Columns

Generally, I Don’t Speak Ill of the Dead

I started this column the same way I have the past 9 months or so—I opened up a spiral notebook to look at a list of barely half thought-out column ideas. Most of these ideas are only a few words long, and probably thought up in the shower. A few days after each month’s deadline, I look at them and sigh to myself—I know that none of the ideas written down are worthy of the pages of MRR, but I have to choose one of them and just run with it. This month, I have that same feeling that all my ideas are complete drivel, but with the added sadness that I won’t get the chance to write them all. Sure, I probably never would have written 1,500 words on “not punk in high school, not punk for life,” but now that I can’t, I really want to. Does a “long-form review of Metal Machine Music as an entry point for discussing the history of musique concrète” even belong in a magazine about contemporary punk? Absolutely not, but I am going to regret not being able to write it. And certainly no one would want to read a column that claims “the most recent tiki revival is a direct critique on Donald Trump,” who found pu-pu platters so tacky that he personally closed down Trader Vic’s in 1989. That was a column I was excited to write as the election closed in. So, too, will I regret not writing about how leap day is the greatest holiday waiting to be turned punk, or a plea that Halloween celebrations be returned to October 31, regardless of the day of the week. And honestly, I don’t even remember what headspace I was in when I scrawled “putting out records is not a worthwhile pursuit,” but now I even want to write that too. 

But what actually merits a place in the last monthly print issue of MRR? Well, it seems fitting that I should dedicate my small space to something other than my own asinine ideas. Instead, let me sing the praises of my favorite record: You Goddam Kids! by GEZA X And The MOMMYMEN.

As a bona fide power pal, I’ve sung the praises of GEZA to anyone who would listen for years. I stopped a gig to explain that it was he himself, the first true genius of American punk, who invented the headset microphone, and as such I felt totally comfortable using one—despite the objective correlative to late ’90s mega-pop. Every day, when I pop a handful of pills, I ask the ether in a nasally voice, “Doctor, what’s wrong with me? Doctor, what’s wrong with me? Doctor, what’s wrong with me?” When I sit down with a nearly finished recording, I always invoke the muse. “Save us, Geza,” I ask, and end up adding a few extra layers of xylophone or jaw harp. He pervades almost every aspect of my life, and if you have time, I’d like to talk to you for a moment about our Lord and savior, GEZA X. 

You Goddam Kids! may be GEZA’s only eponymous LP release (though his band SILVER CHALICE would put out an LP in 1985—not nearly the KBD gem of their ’79 7”, but still worth a listen), but by the time it came out in 1981, Geza was already credited in the liner notes on almost every release from California that matters. As a product of 1960s counterculture, Geza was a bit older than his Hollywood contemporaries and was one of the few new punks who had some tangible know- how behind a mixing board, though much of his pre-punk experience was recording “lot of mariachi and disco” bands. Because he was working in the studio across the street from the Masque, he ended up being the sound guy there, “sort of by default.” But, being behind the soundboard at the Masque made him the most visible and obvious choice to produce a whole slew of records that were about to spew forth from the LA scene. 

Working constantly as the in-house engineer for Dangerhouse and the entire Hollywood scene meant that the last thing Geza really wanted to do after a long day of black-beauties and recording was work on his own records. He likens it to a gardener’s own lawn being in complete disarray. So, we are left with precious few GEZA X recordings— despite his influence on other people’s recordings stretching further than almost any other punk. 

So why is this LP, itself, so special? A lot of bands like to make the claim that they don’t really sound like anyone else. In most cases, that statement is self-aggrandizing delusion. You Goddam Kids! actually doesn’t sound like any other record. You could make some comparisons to the funkier BLACK RANDY songs, but the MOMMYMEN aren’t really funky, despite their heavy use of saxophones. This is undeniably a punk record—the songs are relatively simple in their structure. The arrangement, though, is just absolutely wild. Geza concerns himself with texture. There are xylophones; there are backup vocals in soprano, alto, tenor, and bass registers; the record oozes with horns; there are bleeps and bloops and bells and whistles everywhere. Even something as simple as the guitar tone was over-thought until it became something mesmerizingly new—the “Gezatone.” That can be heard in an earlier incarnation on the Lexicon Devil 7”, as instead of running through an amp, Geza ran Pat’s guitar through a dozen pedals and then straight into the board. And there’s a reason why that 7” version is so much better than the LP version, no? Mainly, Geza was more adventurous than his contemporaries when it came to venturing out of sonic pockets. The lyrics is endearingly cheesy, but what else would you expect from a genuine eccentric like Geza? Any time I get frustrated with recording in the digital age, I imagine him on the floor of his studio, cutting the JOSIE COTTON demo into a million different pieces and splicing each one back together again. To him, there were never any shortcuts to making art, but what’s the point of creating something if you aren’t going to unnecessarily overcomplicate it? 

So, why did I use this last column in the last issue of Maximum Rocknroll to discuss GEZA X? Well, because Geza still makes his living recording, mixing, and mastering. He doesn’t charge extra because he’s a legend— just honest and affordable rates because he’s doing what he loves. A few years ago, he mixed and mastered a 7” for a band I was in for $200—and he didn’t phone it in, either. He went out of his way to ask for a couple parts to be re-recorded because he truly cared about the end product. My point is that you can still contact him via his “Studio X at The Vortex,” and he will be more than happy to work on your record. The world still needs more records that Geza works on, and your band can help remedy that. I couldn’t be more excited to hear what you create together.