Stevie Stiletto R.I.P.

18 06 2013

Alberto Rivera was kind enough to send this obituary for the late Florida punk legend Stevie Stiletto.

Ray McKelvey, a.k.a. Stevie Stiletto (photo by Julie Beasley)

Ray McKelvey, a.k.a. Stevie Stiletto (photo by Julie Beasley)

Stevie Stiletto, the better known and public face of Ray McKelvey, passed away at home, on March 24, 2013 in Jacksonville, Florida. He had been sick with cancer.

On the surface of it, Stevie’s story is a rock and roll cliché of bad habits, bad luck, and poor timing conspiring against him, but the greater truth is this: Ray and/or Stevie, never quit.

Widely acknowledged as Jacksonville, Florida’s first punk rock band, Ray formed Stevie Stiletto and the Switchblades out of frustration. Tired of listening to records from New York or the UK and reading about his favorite bands performing elsewhere, Ray went DIY before it even had a name, and started his own movement out of the stubborn swamp grass better known as North Florida.

With various incarnations of bands he toured the US And Europe, playing with pretty much everyone. The Ramones, The Dead Kennedys, Iggy Pop, Black Flag — the list goes on and on.

In the mid 1990’s he was scooped up in the frenzy created by punk breakout acts Green Day and The Offspring. But Green Day and The Offspring were anomalies; the only ones from that time to have any notable mainstream commercial success. And Stiletto, along with all the other acts eagerly signed a year or two before, were unceremoniously dumped.

It was at this time that I personally met and played with Ray. About a dozen shows in all. Warm, funny and engaging, his stories seemed almost mythical. Yeah, I slept on East Bay Ray’s couch for a week or two, I think it was in ’84…” or “Dee Dee (Ramone) an’ me were looking for someplace that was open to get a new tattoo…”

In 2009, a documentary called My Life is Great: The Stevie Ray Stilletto Story was released. Filmed by former Jacksonville area resident and longtime fan Kevin Dunn. Dunn is presently working as a college professor in upstate New York. Dunn presents an honest and unflinching look at Ray’s immense talent and oftentimes his deeply flawed shortcomings.

Bands would fall apart, and he would start another one immediately. One band bailed on him, and with shows scheduled, he picked another exisiting band and they backed him so he wouldn’t have to cancel.

Ray was an unflappable and headstrong entertainer. And in the punk community, one of those guys that everyone has seen at some point. Somewhere, Ray’s laughing as he smashes cans of shaving cream with his celestial hammer.

-RIP-

June 18th, 2013 by MRR


John Holmstrom Remembers Arturo Vega

11 06 2013

ramonesArturo Vega, one of the most influential visual artists in punk rock — as the designer of the Ramones iconic and much-copied logo, and artistic director for the band for their entire history — passed away in New York City aged 65 on Saturday, June 8th.

He famously described his thoughts on the creation of the Ramones logo:

I saw them as the ultimate all-American band. To me, they reflected the American character in general—an almost childish innocent aggression…. I thought, ‘The Great Seal of the President of the United States’ would be perfect for the Ramones, with the eagle holding arrows—to symbolize strength and the aggression that would be used against whomever dares to attack us—and an olive branch, offered to those who want to be friendly. But we decided to change it a little bit. Instead of the olive branch, we had an apple tree branch, since the Ramones were American as apple pie. And since Johnny was such a baseball fanatic, we had the eagle hold a baseball bat instead of the [Great Seal]‘s arrows.

We asked John Holmstrom — the founder and editor of Punk Magazine and cover illustrator for the Ramones albums Road to Ruin and Rocket to Russia — to share some of his memories of Arturo. We are very grateful to John and GODLIS for taking the time to share their thoughts and photography of their old friend during this difficult time.

Arturo Vega at CBGB, 1977 photo ©GODLIS

Arturo Vega at CBGB, 1977 – photo ©GODLIS

“One of the reasons I was so fascinated by the Ramones was the fact that they had an official Art Director. At the time I was still just an aspiring artist, fresh out of art school, and I thought that since this band had the smarts to hire someone to make their posters, t-shirts etc. was so very cool. I also liked his work a lot—that early poster of the leather jacket with the eagle belt buckle was a very interesting image, so different from your average rock ‘n’ roll art at the time. It was stark, bold, minimalist…

The very first Ramones poster by Arturo Vega

“I think I became aware of his art after I got to know the Ramones better after I published the first couple of issues [of Punk Magazine]. So although he wasn’t a direct influence, he was definitely an artist whose work I admired and respected. There was a bit of a rivalry because he didn’t like the cartoon look that I brought to their record covers, but I never wanted to be The Ramones Art Director, which he loved so much. His stage banners, t-shirts, logo design, album cover artwork, and so many other contributions to what made the Ramones cannot be minimized. Like his friend Curt Hoppe said to me earlier today: “The Ramones emblem is as recognizable a work of art as the Mona Lisa.”

Ramones Logo designed by Arturo Vega

“But his loft on East 2nd Street–wow! He had his paintings on display, hundreds on Ramones t-shirts in a huge closet, and Joey and Dee Dee lived there. And it was almost on top of CBGBs, so when they would perform there, they’d often hang out at home, then walk downstairs into the club and play their set, then go back upstairs. Arturo was kind of supporting them in those early days, so in a way there might not have been the Ramones without his support.

“Over the years, Arturo became more of an employee of the Ramones and less the fine artist he was after the 22 years-plus he worked for the band. He is one of the few people who worked with the band over their entire career, but for a few years afterwards he continued to handle a lot of their merchandising.

“He was just beginning to come into his own as an artist–he recently held a major, career retrospective in Chihuahua, Mexico, his hometown, where he was also working to try to get kids interested in art and away from the drug gang culture. He seemed to be much happier than he was as the Ramones merch guy.

“I am hearing endless stories about what Arturo did for many, many people–small favors, big favors, a helping hand, financial assistance, connecting people with each other, etc. etc. He was a very generous person and a fun person to be around and so an awful lot of people miss him.”

—John Holmstrom, June 10, 2013

Interview with Arturo Vega on Fringe Underground

The Guardian obituary

June 11th, 2013 by Marc Arsenault


For Sarah Kirsch…

6 12 2012

UPDATE: There will be a Memorial Celebration of Sarah Kirsch’s life on Sunday, January 6th @ 924 Gilman St. Also, money is still very much needed and being raised here to cover a wide range of expenses for Sarah and her loved ones during this difficult time.

Sarah Kirsch passed away peacefully yesterday, December 5, 2012. She had been gaining much strength in recent weeks in her continuing battle against Fanconi Anemia. Close friends and family were together with her at her passing and we are now mourning this utterly devastating loss.

Nothing I can say in this setting can do any real justice to the impact Sarah Kirsch had on my life and the lives of so many others. She was by far the most inspiring person I have encountered in my brief time on this Earth. She was also my best friend. The experiences of that friendship, and her direct impact on my life, shaped who I am today more than any other person. She had a presence and a spirit that will be well remembered, and I will carry it with me forever.

In the truest sense, Sarah was ahead of her time, almost as if from another galaxy: her talent, vision, creativity, empathy, values, compassion, dedication, humility and unrelenting passion for life — all were truly unsurpassable, and there is no one who I could imagine holding those qualities in greater quantity, and with as much natural force, as Sarah did.

Sarah once wrote, “I believe in people. That deep within the most beaten down of us there is a will to survive, an instinct to rise above.” Though she always put her concern and belief in others first, Sarah herself had that same will to the very end.

Just this past Sunday she and I were sitting in her living room, our guitars plugged into our mini Honeytone amps… It was the strongest I had seen her in months, and it was just like our semi-acoustic songwriting jam sessions of old: playing songs over and over and over again, sharing our ideas about different parts, and singing along together. It gave her strength that day, and I’ll never forget how she laughed while we were playing from nothing more than simply how good it felt to be playing those songs with renewed confidence and excitement.

I will miss her more than anything, and my life really and truly will not be the same without her…

— Spencer Rangitsch, December 6, 2012.

Also, Robert Collins wrote in his Terminal Escape blog:

Sarah was more than a guitarist, was more than just a mere inspiration, and even though we didn’t see each other often there was an instant void. I can see the absence on the faces of friends feeling the same thing. When Sarah did things, she did them right. No fanfare, no flag waving, no celebration – just quiet determination and pure conviction. That is her influence, and to me that is her legacy. The records are great (seriously, all of them), but the impact is so much more personal and so much more intense than a few good riffs…even when the riffs are as good as these. It’s the genuine look in her eyes that tells you that everything matters, that you matter, and that what you do is important and to never stop fighting. And to never stop smiling, though I confess that one is pretty tough to pull of today. While her musical legacy is primarily associated with her life spent as Mike Kirsch, Sarah’s personal legacy transcends both gender and sound. Few people in the world of DIY hardcore have been as influential, even as important as Sarah. It’s an impact I honestly doubt she was fully aware of, and a level of genuine respect attained by only the most worthy…these are the things we should say to our friends while they are alive, but rarely do. Never stop fighting.

Sarah Kirsch bandography:
The Skinflutes (guitar and backing vocals, 1988–89)
Fuel (guitar and vocals, 1989–1991)
Fifteen (second guitar on s/t 7”, 1990)
Silver Bearing (vocals on split LP with Moss Icon, 1990)
Pinhead Gunpowder (guitar and vocals, 1990–1994)
Sawhorse (guitar and vocals, 1991–1992)
Navio Forge (guitar and backing vocals, 1993)
John Henry West (guitar, 1992–1993)
Sixteen Bullets (guitar and vocals, 1994)
Torches To Rome (guitar and vocals, 1995–1996)
Bread and Circuits (guitar and vocals, 1998–1999)
Please Inform the Captain This Is a Hijack (guitar/vocals/samples/beats, 2000–2003)
Colbom (guitar and backing vocals, 2001)
Baader Brains (guitar and backing vocals, 2005–2010)
Mothercountry Motherfuckers (guitar and vocals, 2010–2012)

Here are links to a few more pieces on Sarah Kirsch:
http://terminalescape.blogspot.com/2012/12/torches-to-rome.html
http://prankrecords.blogspot.com/2012/12/sarah-mike-kirsch-rip.html
http://blogs.sfweekly.com/shookdown/2012/12/rip_sarah_kirsch.php
And this excellent one by Nate Powell:
http://seemybrotherdance.blogspot.com/2012/12/in-memory-of-sarah-kirsch.html

Torches To Rome interview from MRR #162, Nov 1996 (click to enlarge)

Feel free to leave comments here or share stories and memorabilia with Spencer (srangitsch {at} gmx(.)net) to be collected for a memorial page to be posted later.  

December 6th, 2012 by MRR


R.I.P. Jef Leppard

12 06 2012

Former guitarists of Voetsek Jef Leppard passed away two days ago as a result a motorcycle accident, and his partner Nikki is currently in the hospital in critical condition. Please read on for information about how to help and where everyone is gathering to remember Jeff:

Our community has lost a very loved/respected individual over the past 24 hours and for this we mourn, all in our unique ways. RIP Jef Leppard. Now we’re all gathering the light of the universe and sending it to Nikki Davis for a full recovery… I just left SFGH, she can not have visitors at this time/and prolly not for a couple days. Nikki’s mom Donna Lee Wayrynen Culbert and father Smiley are here with various family members. We are setting up a memorial for Jef at Lennon Rehearsal for this Saturday June 16 7-10pm. He will be cremated. Please pass this info along, they have so many friends and extended family who truly care for them…this has been devastating.

—Ami LawLess

Jef Leppard memorial at Lennon Studios
271 Dore St, SF CA 94103
Saturday June 16th 7pm
Please bring some $$$ to donate — Jef will be cremated and Nikki is facing mountings bills. This is a potluck and strictly a four-band bill.

PROUD FLESH
SMD (from L.A.)
BLOWN TO BITS
VASTUM

Donations can be made via PayPal to: page.amy.s (AT) gmail.com

And please spread the word on this. These two have helped so many of us out over the years. Now it’s our turn to pay them back in a small way.

June 12th, 2012 by Mariam


RIP Kindred McCune, aka Stinkweed

26 04 2012

By Dan Lactose

Kindred McCune, aka Stinkweed Malone, has left our planet. Took the warp triple-six Doom Ryde straight through our galaxy. Stinkweed was best known to punx, thrashers, vandals and dank smokers as a founding member of the pioneering Redwood City, CA, political grindcore unit, Plutocracy. He was also a founding member and leader of the long running Redwood City hip hop group Shed Dwellaz. Stinkweed was born in San Francisco and grew up on Army Street. He told me he first witnessed punk rock at the legendary Farm. Bands were playing, punks were thrashing and he was breakdancing. “I won’t conform to the norm so I perform in the orange,” he wrote. Plutocracy took grindcore in directions no one else had attempted, blending Black Panther speeches with blast beats and MC Pooh. It took a certain type of person to “get” it. Kindred and Thomas’ twin guitars had a unique and abstract sound.

At the time, I lived in Redwood City, was in a crappy punk band, made zines and bounght Earache records at Tower. I met Thomas at school, he tells me he plays in a band called Plutocracy, gives me the Progress demo and I’m blown away. I became a huge fan of everything these guys did from that point forward. When Plutocracy broke up, No Le$$ twisted wigs back even further! Electric Jungle Violence slid Sabbath style jams into grind riffs while obscure samples popped in and out. The live shows were drunken and dangerous. Stinkweed started the West Bay Koalition and dubbed himself El Presidente. He was constantly creating. He was in so many bands: Agents of Satan, Go Like This, Kalmex & The Riff Merchants, Bullshit Excuse, Shadow People, Apeshit, United Sicko Foundation, Torture Unit, the list goes on.

Plutocracy

There was a six hour radio show on KZSU called the West Bay Radio Station Hostage Situation in which he was in every band. I was honored to be a part of the Shed Dwellaz with him. I told him I could DJ and he got me a sampler so I could make beats. Together we recorded hundreds of songs on 4-track. I learned so much about how to create music both from him and with him. He taught me to be myself and not worry about what others would think. If you liked what you were doing, then do it. He hated “kritiks.” And COPS. Fuck, he hated cops.

From the way he strung his guitar strings backwards to his shower cap and pajama stage attire, Stinkweed did it his way. He didn’t have a computer or go on message boards or give a shit about what anyone else thought was cool, he was on his own trip. Whether he was writing a riff or a sixteen or texting bandmates to schedule a jam, his mind was constantly on music. The guy was the most original person I’ve ever met in my life. Larger than life, LOUDER than life. If you ever hung out with him, you walked away with a story. Right before his death he was working on new material with Agents of Satan. He was recording raps and talking about starting a new West Bay Doom Ryderz band. He planned to release a compilation next year and was trying to compile all of the tracks for it. He was working with Pelon from Immortal Fate on the release of a 1992 live session of Plutocracy and Immortal fate on KZSU. The world will be a lot different without his demonic harmonics. Launch a hog leg and puff tuff for Mr. Stinkweed.

Donations on behalf of Kindred McCune can be made to: Redwood City Education Foundation, PO Box 3046, Redwood City, CA 94064. RCEF provides music education to all students in Redwood City – grades 2 to 8

April 26th, 2012 by MRR