Recorded @ Albatross Studios, 2008 by Mike Wisti © Cleophone Records 2009
Songs by David Krejci
David Krejci: Vocals, Piano, Organ
Nick Larsen: Percussion, Bass [In the Cemetery]
Mike Wisti: Trumpet
Elaine Evans: Violin, Clarinet
All songs by David Krejci
Reverend Strychn Trio:
Reverend Angus Strychn: Vocals, Guitar, Piano, Organ
Randy Pants: Bass
Bill Dankert: Drums, Background vocals
Mark Hubenthal, Saxophone [Bazooka Joe]
Elaine Evans, Trumpet [What I Know About Ma]
Paul Metzger, Guitar [Buddha in the Basement]
Mike Wisti, Trumpet [What I Know About Ma], Organ [Been My Only Shooting Star]
Recorded @ Albatross Studios by Mike Wisti © 2003 EggBag Records
David Krejci: Vocals, organ, piano, guitar, bass
Fred Votel: Drums
Brien Lilja: Drums
Mike Wisti: Trumpet, background vocals
Elaine Evans: Clarinet, trumpet, saxophone
Paul Metzger: Guitar
Recorded @ Albatross Studios by Mike Wisti © 2002 EggBag Records
Essay on Queer Candy by Brad Zellar: TELESCOPIC SCHISM MACHINE – October 11, 2001
There is a long tradition of perversion in the service of art, and in that regard the Reverend Angus Strychn is an avowed traditionalist. Perhaps, one might say, only in that regard is Strychn working in anything that is recognizable as a tradition.
But: listen closely. Beneath Queer Candy‘s initially imposing welter of signal and noise there is plentiful evidence of what the Germans call Weltschmerz and Weltweisheit –world sadness and the wisdom of the world. Peel away Reverend Strychn’s veneer of decadence and one finds, finally, a man who is not afraid to ask, with Schiller, What is life without the light of love?Listen closely to Queer Candy and you will hear the music of a man who is in full command of his message. Strychn is up front from the get go; there are no accidents–short of birth–in the world of the Reverend, and the very title he has carefully chosen for his latest recording is a bold, confident caveat: this is no ordinary confection. This is queer candy indeed, sour-sweet, likely bad for your teeth, but medicinal in the strictest, Neitzschean sense: What does not destroy me, makes me stronger.
Neitzsche, in fact, would seem to exert a powerful influence throughout Queer Candy–one thinks of his query, “Is not life a hundred times too short for us to bore ourselves?”–yet Reverend Strychn is wary of such connections.”I despise the whole corrupting notion of influence,” Strychn says. “Kill your idols is very much a credo I live by. But if I had to name people who have put their stamp on where I’m coming from I might start with some of the great abusive comedians, masters of the put-down like Don Rickles, a guy who isn’t afraid to work blue and tell the essential truth. There’s something so pure about Rickles; he’s like a Zen master in the way he trashes egos, cuts through all the bullshit, and puts people in their place. I think great art should make you feel afraid and insecure, you know, like it’s your first day in a new school and you’re wearing a really ugly pair of pants and you’ve got a bad haircut and you just know you’re walking right into a shitstorm of abuse and ridicule. Situations like that are like crucibles for great art. They introduce you to yourself.”
Strychn is a tall man, wolfish, with the psychic posture of a question mark. As he hunches in the control room of Albatross studios he looks very much like a man who is shouldering a great burden.
“Music is heavy,” he explains. “Satan weighs a ton, if you see what I’m saying. You’ll never hear me say that I ‘play’ an instrument, or ‘play’ music. I don’t like the connotations of that word, what most people assume it means. I’m working, man; when we’re in the studio we’re working music. It’s like working on a chain gang, or working with a lover, you know? A lot of guys can’t hear what I hear in a piece of music; it’s frustrating sometimes. [Bill] Dankert was accusing me one day of hearing dog frequencies, and I told him that to play with me you have to learn to hear what I call the God frequency. You gotta get dialed in, or you can’t play with the Reverend.”Rest assured that that “darker trip” reaches its full flower on Queer Candy. From the lurching Grand Guignol fantasy of “happytime all-girl glee club slaughter” to the lumbering, distorted cacophony of “more womb to play in,” there is plentiful evidence here of what one critic has called the “adolescent apocalypse fantasies of a terminal armpit ghoul.” So often the sounds seem to emanate from the furnace room of Hell itself, and again and again the scatological barrage sinks to depths of almost unimaginable debauchery. Is there a more pitiable character in all of music than the thoroughly debased heroine of “sandy dog”? Is there a more insidious come on than “rainbow brainglow,” in which the Reverend seeks to strip a young maiden of every one of her most comfortable illusions? And, finally, for those looking for an ultimate anthem for a generation that cares naught for anything, look no further than the nihilist sing-a-long “fuckit cafe;.” Reverend Strychn saddles his nightmare and rides it straightaway into the deepest bowels of Hades, dragging listeners along through the muck and pulling them free at the last, perilous instant, leaving them –exhausted and transformed and gasping like a spent lover–to show their teeth to God, to wonder at the stars. Suffice it tosay that what Queer Candy serves up, it serves up in spades. There have been countless coarse, brutal masterpieces in the history of popular music, and one might convincingly argue that Reverend Angus Strychn has made his own contribution to that vulgar canon with Queer Candy.
Is the Reverend satisfied? “Satisfaction is right up there with the great chimeras of modern man,” Strychn says. “People hear the title ‘Reverend’ and they think ‘holy man.’ I think to be deserving of the title you should strive to be ‘wholly man,’ and I feel like I’m getting there, slowly but surely, and this record is a step in the right direction.”
Near the completion of the recording of Queer Candy I was chatting in the studio with Brien Lilja, who contributed percussion and background vocals to the project. “You know that Euripedes bit that goes something like ‘Whom God wishes to destroy He first makes mad?’ Lilja asked me. “Well, let’s just say that it’s pretty clear that God long ago completed stage one of His Strychn project, and this record is the apparent groundbreaking for stage two, if you see what I’m saying. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.”
Over the course of last spring and summer, I spent much of my time recording an album at Mike Wisti’s Albatross Studio, where I had the chance to hear a number of other projects he was handling in various stages of progress. In a little over a month from now, the Albatross arsenal will unleash a three-band salvo with records by Rank Strangers, Grickle Grass and Chop Logic.
In the meantime, I’ve chosen yet another Wisti-engineered collection of songs to which he hipped me last year. To call the project a local supergroup of sorts would probably be pushing it, especially to those musicians involved, but what the hell? If a strange cast of accomplished locals gets together for the sake of having a good time making a record with each other, and then that record ends up sounding a bit loftier than the initial recreational intentions may have dictated, what to do? Easy. Give credit where it’s due.
The album is entitled Queer Candy (Egg Bag) by Reverend Angus Strychn, and as its name would imply, it’s both mouth-wateringly odd and weirdly delectable. The identity of the Rev seems a little vague, and although I know his name, maybe some people shouldn’t. He started the Paralyzing Doses of Fun back in 1995, and as far as any other available personal information, the Rev offers, “You could say my main instrument is the Hammond organ, and that I’ve played in a couple of outfits both in Minneapolis and New Orleans, if you think that would be of any interest … ”
I’ve never met the man in person, but I did talk to him to collect any thoughts he might be willing to contribute.
“Thoughts to offer? That’s a tough one,” he admits.
“I’ve been recording music in Minneapolis for almost 15 years and nothing came close to the experience of recording Queer Candy. I thought it’d be fun to record slowly, so that all my mood swings along the way would accumulate on the CD. Folding a year’s worth of different spontaneous moments made, I think, a pretty thick record.”
Thick indeed. Queer Candy is recognizably experimental, with veers and near-misses that always hit the right side of the road. Remember, none of this is supposed to be serious, anyway. Beneath the often avant surface, there always lies a twisted beauty of a pop song waiting to be appreciated by the patient and ravenous music fan. Good records either scare the squeamish right away or perturb the goofballs into taking a closer look. Whatever your bag might be, there’s something in The Rev’s for a wide range of music lovers to suck, chew or just break your rotten teeth on before they all fall out anyway.
Although the album’s tooth-shattering qualities conjure images of Bobby Clarke’s craggy grin when he was captain of the mid-’70s Philadelphia Flyers, I’d have to say it’s arty enough to keep it out of that ripe locker room long enough to hang with the stoners and the nerds, too. Never pretentious and always interesting, this eclectic amalgam of songs was hewn by some of the most talented and well respected musicians in town. Hats off to the Rev for his impeccable taste in selecting his starting line.
“The musicians who put their own stuff on the CD put it over the top for me,” he says. “Lilja and Votel’s drums and Elaine’s horn parts blew me away.”
One only need be aware of the double-whammy of not one, but two of the best drummers around, Fred Votel and Brien Lilja. Add Votel’s former T.V.B.C. bandmate, guitarist Paul Metzger, and we already have a lineup of both muscle and finesse. Rounding it out are appearances by Bill Dankert, Elaine Evans, and I still can’t decide whether Mike Wisti is the goalie or the trainer. Despite the strength and speed of his selected skaters, make no mistake that the main puck-handler here is the Reverend himself.
These people are musicians before anything else, yet for such a seemingly self-admitted goof album, it’s still one of the most creative endeavors I’ve gotten my hands on lately. The local music enthusiast will no doubt revel in the keenly recorded mishmash of local sounds and styles that should, by now, be burned into our collective musical consciousness. Although Votel is the only ex-Cow present, that band’s hoarse lowing nevertheless swells up like the hawking of a cud loogie. In fact, the record could be considered a suitable companion piece to 1996’s Whorn, not only for its brashness, but also for its ambitious rifling through the musical wardrobe for odd and color-clashing combos meant to make people’s eyes and ears jump.
Leading things off, “More Womb to Play In” sounds like a plumbing and wiring shop about to assume consciousness. The lead vocals have a touch of David Yow and mumble barely above a belly-button-lint guitar grind, while the layered and hypnotic percussion tracks keep everything slipping along. “Happytime All-Girl Glee Club Slaughter” is the bloody tale of a deranged axe-murderer. Evans plays the saxophones while The Reverend mans, among other things, the sousaphone. The song ends up being a squawking, chaotic rip-hop jazz number that, unlike Soul Coughing’s similar efforts, doesn’t reek of a poetry slam. Votel makes sure he keeps everything in the right jungle with a wild, frantic odd-time improvisational groove.
Next up is “Mitzi Green.” Kind of Rank Strangers-meets-Cows, not in a darkened alley slugfest, but rather a friendly, poppy handshake. Lilja’s virtually perfect ticking drives this one along like a wired car bomb heading straight for the pause of oblivion that separates the tracks. Exploding on the other side of that pause is the Rutmanis-like bloody-knuckled bass-propelled “Fuck it Café.” Here we have a charging yet soothing vent on the horrors of tavern work that proves if rock ‘n’ roll isn’t exactly the cure, it can at least help one cope with the common cold known as your job.
“Sandy Dog,” the tawdry tale of a bad, bad Catholic girl, skips along on sprightly California-like organ, and if snuck into the Beatles’ White Album and played at a party once everybody was really high, five bucks says nobody would notice. Like a lot of the lyrics on the record that express a faux hedonism, “Sandy Dog” is a strange ode to the more casual type bed-buddy. “I don’t mind the hair on her dorsal side / It’s all part of the Sandy ride” and “The canine queen of Catholic tradition / You bring life to sweet fruition,” are chuckle-inducing lines that might not even keep it off mainstream radio. I mean, I thought it was about a guy who takes his dog to the beach for, you know … Frisbee.
Elaine steps up again with the brass on “Randy Pandy Pooh,” a hybrid of James Brown’s Maceo Parker-led horns, and Captain Beefheart’s “Ella Guru.” Strychn manipulates multitracked keyboards that loosely weave in -then back out of-Evan’s beaming and blurting lines. Fred provides the funky beat and a chorus of clowns bellow and howl in true Magic Band fashion. In other words, I’m trying to tell y’all that this is a silly song that’s sure to inspire an equally silly dance.
As soon as the last number ends, an immediate one-two-three-four open high-hat click-off leads into “Sean Allen,” another freaky, spaced out jazz/rock frolic. Makes me think about what Pink Floyd would have been like if they had the punk energy to match their lack of poverty. “Joy” keeps things weird and carnival-like with its fruity sounding keyboards. More Beefheart, and Zappa, too. “Rainbow Brainglow” is a laid-back ballad that rides on Wurlitzer and Farfisa keys and reminds me of any number of ’70s pop songs that rode the airwaves back then, most notably Elton John’s. The opening notes initially made me think of (shiver) Chicago (the band), but as the song progresses, this impression dissipates. Good thing it gets lost in the rest of the song. Phew!
Things get wacky again with a cover of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown’s hit “Fire,” sung in a feverish, helium-constricted vocal, then turned mellow once more with the title track. Here, the Reverend sits alone at the acoustic piano and delivers another ballad of sorts. Despite its subdued nature, “Queer Candy” evokes the pomp and circumstance of Queen, especially Freddy Mercury’s emotive vocals, and all without sounding too earnest. It’s a lovely song that sounds right at home on this island of misfit toys.
Closing out the record is “Denny,” another multitracked piano and percussion piece with the delicate tinkle of ivory set to a churning, hippie-ish orchestral arrangement that has Votel on the tympani. The sitar-like electric guitar often sounds more like a sampled cicada bug whine, while the layered percussion and spacey synth swells lend that “found sound” feeling of the lead track, making it the perfect bookend at the tail of this collection.
Live, the band appears as the stripped-down RAS Trio and features Bill Dankert on drums and Doses drummer Randy Pants on bass. Since the record is such a layered production, the Rev says it would be quite difficult to perform Queer Candy live. Rather, he’s taking a more stripped-down and punked-out approach that he’s not sure fans of the record will take to.
“I know a lot of people will hate the music, hate the lyrics,” he says. “Everyone loves to criticize because it’s so easy. I’m OK with that, now. At 21 it pissed me off. Now, I just say, ‘Cool, you actually have an opinion. At least my music made you have an opinion.’ That’s enough for me.”
It comes as no surprise to me that something so lighthearted is actually more compelling than a lot of “serious” stuff. I’ve always found outright indifference to popular opinion acceptance to be a charming trait. Not that no-talent hacks can continue to suck and not care about it because they think their own joke is funny. But the Reverend and his able crew are hardly hacks-they’re responsible for a most enjoyable album that will likely remind one of local bands of days passed, and yet fly above and beyond that often-restricted template of a regional “sound” that all too often censors itself.
The Reverend Angus Strychn Trio celebrate their CD release with GST on Thursday, Sept. 20 at the 400 Bar. 9 p.m. $5. 400 Cedar Ave. S., Mpls. 612-332-2903.”
Don’t feel left out if you’ve never heard of this particular reverend, who’s really a minister of rock ‘n’ roll irreverence. On his second CD, the self-described no-name Minneapolis musician has assembled a brand-name crew of backup players, including Fred Votel (Cows), Brian Lilja (Slim Dunlap’s band), Bill Dankert (Gear Daddies), Paul Metzger (TVBC) and Mike Wisti (Rank Strangers). Strychn somehow got each player to stoop to his level of lowbrow garage-rock and oddball, trashy humor. Songs include the murderous epic Happytime All-Girl Gleeclub Slaughter, the sexually ambiguous Randy Pandy Pooh and Sandy Dog, a canine love song. The music is a more sophisticated sampling of Tom Waits’ Bone Machine, Jon Spencer’s Orange and the Nuggets boxed set. It never convincingly pulls off any of these styles, but it sounds as if everyone had a good time trying.
NO-NAME MINNEAPOLIS MUSICIAN REVEREND ANGUS STRYCHN STEALS EQUITY OF SUCCESSFUL, TALENTED MUSICIANS WITH NEW RECORDING
Members of The Cows, TVBC, Gear Daddies, Rank Strangers, Slim Dunlap Band and Billy Dankert Band Contribute to new ‘Queer Candy’ CD
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn., July 23, 2001 — A mystifying amalgam of musicians have finished recording the unknown Reverend Angus Strychn’s latest release, QUEER CANDY (EggBag Records). The CD will be available at www.doses.com and local Minneapolis record outlets in next week.
“Why we talented musicians involved ourselves in such a mediocre and over-indulgent rock and roll record, I have no idea,” said former COWS and TVBC drummer Fred Votel. “Brien Lilja (Rank Strangers, Slim Dunlap Band) and myself playing drums on the same LP? Christ. Would you pour GlenFiddich into your Belvedere just to be avante garde? Strychn is a pretentious, unmusical miscreant who expectorates puerile songs of bile.”
Gear Daddies‘ Bill Dankert holds similar feelings. “When the Reverend asked if I would sing background on the record, I thought, no shit Sherlock — of course you want somebody that can sing in tune on your record, it sure as hell ain’t going to be you — so I did it out of sympathy. Now, all I have is regret-and not the good kind, either.”
Strychn (rhymes with high-Kin) performs a variety of instruments on the CD, including Hammond, Farfisa, Chrumar and reed organs, electric and acoustic pianos and guitars, marimba, tympani, xylophone, Souzaphone and lead vocals. Sources close to the project feel Strychn should have turned all performances over to the others in an effort to make a listenable recording, provided someone other than he wrote the songs.
“The brilliant Elaine Evans plays saxophone and clarinet, TVBC’s Paul Metzger plays lead guitar on a song, Rank Strangers frontman Mike Wisti plays a little trumpet, bass and guitar,” moans local music analyst Brad Zellar. “How the hell could he fail? — and with two of the best drummers in this town backing him up, he still manages to sound infantile. It’s a profoundly f***ed up pop record that’s all over the map stylistically and that’s all I can say.”
Wisti also co-produced and engineered the CD at his own Albatross Studios. He has pledged an oath of silence regarding the project based on professional and moral ethics.
Queer Candy comprises eleven originals by Strychn and one cover, “Fire,” by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. The CD is Strychn’s follow-up effort to his dismal 1996 debut recording with The Paralyzing Doses of Fun — a record with five different titles and fewer total sales. Strychn will perform the songs live as a three-piece, with Dankert on drums, and former Doses of Fun drummer Randy Pants playing bass. Strychn has no plans officially to tour as the supporting members from the record are unwilling to continue their association with him.
“Tour with him and play those songs?” said Metzger. “You gotta be out of your mind. I don’t want to get any deeper into this mess than I’ve already gotten. No one’s going to hear the record anyway — so if he doesn’t play live, the inharmonious mound of shit will disappear in a couple weeks–at which point I will say good riddance to bad garbage.”
Zellar concluded: “What slatternly muse inspired this mess? Caveat emptor: This candy’s not just ‘queer,’ it’s poisonous.”