Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Brendan Mullen: A Tribute

When a person dies, it’s common for others to say how wonderful they were, how much they cared, how genuine they were. In Brendan's case, all of those words rang true. He really was as great as the international press will say he was over the next few days. The world is so much less without him.

I moved to Los Angeles  in 2003 with dreams of becoming a music book author. After all, who doesn’t move to LA with dreams of being something?

Late one evening in 2005, my then-girlfriend and I were the only people having dinner at a small restaurant in Echo Park. I was talking her ear off about a book idea I had on “Albums that (Should’ve) Changed the World.” I told her my plans to feature the dearly departed Rik L Rik somewhere in those pages, as Rik’s deep voice was a major part of my life’s soundtrack. I knew I had my work cut out for me, as Rik was as much an enigma in death as he had been in life. I clearly remember saying to my companion, “I really need to touch base with people who were there when it all happened…”

The second I finished saying the word “happened,” in walked Brendan Mullen.

Since there is no such thing as a coincidence, I took full advantage of this interesting turn of events. I approached Brendan at his table, gave him my business card and asked for his assistance in piecing together the details of Rik L Rik’s life. To be honest, I was expecting Brendan to simply shoo me away after interrupting his meal. Instead, I got a warm smile and, “Sure! Anything for Rik! I’d be very happy to help you.”

Before long, Brendan became my volunteer co-pilot for my book chapter on Rik L Rik, regularly (almost obsessively) contacting me with dates, phone numbers, emails and insights into what the Los Angeles punk scene was truly like in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I could easily roll off the names of three dozen people I interviewed and got to know because of Brendan.

As the project continued, it became obvious that the Rik chapter would end up as a full-length oral history book and a charity release in support of Rik’s son. As soon as I told Brendan the news, he immediately offered a slew of tips on how to properly compose a book of this nature. Here I was, a writer who had yet to publish a single title, getting heartfelt advice from one of the greatest oral history editors of all time! Brendan really rolled up his sleeves for me, and there is true magic in the Rik book manuscript as a result.

Brendan is all over the upcoming Rik book… from verifying photos to correcting chronological data to writing the beautiful foreword. Brendan once told me how honored he was to be a part of this project.  In so many ways, the book is as much his as it is mine. And he didn’t ask for a dime.

So here I am, going through the ton of emails we shared over the years, laughing and crying at the same time. There was such humor and sweetness in his words. This is really, really hard.

There is a reason why Brendan Mullen is being mourned throughout the world as one of the most important promoters in the history of Rock n Roll: He believed in music and those who made that music.

He believed in me.

My heart is broken.  Goodbye, dear man.

Joel Gausten / October 13, 2009

EMAIL JOEL at gaustenbooks@gmail.com

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Former MINISTRY / NINE INCH NAILS Member Launches Revolutionary Music Business School; $500 Discounts Available Through Gausten Books

As the next step in a career that has already seen stints in some of the most legendary acts in alternative music (including Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, Killing Joke, PiL and Pigface), drummer and music industry educator Martin Atkins has launched Revolution Number Three, a new music business school based in Chicago. Atkins’ goal for the new institution is to offer a truer, more real-world perspective to the music education field, which he feels has far outlived its expiration date. 

“Teaching at Columbia College Chicago since 2003, writing a textbook, developing the new marketing program and the indie label program, celebrating the 20th anniversary of my label, visiting around 80 arts and media management schools around the world… everything just seemed OBVIOUS,” Atkins says. “There is a real problem in trying to teach in a rapidly changing field. First of all, unless you are IN IT, you have to wait for changes to be assimilated, documented and passed on. The possibilities for misinterpretation, editing and coloring by subjective opinions give this informational stream the validity of an overview of the economic climate by Paris Hilton. EVEN with the best of intentions, academia is an oil tanker – since it takes the average supertanker miles to make a turn. Entrepreneurial activity takes place on a speedboat, blindfolded, juggling live chickens, a chainsaw and two flaming strawberry Daiquiris… on a skateboard.”

Atkins promises that students will get hands-on, real world experience at Revolution Number Three.

“I’m inviting everyone to have a role in this,” he says. “Each class itself will be continually re-evaluated as we proceed. It’s staggering to me that anyone anywhere is still offering classes in Journalism. Where are the jobs? What’s the point? At least here, one of the things we will be looking at are the possibilities of multi-disciplinary cross pollination. For instance, my last label manager worked on the Obama campaign and is now involved in the mayoral race in Pittsburgh. We’ll be further analyzing and incubating those possibilities.”

The first set of Revolution Number Three students will have the opportunity to build a studio, create sounds for a new drum library with Drum Core, book shows, edit video, coordinate the publishing of a book, explore the origins of Dub and experience other non-traditional areas of music industry education.

Atkins’ 2007 music industry textbook, Tour:Smart, featured contribution from 100+ music industry luminaries including Henry Rollins, Steve Albini, Warped Tour mastermind Kevin Lyman and members of the Suicide Girls. Atkins’ latest album with Pigface, 6, was recently released by Full Effect Records.

Revolution Number Three’s first two five-week sessions will begin on June 29 and July 27, respectively. 

Gausten Books, the book publishing company headed by one-time Pigface performer and Tour:Smart contributing editor/writer Joel Gausten, is currently offering special $500 discounts off both Revolution Number Three session to anyone who orders any of the company’s titles through http://stores.lulu.com/joelgausten. Those who order books prior to July 27 will receive a special “Thank You Note” email with a special code to include on the Revolution Number Three enrollment form available at https://share.acrobat.com/adc/adc.do?docid=85d8988e-6430-4ef2-af0d-a11598fef47a.

“Gausten Books is proud to join forces with Martin in giving the educational system the jolt of modern-day reality it so desperately needs,” offers Gausten. “From playing alongside him in Pigface to seeing him take an idea of a textbook and turn it into a Number One hit on Amazon, I’ve seen this guy’s work ethic up close and personal, and he’s the ideal guy to give students the real deal in a consistently unreal industry.”

In addition to spreading the word on Revolution Three, Atkins and Gausten are both slated to make guest appearances on the upcoming debut album by Effectionhate (www.myspace.com/effectionhate), the new project by electronic experimentalist Shannon Gardner.

For further enrollment details and other information, please visit www.revolutionnumberthree.com.

For more information on Gausten Books, please visit www.gaustenbooks.com. 

EMAIL JOEL at gaustenbooks@gmail.com

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Blame Metallica

It’s all Metallica’s fault. As I look back at my last twenty years as a performer (and last ten years as a professional music writer), I can’t help but cite Metallica as the guys who threw me into this music industry maelstrom in the first place. In 1987, I was a bored ten year old snot living in suburban New Jersey. Growing up in the land of farms and Bingo, I perpetually searched for something, anything to give my ears a good thrashing. One day, I came across a cassette called Garage Days Re-Revisited. I read about Metallica for the first time in Metal Edge a few days earlier, so I figured it was worth a couple of bucks to give the band a go.

My life hasn’t been the same since. In hindsight, Garage Days Re-Revisited was the “gateway drug” to many of the musical and literary experiences that have defined my career. Metallica’s covers of “Last Caress” and “Green Hell” served as my official introduction to The Misfits, a band I not only worked with eight years later, but wrote my first book about. Metallica’s cover of “The Wait” got me into my all-time favorite band, Killing Joke. Years later, I’d write a book about these guys as well, shortly after living some memorable experiences in Pigface with Killing Joke alumnus, Martin Atkins. And if I didn’t become obsessed with Metallica when I did, I wouldn’t have become interested in Jason Newsted’s original band, Flotsam & Jetsam. Had I not become a fan of Flotsam & Jetsam, I likely wouldn’t have crossed paths with Newsted’s replacement, Troy Gregory - someone I now consider a dear friend.

As far as Metallica’s music… well, they were absolutely untouchable in the late eighties. When I first heard …And Justice For All, it was as if the God of Metal had waved his mighty, mulleted hair and shot a lightning bolt straight through my Walkman. I still remember listening to that album over and over again, each time awed by the band’s undeniable fury. My love affair with Metallica began to wane in the early nineties, thanks in large part to the constant presence of what I still consider to be a so-so album. By the end of the decade, I had given up on the boys almost entirely.

Fast-forward a decade, and I am once again a Metallica fanatic. Death Magnetic - a true return to form - is in regular rotation on my car stereo, and I still listen to the bands Metallica introduced me to way back in 1987. When Lucem Fero asked me to write a few words about Metallica for its blog tribute, it was an offer I simply couldn’t refuse. After all, had I not heard Garage Days Re-Revisited, I’d probably be playing Bingo with the farmers and not writing about music at all. So congratulations, Metallica, and thanks for inspiring a ten year old brat to pursue a career in music. Bastards.

EMAIL JOEL at gaustenbooks@gmail.com