Thursday, November 28, 2013


Back in 1990 I was 18 years old and printing shirts for Mutilation Graphics in upstate New York. I put in long solitary hours late at night blasting music in the studio and when the shirts were dry (we used water based Unidye ink, not Plastisol bullshit), I would package up the orders and get them ready for shipment. We had a lot of regular customers and over the four years that I grinded it out with my pal Neil, some of our more enthusiastic supporters began to feel a bit like pen pals. One name that leapt out at me from the orders that streamed in every week was "Henry Hellbender." It was a cool pseudonym and I remember wondering what the hell this nut job was like in real life. Naturally, I forgot all about that name once we shut down the shop and sold our screens to some dudes in Oakland. I hopped a freight train and followed my muse to Portland, Oregon where I eventually laid down roots and have resided ever since. One day in 1995 I was in 2nd Avenue Records, back when it was a tiny little corner shop that could barely accommodate six people at once, when I literally bumped into a guy wearing a Mutilation Graphics shirt. We started chatting and shared an immediate camaraderie based primarily on abrasive music and underground art. He was one of the few guys I had met up to that point who understood the importance of Joe Coleman's paintings. He was also one of the few people I had met up to that point who could talk intelligently about Bathory while we both rummaged through the crust bins plucking up Masskontrol 7"s for $2. Imagine my surprise when, as we parted ways and realized we hadn't even introduced ourselves, he held out his hand and said, "I'm Henry. Henry Hellbender." We often ran into each other downtown after that day, usually at a sidewalk picnic table outside the bar or behind the counter at the relocated 2nd Avenue Records where he briefly held down the metal section. I didn't spend much time with him and never got to know him well, but somehow we always considered each other friends and he would surprise me with random e-mails that indicated he was keeping track of my shenanigans. Henry was the kind of soft spoken, knowledgable and uncompromising fan who embodied the purest principles of this thing I still lovingly call "the underground." He was an underground artist himself, mostly providing flyers for local institutions like Poison Idea and Wehrmacht, and in 1984 when Pushead published an article on how to be a punk artist in Maximum Rocknroll he wisely included Henry among such emerging luminaries as Mad Marc Rude, Jim Blanchard and Chet "XNO" Darmstaedter. I've heard it through reliable sources that Henry passed away quietly in his sleep earlier this week. I don't know the details and they don't really matter. All you need to know is that Henry was a quiet cornerstone of Portland's punk scene back when the punk scene in this town mattered. He understood the value of silence. And I'll miss him.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013


It's Thanksgiving week in America and that means it's time for us to gather with loved ones to reflect upon our collective good fortune and express our gratitude for the bountifulness of life. Ah, who the hell are we kidding? This is the time of year when we gorge ourselves to excesses that make our typically voracious daily eating habits seem downright ascetic while deluding ourselves with tales of some wildly mythologized event when the indigenous people of this land - who we more or less decimated - shared corn and, if the window painting above is accurate (and I'm pretty sure it is), taught us how to choke our proverbial chickens (or turkeys or whatever). What better way to augment your super-sized menu planning than with a super-sized creature double feature on gloriously archaic 35mm film??? That's right. TONIGHT...for one night only...Portland Grindhouse presents Larry Cohen's brilliantly weird monsterpiece Q: The Winged Serpent (1982) and Lewis Teague's incredibly entertaining Alligator (1981)!  Don't let my sarcastic tone fool you. These are genuinely great films with heart and soul, satirical humor and resourceful special effects that wrung maximum joy from meager budgets and even more minuscule expectations. In other words, heckling the screen and laughing out loud ironically will not be tolerated. I'm up in Seattle with my family today so I don't have time to get into my giant-egg-as-metaphor-for-immigration-anxiety hypothesis so, suffice to say, what you get with Q is an unshaven David Carradine stumbling around like he's on Quaaludes and never learned his dialogue while Michael "The Stuff" Moriarty does jazz hands and attempts to blackmail the city of New York for the location of an ancient Aztecan monster's nest (Moriarty is a classically trained jazz pianist and he wrote the song Evil Dream to embellish  Robert "Grizzly" O. Ragland's more traditional orchestral score). You also get Richard "Maniac Cop" Roundtree's mustached overbite gnawing on words like "murder" and "mutilation" while oozing urban sleaze and over-caffeinated angst. Like most of these low budget joints, you don't get to see much monster but when you finally do it's a fucking classy stop-motion model with flapping wings that would definitely give Ray Harryhausen's ghost a semi. And it's made all the more impressive (if not at all plausible) with dizzying panoramic helicopter views of the old pre-911 New York of my childhood. Special fx wizard Randy Cook helped bring Q to life and he's the same guy who did the spectacular animated finale for John Carpenter's The Thing that same year, before going on to major success with Ghostbusters, Fright NightThe Gate and The Lord of the Rings. I also don't have time to pontificate upon the socioeconomic implications of a massive black monster of neglect bursting out of the Chicago sewers to devour the wealthy elite at some stuffy wedding reception, but Aligator makes that Guns 'N' Roses video look like total bullshit. There's also the always awesome Robert Forster racing against time to save the city while his colleagues make strangely endearing remarks about his thinning hair. So when you get done elbowing elderly women in the throat to get that last jar of Allspice in the bulk section, head on down to the Hollywood Theater, shut the fuck up and contemplate the cruel justice of the hunter as the hunted and the consumer as the consumed. But, seriously, shut the fuck up, man. 

Friday, November 22, 2013


Six years ago I had the pleasure of joining WATAIN for five of their first appearances on North American soil. It was, to put it as succinctly as possible, an inspired excursion and a kinship was ignited over the course of those very bloody nights that was as immediate as it was unexpected. Recently I was invited to join their Wild Hunt across Vinlandia, a deathlike procession that winded its way from the gutters of New York up north into Canada, across desert plains and through Stygian voodoo swamps before the ritual was finally closed in Baltimore, Maryland with a stirring and exclusive rendition of Holocaust Dawn. Joining us were two of Sweden's most fervent and talented young bands: IN SOLITUDE and TRIBULATION. Despite America's puritanical hemophobia, despite local fire marshals threatening to shut down nearly every performance, despite mutable border laws and even despite perilous Texan flash floods that provided the only showers we had in days - or perhaps because of these obstacles! - the tour was a spectacular triumph on all levels. It was also heartening to meet so many of you along the way and realize that my own various endeavors have radiated out more broadly than previously imagined. It is for you that I've decided to share some of the more intimate moments I was able to document on this tour. It's safe to say that since those first American dates in 2007 WATAIN has become one of the most photographed (and photogenic) metal bands in the world. It's also impossible to ignore the impact that smartphones and social media have had on the communal concert experience. I'm not sure some of the YouTube-crazed spectators I observed gazing through handheld screens for nearly 90 minutes can truthfully proclaim to have been there. I'm also doubtful that every asinine "fan" with the gall to shove cameras in the band's faces went home with their fancy technology intact. I trust you'll soon agree that the candid AAA photos I humbly present here represent a slightly different perspective. Thank you to everyone who made this journey a success. You know who you are.