Even living in a fairly large city, it’s a rarity that I am located in close physical
proximity to one of my favorite current bands. Lucky for me, FNU Ronnies
live here in Philadelphia (or at least most of them, or at least up until recently),
and not only do I get to attend as many of their live gigs as possible, I also get
to bump into them on stoops, smoking cigarettes and sweating or ostensibly
selling drugs. My initial understanding of the group, gained from Testostertunes
proprietor and Ronnies translator Richie Charles, is that guitarist/vocalist
Jim was initially home-recording some zonked-out punk rock as a carefree
aside to his duty in local rock group Mountain High. Through positive
reinforcement, he was urged to go out and start a real band to play these songs
and expound upon the original formula, for which he enlisted the help of Reaser
(bass) and Street Kyle (drums/electronics). Richie Records released their debut
7″, the type of ugly photocopied platter that bites back, and my brain was
instantly clogged with what I heard – proto-futuristic punk rock that is equal
parts ape and alien, Chrome and Dead Kennedys. Through their live shows, I
witnessed a band grow steadily more comfortable with their hatred of all
outsiders, busting up some drum pads at the perfectly wrong time, letting the
guitar feedback just a little too long, taking forever to set up their gear and
showing no remorse. Exactly what I was looking for. And most recently, they
dropped a weird tape on the MySpace-based label Skrot Up out of Denmark,
filled with three tracks that push things even further into the red, what with
perfectly spliced mechanical interludes, uncomfortable tension and guitar scum
that recalls vintage SPK. I was happy to be able to ask these guys some
questions, and while the answers might not be particularly illuminating (or
truthful), I think it’s a good taste of what the Ronnies are all about. They’re
hitting the road right now, sure to have some issues with SXSW and its officials,
and then heading west, so please catch them if you can.
How did you guys get together? I’ve heard that FNU Ronnies started as Jim’s
solo project, when did it take form as an actual band?
Jim (guitar/vocals): Picking each other off the floor at the some loser bar. And
playing our first gig at an exercise gym / coffee shop; no joke.
Kyle (drums/electronics): Jim was masturbating compulsively in his bedroom. We
gathered some friends and commenced and intervention with an offer to help kick-start a
band to play his quick jack tunes. We got offered a show within the first 10 minutes of playing
music together in Schooly D’s old studio, no joke.
Reaser (bass): I was found in a clinic teaching parrots how to give insults and when
one went to far I ended up in an ICU and decided to pursue other interests and found playing
bass to be the least dangerous of them. I’m still in recovery.
Where’d the band name come from, and what prompted the switch from Jim and
Reaser: I was walking to lunch one day in Rittenhouse Park. Out of nowhere a bike
messenger ran me over. Got hurt real bad. A cop on the beat who witnessed ran the douche
down. Fucker, had no ID. But said his name was FNU Ran. Based off that we changed Ran to
Ronnies. Last name first name.
Jim: Now, as for Jim and the Jerks. I think Karen from Clockcleaner tried to name
us that. And the Jerks seemed already had been done… Now, if it was ‘Jim the Black Fag
Randy Sheep and the Fuck Jerks,’ we might have considered.
Reaser: Dyslexia is the new Scientology; it’s a secret “clear code.”
What’s your current status? You’re split between San Francisco and Philadelphia now, right?
Jim: Scavenging and trash-picken’ cultural possibilities for our grist-mill. I am
currently enrolled at Stanford pursuing nano-tech studies and moonlighting the streets
of Berkeley with crusties while drinkin thunderbird and eating frito pies.
Kyle: I got a job at a salt mine making sure the potato chip machine never stops working.
Reaser: I am currently working on a ship off the coast of Texas waiting for a proper
moment to return home.
Do you feel any kinship to Philadelphia? Seems like you have kind of a love/hate, or
hate/hate relationship to the city.
Jim: Everybody in Philly, unless you just moved there and are naive, has that same
type of relationship with Philly. Keystones on mules are hard to budge.
Kyle: Bunch of phonies and 2 bit hacks trying to look fucking cool.
Reaser: We feel the runoff from New York and love to bathe and drink it then piss on DC.
What’s your favorite gig you’ve played? I thought you guys absolutely smoked at Pi Lam
opening for Los Llamarada, but I’ve also dug the more improvised/noisy stuff you did at
Deep Sleep opening for Sex Vid.
Jim: Llamarada show was great. Anytime we play with Drunkdriver is great.
Kyle: Pi Lam is always a good place, they supply the crowd. But playing with the
Zero Boys and The Mentally Ill in Chicago last year was pretty cool.
How did Zero Boys and Mentally Ill hold up?
Jim:Mentally Ill were fucking retarded. Drummer had what looked to be a stripper
girlfriend of the riped nubile age of 22. Singer, was buff dressed all in black and drove a
black SUV, got out of his vehicle walked up to me and shooked my hand with a firm grip
and says..”I’m blah blah, Mentally Ill.” 3 songs in and I was like, “these guys cant be serious.”
They seemed to blur the line between humor and serious retardation. By the end of their
set I loved em. Sloppy, messy and retarded midwest punk, thats how they held up. Zero
Boys were like a fine precision machine. Real tight, oiled and gay. Guitar player could have
wiped Yngwie Malmsteen ass clean. Most of them old but lots of steam. There’s some old
school punks still fucking killin it at an old fart age: Devo, the Weirdos, the Jabbers w/ the
Queers dude fillin for GG, at least within the last few years.
Reaser: Any show out of Philly is a good one! Albeit, would have to say getting
unplugged for an anarchist drum troupe singing rap songs was the best!
Please explain this unplugged anarchist drum troupe show/incident.
Reaser: Anarchist drum troupe??????????????????????? Mum’s the word.
The ‘Golem’ tape is way noisier and harsher than the ‘Meat’ single. Is this a new
direction for the band, or something you’re just exploring?
Jim:Just wanking, exploring, it was suppose to be a small pressing quick little
kinda fuckin’ off release. It was to come out on another label, but this kid flaked. Morten
from Skrot Up in Denmark approached us with a better opportunity with art-work included.
Trying to find a happy medium with all our ideas. Periodical table of inebriation of sorts.
Do you have any newer recordings, then? Is your newest material along the lines of
‘Golem’ or something more straight-forward?
Jim:We have a shit load of 8track recordings of various material, demos, a lot of
it is pretty straight forward wankery. Golem was an ad hoc spur of the moment improv, which
we have tons of recordings in that vein as well. All of it pretty low fi by lack of recording cash default.
What are you listening to lately?
Jim: BLOOD!, Golden Dawn, d.r. hooker, Claw Toe, the Coasters.. Lots of stuff from
tape trading in the mail, various comps. I can’t afford record collecting, so I like to trade in
the mail to listen and give out new stuff. Anybody who wants to trade hit me with a shout.
Reaser: The weirder side of 60’s psych (Fifty Foot Hose, Parson Sound, etc).
Kyle: Alice Cooper!! Too many to name.
Beyond The Implode This Atmosphere 7” (Siltbreeze)
Here’s a nice reissue of two cuts from Beyond The Implode’s debut EP, supplemented with two tantalizingly unreleased tunes. Initially pressed in a scant 250 copies, this is the closest I’ll be getting to these quality DIY stumblers without emptying a year’s worth of PayPal funds. Like with most of its records, Siltbreeze lets the music do the talking, with very little in the way of liner notes or ephemera (I got the majority of my info on this record from the Siltblog). “This Atmosphere” and “Steel Car” are both upbeat, catchy rock tunes not unlike Desperate Bicycles or Reptile Ranch at their most accessible and percussion-less. “Mid Ad Version” is a swirling, phasered take on “Midnight Adventures” and “Disperse the Clouds” is somewhere in between. Neither bonus cuts have the immediacy of the others, but it’s still a fine slice of British post-punk worth investigating, $13 price-tag and all.
Bone Awl Night’s Middle 7” (Klaxon)
Been waiting for a new Bone Awl record. I loved their Nuclear War Now! opus Meaningless Leaning Mess, which demonstrated that their noisy ire could easily sustain itself for the life of an album. Night’s Middle is the new one, three fresh cuts that perfectly quench the need for more Bone Awl in my life. They don’t deviate from the original formula at all; these tracks are all cut from the same Ildjarn by-way-of Riot City Records formula that made them so distinct to begin with. The drums rarely deviate from the sinister oompah beat, the guitars/vocals are red-lining but fierce and it all continues to work perfectly. The artwork (this time in a nice booklet layout) is as intricate and thoughtfully crafted as ever, the type of thing where you can’t tell if it’s Satanic or ripped from some invisible society or actually completely innocuous but it scares you just the same. Nothing new here, and this record probably won’t sway anyone to the Bone Awl camp who wasn’t impressed by previous releases, but the dedication to their approach is fine by me.
Endless Humiliation My Wife Is Willing LP (Peel Back The Sky)
Absolutely wild carnage from Endless Humiliation on their debut album. Played with the ferocity of a budding Arsedestroyer and the panache of vintage Seven Minutes Of Nausea, Endless Humiliation charge through a couple dozen tracks of visceral noise. The, umm, endless Black Metal drumbeat might lead to an Ildjarn comparison or two, but My Wife Is Willing is far less musical than that would suggest. It’s unhinged and sloppy, but tightening up this sort of affair would only subdue the unbridled hatred these guys spew forth. I’m reminded of the b-side of Hijokaidan’s Viva Angel or Prurient circa The Baron’s Chamber, but Endless Humilation is far bleaker than that. There are no expenses-paid European tours or art gallery performances in Endless Humiliation’s future, just a pile of old polaroids and a cold sandwich in a deli basement.
Fresh Meat Sweat Her 7” (Breathing Problem Productions)
Debut single from this new Allentown band certainly fits snugly with other modern noise-rock bands like Drunkdriver and Francis Harold & The Holograms. These guys opt for a Brainbombs-esque menace, as far as the tone is concerned, but the songs rotate through parts in a way that their hardcore punk background would suggest. It’s all pretty serviceable, although I don’t think the lo-fi live recording does their sound justice. The vocals are reverbed out, which only renders them more inaudible; I end up a little more confused than creeped out, which I’d imagine would be the intended effect. B-side “Man Or Woman” is the better of the two, ending on a nicely tape-warped vocal outro. I certainly appreciate that they found it appropriate to warp the actual recording itself, shifting vocalist Ray Gurz’s words as if an exhumed DJ Screw got his hands on the master.
Kutz Drumz Of No Return 12” (Soul Jazz)
It’s been pretty foolish of me to ignore the non-reissue output of Soul Jazz Records if this Kutz single is any indication. “Drumz Of No Return” starts off with an industrial drip that switches into the heaviest dub track I may have ever heard. Totally evil too; I could see this being the track to finally unite the rastas and Sabbath freaks. Really thick and nearly moshable in a slow-motion pit. B-side “Tarantula” is another big winner, some eerie winds kick up the dust into a Benga-sized bass malfunction. Deep in all the right places, and surprisingly catchy for such a sparse setup. Hard to pick the better side on this one. I am gonna pick up the other Kutz 12” that was released in tandem and hope it’s half as good as this.
Mi Ami Watersports LP (Quarterstick)
Mi Ami have really come into their own on this, their debut album. I could see some clueless nerd filing it under “dance-punk”, but Watersports transcends that empty genre the same way This Heat did post-punk. On the whole, Watersports is less frantic than the first two 12”s, really carving out some nice echospaces in these long cuts and just letting the music breathe. The tension and release hinted at by “African Rhythms” is nearly perfected throughout this record, the type of thing that a group of rock musicians can only hope to naturally cultivate through some sort of Carduccian power-trio magic. Blissfully dubbed out, equally inventive and familiar, Mi Ami really hit a resonant spot with some of the most urgent music I’ve heard in a while. I love Mi Ami and really hope that whatever hiccup (or terminal illness) Touch & Go / Quarterstick are going through doesn’t hinder this band from continuing to grow and explore as comfortably as they should.
Mr. Raoul K Jenseits 12” (Baobab)
Mr. Raoul K’s story as I know it is such: born and raised in Africa, moved to Germany as a teen, started making music and became a licensed carpenter in his early 20s. Pretty good life, right? None of that would really matter though if Jenseits and his other Baobab 12″s (most notably Himalaya) weren’t all out-of-this-world good, but they are. I suppose you could squeeze “Jenseits” into the micro-house genre, but then it kind of lulls you in with its hypnotic, Krautrock-y beat, and then some African drums cascade over top and some chilling piano chords are layered in… I don’t feel this much humanity from the sounds of most rock bands these days, let alone a guy working it out in an instrumental electronic fashion. The two sides of this 12″ feature “Jenseits” in both long and short versions, although I think the “short” version is still a good nine minutes or so. I say, play them back to back, it’s really best to just stick your head inside Mr. Raoul K’s world for at least half an hour. It’s a subtle burner that might not provide much immediate gratification, but Mr. Raoul K is all about the slow build, more apt to slowly walk into the ocean than fly down a waterslide. It’s nearly as profound, too.
Omar S Blown Valvetrane 12” (Sound Signature)
I was really looking forward to this single, especially after reading that Resident Advisor interview with Omar S where he says Theo Parrish was jumping around making “fucked up faces” after hearing this cut. Sadly my faces were more in the shape of a frown, as I haven’t found much to keep me coming back to this one, even after multiple listens with the hope that there’s something that I’m missing. “Blown Valvetrane” starts off sounding like I dropped the needle in the middle of the record, like it’s already been going for eight minutes and starting to wind down. Kind of a raw recording on this monotonous beat, which could be cool, but when all I’m hearing is the phaser effect put to different uses and the occasional hiss, it just doesn’t feel right. Eventually the beat crawls to a stop, then winds back up and ends. A far cry from the sweet spot of “Psychotic Photosynthesis” (but the title is almost as cool, I will admit). “Busaru Beats” and “Deep Valve Cover” on the b-side are nearly as unremarkable; maybe I need to play this side first so I’m not already feeling bummed by the a-side. My expectations were probably too high, especially for a dude who is so cool that he just always does whatever he wants, which very well might be to make a boring record once in a while.
Omar S Fabric 45 CD (Fabric)
Maybe it’s my own fault for getting so hyped up on Psychotic Photosynthesis and that Tecky Alexander 12″ from last year, but Omar’s Fabric mix fell short of my expectations, much like Blown Valvetrane did. I was psyched to find out that this mix was nothing but Omar S originals, especially since he is a revered party expert notorious for his impressive live technique, but really this mix is more of an Omar S sampler than any sort of fresh new mix. The tracks generally lead into one another via simple crossfades; I figured since he has all the original tracks he could’ve done some serious damage here, but really a rudimentary iTunes shuffle is not too far off from Omar’s own track-by-track maneuvering. A shuffle might even find a better flow, as it moves awkwardly at times (see the jump from “Psychotic Photosynthesis” into “The Maker”), not the type of amateurism I’d expect from Omar S. The few previously unreleased cuts on here are cool though, especially the openers “Polycopter” and “Flying Gorgars” (weren’t they a boss in Metroid?), the type of unique but simple sounds that slowly mutate around the beat and convinced me to fall in love in the first place. Fabric 45 is still classic Omar S and you really can’t go wrong, but anyone already familiar with this great dude and hoping for a new milestone in his discography ala Villalobos’ Fabric mix will probably be left with the same disappointment I am currently wallowing in.
Telepathe Dance Mother CD (Iamsound)
Telepathe are a female duo from Brooklyn, wearing feathers and facepaint and working out some sort of non-descript electro groove on Dance Mother. It’s a bit too straight-faced to be considered Electroclash (a term I’m sure they are eager to avoid), opting instead for a modern shoegaze by way of electronics vibe. Unfortunately, nothing about this album sticks out. The vocals lack any real personality and seem to represent the same boredom I am feeling, and not a cool Chromatics-styled vocal boredom, just a boring boredom. The music is pretty much undanceable, but not in a Tigerbeat6 fashion; it’s the type of thing I can only imagine the crowd working up a good sway to if they are truly digging it. Seems like there is a lot of promotion going for this band, at least in the form of busy indie publicists, and I have to wonder why so many people are willing to put in the time for something so bland and unmemorable. This isn’t the next Hot Chip, guys. There’s even already a band called Telepathique doing a very similar thing musically and aesthetically, and they’ve already been in Spin and played on NPR and enjoyed other successes and opportunities that I’m sure Telepathe are currently pining for. Just seems like a waste of time.