John Peel has a Wiki

I was trying to explain to a friend the other day how important British DJ John Peel was to several generations of music fans, and how gutting it was when he died in 2004 of a heart attack. I recently discovered that there’s a still-growing, very rough John Peel Wiki that is eventually going to, I assume, list all his shows with track lists and corresponding mp3s. That’s sounds exactly like something the Internet is good for. I know I have a few cassettes myself that I could transfer and upload. But nothing like the 500 Box that the wiki talks about.
I was trying to explain to said friend that it was Peel’s in between song banter that made the show. You knew that no matter how out there the music got, Peel would come back in with a friendly chat. I can’t think of any other DJ who maintained such a conversational, humane tone behind the mic. I went looking on YouTube and found this audio (with user graphics) that gives one a good idea of the style.

And this is also funny, a compilation of John Peel’s appearances on BBC pop music shows. You can tell he loathed most of this music.

Is that Claire Grogan at the end of the clip?

The Making of “Fight the Power”

Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” from back in the day (1989!) still has the power to get a rise out of me, and has one of the most complex sample layers of any song in that period. (Or any period, as most contemporary hip-hop is the weakest of weak sauce.) Mix Magazine has a tech geek-out article from 2006 on the creation of this track:

A key to the lo-fi sounds found on “Fight the Power” and other Public Enemy records of the period were the technical limitations of their samplers, which the group enjoyed and embraced as part of their noise-based aesthetic. The S-900 and SP-1200 used 12-bit samples — more advanced than the Mirage, but lower than today’s standard of 16 bits. Hank Shocklee explains that he likes the low-res sound because “you can’t pick out the exact instrument and things that are going on, and it kind of meshes it all together, so the frequencies of where the guitar and the bass come in are not clearly defined.”

This was enhanced by the fact that the group often used longer sample loops than the equipment was intended for. “I think the SP-1200 had eight or 12 seconds tops for all 16 pads,” explains Hank Shocklee. “It wasn’t designed to do what we were doing. It was just designed to put in kicks, snares, hi-hats, rides. To get more time, we would speed up the record, play it at 45 and we got almost double the time.” Once the sped-up sample was loaded in, it had to be pitched down, resulting in a further degradation of the sounds. Add to that the fact that the SP-1200 cut off the ends of its samples sharply. “The cut-off gave it a rough sound, a real edgy sound,” says Keith Shocklee appreciatively.

Illustration by OBEY.

Italian Spiderman

Last week, the question was ‘Where were you when you heard Obama was elected?’ This week the question is ‘Where were you when you first saw…Italian Spiderman?’
Heads exploding into snakes, heroes diving head-first off of buildings (well, mannequins being thrown from buildings), and amazing shotgun violence. This is teh awesome!!!


I can’t believe we actually did this. Back in 2003 or so I started this blog and most of that year’s entries were full of anger at the illegal invasion of Iraq. Those were dark days. For eight years the world has grown to hate us, and for eight years we’ve lived under some of the most evil shit bastards the now-completely discredited “conservative” movement has thrown at us. And the GOP slate for 2008 looked even more horrific with McCain and that absolutely frightening idiot from Alaska, who made Bush look like a statesman.

I’ve been active, donating money, working phone banks, but some of my friends have put me to shame. My friend Laura traveled to Vegas to GOTV in Nevada. She got 400 people to vote on election today, just herself. She’s been tireless. Her and others like her are the real heroes of last night. Back in 2000, before the theft of the election, a lot of us harped on about the lack of difference between two parties. And in some way, we were correct then. But eight years quickly taught us that there are real differences. But on the other hand, the grass roots movement we’ve seen is a direct result of people like me waking up and realizing we had to change the Democrat party from the inside.

Last night I had to teach class, but as I suspected, most everybody could not concentrate and soon the computers were on checking results. We called it early, and I rushed home to get ready. As I got dressed, my cell started blowing up. My official notice was from my friend Chris:

“OOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAOOOOOOOOOAOAOAOA!!! Are you happy? They just called it for Obama! Even Fox called it for Obama!!”

I fielded 10 more calls and text messages and skeedaddled down to Stateside for the Democratic Party…PARTY! The place was crazy and I had a bit of problem getting in, but soon I was jumping up and down and celebrating. I hugged a lot of people. I didn’t get drunk…I was too high anyway! At 9 or so I sat at the bar with Sabrina and watched the most awesome, stirring speech I’ve seen in my lifetime. We were tearing up and whooping it up and cheering and clapping.

I danced with my local Congressperson, Lois Capps, for about 10 seconds. I danced with a whole bunch of people. Nik turned up, post-photography assignment. He had gone to the Republican election night “party,” which, appropriately enough, was held at the satellite racing room at the Earl Warren Fairgrounds. Ha! I don’t fancy your odds…there were literally three people there. EPIC FAIL!

Later, Nik, Rosminah, and I went down to Fatburger because we were starving. And what did we put on the jukebox? P-Funk’s “Chocolate City.” Ah yeh, Bootsy Collins, your dream came true, thirty years later!

BTW, the hard work starts in 2009. We have to further crush the evil fuckers in 2010 and gain more congress seats. We have to heighten our political discourse (yes, I know I said “evil fuckers,” but that’s different.) We have to hold our own representatives to high standards as well. We have to remember all that we did this year and remember that if we want something bad enough we *can* get it, but only if we work together.