The career of artist and Venice Arts Club founding member James Mathers was launched at a young age through a fortuitous meeting with Andy Warhol. A recent Mathers art show in Boulder, Colorado sold out in minutes. A new show is planned, as is the stage production of his work, ASTRAL DICK, a three act ‘Whodunnit’ produced by Hannah Hall, premiering in Venice CA this summer. James Mathers appears throughout material produced by Venice Arts Club, including the acclaimed New White Trash music project with uber-activist Michael C. Ruppert and NWT founder Wade De Void. Mathers also makes appearances in the Venice Arts Club Music Project, an 8 volume collection of songs and stories produced by the VAC.
FAKE ENLIGHTENMENT from Venice Arts Club Music Project
JAMES MATHERS: MID-CAREER produced by SmartChannel.TV
ASTRAL DICK PROMO
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.”
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
The four-album Fell Music project was recorded at Lotek Studios, Mar Vista, CA from 1994-2007. Produced by Arthur Barrow and Doug Lewis, the original seven albums were edited into a four-album project now hosted by Bandcamp, the independent music hosting site. The Fell Music project sets the tone for other music projects and collaborations by Doug Lewis, whose propensity for ‘bringing in the neighborhood’ is evident in Fell Music and remains a strong theme of his later work, including The Cheeters, Venice Arts Club Music, New White Trash and Gunter Vile.
M.D. BAER: Fell Music is both similar and unlike your other projects, similar in that it is a large body of work, and also how it brings in a group of contributors to the project, many of whom are not trained musicians, or musicians at all. Also, the sound is more produced, yet not as intimate as your later work. Can you trace the beginnings of Fell Music and it’s evolvement into your later projects?
LEWIS: My first experiences recording sound were with Jim Lewis – Col. Jim Lewis – my dad. Jim had a thing for audio, mostly tinkering, but did a lot of reel to reel recording of Jazz music, also Hawaiian, which is where I grew up (Hawaii) until I was ten. He also had a decent stereo system; late sixties and seventies stereo systems were rocking – big home speakers, a MacKintosh turntable and an analog receiver that weighed a ton. Back then, music sounded really good through his system, especially the Jazz and the Hawaiian.
M.D. BEAR: That’s a long way from rock and roll…
LEWIS: Rock & Roll was around my corner, that’s for sure. After Jim retired from the Army he moved us to San Francisco, Marin County exactly. Summer Of Love, June of 1967. His dream was to become a television news broadcaster, or work in radio, which he fulfilled. He had a real passion for speaking, using his voice. He had maybe the lowest voice ever, not gravely or smoke-filled, but low in a smooth and pleasantly resonant way…I wouldn’t know another voice to compare it to. Lee Marvin had a low voice which always caught me off guard, but nowhere near Jim’s tenor.
M.D. BAER: And the music?
LEWIS: Went from Jim’s turntable collection to San Fran street scene in full bloom. SF was the place, that’s for sure, and at the same time Marin was a hotbed of psychedelic activity. I was young, but still, the times were groovy. And so was the music. I became radicalized by the experience, caught a glimpse of the power of Love, and witnessed a revolution of sorts. I was enough in the cycle of its movement to have been influenced, probably profoundly. From there, it was a quick series of lefts and rights to GO! by John Clellon Holmes, then Kerouac,Ginsberg, Burroughs, Paul Bowles, the lot. I self-educated, developed an urge for self-expression, let the words of Whitman, Neruda,, Crane and Proust fall into place. Around that same time I had an older friend, kind of a big brother named Ralph Robinson. Ralph was in the Air Force, stationed at Travis, and he would take me out on backpacking trips through the Sierras. Shaw said that thirteen is the age when the ‘passions bloom’…or they don’t. He was referring to art, poetry, color, nature both natural and human. This aligns perfectly with my story. At that age I lived through a dynamic consequence of events, the San Fran revolution, Vietnam, available literature and a viseral experience with nature and the road. I began to seek adventure, saw myself as a poetic adventurer, read Ulysseus and felt the poetic urge to write, travel, explore.
M.D. BAER: You’ve certainly done all of that. When did you begin playing guitar?
LEWIS: I was singing in bands before I ever began playing the guitar. It wasn’t until my second move to L.A. that I picked up the guitar, when I was twenty-two or twenty-three. Until then, everything I had written was in verse and books of poetic rambling, a lot of which would eventually be transformed into lyrics for songs, first with a band called The Ducks, then into the Fell Music project. For me, playing the guitar was always only a means to an end. No one would ever credit me with being a great musician because I’m not. And I’m a lot worse for wear after losing the left ring finger on my left hand. But I did always seek out a decent player, someone to collaborate with. I went through a few transformations before settling into a way of working that produced Fell Music.
M.D. BAER: Which was?
LEWIS: BY the time I met Arthur Barrow and Lotek Studios, I was immersed in writing with the guitar. In fact, the first recordings I made with Arthur was with a bass player and a mandolin player, Jay Clark and Dorit Yaffe. These were songs the three of us had been playing around town in the coffeehouses, open mic’s, etc. That was in 1994. I lost my finger in March of 1995 and didn’t begin again with Arthur until 1996. We completed, Crudland, the first Fell Music album, in 1997.
M.D. BAER: How did you meet Arthur Barrow?
LEWIS: Through Jamie Cohen. Jamie was a well known music A&R guy who eventually dropped out to pursue his art. I met Jamie in the early 80’s, at a under-the-underground club on the Sunset Strip called AT SUNSET. I was one of the founders of At Sunset, and early on we ‘hired’ Jamie to DJ on occasion. But Jamie and I didn’t become close until we lived around the corner from each other in Venice, around 1992. From then on we became real close buddies and great friends. Jamie led me to Arthur and eventually Jamie and I recorded 66 songs together with Andy Kravitz on a project we named The Cheeters, from June, 2006 to the end of August, 2008. Jamie was also a big contributor to the Venice Arts Club Music project. Jamie passed away Sept. 11, 2008.
Basically, from Arthur Barrow, I learned how to make music, how to tune in to sound, how to listen and how to record. One benefit from losing the finger was that I didn’t have to beat myself up over not being able to play the guitar well. With Arthur, all he has to do is to hear it once and he’s got it. Arthur was Frank Zappa’s bass player for years, but he was also what Frank called his Clonemiester, in that, being a multi-instrumentalist, Arthur was able to orchestrate Frank’s music for the rest of the band. So our process was that I would come in with an idea, usually fairly flushed out in terms of song and chord structure. We recorded the idea, usually a guitar to a click track, then build the song from there. My original guitar track would occasionally make it to the finished song, though often we would replace it with a stronger Arthur Barrow version. Arthur is also an amazing guitar player and a whiz on the organ, so we would pile on his talents to build songs then bring other talent in to record drums, background vocals, mandolin, whatever. Robert Williams, ex-drummer for Capt. Beefheart, was a big contributor, he played drums and percussion on a lot of the songs.
M.D. BAER: Two strong themes emerge from Fell Music, that of love/romance/unrequited love and the themes of social-commentary, protest. It’s pretty much an even split, not only with the Fell Music stuff, but throughout your catalog including The Cheeters, Venice Arts Club Music and especially the New White Trash with author and activist, Michael C. Ruppert.
LEWIS: I mean, what else is there? Equal rights and justice for all, that’s my beat. War is a lie. Politics and politicians play a money game for a money grab. Television and Madison Ave. are vacum’s built to sustain passivity and subtract life and imagination from those they attract. The real world is somewhere else. I figured out early on that Vietnam was a calculated and cold-blooded propaganda campaign built on media cooperation and most of all built on fear…fear of the VC, fear of communism, fear of the unknown. So yea, my writing and songs have to do with a world of hearts and bones, love and loss, a through the looking glass view from the here to beyond, an awakening and an enlightenment.
M.D. BAER: Several of the Fell Music tracks, songs like WAR CREEP, WAR ETERNAL, MORE WAR NOW, SAY NO MORE, have choruses sung by children. You give credit as the ‘Venice Children’s Choir’. Why the kids?
LEWIS: Because they were available and because having the voices of children lends a certain irony to the subject of war and to the act of protest.
M.D. BAER: Your history of working with Kristen Vigard begins with Fell Music.
LEWIS: Yes. When Kristen and I met in the early 80’s, she was part of the NY art and music scene, as a performer and a catalyst. She came to L.A. and we met At Sunset. She sings a lot of backgrounds of the Fell Music project, and we collaborated on several songs including TIDE GOES IN, TIDE GOES OUT, also SUNCAT. There are others.
M.D. BAER: There are seven Fell Music albums and you’ve made only four available on the Bandcamp site?
LEWIS: Three of the four albums available on Bandcamp are compilations pulled from the complete body of work. The fourth – Fell Music FOUR – is the complete last album Arthur and I recorded together. FOUR is its own thing in that it chronicles my dance with cancer during that period of 2006-2007.
M.D. BAER: GROOVING WITH THE ARCHETYPES is an article written by Bud Theisen about you and the Venice Arts Club. This story, about music and healing, is pretty compelling. A reader would discover how this was not your first dance?
LEWIS: The reader would discover how in February of 2003 I was diagnosed with a malignant sarcoma and given six months to live, max. A similar recurrence and diagnosis came around again in mid-2006.
M.D. BAER: Similar but the same?
LEWIS: The same but different. There is that same echoey quality to the news itself. Like someone shouting out the diagnosis to your through a megaphone from very far away. But they are not shouting, the voice whispers but the echo builds and the force of the resonance, when the vibration hits, is dangerous and can kill. You have to remain standing, take the blowback with the stagger and stare down the light. I have a particular point of reference, and the imagery of that reference is of a horse. A tall horse, standing somewhere, maybe in a field or a battleground, I can’t tell, and where doesn’t matter, nor does ‘why’. The horse towers above me and takes up the frame. And it’s always been my duty to get myself up and on the horse. ON Fell FOUR, the song XYZ is my dealings with it all though all the songs on FOUR are tied to the themes of recovery and alternative levels of healing.
M.D. BAER: Well, thanks for sharing.
LEWIS: Alright. Thank you.
Hammond Organ at Lotek Studios. Image/Patricia DeLaRosa
Fell Music Original Artwork. Image/Patricia DeLaRosa
Robert Williams at Lotek Studios
Doug Lewis at Lotek Studios. Image/Cara Tompkins
Kristen Vigard is a recording artist who also sings backgrounds and harmonies with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Fishbone. Kristen was also the original ‘Annie’ on Broadway, and played Moran Richards on the Guiding Light!. Kristen is a founding member of the VAC and the New White Trash. Read more about Kristen here, and click the image below for more about Kristen.
It Would Be Strange’ was the New White Trash song of the week played by host and NWT band member Michael C. Ruppert on his weekly radio talk/call in show, The Lifeboat Hour for Sunday, Feb 12, 2012. Here is the video on the VAC You Tube channel for ‘It Would Be Strange’:
Article re Mike Ruppert, Collapse and the New White Trash: