The easiest way to get me to violently despise something is to force it on me, over and over, preferably at times I have no control over it. It is entirely within the realm of possibility that I would enjoy the music of the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, or the Who, had it all not been shoved down my throat since I was six. Maybe I’d think Amy Schumer was funny, if she’d ever actually made me laugh, instead of appearing upon every single magazine cover like H.R. Giger’s vision of Miss Piggy. 21st century marketing is pure saturation; drown people until they finally submit out of desperation to breathe. That’s the quality level of American entertainment. Personal discovery is deader than dust. Everyone likes the same shit because it’s too hard to like anything else; it’s practically discouraged. People are lining up in droves right now to buy tickets to a movie from the most creatively bankrupt studio in film history, directed by a man made famous for appropriating other properties. Don’t be stupid.
“Black Hole Sun” and “Spoonman” were unavoidable in 1994. Both songs sound immediately sick of themselves; in fact, the former seems utterly bored. The video for “Black Hole Sun” was extraordinarily unpleasant and awful. In the early ’90s, anything emanating from a grunge band was feted as art, the more awful the better. Record companies love junkies because they O.D. before the royalties come in. For example, watch how the music of Stone Temple Pilots is handled now that Scott Weiland is dead. How quickly after death did Amy Winehouse get a documentary, anyway?
“Kai’s PC Goo” was how I misremembered “Kai’s Power Tools”, a Photoshop add-on from the mid ’90s that let you distort pictures so that people’s eyes or noses were bulging. There was also software that made toasters with wings fly across the screen after the computer had been idle. If you imagine all your phone apps in colorful boxes, on the shelves of an electronics store for fifty bucks apiece, that was 1995.
In the summer of 1991, I worked one of the worst jobs of my life, at a major worcestershire sauce factory in Fair Lawn, New Jersey. This is where a substantial portion of my loathing for classic rock radio festered. When I worked on the factory floor, I had to wear earplugs, so I could tune my internal jukebox to songs I’d memorized from Hardcore DEVO.
(Please note from the cover of Hardcore DEVO Vol. 1 above that DEVO did the boob-bikini thing 40+ years before that abominable Cyrus spawn. Credit where it’s assuredly due, alright?)
However, working on the factory floor was not ideal. One job involved manning the giant metal gear that labels the bottles, and snatching the bunched-up labels that weren’t pasted on right before they clogged up the works. My foreman Peter, a cheerful Cuban guy who sounded 100% like Ricky Ricardo, knew that I was an artist, and asked which was my drawing hand. I indicated right. He told me to grab with my left.
Another task was to hose out a trailer in the back lot. It was full of 300-gallon barrels of anchovies in salt brine, one of which had sprung a leak. We found the culprit, snowcapped in inches of teeming maggots. As we carefully moved the leaky barrel out like the Ark of the Covenant, it landed smack onto my right hand and squashed it. I just looked at it. It was my last week, and the rancid anchovy brine had already obliterated my fancy steel-toed boots. It figured.
Sometime earlier was the incident I depicted in the Front 242 strip, where a boiler exploded and we had to evacuate. I drew it exactly as I saw it. It was like something out of a Gilliam film. To this day it stands out as one of the most horrifically wrong-kind-of-funny things I’ve ever witnessed.
If you’ve got a bottle of worcestershire in your cabinet, pop it open and take a big whiff. That’s what I smelled like for the entire summer of 1991. It wouldn’t wash off, and it was around 2003 before I could go near the shit again. (Lea & Perrins is assuredly delicious. Don’t read the ingredients. We used to call it “dumpster juice”.)
The best part of the job was painting the endless monkey-cage of rusty girders atop the factory. Here, I and other burnouts from school could get work done, or take naps and crack jokes, depending on the weather (blazing hot by noon, yet freezing on arrival). One of the best jokes concerned the naming of the sauce itself. See, the makers were musing over what to call the stuff, and a gentleman of color sidled up and opined, “say, what’s-dis-here-sauce?” It’s funny if you sound it out away from other people, alone. Note that all time spent on the roof was accompanied by New Jersey “classic rock” radio, known for its expansive catalog of seven or eight songs.
Kim Thayil is not only a tremendous guitarist, but he wrote the liner notes for DEVO’s 1982 Oh No! It’s DEVO when it was re-released on the late great Infinite Zero label. His words showed a deep respect and appreciation for the spudboys from Akron. He used to pop up on the unfairly-forgotten sketch show Almost Live! and pronounce everything “lame”. Kim Thayil is good people.
Oh, and the remark about Chris Cornell impersonating Robert Plant was meant as a cheap shot. I don’t really think that. He sang the theme song to Casino Royale (the Daniel Craig one), and I’d be an absolute fool if I didn’t call it completely awesome. Especially with Daniel Kleinman’s terrific title design:
It just took some time for the stink of ’90s Seattle to wear off, I guess. Shit was so bad twenty years ago, I assumed “Spoonman” was about smack.