music is cool, is the ease of operation.  You can do it at home, very easily, by yourself.  I can come home at midnight, slap on the headphones, and write a new song--at least in theory.  If you run your label well, the time between the genesis of the actual idea and the release of the record will be very fast.  Once I do start releasing Plast-Xcorpion material, I hope to release
it on a regular basis.  I also want to play out on a regular basis, but y'know, I'm still learning.  It's kind of like starting from scratch, really.

RJ: What’s this about a new COUCH album?? What about some shows, will Couch ever
play live again? 

MM: Mr. Velocity Hopkins and I both really want to do a COUCH album. Unfortunately, the geographical distance makes it difficult. COUCH is pretty open-ended, in a lot of ways, so you never can tell what'll happen. We played a show in the summer of '98, in Ypsilanti, Michigan. (sans SUITS) My roots are with Michigan, Bulb and Couch. Everything I do, musically, is an extension of that consciousness, no matter how far I may deviate from the template, geographically or otherwise. 

RJ: Any plans to reunite the “Many Moods Of Marlon Magas” players? 

MM: They were a great bunch of players, but that was then, and this is now. 
I always have tendency to rebel, stylistically, against the last thing that I've done, 
even though a lot of people would say that most of my music sounds alike. Probably the 
common thread in all my music, is the monosyllabic thud. It's present in every thing I've done. The window-dressing changes, but the thud is always there.

RJ: Is Chicago still a cesspool for germy emos, snooze “rockers” and pompous twits in general? Because if I remember right, there were certain factions trying to call what you were doing in Lake of Dracula “neo” no wave, or something.. Not to mention the forgettable “black wave,” and ever-popular (still-thriving) post rock.. I don’t get that. How can anything be “post” rock, that’s awfully presumptuous, don’t you think? I mean, there’s still Rock, with a big “R,” and it’s out there. 
Big “R” Rock is sort of like Indians, though. It’s the minority, and is scattered all about the U.S., but it’s still there. 
That probably wasn’t a very politically correct analogy.. oh well. 

MM: Yeah, Chicago is full of colorless and humorless sheep, who seem to equate a lack of passion with some sort of elevated social status. 

"Whew! Almost got caught getting excited there for a minute!" 

On the other end of the spectrum, donning a Hawaiian shirt and ill-fitting wig does not equal liberation for me. Regarding no wave or now wave: subgenres are created for the press, in order to sell records. In regard to being called No Wave or Now Wave, I've gone with the flow in order to do just that. That's fine. I'm not going to gripe about expressing my individuality as an artist. They're only names that other people give it, and it really doesn't matter much to me. Inside, I may rebel against being slotted, but I think that you have to have a little respect for the people who are buying and selling your records. If you don't like being called cowpunk, make a record that doesn't sound like cowpunk.

RJ: Does (did?) now wave, or whatever’s left of it, serve as a sort of disinfectant for all this arty
gunk that’s seemed to collect itself in mass quantities throughout the Chi-town “underground”? 

MM: I suppose for some people it does, and that's fine. Speaking for myself, I feel closely aligned with things from all over. Rock music seemed to crash and burn forever, the night Harry Pussy exploded on stage. Y'know, I think there's a closed-mindedness, even in the so-called Now Wave scene. When High Rise played, and they were certainly one of the more electrifying bands to come through in a while, I didn't see any Now Wavers up front, rocking. Only me and Sam from Blast Off video. Or when a great movie plays in town? Where are the cool guys then? I don't think liberation comes soley from playing totally unlistenable music. It certainly CAN, but it needn't be limited to that.

RJ: Has The Reader pretty much ousted you guys from its cool club? I don’t read it, myself, but from what I gather from various sources, the editors have all but blacklisted the Chicago No Wave. I guess it doesn’t really matter, but still.. care to speculate?

MM: If the Reader doesn't do a good job of promoting things, start the No Wave Farmer's Almanac. It certainly is an ego-booster to see your name in print, and it makes your Aunt Millie proud, but really, who the fuck cares? A lot of things are learned about through  word-of-mouth anyway. If you need more than that, there ARE ways. Weasel has a no wave website with a bulletin board. Post shit on it. Get the URL. I like to find things through exploring. 
I don't always want things handed to me. Anyway, Monica Kendrick, one of the Reader's 
writers, seems sympathetic to the cause.

RJ: What’s all this “easy listening” bullshit now?? Is this a new thing? Maybe I’m behind the times, who knows. 
Jeez, and I thought that kitsch stupidity had reached its zenith with this new swing crap, but now I see Air and Casius, 
or Stereolab or whoever the fuck.. WHY??? And is this a big thing in Chicago, by the way? I do hate to keep asking all these territorial questions, but inquiring minds want to know..

MM: Easy listening as kitsch is annoying to me, but there are some pretty cool things that fall under the guise of "Easy". A lot of the Italian film soundtracks get packaged as "Easy". The Easy Tempo series is generally pretty good. There's a great store in town called Dusty Groove, that sells lots of great "Easy" and they have a website: http://www.dustygroove.com 
I'm going there today, to pick up a couple Morricone reissues!

RJ: Now wave or just whatever you guys have been doing for the last decade or so, I don’t even know if it’s right to call it “now” or anything at all... anyway, it’s GOOD.  The aesthetic, and the music, to be sure. And, better still, hipster revivalists won’t touch this shit with a 10 foot pole! Or will they??

MM: Who knows? I'm beginning to think that every artist who ever recorded anything will eventually have their own boxed set. 

RJ: Do you foresee any big resurgence of good music coming from any particular areas? 
Sort of like the big mid-90’s, Midwest no wave explosion? 

MM: Wolf Eyes, from Michigan, are my favorite thing out of the midwest. I think there's probably some other great things hiding in the midwest; I just don't know what they are yet. Electronic music, is pretty interesting to me right now. There are so many people doing it, there must be some good ones, just plinking away in their bedrooms. 
When they come out, it'll be fun.

RJ: What techno have you been listening to? 

MM: There's so much good electronic music out there. My favorite stuff lately, has been Mike Ink (Wolfgang Voigt) and his various aliases and labels (Profan, Kreisel, Freiland, Studio 1, etc.). Thomas Brinkmann is extremely great. His Studio 1 variations changed the way I think about music, much in the way that "Trout Mask Replica" did, all those years ago. There's a TON of good stuff in the field, and a ton of crap, too. Forced Exposure carries a lot of this stuff. 

RJ: How about rap?

MM: I like rap, too. I guess my favorite rap comes out of the "mid-school", the late 80's, early 90's. I like Kool G. Rap, Black Moon, Erik B. & Rakim, and tons of other stuff. There's some good new stuff, too--it's just more few and far between. The new Prince Paul album is good. Great music, or "raw music", as John Fahey puts it, can come from many, many "genres". George Jones, Ferlin Husky and Judas Priest's "Rocka Rolla" all generate a good amount of heat. 

RJ: Do you see any genres right now that are ripe for the corporate picking? Basically, the next big thing to get exploited and eventually forgotten about. As opposed to the next LITTLE thing, which will be sadly underrated/underdeveloped, and eventually forgotten about as well. I’m thinking emo is going to really take off one of these days.. ecch.

MM: I think emo is already kind of big, isn't it? At least as a kid thing? I don't really know, but I see tons of emo kids. I'm not always the best gague for what's popular. I'll see a Matchbox 20 poster and figure that it's just some band that nobody's ever heard of--it's just the record company trying the saturation technique, but then I find out they're fucking HUGE and everybody knows who they are except me. So I never really know, because I don't watch MTV or listen to the radio. I just pass the newsstand and see the covers of Rolling Stone, Spin, Vibe, etc. Once in a while, I'll actually open it to look at pictures of Jennifer Lopez.

RJ: When in Chicago, where does a person go to find the quality trash? 
Because I know how you love the trash cine, Euro and otherwise.

MM: Blast Off Video is a great place to go for all kinds of crazy shit. Hard Boiled specializes in Hong Kong stuff, but they have other cool stuff, too. House Of Monsters has a lot of great Euro fanzines, videos, and other stuff. There's a Japanese video store in Arlington Heights. Devon Avenue is the Indian section of town--in addition to having excellent restaurants, there's a video store on every block; my favorite is Atlantic video. I also mail order stuff from European Trash Cinema and Trash Palace. Both have websites. It's my dream to one day own a store and stock all my favorite music, movies, books and magazines, and host occasional live gigs. Y'know, have a pot of coffee for preferred customers--kind of a Mayberry Barbershop for modern lovers.

RJ: On the subject of exploitation type stuff.. Il Gatto Nove Code (“Cat O’Nine Tails,”) I mistakenly purchased it thinking it was the soundtrack to “Cat In The Brain”, by Lucio Fulci.. it had similar covers, and I was in a hurry when I got it so it was an impulse purchase, I guess. It’s still good, though. It’s all Ennio Morricone composed.. which reminds me; which of his works would you recommend, maybe as a primer for those who are just now picking up on this stuff? 
Morricone, or any other composers/musicians working in this field of entertainment. 

MM: Holy shit, there's so much of it. Morricone is the maestro. It's hard to pick favorites. 
"A Woman In a Lizard's Skin" is great. "Invisible Woman," "Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion," "My Dear Killer," "Who Saw Her Die?," "The Sicilian Clan," "Cold Eyes of Fear"--these are all great works. Stelvio Cipriani, Piero Umiliani, Gianni Ferrio, Carlo Rustichelli, Riz Ortolani, Bruno Nicolai and Goblin have also contributed great scores to Italian genre films.

RJ: Are you still showing movies?

MM: I ran a series of "contemporary" Japanese genre films at Odum, but the setup and cost proved unwieldy. I also showed other films in the basement of the Mystery Spot, but again, the setup was kind of a headache. I'd like to find a place to show giallo and crime films, but it would have to be a place that has a decent video projector, and I can just plug the tape in and press play.

RJ: If you’ll oblige me in a bit of compare and contrast, since I've seemingly run out of relevent quetions... 
Alien engineers/sound pioneers US Maple’s Drag City release“Talker,” vs. hunky, Latin pop sensation Ricky Martin’s self-titled release, on some giant fucking record label whose name escapes me at the moment. 

MM: I haven't heard TALKER, yet, but I'm looking forward to it. Y'know, when Bridgette and I were on our honeymoon, we kept hearing "Livin' La Vida Loca", and it IS kind of catchy and energetic. I like the flash and the cleanliness of it. It's not like I'm gonna go buy it or anything, but if you have to hear music blaring out of cars, TVs, restaurants and so forth, you could do worse than Ricky Martin. The guy just seems to take bigger and bigger gulps of air--he gives off the illusion that he's radiating life and gusto, and I like that. I saw him on Oprah, and the guy really knows how to work the crowd. He knows exactly how to look at the camera, and totally milk EVERY millisecond of air time. Now, compare Ricky Martin's energy, charisma, enthusiasm, positivity and physical fitness to sitting on a broken milk crate in a mildewy basement with a bunch of unwashed chainsmokers sporting infected eyebrow rings, while some drips with asymmetrical haircuts attempt to "punish" you with some wimpy feedback and underdeveloped songs. Which sounds more appealing to you? Plus, if you go to a Ricky Martin concert, won't you be surrounded by thousands of attractive teenage girls? 
You could pretend to be his road manager.

- all contents copyright 1999, Richard Jaspering and Pie Records.

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