Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Excerpt from "Water Towers Look Like Martians"

As the summer sun beat down, OI sat in the grass and pounded the stolen plastic mail crate as if his life depended on it. He played with a savage frenzy that did not pause to consider melody, meter, or timekeeping. Possession of the mail crate was a Federal offense, but the power of rock and roll would not, could not, be denied. For drumsticks, he used the cardboard cores from rolls of fax paper, and upon his head rested a tamborine that he would bash for percussion at random moments. Sometimes he would miss and bash himself in the face. But how rock and roll is *that*?

RV was jumping up and down on the campus sidewalk and flailing at an electric guitar with such zeal it didn't even matter that it was missing two strings and not plugged into an amp. With much pomp and theatrics, he brought the cover of Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" (but with numerous lines changed to reflect various private in-jokes about people they had gone to high school with) to a halt.

"Thank you, ladies and gentlemen! Thank you! WE LOVE YOU! GOODNIGHT!"


There was, in truth, no audience, and it was, in fact, midday.

"Good show," OI said as he got up and turned the tape recorder off. "I think that Gordon Lightfoot medley we did is a keeper. How much money did we make?"

"Let me see," said RV, reaching into his hat on the ground. "looks like..... eighty-seven cents."

"What should we do now?"

"Let's get a Sprite."

RV had an encyclopedic knowledge of every source for soda and snacks in a fifty mile radius, and he knew that the closest source at this moment was the EKU Coliseum. He also kept exhaustive files on every public restroom in central Kentucky, and planned eventually to write a book (called You Are Never Far From A Bathroom) listing and reviewing them all, with an additional appendix in the back detailing sneaky places where you could safely go if you couldn't get to the nearest public restroom in time.

But at the Coliseum, The little orange light on the Sprite button was on, indicating it was out of Sprite. OI stared at the remaining options, trying to decide between a Coke and a Canada Dry Ginger Ale, as RV laid down his guitar and slumped to the floor, head in hands, suddenly deeply depressed.

"C'mon, big guy," said OI as he dropped coins into the machine. "There'll be other Sprites."

"My life has no meaning."


"The emptiness of the Sprite section of the Coke machine is a metaphor for the barrenness of my heart in old age, with the orange light symbolizing the dim flame of now-painful memories of lost childhood joys."


"Do you understand what I mean?"

"Yep. Totally." OI's Coke loudly plunked into the bottom of the machine. "Errrrm...... what's a metaphor?"

The sound of the crackle and hiss of a campus cop's walkie-talkie was heard down the hall, accompanying some authoritative footsteps.

"Let's go," whispered OI, grabbing his precious mail crate.

"Cops can suck my LEG!" yelled RV rebelliously after they got outside, then looked around to make there wasn't one nearby.

"Should we find another machine with Sprite?" asked OI.

"Nah. Forget it. I hate Sprite anyway."

"But you drink it all the time."

"Suffering builds character."

"So what now?"

"I think," said RV slowly, moving his head jerkily but purposefully, as if it were a dowsing rod detecting something, "I want beer."

Though RV kept no files on the matter, it was a fact that in Richmond you are never far from a beer. Richmond is a very alcoholic town, which comes in handy if you are an alcoholic, or an alcoholic's apprentice. Everyone drinks here. The young. The old. Bikers. Businessmen. Campus cops. Why this is so, nobody seems to know. There is a military installation nearby that is said to be one of the two largest storage places for nerve gas, enough to kill a third of the country, or at least Kentucky. The nerve gas canisters are all very old and very leaky. Sometimes orange clouds come wafting out of the base and birds fall from the sky, but the Army says people are just being hysterical and it was just an ordinary run-of-the-mill harmless orange cloud and who cares about birds anyhow? Others say the Roswell UFO pieces and alien bodies are stored here. All of this is certainly enough to make people want to stay drunk all the time.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Water Towers Look Like Martians

On March 31, I'm releasing the first of four ultra-lowbrow RV&OI mini-novels projected for this year, entitled Water Towers Look Like Martians. But before that, I suppose I ought to explain to the uninitiated who the heck RV&OI are.

Like many of the people whose move in my blurry circles, RV&OI are "secretly famous", toiling in obscurity. They're two manchildren from Richmond, KY whose street-busking antics are notorious nationwide, but especially in Lexington, which seems to have been their epicenter of operations in the 1990s. To explain the RV&OI story is a multi-tentacled task that many chroniclers have tried their hand at and failed, so I won't even try, I'll just give you the gist in bold strokes:

RV&OI is actually short for Retrovirus & Opportunistic Infection, as the guy with the hat is nicknamed "Retrovirus" and the guy with the glasses calls himself "Opportunistic Infection." They have produced tens of thousands of cassette-only albums since the 1970s, almost all given away, left at bus stops, planted in public restrooms, and even tossed in the open windows of parked cars. Dissemination at all costs, profits be damned.

Very few copies exist of each album, though the material often overlaps, and numerous different re-recordings of their many recurring "standards" exist. All are recorded with the most primitive equipment ("a cheap walkman with a microphone the size of children's aspirin", according to one tape's liner notes) and instruments. Out-of-tune unplugged electric guitars are the norm, but banjos, pianos, cardboard boxes, plastic mail crates, and aluminum pots and pans have all made appearances in the mix.

RV&OI's hillbilly-dadaist material is almost always conceived spontaneously. Retrovirus once said in an interview in an early-90's Lexington zine: "We walk around and look at stuff. We spout about whatever pops into our heads at that moment. We record it all. We pick out the best ones and put them out. Then we pick out the worst ones and put them out too." Since they've been plying their art for decades, they've managed to capture a lot of local history along the way. Many places immortalized in their songs no longer exist and for some reason, we feel a little bit better knowing that RV&OI stood in these places and jabbered squeaky noises into a boombox there for posterity.

Examples of their oeuvre include "Big Pile of Tires", which is a heartwarming ode to, well, a big pile of tires they found behind a gas station. There's "Mollusk Man", which sounds like a cross between Captain Beefheart and Hasil Adkins, in which only about every tenth word is intelligible. "Dracula Needs A Microscope" is a bizarre acoustic stream-of-consciousness rant which is either a genius comment on bloodborne pathogens or, more likely, is just pure stupid surrealism. "Searching for Pepsi (pt.2)" is an audio-verite recording of the boys making a purchase from a soda machine, complete with the clinking of change and the clunking of cans coming out.

In the 90s, I helped distribute some of their albums on my primitive Creeps Records label, and much later drew semi-fictionalized versions of their exploits for a Louisiana-based comic book company called Moist Doorknob Comics. The mini-comics published by Moist Doorknob have been distributed in the same fashion as the RV&OI tapes - left laying around randomly around the nation in the vain fleeting hope that some bored soul will pick one up, thumb through it, and wonder.

And now, I continue to keep, in my miniscule way, my promise to RV&OI to attempt to help them reach the worldwide fame they deserve but have sorely been screwed out of. (Beavis & Butthead was without a doubt directly influenced by RV&OI, to the point of ripping them off completely.) The RV&OI novellas will, upon full release of the four, be ultimately repackaged in a box set, possibly with a USB stick containing their music.

The books will, in keeping with RV&OI's aesthetic of deliberate shoddiness, be released in print format only (for the time being), each copy individually handmade by me and only obtainable by ordering direct from the JSH Book Club, not Amazon and not any brick and mortar store. (However, in another homage to the boys, I may leave a few at random places around Florida.)

Above: an RV&OI mini-comic found on a condom dispenser in a Shell gas station in Dickson, TN. Below: an RV&OI mini-comic found in the seat pocket of an American Airlines jet.

"Yes, yes," I hear you cry, "but what about this book?" Well, I can't really give you plot details because they're so tender and small and fragile that to speak of them would be to doom them. The RV&OI novels are textural works rather than plot-driven, and the less spoken of them the better. In fact, I'll go ahead and issue a consumer warning that the RV&OI novels are strictly for die-hard JSH Book Club fans only. They're not for the average reader, and future historians may well take aggressive measures to hold them in literary isolation from the rest of my body of work. Get yours now while there's still time!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Transmissions from Agent J

Another JSH Book Club wildcard to be released sometime this year: Transmissions from Agent J!

It's a book which takes excerpts from my dream journals and presents them as straight cut-up fiction (?), in a manner reminiscent of what William S. Burroughs did with his dream book, My Education. However, I'm finding that explaining the context of some of these dreams to the reader in passing is necessary, to the extent that the book is also shaping up to be the closest thing to an autobiography you might ever get out of me.

I put the question mark after "fiction" because it's something of a conundrum: these dreams really occurred, so does that make the book non-fiction since I'm merely reporting the facts as they happened inside my skull? But since the events in the dreams are, of course, imaginary (depending on your interpretations of quantum physics, morphic resonance, and Jungian consciousness), would fiction not to be an apt way to describe them? It depends on where you're standing, I suppose.

Since the book relays both the private bric-a-brac of my subconscious dream life and personal details of my waking life, you might even find yourself mentioned within its pages, dear reader. (To keep some of the juicy gossip contained in the tome semi-curtailed, I'm thinking that it'll be released in print form only, no e-book, unless I change my mind between now and then.)

The ultimate Jeffrey Scott Holland book, no compromises. Pre-order your copy today!