It was mid-December, 2009 when Mel Gibson and his then girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva knocked on the door of the Venice Arts Club in Venice, CA. Mel had heard about the VAC through Michael Ruppert, a regular at the VAC and a founding member of the New White Trash, one of several music projects produced by the VAC. Being a Sunday evening, it was a slow night, with perhaps only a half-dozen people in the studio. I answered the door, greeted Mel and Oxana then ushered them through the studio and into the backyard where a fire was blazing in the outdoor firepit.
I can tell much about people according to how they react to the VAC dogs, especially to Squishy, a pit bull with a poker face. It’s typical of Squishy to wait until the other dogs have made their introductions before coming around and introducing himself. His big mug can be intimidating, and on more than one occasion someone visiting the VAC has refused to enter, simply because of catching sight of Squishy. This was not the case with Mel, who, upon spotting Squishy, let out a big chuckle and made his way over and introduced himself to the Squish.
It was a great start to a fun evening, all of us sitting around the fire, telling stories, playing music. Oksana explained how she was looking to re-mix a track off of her recently released album, Beautiful Heartache, and would the VAC be interested in the project? In getting to know Mel, it turned out we had both lived in the same area of Sydney (Paddington) at the same time back in the late 70’s. I mentioned Zelda the ‘cat lady’ and he knew exactly who I was speaking of. Small world. Mel took a genuine interest in the years I spent fishing on the Great Barrier Reef, turned out his love of Australia was equal to mine.
Somehow Mel and I got on to speaking about my bouts with cancer. When I told him I had twice been given 6 months to live and had pulled through on both occasions, he let out a low whistle, put his arm on my shoulder, looked me in the eye and just kind of nodded his head. And that was that, no more was said about it.
A short while later Venice guitar god Michael Jost showed up, unpacked his axe and played for all of us. Fortunately, mix-guru Andy Kravitz was in the house, at the board, and was able to capture the moment. From that, CAMPFIRE SONG was born and now appears on Volume 6 of the VAC MUSIC PROJECT. Mel makes a cameo appearance at the end of the song with some words of praise for Jost’s playing. Around about midnight, Mel and Oksana said their goodbyes and drove off. And so ended another evening at the VAC.
The next morning around 10am my phone rang from a number I didn’t recognize. I answered and said hello.
“Doug, it’s Mel. Thanks for last night. How are you?”
“Mel? Fine, how’s everything?” My mind was racing; having figured that he or Oksana had left something behind I walked outside to check the grounds for anything stray or out of place. “What’s up?” I asked.
“Doug, I want you to come up to my house, there’s some people I want you to meet.” Mel asked if I could make it the next day. I said yes, he gave me the address and said see you then.
I spent the rest of that day thinking, WTF? My first thought was that I had mentioned to him about an Australian writer he had never heard of and that he wanted more info. So the next day, armed with that writers book, I drove up to Malibu and found his house. Mel greeted me at the front door, gave me a bear hug and invited me in. He then introduced me to his family, who were there for the holidays, including his kids, his sister and his father. Mel then ushered me into another room where a team of health care practitioners were waiting to discuss my health/cancer concerns and offer advice and information on various forms of treatment. After a while, Mel stuck his head in and asked me if I was hungry. I said sure. He went into his kitchen and proceeded to make me a sandwich which he brought on a tray with an iced tea!
This went on for several days, each day I would meet with experts in the field of health and healing, all of whom had insightful information about treating cancer and maintaining my health. And each day Mel would offer me whatever it was I wanted in the way of food and drink.
In the end I realized there was no motive to Mel Gibson’s generosity, he was simply doing what he was able for someone in need of what he had to offer through what he could arrange. His cause for concern followed by his acts of kindness were genuine and touching and real. I am sorry to hear about his ongoing troubles. The Mel Gibson I know has a heart as big as a house and a warm and generous spirit geared towards sharing light and love.
April 16, 2012
CAMPFIRE SONG – Venice Arts Club Music Project
VAC BACKYARD Image by Cara Tompkins
MICHAEL JOST at VAC Image by Cara Tompkins
SQUISHY.2 Image by Cara Tompkins
DOUG LEWIS Image by Malia Luna
DL AND SQUISHY Image by Cara Tompkins
VAC member John Goodwin is a Nashville based craftsman of lyric and song. John is also a fine painter and an actor who played a part in a film called Crazy Heart for which he wrote or co-wrote one or a couple of songs. JG and Jeff Bridges are friends and Jeff invited John to Santa Fe for a cameo in the film. JG has a writing credit with The Cheeters for C WHAT DA DOSE IS‘ the lyrics to the song were written by JG and Cheeters member Jamie Cohen (aka Dietrich Von Bone).
Mike Ruppert’s song of the week on the Lifeboat Hour for Sunday, March 18, 2012, is BACK ROAD from DOUBLEWIDE, the debut release from the NEW WHITE TRASH, a music project Ruppert founded with Wade De Void and Andy Kravitz. Other members include Cara Tompkins, Kristen Vigard, Malia Luna, James Mathers, Michael Jost, Robit Hairman, Phil Maggini. The 37 song 2-CD collection was recorded at the VAC and mastered by Bob Rice. NWT producer Doug Lewis says this about Back Road: “I liked it immediately and was surprised by the strength of Mike’s performance and how he poured himself into the music. I kept thinking, ‘Meatloaf, Bat Out Of Hell’! And Back Road fit a theme of the NWT which is ‘where the heart is’ as opposed to the apparently more immediate themes of Meltdown, or Running With The New White Trash, or Realize The Lie of war. Back Road is a cousin song to Wherever There, One Good Reason and Trailer Light On, and maybe a couple more.”
In introducing the song Ruppert mentions how a musician friend, Jim Sullins, sent him a hummed hint of a melody over the piano track. From that Ruppert fashioned Back Road.
MICHAEL RUPPERT @ VAC
NEW WHITE TRASH.com
NEW WHITE TRASH. music
DOUBLEWIDE, the 37 song, 2-CD debut album from the New White Trash, chronicles the slide of the former American middle-class down a steep and slippery slope to the New White Trash, a place impartial to race, religion, creed or color. Dubbed, ‘music of the post-paradigm’, NWT members include Wade De Void, Michael C. Ruppert, Andy Kravitz, Kristen Vigard, Robit Hairman, Phil Maggini, Malia Luna, Cara Tompkins, Michele McVicar, Michael Jost.
About the New White Trash and the Post-Paradigm era:
“The New White Trash (NWT) demographic is the outcome of the former middle class being folded in with the working poor and, for good measure, the unemployed and uninsured. The NWT defines and represents a majority of people whose common bond includes and exists beyond the demographics of age, race, location, education. The people of the NWT are the new ‘have-not’s’, and by its nature and size, this vast swath of population (99%) is now squarely at odds with the 1% who own, operate and dispense our corporate universe, big pharma, big food, big oil, big defense and big government included. ‘By the people for the people’ is receding. The Post-Paradigm Era describes the vacuum left by the sudden disappearance of the former American middle class. It is in this vacuum we now find ourselves, tumbling in turmoil as home losses mount, bank balances shrink, and shelters are jammed with the likes of you and I. The good old days are done and dusted. That party is over. The coming chaos of the post-paradigm era will lead to a radical and immediate rethinking and remaking of America or it will lead us to complete devastation.” (from NWT Manifesto/VAC.com)
The durge-like quality of REALIZE THE LIE underscores the message: Running with the dogs of war/We’ve run this race before/It’s rotten to the core/When only War can save you – Realize The Lie
NEW WHITE TRASH, ‘MUSIC OF THE POST-PARADIGM’. Artwork/Cara Tompkins@EWC
NEW WHITE TRASH – DOUBLEWIDE. Artwork/Cara Tompkins@EWC
NEW WHITE TRASH HEADQUARTERS, VENICE CA USA. Image/Cara Tompkins@EWC
In 1997, a decade before a fortuitous meeting between Michael C. Ruppert and Venice musician Doug Lewis in the spring of 2008, Lewis was busy recording his on-going Fell Music project. The meeting of Ruppert and Lewis would lead to the forming of the New White Trash and the making of their debut album, Doublewide, a 37 song double-disc set chronicling the slide of the former middle class down a ‘steep and slippery slope to the new white trash, a place and genre impartial to race, creed or color’. Doublewide was released January 11, 2011 and has since found a home with a worldwide audience of truth seekers investing in alternative and conscious voices to match the signs of the times. One song from Doublewide, titled ‘We Can’t Escape From‘ found its way onto the soundtrack of the DVD release of Collapse the Movie, directed by documentary filmmaker Chris Smith and featuring Michael Ruppert as the only character in the film. Roger Ebert said this of the film: “I don’t know when I’ve seen a thriller more frightening. I couldn’t tear my eyes from the screen. “Collapse” is even entertaining, in a macabre sense. I think you owe it to yourself to see it. ”
Some people meet over drinks; Ruppert and Lewis met at a dog park adjacent to the Santa Monica airport near Venice, CA. In an excerpt taken from the article ‘Grooving With The Archetypes‘, a piece about the VAC written by Bud Theisen, Lewis says, “Mike and I met at the local dog park, our dogs got on very well and so did we. I gave Mike a copy of the Cheeters first CD and he loved it. He gave me a copy of Crossing The Rubicon, which I devoured.” Lewis, always on the prowl for new musical talent, took an interest in Ruppert’s desire to play and record music. “I made him work for it,” says Lewis. “I pushed him pretty hard and he didn’t fold. In fact, he blossomed. Mike is a great teacher about what he knows, and a terrific student when it comes to learning new skills.”
For Ruppert, those new skills included learning how to work the microphone while developing a more ‘left brain’ approach to writing, away from the factual reporting of his day to day and into a more sublime world of the trans-poetic, lyrical experience. In a word…storytelling. Fortunately for Ruppert, Lewis had been mining this ground for decades, with themes and songs of cautionary tales to do with protest, eternal war, with revealing commentary swiped against a background extending from Vietnam to the big bomb.
For Lewis and Ruppert, there were no issues in reaching common ground in the recording studio. With their two sensibilities cut from the same desire to formulate words into the action of social commentary by speaking out through popular song, Lewis and Ruppert, along with Andy Kravitz, Kristen Vigard, Cara Tompkins, James Mathers, Malia Luna, and a host of others, poured their time and energies into recording their collaborations for what would become Doublewide.
Could two people be more different? Lewis – tall, lanky, whip-smart with movie-star looks (think Willem DeFoe meets Chet Baker) and more rock and roll attitude than most rock & rollers vs Ruppert – a former LAPD cop who looks like he could be Wilford Brimley’s kid brother. Yet, for Lewis, meeting and recording with Ruppert had a reassuring effect. “Mike and my sensibilities are perfectly aligned. I’d been working this ground a long time, steering each of my collaborative projects into a direction of relevance, refining the message, speaking out. Working with Mike was a breath of fresh air. Between us, we hit a groove and didn’t waver”
‘Dangerous Ground‘ from Lewis’ Fell Music project was recorded in 1997 at Arthur Barrow’s Lotek Studios in Mar Vista. The message is familiar, the imagery informed and the lineage apparent from the Dangerous Ground to Doublewide.
Mark Baer, President, Museum of Monterey and Managing Director of SmartChannel.TV
THE CHEETERS, DOUG LEWIS (aka Gunter Vile), JAMIE COHEN (Dietrich Von Bone) and ANDY KRAVITZ (Klaus Kurtz)are an art band – their music is an art project. The Cheeters were not built to last, they were about a go for broke moment – They went deep and deeper still – Buddha was in the back seat and Bacchus was at the wheel. The Cheeters are an urgent confession, an uncompromising creative explosion marked by intelligence in the tradition of Captain Beefheart, Rage Against the Machine, and Nick Cave. The music is solid, inspired but it is the subtle lyrics, the sophisticated imagery and the complex multi-textured sound mix that is the band’s trademark. There is humor and passion and the pure joy of invention in this music and the Cheeters always tell the truth and never pull their punches. This is music made by men, not boys, and the stories are of lived lives, not fantasies, told by guys that got laid, not guys wishing they got laid. What strikes one about listening to the Cheeters is how present they are, how in the zeitgeist, giving you the newest news, the latest edition. They embraced randomness and found objects. What does that mean? I get a call from Lewis, car noise, clanking beer cans, he’s somewhere in Santa Fe, “Hey man, we just met this chick in a 7-11 while stopping for cigarettes and she says she can sing. We’re headed back to the studio now.” There was no master plan. They were on a wild ride, totally dedicated to the realm of the magical and committed and it was all holy. It was dangerous, probably crazy and they were on a grand high, a high stakes transcendent journey reduced to a four box set. That is how the dust settles on angels with outstretched wings. Lewis and Cohen had a shared sensibility that went back over twenty five years. They wrote together and emerged as one voice. They knew how to tread in darkness, they knew how to mine the madness and they knew the poetry of lust and outrage. Doug Lewis is a master of the crooked phrase, a knowing wit and a musical sensibility informed by the bands of his psychedelic Marin County youth such as Tower of Power and the Sons of Champlin. Cohen was also a consummate wordsmith, steeped in the blues and in the dada-surrealist sensibility. Listen to the Cheeters and you will hear echoes of absurdist poet, Tristian Tzara, as well as Kurt Weil and Bertolt Brecht. Weil & Brecht. Lewis & Cohen. If they met they’d share respect. Andy Kravitz, a two time Grammy winning producer, mixer, writer, engineer, and drummer was their soul brother, the catalytic third element and the maestro of the secret sauce. The Cheeters are about love, beauty, the ambiguous ephemeral, life, death and sex. It’s not only rock and roll but you’ll like it. M.D. Baer/July 4, 2009
BATON ROUGE performed by THE CHEETERS – Gunter Vile (Doug Lewis), Dietrich Von Bone (Jamie Cohen), Klause Kertz (Andy Kravitz).
From the album LIES IN HIGH FIDELITY
CLICK ON IMAGES FOR VIDEO
Bass player Phil Maggini playing the ’64 Precision.
New White Trash Headquarters at the VAC | Image/Cara Tompkins
As if leading the charge of the seemingly post-catastrophe society was not enough, Ruppert also takes some time to make music with his band The New White Trash—although the themes are predictably not far from his heart.
“New White Trash is not a euphemism for modern rednecks, the name represents the discarded middle class from the current economic crisis,” he said. “Our music is the music of the post-paradigm, much in the way Woody Guthrie sung about the depression we are doing the same for now.”
These are some of the last sketch-art pieces doodled by artist/musician Jamie Cohen before he passed away Sept. 11, 2008. More of Jamie Cohen art here, and some of his music with the Cheeters and Venice Arts Club Music.
JAMIE COHEN SKETCH-ART.1
JAMIE COHEN SKETCH-ART .2
JAMIE COHEN SKETCH-ART.3
JAMIE COHEN SKETCH-ART.4
JAMIE COHEN SKETCH-ART.5
JAMIE COHEN SKETCH-ART.6
THE LIFEBOAT HOUR, hosted by uber-activist and New White Trash founding member Michael C. Ruppert, aires Sunday evening at 9p Eastern on the PROGRESSIVE RADIO NETWORK. Ruppert opens his weekly show with AVALANCHE & EARTHQUAKE, a popular New White Trash tune, and closes the hour with a snippet of YOU LOSE, a mostly instrumental song from disc one of DOUBLEWIDE, the debut release from New White Trash. Listeners tuning in to the Lifeboat Hour for Sunday, March 4, 2012 would have also heard a slice of ONE GOOD REASON, a New White Trash song from disc two of DOUBLEWIDE.
Released January 11, 2011, the music of the New White Trash and the songs of Doublewide chronicle the slide of the former American middle-class down a steep and slippery slope to the New White Trash, a place impartial to race, religion, creed or color.
Dubbed the ‘music of the post-paradigm’, Doublewide describes the vacuum left by the sudden disappearance of the former American middle class. According to Ruppert, “it is in this vacuum we now find ourselves, tumbling in turmoil as home losses mount, bank balances shrink, and shelters are jammed with the likes of you and I. The good ol’ days are done and dusted. The party is over. The coming chaos of the post-paradigm era will lead to a radical and immediate rethinking and remaking of America or it will lead us to complete devastation.”
The New White Trash folds into itself the former middle class with the working poor and, for good measure, the unemployed and uninsured. The NWT defines and represents a majority of people whose common bond includes and exists beyond the demographics of age, race, location, education. The people of the NWT are the new ‘have-not’s’, and by its nature and size, this vast swath of population (99%) is now squarely at odds with the 1% who own, operate and dispense our corporate universe, big pharma, big food, big defense and big government included. ‘By the people for the people’ is a thing of the past.
As Woody Guthrie filled a musical vacuum by acknowledging the pain and the suffering of the Great Depression, the New White Trash fills a bigger and more insidious vacuum left by a rampant, programmed consumerism that serves only corporations and their shareholders.
This is a new breed of American music in which the message is clear: You’re f**ked. But now what?
NWT portrays a post-paradigm, ‘less beautiful’ America, brought to life through music, media, theatre and message – those of love, need, equality and social justice. ‘Drop it down’, ‘don’t dig too deep’, ‘we charge extra for this’, ‘take these’, ‘we can’t escape from’, all are the language of the NWT. And for good reason.
If you got no credit and you got no cash, you’re NWT. If you got more going out than you got coming in, you’re NWT. If your 401k is MIA, If you’ve filed for bankruptcy, if you find yourself living in a trailer or back with your parents, if your unemployment has run out, if your roads have holes and local schools are closing, if you lost your health insurance to a pre-existing condition, you are the NWT. If you bought the hype and borrowed on a dream,and now your house is gone and you’re selling your things, you’re the NWT. If you’re pissed off, yet you keep a sliver of love in your crossed heart and at least a post-ironic smile on your lips, you’re NWT. If what you had is gone – just like that – then you know you’re running with the New White Trash.
Ruppert states how, “The NWT offers what popular music does not: it recognizes and acknowledges all those who are being marginalized and dropping off the radar screens of ‘official’ life. It is not all depressing. In fact, the NWT celebrates the joys, simple pleasures and love that are often re-discovered only in the darkest times.”
ONE GOOD REASON is one of those tracks, a song of love discovered. Have a listen to One Good Reason from Doublewide by the New White Trash.
THE NEW WHITE TRASH – Music Of The Post-Paradigm
Mike Ruppert & Wade De Void. Image/Cara Tompkins
Song page for ONE GOOD REASON. Image/Cara Tompkins
Mike Ruppert & Wade De Void. Image/Cara Tompkins
Phil De Void, aka Andy Kravitz
Sasha De Void
Emily Rose De Void
Wade De Void
Phil Maggini playing with the New White Trash
James & Kelli Mathers of the New White Trash. Image/Cara Tompkins
New White Trash. Image/Cara Tompkins