Sunday, July 20, 2008

Author Bio: Christopher Gutierrez - 2008

In the same fashion Do-It-Yourself punk bands have built their fan base for the past 30 years, Chicago author Christopher Gutierrez has carved his own niche into the literary world relying on that same aesthetic. In the span of three short years, Gutierrez has gone from sporadic zine publisher and part-time blogger to full-time writer and public speaker, self-releasing 3 books, a spoken word CD, a live DVD, several mini-books and fanzines all under the umbrella of The Deadxstop Publishing Company.

Since the release of his first book On the Upswing of Life, Love and Regret in 2005, Gutierrez has built a strong foundation of loyal readers garnering over 10,000 hits a day on his popular blog 'Askheychris.' The advocacy of his readership helped him sell two pressings of the book with no major distribution, land him a feature piece in the Chicago Reader and a sponsorship as in-house spoken word artist by on the Vans Warped Tour. His work ethic and online presence also earned him a position as a staff writer and guest blogger for popular social-networking site

June 2007 saw the release of his second book A Life Deliberate, a personal collection of memoirs as humorous and emotional as they are uplifting. Following the release, Gutierrez set off on a full US tour including dates in Canada and a stint in The UK spanning England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. These dates documented the beginning of what would become his third book, Notes from the Deep End: A Year in the Life of a Touring Author, a collection of journal entries spanning his initial tour dates following the release of A Life Deliberate, a Northeast tour with friends and fellow Chicago natives 2*Sweet and his speaking engagements at Rutgers University, The University of Massachusetts, The University of North Carolina and the University of East Anglica in England and many others. The Chicago date was filmed and released as the "Live from Chicago" DVD.

This past year has been a busy one for Gutierrez with no indication of slowing down. Notes from the Deep End was released in June and once again he immediately followed up the release with a full 6-week tour of the U.S. He has also been hosting his own three-hour online radio show through aptly titled This Deliberate Life and making plans for future visits overseas. Though he isn't a household name, Gutierrez continues to inspire thousands of people with an uplifting message and a DIY attitude.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Author Bio: Christopher Gutierrez - 2007

Though many are just discovering his work, Chicago native Christopher Gutierrez has been penning narratives for 12 years in his self-published fanzine, DeadxStop. Initially, the zine was little more than a forum to discuss and promote hardcore/punk bands, but as the years passed, the themes of love, loss, family and friendship became more prevalent and the zine more personal.

In 2003, Gutierrez took his do-it-yourself zine aesthetic to the Internet and began posting memoirs and opinions on his blog, "Askheychris." His unique voice, brutal honesty, sharp wit and endearing storytelling ability garnered instant readership. Continuous word of mouth expanded the blog to over 3,500 "friends" and countless unique anonymous visitors, making it one of the most widely read blogs on the popular site At the prompting (and petitioning) of readers, his vision of The DeadxStop Publishing Company expanded two years later with the release of his first book, a collection of memoirs and journal entries entitled On the Upswing of Life, Love and Regret. On the strength of a small, but loyal fanbase, the first pressing of 1100 sold out within six months. Word of mouth spread and landed Gutierrez a speaking engagement at Adams State College in Colorado, a sponsorship as in-house spoken word artist by on the Van's Warped Tour and a feature piece in the Chicago Reader.

November 2006 saw the release of his first spoken word CD, The Dirt of an Electric Boy. It is a 21-track collection of old journal entries and new statements on life in a decaying world. In the first week over one-third of the press was sold.

In early 2007, Gutierrez released Bulletproof Hearts: A Guide To A Deliberate Life, a minibook of self-penned words of wisdom, a precursor to the June 2007, release of his second book, A Life Deliberate, which has recently been re-released in a second pressing. In addition to releasing his second book, Gutierrez repackaged, reprinted, and re-released On The Upswing Of Life, Love, and Regret in a hard cover version which included additional stories and a Making Of CD.

With two books, a spoken word CD, and a successfully completed U.S. speaking tour under his belt, Gutierrez is poised to begin a second speaking tour across the U.S. this fall followed by speaking dates in Canada and the United Kingdom. 2007 certainly is shaping up to be an ambitious year for Gutierrez. Like always, integrity and passion will continue to outweigh the quest for money and status. And though his name is not on the top of the New York Times Best Seller List, if it ever ends up there, a punk rock, do-it-yourself ethic will be the reason.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Darker My Love - 2

Darker My Love
(Dangerbird Records)

On their aptly titled sophomore LP, 2, Los Angeles’ Darker My Love return with 11 new tracks of their heavily distorted, drugged out brand of neo-psychedelic rock. Staying true to form, 2 is full of great, riff oriented songs like the album opener “Northern Soul” and the up-tempo rager “Waves”, but the most stand outs moments are when they slow it down and bring the vocal interplay between guitarist Tim Presley and bassist Rob Barbato to the forefront. On tracks like “Two Ways Out” and “Even in your Lightest Days” the influence of 60’s vocal psych-pop groups comes through and adds a dynamic element previously uncharted on previous releases. As a whole, 2 is a more interesting and varied record than anything in Darker My Love’s discography, proving it’s possible to blend two different eras of psychedelia in such a seemless fashion.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

M83 - Saturdays=Youth


Anthony Gonzalez has always had a knack for weaving cinematic soundscapes into relatively straightforward dream-pop songs, but on M83's latest record, Saturdays=Youth, he takes that idea to the next level. Set against a backdrop of 80's synth-pop, massive reverb and heavy doses of vocal melody, Gonzalez lyrically and musically captures the essence and pays tribute to uncertain teenage emotion with each track. This record is a concept of sorts, each song a chapter in the densely layered soundtrack to individual moments in adolescent life – falling in love ("Dark Moves of Love"), going out and doing drugs with your friends ("Couleurs"), alienation ("Graveyard Girl"), fear ("Kim and Jessie") and escape ("Highway of Endless Dreams"). With Saturdays=Youth, Gonzalez has created one of the most conceptually transcendent records in years because, no matter what, everyone was a teenager once and experienced the highs and lows that go along with being young.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, December 03, 2007

Punk Planet Reviewer Spotlights

After lurking the blog of my email pen pal (and former Punk Planet colleague) Eric Grubbs, I've decided to post my reviewer spotlights from my tenure at PP. I was on the reviewer staff from December '05 to June '07. Toward the end I grew lazy and discontent writing about bad demos and other undesirable records, but now that Punk Planet has folded and I've distanced myself, I do miss it. So, for anyone interested, here are my spotlights. As you can see, I missed a few issues.

Unbroken - Life. Love. Regret.
Issue #72

Out of all the records released in the 90's, few have made more of an impact on the current state of hardcore than Unbroken's 1994 release, Life. Love. Regret. Prior to this record, Unbroken was just another heavy hardcore band like all the others of the era. However, in the process of making this album they took their collective influences and created something so vibrant and different from what their peers were doing that it has taken on this legacy all its own. Every aspect of this record is a piece that completes the entire package. The album cover consists only of three simple stills from the film Swing Kids and the words life, love, regret, unbroken. Inside, the liner notes read like a zine of journal style pieces about suicide, love, fear, and the uncertainty of growing up. Musically, Steven Miller, Robert Moran, Eric Allen and Todd Beattie set the backdrop for David Claibourn’s harsh vocal delivery. Miller and Andrew’s guitar tones are dark and heavy and though the songs aren’t the most technical, each riff captures the overwhelming current of helplessness that emanates through the album. The lyrics for “End of a Lifetime,” “Curtain” and “Final Expression” (and on the whole record for the most part) are bleak and frequently touch on the subjects of suicide, lost love and dying alone. Life. Love. Regret is catharsis for anyone who has ever been on the brink of disaster or felt the depths of depression. I know first hand the comfort and exhilaration this record can bring and I only hope that everyone can experience it first hand when they need it the most.

Chamberlain, The Moon My Saddle
Issue #73

In 1996 Chamberlain re-released their now classic LP, Fate’s Got a Driver. It was originally recorded and released a year prior under the bands former name, Split Lip. The change in name signified a turning point as they shed the skin of their former sound and look and grew into one shaped dramatically by Southern Indiana life. From that point the days of stage dives were replaced with cowboy boots and a self-awareness only matched by a few. The Moon My Saddle was the first proper Chamberlain full length and it reflected the years of hard work and growth of the band enormously. The lyrics, musicianship, artwork and recording form a cohesive package exemplifying the beauty and desolation of life in the Midwest. The punk rock foundation of earlier efforts was replaced by a strong backbone of American rock and roll, soul and blues. Vocalist David Moore put himself out on the line even more as an author writing tales of late nights, long drives, empty streets, open skies and a silence that only inhabitants of small towns know. I know the majority will always say that Fate’s Got a Driver is the superior Chamberlain LP, but as someone with roots grounded in central Illinois, I think I will always relate to The Moon My Saddle more.

Hum - Downward is Heavenward
Issue #74

In the mid-nineties when A&R people had their sights set on finding the next Smashing Pumpkins, their view landed a bit south of Chicago to the sleepy college town of Urbana, Illinois. It was there that Hum was born and uncovered long enough to land them a mini-hit in the single “Stars” off of their third proper full-length, You’d Prefer an Astronaut. However, after the gaze of record labels shifted, Hum was left to fend for themselves like so many other “one hit wonders.” After their brush with radio-rock fame, they faired well on the indie circuit and began to write what would become the best record of their career. Everything that You’d Prefer an Astronaut lacked (which wasn’t much to begin with) was more than made up for on Downward is Heavenward. Songs like “The Inuit Promise,” “Green to Me” and “Comin’ Home” exemplified the tug of war between devastatingly heavy and hauntingly melodic Hum always toggled with. “Ms. Lazarus” and “Apollo” showcased how a few simple riffs in the clean channel can still be as crushing as a song written in drop tuning. Like with all of their records, the themes of space, science, mathematics and nature run throughout the record as metaphors for life, love and dreams that have yet to be realized. Unlike many of my favorite records that have specific seasonal memories, I can listen to Downward is Heavenward any time of year, at any time of day, for hours on end and still not get tired of it.

American Nightmare - S/T
Issue #76
Before the name changes, inflated merch prices on Ebay and legal battles, American Nightmare were just another hardcore band from Boston. They had some buzz early on, but this seven song 7” is what really catapulted them into being one of the biggest bands in hardcore. The music is fast, well-written, straight forward hardcore, but what captured everyone’s attention were singer Wes Eisold’s lyrics. At the age of 20 he articulated his thoughts on love, friendship, depression and growing up in descriptive metaphors and imagery in a fashion not typically seen or heard in hardcore. It was honest and interesting and spoke volumes to kids like me who felt the same way. In my opinion, this 7” is one of the most important hardcore records of the past six years not only because of how good the songs are, but for the impact it’s had on hardcore since. Eisold’s influence can be seen in the sea of bands that came after this record, but also bands like Bane who existed before them. And though it is my favorite American Nightmare record, it was merely a stepping-stone for the boundaries they pushed and the band they became.

The Magnetic Fields - The House of Tomorrow
Issue #77
A few years before Stephin Merritt composed his three-disc opus, 69 Love Songs, he released the frequently overlooked House of Tomorrow EP. In comparison to his later work, the five songs here are hardly as grand or ambitious, but they are warm and endearing. Each song is roughly two and a half minutes of looped sampler beats and sporadic instrumentation with Merritt’s trademark baritone as the guide. In fact, if it weren’t for lyrical variation the songs would go nowhere as there is no musical transition. Like most of his records, the subject of love is predominant throughout the record and Merritt’s metaphors and poetics are at a peak with lines like, “You and me in the waiting room, of a disused railroad station, scavenging for a few antiques. We’ll make a fortune just have patience. If we find an old signal box you can write your dissertation.” House of Tomorrow is not the crowning jewel of Stephin Merritt’s prolific career, but it is a diamond in the rough worthy of discovering.

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Paleo - Carpet Samples from the Song Diary

To say that Brooklyn based singer/songwriter Paleo is prolific and ambitious is a gross understatement. In addition to having a rigorous tour schedule, he’s attempting to write and record 365 songs in 365 days. In early anticipation, he has self-released a ten-song sampler to showcase what he’s been up to. Through out the tracks his voice is gruff and weathered, sometimes barely audible, sometimes screamed and cracking through the microphone, but always endearing. His idea and sparse songs benefit from the lo-fi, home recordings and on “In the Dark, The Dark Dark”, the sound of a freight train in the distance leads me to believe he’s seen some desolate towns through the past year. Paleo is FOUR DAYS shy of completing the project and judging by the songs on Carpet Samples, the end result will prove as interesting as the idea itself.

Labels: ,

Monday, September 10, 2007

Watch Yourself: The End of Chicago's Industrial-Metal pioneers

After nearly three decades of writing, recording and touring, Chicago industrial-metal legend Al Jourgensen stated his latest album, The Last Sucker is the final chapter in the Ministry legacy. Although this is the end of an era for Jourgensen and his fans, it marks the dawn of an even more prolific time creatively and professionally for the 48 year old musician, record label owner, producer, wine aficionado and Chicago expatriate.

“I just see these bands hanging on way too long and making crappier and crappier music and just doing it for the money. I just didn’t want to go that route,” said Jourgensen of his bands demise. His decision comes at an appropriate time, as The Last Sucker, the final Ministry album and third in a series of releases (including 2004’s Houses of the Molé and 2006's Rio Grande Blood) attacking the Bush administration drops on September 18th, 7 days after the anniversary of 9/11. “I really feel we are doing our best work, if not ever, at least in years and years with the new line up we’ve had over the last two records,” said Jourgensen of the album. Much like the last two records, The Last Sucker is a politically charged manifesto as crushing and abrasive lyrically as it is musically, rarely taking a moment to slow down. Throughout his career, he has experimented, grown and changed, but the end result of a tried and true Ministry record are all here - insanely heavy riffs, danceable electronic drums, and driving rhythm, all held together by Jourgensen’s trademark guttural scream. Tracks like “The Dick Song,” “The Last Sucker,” and “End of Days Part 1 and 2” chastise the Bush/Cheney administration correlating their war agenda directly with the destruction of not only the United States, but the world, in a detailed account of apocalypse. It’s a suitable end for a band whose career has spanned four presidents, two wars, terrorist attacks and constant global unrest.

The Last Sucker also marks another release for Jourgensen’s constantly expanding record 1abel, 13th Planet. Initially a vehicle for his projects, the label has morphed into a full-fledged machine complete with recording studio and practice space which he owns and operates. The shift from musician to producer and entrepreneur is a welcome return to his days of owning Wax Trax!, the visionary industrial label that also spawned the Chicago record store bearing the same name. “Ministry takes up a lot of time,” said Jourgensen. “Between 2 months of talking to you knuckleheads, 7 months of touring and 7 months in the studio, it takes a year and a half for me to get through a Ministry cycle. I could be doing 6-7 projects in a year by doing other stuff.” Currently, he’s finishing up production the final Revolting Cocks record, getting ready to release the new Prong album Power of the Damager and working on Burton Bell of Fear Factory’s latest ambient creation, Ascension of the Watchers. In the coming months he will also begin composing the soundtrack of a horror movie entitled Wicked Lake and to coincide with Ministry’s final shows in Chicago, an album of cover songs is being released. “I enjoy working with other people so doing all these other side projects and production is great for me. That’s what I want to do anyway,” said Jourgensen.

In his spare time, Jourgensen is something of a red wine connoisseur, a passion he unearthed while recording in El Paso, TX after kicking a lengthy stint of heroin abuse. “The owner of the studio was a complete red wine connoisseur. I had finally kicked my heroin habit and was pretty clean and didn’t want to relapse so he suggested I try a glass of red wine with dinner every so often. He really taught me the finer points of it and it’s worked out well ever since,” said Jourgensen. “I’ve never relapsed, but now I probably spend more money on really decent wines than I ever did on heroin,” he said jokingly. Though he only periodically collects bottles of wine, there are some he feels are truly worth the money. “An affordable, really good bottle of wine is a French wine from the Bordeaux region of the year 2000. It’s probably the best year they’ve had since about ’75,” he said.

Although the The Last Sucker signifies the end of Ministry, it is by no means a death rattle for Jourgensen or the band that’s been the primary focus of his life for the past 26 years. Rather, it’s an explosive finale of a legendary band retiring at the top of their game. And instead of offering statement as defiant as his bands swan song about the legacy he’s left on Chicago music and the genre he helped shape, he casually responded with, “I don’t know, ask me in about 10 years, I’m still right in the middle of it.” – Stephen Kane

Labels: ,