August/September 2005

Absorbed in Somber Space
Stuart Hale

I felt like an asshole for not recognizing Digs, his hug froze me solid, struggle to place face; another blackout confidant? It wasn't until I saw stubbled widow's peak that his face shifted, slid into place like a hard plastic puzzle, my body relaxing to return embrace.

“What the fuck happened to your dreads?”

Digs was infamous for three things. First, he was a puker. Every show, he would puke, and not just a thin dribble. We're talking a thick, greasy stream of vomit that would fold his body in half; so regular that Gittef took a garbage can with them on tour. By the second song of every set, Digs would step back from his mic, lean over, and let fly. If he were lucky, he wouldn't get any on his bass. Second reason for infamy, the amount of drugs he could consume. Every song that Gittef had ever recorded revolved around drugs and/or guns. It was a rare song that didn't combine both obsessions. Third, his dreads, long ropy falls down each side of his head, framing widow's peak between. Digs sang so hard that his eyes crossed. The combination of crossed eyes, widow's peak, and floppy dreads made him look like a gawked out Muppet unleashed upon church basements and VFW halls nationwide.

“Ah shit man,” soft southern accent, easy on the ears, natural story-teller, “we were going to play in Austin, twenty miles outside the city, blue lights come on behind us. We'd just started the tour, I've got all this shit in the van and we're in fucking Texas. So I start eating everything: eightball, ounce, pills, paper. Just cramming the shit down. Figured it would be okay, I'll just puke it all up anyways. Better than being caught in Texas with all of that. They searched the van, nada. We pull into Austin with just a speeding ticket. Except I couldn't puke. First time in my fucking life I couldn't puke. The one time I want to, need to, and it won't happen. Figured there was nothing to do but ride it out.”

I found myself grinning even though the image was horrible, pure Digs through and through.

“We go outside, and I'm trying to get air, everything hammering me at once, trying to maintain. I see this pond over the fence, so I figure I'll jump into that, cool down, shock my system straight. I'm tearing across the field, people are yelling at me, I can't hear what they're saying, don't give a fuck.”

Digs paused, emphasis, draw the moment, stretch and elongate.

“It was a sewage treatment plant.”

“No fucking way.”

“Way. Had to burn all my clothes, shave all my hair, everything, even pubes and armpits.”

“Tell the truth Digs, this is just a cover story for some new fetish you're into, isn't it?”

The punch was hard, shoulder cry of pain sending me backwards. Conversation stopped in the green room, eyes upon us, waiting until laughter shot through Digs loud.

“Fuck you bitch.”

The green room divided down the middle, Gittef and followers mixing freely with my own band, other side of the room the headliners, knew nothing about them. From the looks of the demilitarized zone cutting through the middle of the two groups, car-harts and butt-flaps mixed with Hot Topic and art school about as well as oil and water. Fuck ‘em; they'd never make it on stage.

Digs dangled a plastic baggie, white in the corner and tied off with a thick knot, “Want some?”

“Nah, got mine,” I replied, patting my chest pocket.

Digs slid his eyes, “That fucking shit scares me. You can keep it.”

“It's all-natural Digs, even if the cops find it, they can't do shit. Never had to eat my stash.”

“I think the sound guy will be a problem,” voice at my ear, I didn't need to turn to know it was Maya, steel cord muscle, hard edges, scarification thick like a road map. The woman was so thin I sometimes thought of her as a Wendigo, if she turned sideways she'd disappear.

“We'll just turn up,” I replied, turning anyways, her gray eyes lifeless, predatory deep-water fish stare.

“Don't worry about a thing.”

I felt bad for the man as she turned, vanished. Maya was harder than all, no patches whatsoever, black cloth stripped clean. Purity in purpose.

“That fucking woman scares the bejesus out of me,” Digs said.

“You and me both.”

I may have lived with Maya for going on five years, but I didn't know her. I don't think anyone did. She was there at the beginning, when we lost the first apartment, Maxi-Pad, fifteen punks to three rooms, make way for gentrification. She'd been the one to spot the abandoned building two blocks over, bust it out, steal electricity from the streetlamps outside, welcome to our new home, Stay Free. The woman could tattoo you with bamboo slivers or drop the transmission out of an old school bus, fiercely independent. In a milieu that praised DIY she was queen and left fear in her wake.

Stay Free was mid-wife, ground zero, birthplace of Acephale. We were pissed off, burnt out, and disgusted with the world. Anarchism had fallen into more puritanical 'Thou Shall Nots' than a Southern Baptist congregation. Everything around us had been swallowed, twisted, re-sold as pre-packaged rebellion. What was the point when your leaflets would be returned as bulk rate advertising for The Gap, when songs would be used to sell Ford Explorers? The Situationists called the process recuperation, radical ideas altered to be sold back as consumer items, fuel the march of capitalist expansion.

Of course it was Maya that saw the way out, the break, pure nihilism, a package so poisoned with hate, violence, and depravity that if dominant culture tried to swallow, the straight-razor coating would tear executive throats on the way down.

After three shows, we were eighty-sixed from every club in a twenty-mile area. During an interview with a local weekly paper, the journalist asked if we condoned the violence occurring at our shows; broken arms, blood on the floor, slashed skin in the pit.

“No we don't condone violence,” Maya answered, “We don't condone it at all. We encourage it, welcome it, love it. Nothing short of total annihilation.”

From then on, underground with a vengeance, changing names, fake band photos, fake recordings to get shows, guerrilla warfare disguised as entertainment. The website remained constant, hidden pages under the surface, clues scattered across the back of twelve inches, page numbers from books. To find the message boards, to communicate with the band, to see a show, required a crash course in Bataille, Debord, Breton, Nechayev, whatever caught our fancy. Want to be a fan? Do your reading. It worked; our most rabid were smart and violent; pissed, primed, and ready to go. Old school nihilism, propaganda by deed and the desire to destroy history, birth pains of an essential mythology, and the drive to sacrifice. Revolution by throwing it all away. No Gods, no masters, no fucking manifestos.

“We're on,” Digs said, clapping me on the shoulder, drawing me back to the here and now, eyes still on us from across the room, conversational fodder for the art school crowd.

“Fuck 'em up,” I replied.

I sat beside Taylon, pulled the bottle from his hand. Each of us had our own ways of pumping for a show, Taylon preferred alcohol, and getting so drunk he could barely feel the strings under his fingers. His lidded eyes swung, tracked my direction as I took a hard pull, tucked the bottle between my legs to pull the packet from my pocket.

“That stuff tastes like shit,” Taylon slurred. I didn't know whether he meant the bottle or my drugs.

“Doesn't it all?”

He shrugged, turned away. On a couch facing us Ben and Amanda were slouched backwards, mouths firmly locked, Amanda rubbing vigorously at Ben's erection, which strained against the thread-worn fabric of his fatigues. That was Ben's way of getting primed, eventually Amanda would simply pull his cock out - fuck anyone who bothered to watch - and bring him right to the edge several times before we went on. Frustration fueled Ben through a show. Made me wonder what happened in remote chambers under sand-covered floors. Amanda had joined after a stop in Shreveport, face of an angel, Raggedy Ann haircut a shade of red God never bothered inventing, 'War In My Head' tattooed across the opalescent skin of her forehead. Amanda's fifteen minutes of fame: appearing on an episode of Sally Jesse Raphael entitled, “Hey You Punk, Lose That Funk”.

I opened the package, dumped powder into my mouth where it instantly congealed into a thick sludgy mass, bitter taste not unlike licking the inside of a fifty gallon barrel abandoned at a toxic waste site. Datura, iboga, morning glory, and just a touch of psilocin to round it all out. Angel's Trumpet with bloody teeth. The first time I tried this little recipe I spent hours reading a book that wasn't there, hours more talking to friends I hadn't seen in years and finally finished by warmly greeting famous people I'd only seen in history books. It was no wonder these herbs were used in Sabbat potions, seeing large crowds of people out of the corner of your eye was de rigueur for this shit. I gagged, pulled hard from Taylon's bottle, choked on the thick chewy mass. A sharp, burning pain rose and throbbed behind my Adam's apple.

“Fuck that's gross,” Taylon mumbled.

“Eat shit,” the only reply I could offer, handed his bottle back before falling against the couch, closing my eyes and willing the pain to leave my throat.

I could hear Gittef as they crawled through their set, Black Sabbath at half the speed and twice the volume, my foot following unconsciously, head bobbing as the flickering behind my eyelids brightened, coalesced into fragile patterns. I opened my eyes as they swung into a cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd's Give Me Back My Bullets, thick sludgy riffs, the vocals changing the song into a plea for bloodshed from the incapable.

“We're up,” Taylon slurred, rising unsteadily to his feet. My tongue swelled, too large for my mouth, saliva flooding and I thought I would puke, too much and trying to raise spit, but for all the flooding of my mouth it was too dry, hacking, raise my head, streams of light to see Amanda's head rising from Ben's lap, lips wet and had to avert my gaze, rise on capricious legs to follow Taylon.

Digs on his way back, manic smile and bleeding cut over left eye, large egg swelling as skin darkened.

“What the fuck?” My mouth clumsy, unable to form words.

“Ashtray. Your edgers are out there.” All the explanation necessary. Modern-day suburban fad, straight-edge vegan warriors, hardline as they named it. With the decline of neo-nazis, they felt the need for the same sense of purity, but unable to cloak their violence in Third Reich rhetoric they turned to a 'pure body, pure mind' agenda. Their tactics hadn't changed, they still rat-packed, choosing victims so they'd be alone as ten or more fell on the one, hospitalizing people found outside of clubs, bars, or their own homes. Activists wrung their hands over the problem, urged communication, education, community affiliation groups.

We invited them to our shows.Direct action as entertainment, chemotherapy for a consumer culture. Physician heal thy...
It was easy to tell our fans from the hardliners. On the right, band shirts: Kylesa, Dystopia, EYEHATEGOD, Soilent Green, Outlaw Order. On the left, calls to arms: Not In My Neighborhood, Kill Your Local Drug Dealer, Bring Back Prohibition. Wide swath in between, sharp looks and gestures darting across no-man's land, dreads against shaved heads. The anger was palpable.

My hands...clumsy, vision stuttered, ticker-tock eyeball twitch, shudders causing drum-key to twist as I attached second kick pedal, cobras and spring tension new enemies, taking forever to twist hexes in place, closed eyes no respite, vertiginous descent, hypnagogic vision made me throw eyes wide, ease the sense of fall.

Finally in place, lights dimming, expectancy, nervousness, adrenaline., Taylon's guitar starting low, a rising wave, higher, the overtones overlapping mayhem, disease, decay, dis...
...higher...he turned to face his stack, pickups in benediction to face...feed...and low rumble, bass simple descending pattern, repeat and feed louder, guitar against amp, caress buried cones, angel's fall...burning tumbling scream


and loud
and loud again...

Maya folded upon herself, knees bent so sharply ass kissed ankles, arms down, oppressive weight of feedback and signifier, fall...

And the crowd about to go off, feel it, tension thick, lead sheets...growl of Maya...mysteries...

Mine, the way in, corridors and legs twitching in classroom experiment...rub glass wand against fur, touch amputated limbs, sympathetic jerk...the comfort of breast again mouth, patterned fall, arm's grateful rise skyward, anatomy's demands restrain flight...convulsive pull through parting skin, lamb skin, goat skin, refusing to give way...rebound skyward, eyes locked, feral grin, dive, match the fall, let it all come down..let it..

... Maya sub-vocal presence, loosening of bowels, sandpaper steel rasp rattle…

Aghori's lament.

The crowd shoving, circles form in bodies’ motion, testing waters, opposing tides, waiting for the breakdown. The breakdown beckons the descent into paranoiac vision, Dali calling the unbearable, Maya pulling back, growls, inhumane, unknowable, un...

That moment of standing beside myself, looking down to marvel and when did...

When did right hand punish snare and the hare and which hair eyes seeking streaks and falls of snare and silver? Screams drove hand four times fall and back again with splash of brass and cry on lips, blood flows as knives cry, teeth splash floor.

My cries were their cries...bones seek light beyond confines of skin.
Breakdown, pumping legs, The Narrative of Arthur...but McLuhan never spoke of clinging waves falling from legs as fists flew, knives cried, Poison Free tattoos and Nike shoes falling beneath an onslaught of grime-grinding-crust, tables turned. Tay-long staggers back from a bottle caught above the eye, drops scream in front of the cloth covered temples to dive...

......and there clarity, in the crowd, suctioned eyesight catching knife driven through lower arm, slides in easy, opposing side stretches, pulls taut in strained extrusion as steel tip glints, pulls red lips wide in exit, “Give us a kiss....” One small act frozen in a sea of warfare... snap back.

Shackleton seeking fourth man upon the ice turns questioning eyes, blood ready to jump, leap from release, mayhem's disease upon the floor, elbows bend the wrong way, wound four times and echo back...

Clambering over my kit, treasonous legs fly outwards, cymbal sharp in bloodied mouth,
uncaring to


over wooden edge

into strange