Category Archives: Books

CALIFORNIA SKATEBOARDING THROUGH LENS – HUGH HOLLAND

One of my biggest frustrations has to do with skateboarding. Do you remember Marty McFly in Back to the Future breaking a soapbox car and creating a skateboard out of it? Well I had a crush on this sport ever since.

Unfortunately its practice has started becoming popular recently, and it has to do more with a fashion trend rather than with the sport itself. Let’s say skateboarding here is for posh and cool people nowadays in Spain. Barcelona is currently full of boards, there are some shitty skate rinks and parks, but the credit has to be given to foreign youngsters.

Pity now it’s too late for me to learn without taking risks involving likely physical consequences at my 30’s I cannot afford suffering.

 I love the concept, the aesthetics of the skaters, their bodies, the movements, the musical philosophy involved, especially with the old school ones, directly attached to rock and metal…

Leaving aside what skate boarding means to me, there was a place and a time, where skate boarding changed radically in its practice. Before it became one of the most popular extreme sports with half pipes and other acrobatics, skateboarding was simply a source of entertainment for the kids in America, comparable to roller skating, and cheaper than a bike.

California hosted the revolution in skateboarding. By now, many of you are acquainted with names such as Tony Alva, Stacy Peralta, Jay Adams, Dogtown and Z-Boys. This was a generation of problem childred. Kids raised in rough home environments, attached to a board as an extension of their body.  Apart from other circumstances and events, many of them were lucky their passion kept them away from the streets and jail, some of them ended deep down in shit.

In the mid 1970’s a major drought in South California, affecting LA especially, caused massive water restrictions, which implied many private swimming pools being drained for long time. The Z-Boys found these pools the perfect place for skating and developing stunning acrobatics, thus they started sneaking into the houses illegally for their pleasure.

Very few managed to witness such early experiences in first person, and Hugh Holland, together with Glen E. Friedman, who I will talk about soon, carried a camera in the right time and the right place, capturing awesome moments of the godfathers of modern-day skate.

Hugh Holland published a compilation of these captures in his book Locals Only. It goes beyond skating, this book reflects this community of kids and their lifestyle, with the boards as the epicenter of their existence.

These guys had an attitude, and appearance and an inner trademark. Their hair bleached, their suntanned well built bodies exhibited as if it was normal, sometimes wearing wasted and ruined Vans and Levi’s, and sometimes just bare feet. Their style is aggressive, their attitude is mean. They were kids, but could be dangerous, and wanted to look tough, and they did. These were the guys who really grew and learned everything from the streets.

It is difficult to sum up the talent and the work of an artist, and a photographer, as they are able to transmit so many feelings and things in a capture, it can be overwhelming sometimes, but if I had to choose a capture to define Hugh Holland, that would be this one, no doubt.

For me, this image is a generation portrait. Little Danny Kwock, in his bathsuit, literally stuck to the board, even though you can observe his feet soles are not firmly leaning on it, his eyes closed and his body surfing as if in ecstasy…this capture is simply awesome!

Enjoying these pictures, regret and frustration comes to my mind once again. I should have tried to slide with a board when I had time even though I was on my own. Nscht!

BILL HICKS, THE ANTI-HERO WITH A MICROPHONE

Fortunately it’s never too late for discovering new passions, philosophies, religions, bands… I’m glad to admit my absolute fascination by a new personal (anti-) hero, Bill Hicks, the stand-up comedian.

The influence of this outlaw, barely had any sort of impact here in Spain, due to the so shameful sound barriers. Not that I despise my mother tongue, do not misunderstand me, what I strongly criticize and disagree with, is the fact that English or any other foreign language have been considered a burden, rather than been enhanced as to extend knowledge to overseas culture. I already mentioned that yesterday, 40 years of dictatorship regime has stigmatized us forever.

See? It’s even taken me almost 34 years to get properly acquainted with this monster of spoken word. Well, perhaps there’s a valid reason for that. The conception of stand-up comedy I wrongly had, was based on Spanish performances. Once again, we are not ready for that, with the exception of Pepe Rubianes, and someone else, comedy is based on keeping on the line of well manners and non offensive humor. Thus this style has eventually turn obsolete, and the new trends, attempting to adapt the American stand-up comedy , are too forced, and failing to deliver good stuff.

Current stand-up comedians in Spain are mostly comedy actors performing following a script written by, they are acting, thus, the stories lack of nerve and naturalness, and one feature common to all these actors, whatever they do results overacted. There are some good scripts though, but the style and tendency is the same, and the stylist devices are too repetitive. I still have to check on some people I’ve been recommended anyway, hoping I’ll find someone brilliant so I’ll have to swallow my words. Of course, this is only my humble opinion…

My interest for American stand-up comedy started  thanks to Eddie Murphy, Richard Prior and Andrew Dice Clay. I love that nasty kind of humor, beyond the limits of correctness and what’s socially acceptable.

I had heard of Hicks because of the band Tool. The album AEnima, which I used to listen compulsively for long time, was dedicated to the comedian. Not only that, an illustration named Another Dead Hero was included in the artwork of the special edition, and several excerpts from Dangerous and Relentless albums featured the song Third Eye.

I wasn’t mentally ready for Hicks, and took me many years to pay him proper attention, despite some strong recommendations. There’s a time for anything, and my time is now. Months ago, via Tumblr, I started to read incredible quotations completely valid in the current times we’re trying to make our living. Rough statements for tough times coming from the mouth of a comedian were something I couldn’t comprehend. A comedian? Talking about porn, religion, drugs, TV, politics and freedom of speech? WTF?

At this point I remembered that there was a biography available, American Scream The Bill Hicks Story, by Cynthia True, and thus, my quest for knowledge started.

There’s a quote in particular I feel very identified with. I’ve already told you about it:

I’m Running Out Of Time

It might not be really meaningful to you, as the passing of time is something that affects us all, regardless of  gender, nationality or social status, but when you start getting acquainted with Hicks, his intense life and career, and his early death, at age 32, caused by pancreatic cancer, such statement makes complete sense and brings out some deep thinking. In my case is that I have to enjoy and approach everything coming to the max, because here today, gone tomorrow, and you can’t take things for granted.

Truth is that, his life timeline was totally atypical, characterized by a demolishing intensity, very few can equal him. He started performing at age 16, experienced with drugs, meditation, was an alcoholic to rehab afterwards…too many events and experiences, always on the road, till he couldn’t do it anymore due to the stage of his fatal illness.

Hicks was the wild side in his field, the ultimate rockstar in comedy, but because his discourse and jokes, were beyond the typical contents, although audience adored him, he suffered the terrible blow of the media censorship, especially and more painfully coming from David Letterman. I remember him telling he was full of regret regarding Hicks’ last period, feeling like he owed him not only an apology but something else.

The double moral standard in the US was something Hicks was really concerned. As he put it, if you mentioned Jesus, some Christian would raise his finger against you, regardless. He considered his audience intelligent enough as to realize what kind of manipulation US citizens are submitted too, especially by TV, but being tricked by one of his personal heroes was something that really affected Hicks. Freedom of speech resulted a total failure.

Basically, my feeling for Hicks is that he used comedy as a perfect device to awake America from this lethargy encouraged by politicians, and react against the establishment, always for a reason: people have the right to think for themselves and express their opinion. So many laws, exaggerate restrictions and law enforcement controlling absolutely everything, cannot be tolerated. At the end of the day, he was a thinker and a critic.

Most likely if he hadn’t passed away so early, he’d have led some kind of reactionary movement, as people were starting to pay attention. Hicks’ legacy, quite extense, thanks to live performances recorded, spoken word albums such as Relentless, Dangerous or Rant in E-Minor, TV guest appearances, documentaries….is still valid. The comedian struggled to reach as many citizens as possible, so they could discover the truth and act consequently. It is now your time, to see if what he said, suits you or not.

KINDLE, E-BOOKS? NAH, I STAND BY THE BRICKS

I’m a consumerist. Period. I can try to deny myself, but my willpower  very often succumbs to temptation, and having the world at a single click, I catch the bait more than I should. I could go to therapy, but it’d be more expensive than purchasing certain items which provide me a massive wave of pleasure. Still, same as cigarettes, I’m cutting down, not so rad, but little by little.

And what  are my late main acquisitions? Books.

They are not for imminent consumption as a CD or a vinyl, I could have waited to buy them, but you know, sometimes you feel the urge to have the book, touch it and smell it, and think “I got you, babe”. Reading is slow combustion pleasure, mmmm, I love it, but the problem is that lack of time is an issue, and this wonder requires the world to top. And it’ difficult.

It’s true that I have abandoned fiction for a while, perhaps on behalf of films, thus I’m enjoying biographies overall.

These have been the latest entries at the Hellhouse,  I’m really proud of.

CRONENBERG ON CRONENBERG – Edited by Chris Rodley

The Baron of Blood is one of my favorite directors. Nowadays, thanks to his last films A History of Violence and Eastern Promises, has become a more prominent and public figure, up to major consumption, however his earlier films, managed to twist sci-fi into something more insane, with great dose of science and psychological features.

This book is nothing but excerpts of interviews in which he talks about this early works, conditions related to budgets, plot concepts… basically what he had in mind when he filmed them.  They Came from Within, Rabid, The Brood, Scanners, Videodrome up to Crash… I read it a couple of years ago, and was fascinated by the way the Canadian talks about his work.

If you are into his filmography, this is a MUST have.

RECKLESS ROAD   GUNS N’ ROSES AND THE MAKING OF APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION

Another present I bought, this time for my friend Jaume, in NY, in 2008.

Autobiographies aside, reckon this is the most valuable document of the earliest years of Guns N’ Roses, the (former) most dangerous band in the world, captured in amazing shots by their fan #1, and best friend, Marc Canter. No doubt their close relationship in that time, and his love for the band, made Reckless Road possible. Captures, press reviews, fliers… this compilation of band memorabilia is like time travelling back to Sunset Strip era, when Axl’s obsessions were still at the rear of his mind, and they used to hang out with hookers, for sex, drugs, a shower and some Night Train.

THE MAKING OF THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

Despite the fact that I really love Star Wars, and I’m a diehard fan, to be honest I’ve never been an avid collector of stuff. It’s true I have posters, soap dispenser, t-shirts, toys…but I’m not obsessed by the holy saga at all.

Up to date, my most serious possession was a present I received from my ex brother-in-law, another super fan. It was The Making Of Star Wars.

I told you about my New Year’s Day tradition of starting with the holy trilogy. Well, it was then when I decided that  the book revealing all the details of how my favorite movie ever was developed, had to be mine. I haven’t dived into it properly yet, but I know some hours of pleasure are guaranteed.

A DEVIL ON ONE SHOULDER AND AN ANGEL ON THE OTHER: THE STORY OF SHANNON HOON AND BLIND MELON

What can I say? I love Blind Melon and need to know more about Shannon Hoon. My friend Enric insisted I had to get it, and eventually the writer himself advised my where to purchase it…unbelievable! I still have it sealed, waiting for me to close other pending readings so I will focus on it exclusively. I’m scared of what I might find. I’m  still mourning Hoon’s loss and most likely I’ll feel devastated once I really get to know him in detail. But I have to. Blind Melon are essential in my life.

WE GOT THE NEUTRON BOMB: THE UNTOLD STORY OF L.A PUNK

This was actually a Xmas present from the cake couple, and it was really a nice surprise. Just had a quick look at it, but seems it’s gonna be endless fun. Resembling in the style and format to Please Kill Me, based on quotations by personalities who were part of that story, and covering the whole punk era in L.A up to hardcore movement. Pretty interesting, to be honest.

I really can’t pile these treasures up in a shelf and forget about them till I finish my current readings, thus here they are, moving from one place to the other at the Hellhouse, waiting to be settled, and swallowed by their crazy owner some day.

JANUARY THE 8th, CELEBRATION DAY

January the 8th is a very special date. It was the day my granny was born, in 1907. Most of you know, she’s no longer here, thus I cannot celebrate her anniversary with her, but this date is one to remember happily.

You might find it stupid, but I’m proud that my granny’s birthday is on the same date as Elvis’ and David Bowie’s.

I really dig Bowie, not that I’m a huge fan, but respect him the most, and there are certain albums not to be ignored at all. His ambiguity, his irresistible gaze, a very personal voice, and compositions, make of him a quite unique character.

But today is Elvis’ day. Period.

If he was still alive, he’d be an adorable 77 yeard old gentleman. Have you ever thought how would he look like? I have an idea, close to Bruce Campbell’s portrait in Bubba Ho-Tep. In case you’ve never watched it, you should, the first 45 minutes are simply priceless.

Many things we’ve been told of The King. Many stories, rumors, and anecdotes… and a vast legacy of songs, albums, concerts, movies and pictures, keep the legend easily alive.

But there’s a hell lot beyond his artistic side. The 42 years of his life were really intense. From being a humble and poor boy, his worldwide success was absolutely overwhelming. Not only his mother, Gladys, marked his personality, but many people surrounding him, took part of his life and fate.  What would had happened if Colonel Parker hadn’t been his manager? What if he hadn’t met Priscilla? Ahhh, we’ll never know.

From here, I approach this post to strongly recommend you Elvis Presley’s biography, to know him better, and most likely, to understand him too.

Peter Guralnick, an American music critic, started to focus on chronicling the history of blues, rock, and country by 1970’s.

The enterprise of compiling information of Presley’s, gave birth to a two-volume biography, released with 5 years of difference in 1990’s.

Elvis Presley, Las Train To Memphis (1994), basically covers his family backgrounds, birth and growing up, his acquaintance with Sam Phillips and the first recordings, his massive success, up to Glady’s death and his military service in Germany.

Elvis Presley, Careless Love (1999), deals with Elvis’ Hollywood period, too extent due to Colonel Parker, his weird relationship with Priscilla, his famous Comeback and what that meant to him, Vegas time, his personal physical and personal decline, and of course, his death.

There are some points you can a bit lost because of so much information on recordings, but the annex is very helpful. Testimonials, stories, and the most intimate Elvis, are simply delightful. I have to admit, I cried several times, especially towards the end. You know Elvis died, but really, this biography make you feel really close to him, he’s human, gets angry, is generous, but moody, he adores Priscilla, but constantly cheats her.

Elvis wasn’t just a good looking face, a great voice and an awesome performer… I’m not saying he was perfect, no no no, but he was definitely one in a million.

Once this said, my personal celebration starts. The menu will include his debut album, the 68’ Comeback Special and other delicatessen I’ll be improvising.

Dear friends, have a very special Elvis day!