- July 22nd, 2014
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A new blog, by Raven Terrapin
7-11-2014 is forever cemented in my heart as a special night. Here is why…
Last night i did something I’ve never even come close to doing in any other musical project I’ve been involved with, as Direwood played show 40.
It’s been a monumental mountain to climb from a six year break off the live stage. I had to get my breath control back, stop eating junk food, figure out a proper hip-hop tone.
So, yea, last night we played 23 minutes of sweaty, nasty punk rock hip hop. I saw you in the back, waving your hands despite yourself. I kept dropping low to make eye contact with the kid sitting right in front. Acting out the lyrics, stretching contorting,
I want to tell you something you might not know. This is not an easy thing for me to put myself through. I start to “trench” a good 24 hours before the show. It’s all part of the process. What’s the worst part of this multiple juggling act between being an MC an emcee, helping to move equipment, emptying barrels of trash?
The worst for me is right as the first couple acts are setting up and there’s no one there except the bands. No people yet to raise the energy. You see, we need you, the audience, to help us complete the circle. Oh sure it’s good to rock the fuck out in your practice space, but real artists want and crave a circular feedback. We give, you give back.So, watching Other Organs create a holy space where people felt free to meditate,
So, being told very much with joy that your brand of hip-hop is cheeky, authentic, would fit in well with real rappers in NYC. Having some bro hug you and say, “man you are a great rapper, no you are a fucking amazing rapper.”
So, seeing my mad friends in Hell Garbage reach that beautiful point where the chaos rends an overload to the brain and it becomes a subtle, primal caveman space. We went back to the cave and the monsters last night. Seeing a dear friend shred throat muscles and tears in a ball of exorcism on stage.
Witness the Whitey Alabastard, an expert manipulator of image and theatrical overload, sitting in a chair on stage wearing a very dapper vest like a steam punk terrorist.
You my friends, Raising your hands in fists in the air, prompted by me as I bless you. Send up a cheer for all of us, the acts and crowd. Let us make the full moon which is too big hear our primal shredding cries with noise makers. We are the dreamers of dreams.
By Raven Terrapin
Postscript: And, so here it is, 18 years later. I uncovered this recording like a fragile time machine. There are ghosts in it. There are friends cheering in this recording that don’t exist on our planet anymore. This is the best of times and the worst of times. I am glad to report that everyone involved in this band is still making music in some form or another. Some of us are parents and some of us are teachers of young punk rockers. We carry the torch. i hope you enjoy a dip back into one of the coldest winters on record, in one of the worst times of my life, with the little bit of light that’s come out of these raw recordings. May it never go out. God rest you merry gentlemen.
I roll around prone and sleepless in a sweaty mess in my upstairs bedroom in my house I share with Big Mike in Marquette. I am once again near the end of my rope. I have just lost my job much to do with my aggressive attitude anti-authority to the bone. It’s reaching Travis Bickel levels of hatred now. I have to walk two miles back and forth to school in one of the coldest places in the world. Already I have suffered frostbite on my ears even while wearing a hat. Thoughts first about the new band I was putting together at the time with Big Mike, we called it Mosoh. After a few tries and a few different lineups we finally landed a sick ass little Beavis type punk drummer named Dill Robert who has become the guy on the couch. Scarecrow Geoff on guitars. We could have ruled the world with our sound but we only ever played three shows. Big Mike was on bass. We would write songs together in the living room. So much came together as so much fell apart. Thoughts on this sleepless night. He has a love for his little brother Thomas but he doesn’t even know him. I am scared for his future. He seems so little and reminds me so much of myself. Later he, Tommy, my little Celtic Leprechuan stands eyes full of fire despite his obvious fear in the dark in Edinbourgh, Scotland. Tales of ghosts that echo off the walls on the spot that birthed the Plague. Tommy stands brave. Steadfast. He becomes his own person. He makes many of the same mistakes that I did. He makes some more mistakes of his own. We share family pain, being empathic and arty and outsiders and nerds and weirdos. My father told me he knew when T was born he was someone special. I know this is true. We are creators together. Dreamers of dreams. Makers of worlds. Whether to build or burn, create and destroy we hold in our hearts. We shine, We will not burn. We hold fast.
By Tommy Jordan
It was 2004. I was in the back seat of what may have been a Blazer, or a Jeep. Check that, it was a Toyota four runner. My eldest brother was in front passenger side seat talking non stop, and his wife Nik was was driving. We were maybe two miles from home. Hadn’t even hit the highway yet. I was 15. I remember trying to say things, that would make me seem older, more mature, and very clever. Something about the millennium falcon or weed.
I hardly knew anything about Mike at this point. He was more or less a mystery. I knew he played in some bands from him visiting at Christmas. I had emailed him rap lyrics I’d written, starting around twelve, to get some feedback. This was a two-for because Mike was also a journalist, so those emails had lots of good advice.
See, Mike had been kicked out of my parents house when I was six years old. The whole memory is pretty blurry for me and it’s not really a topic we talk about all the time. I know the five of us siblings who weren’t Mike had nothing to do with it, and always felt a bit of guilt for not stopping it somehow. I knew that our parents didn’t talk about it. I remember once having the audacity to ask my father about it publicly at the dinner table. He said, “Mike wasn’t willing to obey the rules of the house.” That was about all I knew for years. By this time though I had come up with enough theories that I could fill a season of the x-files. I was sure he was probably doing hard drugs in the basement, in the room that later became mine. Or that he was sticking his dick in anything that moved, like a crazed maniac. Or perhaps he had started worshipping Satan in our Christian household, and his power had become so strong that soon he would be more demon than man. None of these turned out to be the case. In fact, my father told me years later that the threat of kicking him out truly was a bluff, and that he had watched him walk away with a duffle bag from the upstairs bathroom with tears in his eyes, and a sense of pride that didn’t let himself stop it. We all make mistakes, and I’m sure all parties involved did then. I’m happy to report we all get a long and visit each other nowadays, and even pose for photographs.
I had one picture of him during my early childhood, it was a graduation photo and I had kept it on a corner shelf in my room. I remember going to get glasses at a Walmart with my Momma, and trying to pick out glasses like Mike had in that photograph. I think she was upset about it at the time, my idolization of this man I didn’t know. But I knew anyone who got kicked out of the house had to at least have an interesting story. So sitting in that back seat at 15, I knew I had to be cool. It was a six hour car ride, and I had to be oh so very cool.
This summer sculpted much of my life. The ride went smoothly and pulled up into Hancock Michigan, which is kind of a liberal, artsy, tech college town, on a peninsula surrounded by some of the most homophobic, racist, sexist people in the state. It was nice to be in that type of town, you felt safe from all the hate surrounding it. We went to Mike’s friends Dave’s house right away, and got lit like a Christmas tree, which was a good start to the whole summer. We went back to Mike and Nik’s house, the bottom floor of a three story house. It had two bedrooms, so I had my own room to sleep in. It was there that I discovered many crucial albums. Nik used to say that any time I was in the living room, it became a “Multimedia Floor Explosion”. I dug through so many albums and listened to them all. I met people who had done too much acid, and people who hadn’t done enough acid. I cut down a gardener’s poppies with my brother and ran away. Then we made poppy tea, and the movie “Punch Drunk Love” proceeded to freak me out. I ate all their bread by making to much french toast. I dyed my hair blue.
Mike was in two bands at the time. A low-fi dream seance called “Flashing Red Airplane” in which he played bass next to frontman Jen Wilke, who’s writing and melodies have always haunted me.
Then there was Annie Feed Water, which was very much a modern rock band, in which he was the vocalist. This is where I met Tony Dutcher who I have since collaborated with several times.
My brother Orion’s best friend had downloaded me a bunch of freestyle rap beats off of Kazaa, which was the hot way to download things back then. I went with Mike and picked strawberries for a full day to get money to make a Demo, and we went to his producer Chuck’s house, and I laid three tracks down in like a half hour. I think it took Mike just about 24 hours with a hard copy of that demo to start booking me shows. He brought it to Bernie Larsen, who as far as I can tell is some sort of Jedi Knight of independent music. Bernie was Mike’s Yoda, except with better grammar structure and nicer hairline. Bernie played guitar on the Public Enemy records, and had played rhythm guitar for Ben Harper. He ran Spinout Record’s, which at the time operated out of Hancock and had an all-ages venue called “The Exurban”. For some reason Bernie liked my demo, and he asked me if I would open up for his band “Cry on Cue” in a few weekends. This was my first show. In front of maybe 200 people in a totally packed house, at 15. I played eight songs. I killed it. Not to sound like an egotistical maniac, but really, I killed it. I was 15 and I gave it everything I had, and people loved it. I went outside to smoke a cigarette, which of course I had to bum, and I literally heard people singing the chorus to one of my songs. I thought maaaaan, I could do this for the rest of my life.
Cry on Cue:
This is really where the seeds for what would become Direwood were planted. This when I found out that Mike had stolen a tape in 1991 of Ice-T’s Power from the locker room, and kept it in his secret stash right next to his sports illustrated swimsuit editions. He’d been a spiritual person ever since he left Saulte Ste Marie, in a dark time, blaring 2pac’s All Eyez on Me. We drifted in and out of touch for a while. I remember visiting him when he lived in Traverse City and his band Annie Feed Water did a show down there. That was the first time I played guitar at a show, as a rhythm guitarist. We stenciled a bazillion shirts with spray paint, which was my latest thing. Like all the gutter punk rock kids I’d mastered the stenciled shirt.
For about a year Mike wrote beats and I wrote vocals, for a record that really never came to fruition. Some of those songs and parts of those beats came into play years later. Including the song “Vigilante,” which kept a sample originally written by Nik, Mike’s wife, and some drums and bass by me. That song’s still used in live Direwood sets.
I spent about a four year span working on sailboats, which was not really something I loved, but at the time I started, I had some bad drug problems and it really cleaned me up. I got in shape and worked very hard everyday. As I climbed the escalator of command in the microcosm that is living, shitting, eating, and working with the same people every day, I became drunk with power and really started to become an asshole. So I quit. I moved to Seattle because I knew I could find a job there. My girlfriend at the time had a Mac computer with garageband. We had no internet and no friends and I started to fuck around with production. I called Mike, and sent him a recording I’d done. It had been four years since I’d done any real music, and we started up again. The series of recordings we made were done in a very Postal Service way. Just sent back and forth, this series of recording were dubbed Direwood, which was a reference to a Christian children’s record we listen to as kids. The first real output was a low quality album called “Grublets for the Devil”. This was comprised of years and years of recordings, on different mediums with different software. As far as I remember it had a myspace page, and since it was an internet collective, shows we’re just not possible.
Meanwhile, Mike had been working on a project called “Twas”, with Iatro Glitch, who is a man who would become very important to our family at Shepherd Boy Records. Mike had moved to Florida and worked at Co-op, which is where he and Glitch met. Twas was before it’s time. With roots buried deep in the world of noise rap, it was far before Kanye West had dropped his aggressive “Yeezus” or Kid Cudi had come out with “Indicud”. At the time it was foreign to me as well, and I didn’t really understand or embrace it. The concept of discord seemed sad to me coming from Mike, a man who I had seen sing the longest beautiful notes. That being said, Twas nowadays would fit directly into the scene, and perhaps a revamp with Glitch and Mike is in order.
Joe Billlingsley or perhaps better known as D.J. Hollow Life is the man who really is directly responsible for having changed everything. He wrote to Mike having never met him, and asked him about the possibility of getting Direwood to do a live set. Mike called me up and asked me if I could produce it. So I slogged through many emails and computer files and gave him just enough material for a set. He practiced this set over and over again, and it was largely him rapping, which was the very first time he had done that. So at 35 Mike took the stage in a room full of people he didn’t know with a CD of looped beats I had made him and a microphone, never having rapped before, and proceeded to get the fuck down in a room full of noise artists. This is where he met Joe in person for the first time. At this point I more or less moved entirely out of doing vocals, and only did production. I had my own shit going on, in my own scene and it worked well for me to be making beats for Mike in his scene.
Direwood grew and over the next few years, he played house shows, Noise Venues, Occult Bookstores, and the occasional bar. After demand was high, we started working on the first official debut album “White Wrapper”. This was well-received and had what most people would say is the most popular Direwood songs, “Butter Sandwiches” and birthed the concept song “16 tons” which would be the first of many concept songs. Mike actually got to perform 16 tons, in Hancock, on a stage built in 1920. “Everything came together that night,” he says. It has always seemed to me that one of the greatest feats one can accomplish is turning a tragedy into art, and that’s exactly what this song does.
This was followed by “Witchcraftwerk,” a doozy of an album. As I started unpacking it, I had really only heard one song called “Strength of Will.” It took me a while to sort through and mix together the vocals, and once I did I found that it was a pretty profound record that was largely a spiritual journey. Lots of healing from some dark times, as well as closure. It was released at an The Mana Reading Center. This was when D.J. Hollow Life entered the band. He worked hard on production and engineering. He also deserves credit for swooping in at a crucial moment, at maybe the lowest point for Direwood, when they had a shit show in Sanford, FL. He provided encouragement and kept the whole thing going. This really turned Direwood into a true duo, with me acting as a silent third partner and occasional feature. This album really made it come full circle. Remember it was Joe who got Mike to do a live show in the first place. This albums first single was called “South” which was produced by myself and Tony Dutcher, who originally played bass in Annie Feed Water. It featured Gerko (previously known as Twat) from the Marquette.
Direwood had completed a tour of the Midwest that year, and this solidified his relationship with Michigan Hip Hop. Mike has always been a big fan of local homegrown Michigan hip hop like Leif Kolt, Gerko, Rick Chyme and Walking with Balance, however in Clearwater, Florida, which is Direwood’s home base, most people associate Michigan Hip Hop with I.C.P., Eminem, and Kid Rock. But we do our best to share the real shit.
Since Shepherd Boy Records has become a serious entity a lot of things have happened. I personally have been in four serious projects who toured and gigged hard. I’ve lost some friends, both to death and artistic differences. This whole time Mike has been down in Florida grinding it out, with one mic, a laptop, and some friends. They have played 39 shows. The commitment, and the growth is something that blows my mind. I never thought when I was 15 that anything would turn out like this, that I would start producing my older brother, who has literally served as my inspiration for stage presence my whole life.
Theres talk of the Direwood project slowing down or at least taking a break. This partially is because Mike has an aversion to playing bars. This is completely understandable. It’s pretty sad that we live in a world where music is almost instantly associated with putting poison in your body. There seems to be a certain level of fame you can have playing in venues that aren’t bars. Starting with the fact that there is just much less of them. We know Mike is going to bless us with the second installment of a features EP called “Split Branches,” and at least one more full length record.
Hip Hop is a very competitive field. It’s an art form that cultivates competition, and those who are weak do not survive. Mike grew up with it, but didn’t start doing it until his Saturn had returned. This man has balls, and has really proven himself in a field where people really make you do just that. I am fired up to hear what comes next, with Iatro Glitch, D.J. Hollow Life and myself producing, I’m sure we’ll add some more fuel to a fire that seems to burn down every obstacle in it’s way.
By Raven Terrapin
It’s funny how being a fan of a certain video or song could open your mind to an entire world you never knew existed, back in the pre-internet era.
“Epic” by Faith No More came blowing across the flat sun burnt fields of K-town that summer. The summer of living right next to the neighbor that would bash an old ladies head in a few months later.
The smell of dank weed and even worse Pall mall cigs leaking through the poorly constructed basement of the duplex.
Getting in trouble for putting a picture of Dew Barrymore where her pants were unzipped.
“Can you see it feel it even today, if you can’t then it doesn’t matter anyway.”
Oh those early days. The would be salad days. Putting on the dubbed copy of Faith No More’s “Angel Dust” on my cassette walk man and taking the bike out for a ride. Pushing as hard as I could, out to the outskirts of scrub wood and broken abandoned buildings. Past the basketball court where I broke my hand on a kids nose.
Past the giant churches full of thieves.
My fall from grace as “Bible Boy:” was luciferian. I was pushed out. Falling with new wings.
Through it all, the voice of Patton in my ear. Screaming, manic, demented, crooning songs about feces and bondage and grace and obsession.
Know thyself becomes the norm. Fantasies of running away, of hiding in the scrub brush and stealing a plane. Just to get the fuck out of here. Just to get the fuck out of this place.
He stands in the backyard, His parents are gone away for the weekend. The idea of suicide mixes with the irony of easy access to weaponry. Never. Never. Never admit defeat. Keep digging.
I never have to go back there again but I’m standing
there in my head again, right now.