EVOLUTION OF A YOUNG WOMAN AS AN ARTIST

10/5/16
Aquarian Weekly
BUZZ

EVOLUTION OF A YOUNG WOMAN AS AN ARTIST
Songstress Gina Royale Takes The Big Leap

By James Campion

She stands before the microphone the picture of unwavering confidence, sinuously fitted into a scarlet dress; her hair turned from wispy chestnut to a pin-straight, deep black. Gina Royale on stage at New York City’s famous Duplex downtown cabaret for two separate shows over two crucial months of her burgeoning career; one in the relative chill of an early-April, Manhattan night, the other in the steaming bustle of late June. During the first, she introduces her new band, bassist Graham Orbe, Liam Kerekes on drums, and musical partner, Emily Case on guitar and vocals. The second, once again with the same band – this time a few months of shows tighter – is Royale’s CD launch party for her newest collection of songs titled, Brain Waves.gr_1005_03

Royale giggles between numbers, introducing each with short anecdotes of their origins, then looks to the band for a count-in, and it is there; pure and strong, effortlessly filling the room; her emotive, chilling voice takes over. It lifts and tumbles through songs about hurt and confusion, joy and loss. She owns these songs; they are like morsels of her psyche and the voice leads us through her journey. The audience takes a moment following the codas to exhale. Then there is a hoot or a whispered, “Wow’, followed by rousing applause; as the morsels are released back to her. And she giggles again; her smile as infectious as her natural instrument.

The maturation of Royale and her combo is stark. A year or so ago she was a determined but soft-spoken high school kid with big ideas and a handful of catchy songs co-produced by her dad and manager, Andrew Rajeckas, a fine songwriter and pianist in his own right. Back then she talked about school plays, petty jealousies, and snide nods to ex-boyfriends. Now, a year into her studies in the Pop Music Program at William Patterson University, having received praise for a music video for her stirring ballad, “Walk Without Gravity” that increased interest from record companies, and a series of seminal gigs both solo and with the band, she is beginning to ease into tell-tale traces of defiance, a razor-sharp directive, and an appreciation for all that the music has afforded her.

Only moments before, backstage, the members of the band, excruciatingly young with just enough green to allow for snickering and feigned shyness, flop on couches and make passing remarks on the size of the crowd and the minor troubles with the sound check. In the middle of it all, like a port in a storm, is Royale, petite and cautiously energetic. Despite a modicum of brashness and a wry sensuality, she calmly addresses the whirlwind of the past few months.

“I was definitely more comfortable in the studio this time around,” she says, acutely aware of her band mates leaning in to hear. “And I like my music a little more this time too, not that I didn’t like the songs on my first record, Heir, but I think Brain Waves has more personal meaning to me.”

How so? I must ask.

“I’m a pretty passive person mostly, so the last time I sat back and allowed my producer, (Rob Freeman) and my dad to come up with ideas and direction, which was the right thing to do because all I had were the songs and my piano. I had no experience arranging or producing. So, in the end, it sounded little too poppy for my personal taste. Don’t get me wrong, they did a great job, but this time around I was more engaged and had discussions on the sound and direction of the songs.”

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This means being more comfortable in the themes of her songs, which, according to Royale has sparked some maternal concern. “My mom wishes I’d write happier songs,” she smiles. “But I’m confident in facing the sadder themes, because I know I’m not a depressed person normally, I’m just inspired lyrically to express the sadder side of myself. I think if I attempted a happy song it would just come out cheesy.”

There is nothing “cheesy” about Brain Waves, and yet even with Royale’s protestations, there is still a palpable pop sensibility to all the “sadder themes”. The title track, played delicately on ukulele, is an adorable paean to loyalty, in love and friendship. “You’re still here…” she sings sweetly, “You’re still here…” as she dreams of what that means by song’s end; “There’s a masterpiece in your complexity now.” On the other side of the emotional spectrum are the aforementioned “darker” songs like “You Don’t Want Me” or the aptly titled, “Mean Song” with its dire warning, “…look for the clues/‘Cause they all point to you.”

I’m confident in facing the sadder themes, because I know I’m not a depressed person normally, I’m just inspired lyrically to express the sadder side of myself.

The collection’s strongest songs are “Battle Cry” and “Let’s Just Kiss”, the former a powerfully combative rocker that snarls with the best of them; “I’m breaking through the boundaries/You haven’t seen the last of me,” she sings with a wink at empowerment and a fist-pump of vengeance. “And this is my battle cry/And it is war tonight.” The epic resonance of the latter, a wonderfully arranged and emotionally-charged ballad, far exceeds the years of experience for such a young performer who now insists on writing a song about physical intimacy that mocks our limited language and ham-fisted gestures. It resounds as personal confession and social commentary. “Let’s just kiss/Just two lips/A kiss does all the talking, when you’re clueless/Let’s just kiss/Savor the bliss/Before I say something that takes away from this.”

When Royale and the band played this song in early April, the room was stone silent; the players deeply focused on their instruments – the singer, eyes closed and hands sweeping adroitly over the keys, throwing her every fiber into the phrasing. The applause was effusive, as if the crowd was suddenly released from the lyrical plot she cleverly devised to share. And in many ways, the band too could feel the release.

“If you listen to the record and then you listen to the band play these songs, it’s completely different,” guitarist, Emily Case told me backstage in June. “We get to put our own spin on everything; Graham has put his own thing into the bass part and Liam has added quote a bit to the live drum parts. It works!”

“Since I predominately play jazz, I’ve been able to add a jazzy edge to the songs,” cites Liam Kerekes, as bassist, Graham Orbe, who calls himself, “a jazz nerd”, adds, “I think the mutual experience of being in the same music program has created a bond between us.”

“I like everything they bring to the table, because I know them personally,” Gina adds. “I trust their instincts because I know they’ve taken the time and effort to put their flavors into a song.”

gr_1005_02It is clearly evident that Royale revels in the camaraderie of her fellow musicians and remains humble with a keen understanding of the road that lies ahead, but there is a tone to her answers these days that transcends the goal-orientated teenaged dreamer I spoke to in the studio as she recorded her debut in the autumn of 2014. Slowly, but surely, this is now a seasoned professional poised to lead a band through a forty-five minute set of her songs on a renowned Greenwich Village stage.

When she finally does take the stage on that steamy June night there is a polish to Royale’s performance that was absent last year, or even in April. Supported ably by like-minded artists, she works the crowd during songs, where before she would keep a steady eye on her fingers as they crossed the piano keys. She strikes a seductive sideways glance and interacts with her band mates, crucially bringing the audience in when needed.

The band works effortlessly through the split between both of her albums, as if she is acutely aware of the building blocks of these mini-dramas she has put to music, how she grew up and into them, and how they are there to keep her steady. And as they venture boldly into the new material, as promised, it sounds rawer than the disc I was sent a few weeks before its release. There are chugging, distorted guitar rhythms from Case crossing over the steadily whimsical piano accompaniment from Royale, balanced on the jazzy backbeat of Kerigas and a tasteful bottom end from Warby.

Through maturation of experience and the amity of a like-minded musical ensemble, Gina Royale is off and running into the next phase of her career. The evolution of the young woman as an artist has begun.

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VIEWS FROM THE ROAD: THE ADAM DURITZ INTERVIEW

Buzz Feature
8/9/16

James Campion

VIEWS FROM THE ROAD: THE ADAM DURITZ INTERVIEW
Counting Crows Frontman Reveals the Band’s Unique Performing Secrets, His Love of Creative Spontaneity, and Remembers David Bowie and Prince

Over the past eight years now Adam Duritz and I have spent some quality time just talking; much of it has ended up in this paper. Each time Counting Crows comes into town, which is quite a bit, we chat. And each time it is engaging, informative, intimate, and analytical. In all my years doing this I have rarely found a more insightfully honest subject.

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This time is no different, as the band readies another swing around the U.S. this summer; a perfect opportunity for Duritz to share his views on his organically emotional live performances, playing with Springsteen, the passing of David Bowie and Prince, and “normal” life versus that of “the road”.

jc:A Counting Crows show always features unique versions of your songs, as the band often follows your lead on stage, which always appears to be extemporaneous. You get into an emotional state and you take a song into different directions, which is remarkable when considering how many musicians you work with.

AD: Oh, yeah. That’s exactly how it happens. The first time you try something it might not be all that good, but as you work it through more and more you get better at finding your way. But they’re good. It would be impossible if we weren’t. Listening is really everything for us. It’s a big thing in our band. It’s like they say about jazz and soul music, it’s more important what you don’t play than what you do play. I would probably phrase that more like, “It’s more important how you listen on stage than what you play on stage,” because no matter how good you are as a player, if you’re not listening to the other guys, it’s a train wreck, especially in a band like ours, where there’s so much improvisation. It’s not like solo improvisation, more like necessary group improvisation. You really have to listen and that’s the thing we really kind of beat into each other’s heads for a long time.

jc:I always get the feeling that you are kind of leading the band down the proverbial rabbit hole, and once the song gets in there, now it can go anywhere.

AD: Yes. It makes it a little dangerous to not listen for me too because people will do things and on top of it, it’s messy. That’s the one thing in our band that everyone will call you out on, just not paying attention. Also a lot of things that may seem like me leading down the rabbit hole, might have been me hearing something cool someone else did that was a small thing, maybe too simple for anyone else to have heard or for the audience to have noticed it, but that might have given me an idea. It’s not like I’m the one coming up with the ideas every time. It probably sounds like it is, but probably a lot of times; it’s someone else doing something kind of cool that I hear and then I start something different and then that’s the part you hear, or the audience hears because it’s a little more obvious when the vocal does it. I suppose I’m the one making the decisions to take everyone down the rabbit hole with me, but I’m often inspired by just something little someone else did – or not so little. Little is the wrong word. Just something cool that someone else did.

jc:That reminds me of your putting “Thunder Road” in the middle of “Rain King,” and I remember you doing it back in ’97 in Jersey and I thought, “This is perfect. It’s a homage to Springsteen.” But then it became part of what you did with the song, and after we did our first interview in 2008 you played that Apple show downtown in Soho and you did it again, but this time it was a different way of utilizing it. When you include a verse or even a chorus of one song, maybe yours, maybe another’s, how predetermined or organic is that idea?

AD: Could be a little of both. It could be an idea that comes while I’m on stage. The “Thunder Road” thing is a perfect example. I just started doing it one day, and granted, “Thunder Road” is one of those songs that without thinking about it we kind of know it from start to finish. It’s so dynamic in the way it builds that you kind of know most of the words. Even if you didn’t bother to learn them, they’re in your head. I was never really in cover bands very much. I never played “Thunder Road” in a band, but I started singing it that day. The first time I did it I only got about a third of the way through. No matter how well you know “Thunder Road” I’m singing it to the music of “Rain King” and that can get confusing.

jc:(Laughs) Right.

AD: You know? The next night I got a little further through it and eventually I put almost the whole thing in there. But it took a few days to do that. And sometimes you just get an idea while you’re singing something, like just a melody from another song will seem really cool in there, but the first time you do it you might not have the focus or the wherewithal to think of that melody in the context of the different song and also remember the words. The funny thing is a lot of times when we remember songs we remember them because of their melodies too, so when you try to sing them over a different song it can make your head spin around a little bit.

jc: How much post mortem do you guys do on that? Do you guys get together after a show and say, “Oh, that one part of ‘fill in the blank’ we went there and I could see it going there”? Is there any way you can verbalize it?

AD: We talk about it a lot, especially in the middle of a show. If I hear something that we keep doing wrong or something, I’ll go to the mike at the back of the stage where I can talk to my monitor guys and my stage manager and I’ll often just give them a note, like, “Can you just tell Charlie this later or tell Immer this about ‘Good Night Elizabeth’?” I will make quick notes, so I don’t forget. We’ll also talk a little bit about it the next night at soundcheck and work on it.

A good example is the Teenage Fanclub song, “Start Again”. We really love playing it and we didn’t stop working on it even two years after the record (Underwater Sunshine – 2007) was already out. I still kept feeling like it didn’t work right. It starts with just an acoustic guitar and then it’s an acoustic guitar and a mandolin, and there’s some piano that comes in and then more vocals and then the twelve string comes in at one point, but all that’s about two thirds of the way through the song, and for the last third of the song I really felt like it was a song we established through dynamics by slowly building things, but nothing happened for the last third of the song. Then we came up with an idea, I guess it was the last chorus of the double-chorus, to drop all the instruments out and have it just be vocals. I think it happened because someone forgot to play something in one show and one of us noticed it and we talked about it the next day and sort of then tried to do it on purpose. So eventually we then kind of came up with a way of doing it where everybody dropped out except the twelve string, which kept playing.

I really wish we had that when we recorded it, but we didn’t. Even though the recorded version is the ultimate version to me, it’s great if you can come up with all that stuff. But sometimes you just don’t, so why not make the song better if you can?

jc: And the happy accidents only happen if you keep playing. There is no way to get a happy accident or something that’s organic like that unless you’re playing all the time and constantly listening, as you say.

AD: And also being willing to see something as not just a mistake, but possibly an improvement; seeing a happy accident as happy as opposed to just an accident. Because the fact is that music is that way, so people do things because of some gut instinct and often that seems like a mistake and it is a mistake, but the jazz of playing together is that you can hear something and it just gives you a different way to look at the song.

Just the same way that my being in a different mood on any given night might cause me to take a song in a different direction, it’s the subtle stuff that takes it to another level. We’re playing every night for twenty-five years, so, like I say, why not keep getting songs better?

It’s more important how you listen on stage than what you play on stage

jc: The last time we spoke it was probably the day after or two days after Robin Williams committed suicide and then I think that when we first spoke about Somewhere Under Wonderland, Lou Reed had passed while you guys were recording it. And since then David Bowie and now Prince have passed. I’m just wondering if you had some thoughts about Bowie’s passing and certainly Prince’s, who is a little bit closer to our generation.

AD: Well, Bowie was really big for me, because I came to Lou Reed probably through Bowie. I think I got to Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground and all that music through the experience of Bowie, to Transformer and then backwards to the Velvets, probably with a big dose of R.E.M. covering Velvet songs to push me into that too. I mean, I had probably heard “Walk on The Wild Side” when I was a kid, but I don’t think I really understood Lou Reed until I had really gotten into Bowie. He is really the thing that draws all that together; what a song like “Palisades Park” is especially rooted in. It comes from Bowie and Mick Ronson. I obsessed over Bowie bootlegs when I was younger.

That was hard. That was really weird and upsetting. It seemed so sudden too. You’re not part of their lives, so you don’t realize that they’re sick or something. You don’t really know about it. So it seems like there’s someone you have been with your whole life, and then all of a sudden, it’s just on the news that they’re dead and that’s it. It’s hard to digest that in that way because you don’t really get prepared for it. It’s almost like when people die in accidents. It just happens very suddenly and there’s no prep for it because even though this isn’t that, weren’t not living with the lives of our idols, no matter who they are we don’t really know them that well, so when they do pass away it’s, for us at least, without warning, which is strange.

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jc: When Hunter Thompson died or Kurt Vonnegut died, I looked at it in terms of how many more years do I have left to ply my craft? It put my own mortality into perspective. I don’t know if the same happens to you when an influential musician dies.

AD: The interesting thing for me with Prince, because, you know, when I was a little kid my first concert was Jackson 5, and soul music was a huge part of the American rock and roll experience for white and black people. There was no real division there. But sometime in the ‘70s, and especially in the early ‘80s, it separated again. It was like there was R&B music that black people listened to and some white people, and then there was rock and roll that white people listened to and it wasn’t like when there were bands like Sly and the Family Stone or the Jackson 5 or whoever, where there were just black people who played rock and roll and it was funky and it was still rock and roll. There seemed to be a real racial divide in music. The only person crossing over it was when Michael Jackson put out Thriller, but even that was a little later. I really remember pretty vividly Dirty Mind. The first thing I heard about him was that the Stones were going on a tour and this guy Prince was opening for them.

jc: They threw shit at him and booed him off the stage.

AD: Yeah. That’s what I mean about there being a real separation between white and black music. He got booed off the stage! But I remember hearing “When You Were Mine” and some of the other stuff on Dirty Mind, and thinking, “No man, this is the Ramones. This is like punk music. It’s new wave music.” In the same way in the midst of all the dinosaur progressive rock music that people were playing in the 70s’ the Ramones came along and just put guitars and basses on and played very simple chord patterns and melodies. “When You Were Mine” is just like that. It’s a little cleaner, but it’s just a black guy playing a very melodic rock and roll guitar to a very straight drumbeat and a great melody. That could be a Motown song. It could be a Ramones’ song.

And I remember hearing the rest of the album and how vulgar some of it was and thinking it was kind of cool. I didn’t really start to love him until the next record Controversy, which is way funkier than Dirty Mind. Controversy’s got all these long funky jams on it and it really reminded me of like some of the Earth Wind and Fire, Commodores stuff when I was younger, but with this whole other edge to it, and also was still the new wave stuff like “Ronnie, Talk to Russia.” And I remember thinking at the time, “This guy is Sly Stone. There is no color here. He is a black guy playing music for everybody that draws from everything and he is really different.”

jc: You’ve been off the road for a few months now. How are you feeling about getting back out there again?

AD: I think it will be good to get back on the road. I think this much time at home isn’t really all that healthy for me, honestly. It took me about three or four months to realize I was just sitting around. Not talking to people. Not seeing people. I was so relieved to get home in a way that all I did was sit here in my room. Then I started going to the gym again, started working out, and started talking to people and getting out of the house. But I get in such bad habits when I get home after awhile. I’ve been trying to like cure myself of them recently, but it will be good to be on the road again. Not so much for the touring but just because it’s a real community. It’s a family. You’re forced to be social every day, because you’re simply around people every day and that’s good for me.

jc: So you’re going to Europe first and then you come back here?

AD: Yeah. Between the European tours last year I went over to Europe with our tour manager and our manager and I called up a bunch of promoters and we asked to meet with promoters in different countries and apparently no one had ever done this with them before, because the agent comes and talks to them and people talk to their agents, but no one had ever traveled around talking to different promoters. I went to all these promoters in all these different countries and I said, “Look. I really like coming here and I understand that you only get us like once in a while and it’s kind of like whenever we’re coming, and so it may or may not be a good time for you, but do we build Counting Crows in Italy or how do we build Counting Crows in Holland? I really liked Claudio, the promoter over in Italy. He was talking and said, “I’ve got some ideas for gigs, but would also be good is you should open for Springsteen.” And I said, “Well, Claudio, Springsteen doesn’t have openers.” He goes, “I know, but he did it for me once over here. I think he would do it for me again for you.” I was like, “Okay, well…whatever; that doesn’t sound like the most promising idea I’ve ever heard.” But then Claudio called and he said, “I got Springsteen touring in Italy this summer. I want you to play with him at the Circus Maximus.” You know, the big Ben-Hur arena in Rome?

jc: Sure.

AD: So we got a gig with Springsteen in Rome. So we put some other gigs around it, but that’s what happened. Claudio came through.

jc: First time you’re playing with him?

AD: Yeah. At a Springsteen show. I never even heard of him having an opener before quite honestly. It should be cool.

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FINAL THOUGHTS ON ELECTION 2016

Aquarian Weekly
11/9/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

FINAL THOUGHTS ON ELECTION 2016
Rogues, Insults, Sexual Assault, FBI Investigations & Treason

There are a lot of people on both sides of the political aisle who are celebrating the end to this tumultuously outrageous bedlam that has been the 2016 presidential campaign. I am not one of them. In fact, I am bummed. Truly and completely.

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For a political junkie, and someone who has either obsessed over and/or covered these things for decades, the past 19 months have been a glorious ride. The very core of our nation’s grand experiment has been revealed and it is all the things it should be – ugly, petty, furious, passionate, covered in bullshit and innuendo and propped up by shameless greed and the kind of illusions and denial that make this nation the finest example of the human condition known to civilization.

No matter what you say about or think of Citizen Donald J. Trump, he has revealed us. Since the first horde of European land-grabbers stormed the Eastern shores of what would come to be known as North America under the flimsy guise of religious freedom, no one, at least in my lifetime, has embodied our spirit more. What beats inside us is the essence of horror. Its black, soulless innards transformed a minor colonial invasion into a world power, and it bubbles inside the very foundation of a Trump candidacy. He is our Columbus, our John Smith, our genocide and our Manifest Destiny. He is confederacy and Oklahoma City.

And no matter where you fall on the side of Hillary Rodham Clinton, she has revealed our system as a gorging monolith of corruption and hubris. She has shown us, well, Wikileaks, the Russian government and the NY Times has shown us that there are indeed two Americas, and a great many of us are not privy to the more affluent, powerful and sustainable one. The one we inhabit has never known a candidate. This candidate does not exist on this side of the tracks. We are led to believe it does, but it is a fantasy and we live in that fantasy as any J.R. Tolkien character.

It is this ghastly kind of pure, honest beauty that I will miss when everything more or less settles back in and the money takes over and the machine of government grinds again undeterred by what transpired here.

But this has been some ride, huh?

Right now we choose the leader of the free world from a sexual predator with a shadowy business past and the most incoherent ideology possible and a lifer politician with more secrets and shenanigans up her sleeve than even the most rancid of her kind. There have been worse candidates, only, I dare say, no more blatantly flawed ones on Election Day.

It is hard to believe that Madam Shoo-In has survived two FBI probes, possible treasonous secret servers that could well have compromised national security and a weird conflict of interest between her state department and a private multi-million dollar foundation in her name. Then again, her opponent has bragged about and been accused of sexual assault over a dozen times, has treasonous ties to the Russian government that has hacked into our political system, not to mention openly questioning the structural integrity of our democracy while simultaneously undermining a crucial strategic battle conducted in Iraq led by U.S. troops by erroneously pointing out the country he hopes to lead is losing and stupid and wrong.

All the while the Democratic National Committee systemically swayed the primary vote away from what they deemed an unelectable elderly socialist Jew, leading to the firing of its chairman and formidable accusations of rigging. The Trump campaign has fired two of its managers, one for assaulting a woman reporter and the other for his ties to the aforementioned hostile Russian despot that the candidate not only heralds but repeatedly denies national security findings of wrongdoing in influencing the election in his favor.

Trump says Clinton is being secretive, but, despite telling us how much of an economic wizard he is, refuses to release his tax returns. Clinton accuses Trump of being unfit for the presidency, when she could easily be impeached within her first 100 days. Trump calls Clinton corrupt, while he is being sued for two wildly fraudulent “foundations” and some sham university that have all been run like a racketeering mob front. Meanwhile Clinton, whose cash-rich machine hammers her opponent relentlessly in a phalanx of TV ads painting Trump as a negative hate monger. Trump calls Clinton a liar, when nearly everything he says is at best an unintelligible falsehood and worse still, blatant lies.

It is this ghastly kind of pure, honest beauty that I will miss when everything more or less settles back in and the money takes over and the machine of government grinds again undeterred by what transpired here.

Former Democratic Bill Clinton has called his party’s Affordable Care Act “the craziest thing” and one-third of the Republican Party, including many of its most powerful players, has called Trump everything from a con artist to a mentally unstable megalomaniac.

The press had gone off the rails. Cable news networks have turned into de facto fronts for both campaigns – MSNBC airs stories on whatever Clinton needs to win, as in lately the barrage of anti-African American concerns about voter suppression and the dismissal of Black Lives Matters by Trump, and FOX News continues to be an absolute joke with one of its night-time hosts directly advising the Trump behind the scenes while transforming an hour of news time every evening into infomercials. CNN has gone complete nuts hiring former aides to both campaigns and putting half-mad debris you’ve never heard of to literally scream at each other about jailing opponents and having the others deported.

How am I not going to miss this?

I’ll trade this in for threats to shut down the government over some nonsense you can barely pinpoint and veiled attempts to curry the favor of the Latino vote with bad plans on overhauling immigration?

Could we just let both of these lunatics lead us into the 21st century?

Please.

We promise to eat our vegetables, burn our books, salute some cloth and continue to believe we have a damn say in any of it.

But please don’t let this end.

Please.

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SCOTT GARRETT’S INTIMIDATION MACHINE VERSUS ME

Aquarian Weekly
11/2/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

SCOTT GARRETT’S INTIMIDATION MACHINE VERSUS ME
Humorless NJ Congressman Sics Local Police on Lil’ Ol’ Journalist

After last week’s column, the Scott Garrett campaign has waged war on the Reality Check News & Information Desk.

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Its candidate, a humorless shit-heel, has not only ducked my challenge to a fair fight, he has stooped to having his surrogates contact the poor, overworked Newton Police Department, so they can take valuable protect-and-serve time leaning on me. To be fair, the cops were only doing their due-diligence and I do not blame them. In fact, I know they would never say it, in order to appear objective, but I got the distinct feeling from the conversation that they thought the entire ordeal shear madness.

And so, for the record, since this pussy is shaking in his booties and considers my good work “harassment’, I hereby humbly rescind my challenge.

I am sorry Little Scotty. I promise to no longer “harass” you in print or on the phone or in emails or any other place journalism is practiced. You get a free ride to ply your bigotry unhindered.

However, this space shall not now or ever be intimidated by the likes of you or anyone in this government.

As stated last week, pal; you are messing with the wrong scribe.

First off, it would seem the congressman of New Jersey’s Fifth District, my district, is not only a shameless bigot, but he is unfamiliar with satire, which seems odd for someone so rich in characteristics to satirize. He also displays a complete misunderstanding of the concept of the First Amendment. I would venture to say from his actions this week that he is a vehement opponent of this nation’s most sacred rights granted to us by the creator God and the United States Constitution.

To wit: After my selfless volunteering in print last week to administer Mr. Garrett’s long-overdue ass kicking, I took it upon myself to follow up with several emails to his campaign office in Newton, New Jersey. Since the challenge was done with tongue firmly set in cheek – as if I have to make mention of that after nearly two decades of this – I thought it incumbent on me to seek comment from the candidate.

Journalism 101.

Come on.

Alas, there was no comment forthcoming, so I let it go until the piece hit the streets and speak for itself.

If you have not read SCOTT GARRETT NEEDS AN ASS KICKING, I suggest you do so, and unless your brain is made of guacamole, under five years-old, unfamiliar with the English language as a form of communication, or Scott Garrett, then maybe it offends or even shocks you. For the rest of us, it is business as usual here at The Desk; where our souls are hearty and voices lift us higher against the injustices of blah-blah-blah, bullshit-bullshit-bullshit.

Listen, whatever nonsense was in that column, it was written about a public figure, a political public figure who by the way is MY congressman and I presume wants MY vote. And, for that matter, one who has been in this arena for many years. How he has gotten this far with this thin a skin is anybody’s guess, but I think I might be right to question his ability to handle the rigors of this gig or really any gig in the public arena if he cannot take some ribbing from an alt-weekly columnist.

This is especially galling when said columnist not only reached out to confront his subject of derision – unlike most gutless swine who display their rage at rallies by shouting out horrible shit or making signs with horrible shit to lift in crowds or whip off tweets and blogs under assumed names. I am indeed willing to face the music any time any place. Not to mention my putting all of my vitriol under my byline, posted forthwith with pride as a member in good standing of the Fourth Estate. And, to be fair, I do print here monthly the most heinous attacks on my personage in Reader Responses without fail.

Consistency and guts, Mr. Garrett, this is how we do things here in the Fifth District.

Whiners need not apply.

And even if any of what I wrote last week was remotely serious, I was challenging to fight this idiot, not break into his house and beat him senseless. All he had to do is decline. To me. Directly. Like a man. Hiding behind “harassment” and wasting the police’s time trying to frighten me is as petty a response as possible.

How he has gotten this far with this thin a skin is anybody’s guess…

At least in the late ‘90s when I went toe-to-toe with Rage Against the Machine those bastards had the guts to hit me straight on. It would be an honor to go another ten rounds with them right now.

To be certain Garrett understood my aim here, I called his campaign offices, a public establishment, mind you, in Newton, NJ this week to formally make my plea. NOT a private residence, like my home, which the Garrett Campaign calls incessantly without retribution. Until last week, of course. During said phone call, I cordially offered to have the congressman pick the arena – a school gymnasium, open field or a back alley – for our controlled and officiated donnybrook. I also offered to have Channel 12 televise it and sell tickets to give the proceeds to Gay Rights or Planned Parenthood.

But Garrett chose to call the cops and threatened to press charges for “harassment”.

One phone call to make a simple request of my representative is harassment now?

May I offer; this is what is wrong with this country and its congress, with its 12 percent approval ratings. Can’t one man challenge the other to bare-knuckled justice anymore? What manner of man not only ducks this, but then sics the police on another?

Come on, man. Grow a pair and get a joke.

Maybe it’s time to get back into the reality of the private sector, sir.

Yeah, I think that’s it.

Hope these sinking poll numbers are correct.

Time to go, Scott Garrett.

You can’t handle this.

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SCOTT GARRETT NEEDS AN ASS KICKING

Aquarian Weekly .
10/26/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

SCOTT GARRETT NEEDS AN ASS KICKING
I Volunteer

I normally do not write about local politics in this space, despite the fact that this publication is printed in New Jersey and is sold around the tri-state area. Ironically, the few times I have delved into the Garden State weeds it has been picked up nationally. My rocky but ongoing association with the Huffington Post is a prime example. It began many years ago after I basically framed the entire state a quagmire of Mob corruption. They loved this and begged me to blog and then kicked me out after my now infamous Ted Kennedy eulogy. Then asked me back when I berated them for ignoring the Trump campaign as “entertainment”. But, to say the very least, the whole “Mob corruption” meme did not go over well at the Jon Corzine offices, where I routinely received death threats, and subsequently had some knuckle-dragger who drives fat-ass Chris Christie around throw the butt-end of an Italian bread at my head.

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So, to spend a thousand or so words on my local congressman is something of its own story.

Okay, full disclosure; I want to find Scott Garrett, Republican from the 5th District, my district, and beat him senseless with my phone; the same phone robo-called three times a week by his boil-wretched offices to either invite me to listen to some insipid digital town hall or to come out and vote for his pitiful ass. I would not care at this point if Garrett supported every single bizarre, radical, far outside the bounds of human decency issue I hold dear. He dares to call my house, in the evening, when I am hanging with my daughter and blasting the Ramones. Thus, he needs a beating and I need to give him one.

Then, for reasons only known to my caffeine abuse, I really fucked up and Googled this cretin.

Now, I do not believe most of the articles I’ve found on Garrett in the “lame-stream media”, but to be brutally honest, I find myself just southwest of horrified that this bald turd has represented anything to do with me, even if it is ancillary political nonsense.

First off, Garrett, it turns out, is a friggin’ world-class, Grade-A bigot. He is proudly anti-gay, steeped in religious falderal. He reeks of hatred. It steams from his pores like cat piss in the sun and it has apparently gotten so bad the boatload of Wall St. money that has kept this parasite sucking on the public teat since 2003 has run for cover. Most notably, the powerful PNC and UBS banks have sacked him with extreme prejudice.

In the wake of this moolah exodus, Garrett received $145,000 of campaign cash from some shadow fascist organization called The Campaign for American Principles or The Ass-Face Butt Plugs For Jesus, which have been running ads in support of Garrett. According to NJ.com, the group’s founder and head Ass-Face, the pride of Princeton University, Robert George (never trust a man with two first names) has allegedly said he hoped the super PAC would pressure candidates to “come down on the side of religious liberty, of the sanctity of human life, of marriage as the conjugal union of husband.”

My wife is always telling me we are a stone’s throw from Bum-Fuck, but this is ridiculous.

What year is this and where do I live?

I did not set up camp less than 35 miles from Manhattan to have William Jennings Bryan conducting Scopes Trials under my nose.

All this research on Garrett further revealed a Politico report I missed last year where he told fellow Republicans in a closed-door meeting that he wouldn’t pay his dues to the National Republican Congressional Committee because the organization supported gay candidates.

He reeks of hatred. It steams from his pores like cat piss in the sun…

Processing this, I decided the best recourse to my bubbling hate and rage was to drive up to the end of the main Compound here at the Clemens Estate and publicly urinate on his campaign signs, before kicking them onto Route 23. Sipping Hendricks and drawing on a fine Cuban, I watched as pick-up trucks driven likely by his toothless constituency ran over them. It was a good day. And I plan on doing it again, if any of his zombie-eyed goose-steppers set foot near our Free Thinking country hamlet again.

But, if that wasn’t alarming enough, I made the mistake of driving past a giant billboard on Route 17 near Mahwah last week, which heralds in ten-foot letters that this brainless shit-stain is the only NJ representative to vote against banning federal spending for national cemeteries flying the confederate flag.

I Googled that.

Guess what?

Bald Turd strikes again.

Why would Garrett do that? He claims free speech. And no more sympathetic ear can he find for that, but I ask again, why would he do it? And why would anyone in this state not named Goober, Bookie or Weenie vote for this creep?

Is there a groundswell for treasonous fans of slavery in NJ? And if so, why wasn’t I notified?

Not since the Hitler Youth Camps were kicked out of Sussex County in the early-1940s has a more embarrassing level of misbegotten bottom-feeders been better represented in Washington D.C.

I have no idea who Garrett’s Democratic opponent is, or what he stands for, and it is very possible I disagree with most of if not all of it, but Josh Gottheimer is human, which is more than can be said of my new sworn enemy.

And as far as I can tell, he does not need an ass-kicking. Scott Garrett does.

I would like to administer it.

Fists at dawn, Garrett. You and me. No NRA. No Wall St. geeks. No RNC slugs.

You and me.

**Warning to all future candidates of District 5; you had better be careful whom you interrupt at home whilst they are hanging with their daughter and listening to the Ramones.

I thank you for your support.

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AFTER TRUMP

Aquarian Weekly
10/19/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

AFTER TRUMP
What Will Be Left of the Republican Party When Trump Loses?

Despite winning the second debate in a landslide (every poll), it is hard to do well when Paul Ryan and others give zero support!

Disloyal R’s are far more difficult than Crooked Hillary. They come at you from all sides. They don’t know how to win – I will teach them!

Series of Donald Trump Tweets – 10/11/16

The end game for Citizen Donald J. Trump has begun in earnest, and it is ugly, spiteful and completely nuts, but do not be fooled; it is not without method.

As covered nearly two months ago here (LAST GASP FOR CITIZEN TRUMP), the hiring of Breitbart CEO Stephen Bannon meant that soon there would be blood. And after a short dip in the polls for Hillary Clinton in September, followed swiftly by inarguably the worst debate performance ever, its gory aftermath, and now the subsequent complete and total implosion of his supposed campaign, the time has come.

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Trump has, in his words, “taken off the shackles”, going nuclear on every corner of the American body politic, from its standing institutions, its constitutional structure, the national press, of course the Democratic Party, the Clintons, and now even fellow Republicans, specifically Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

After the historic mass exodus of prominent Republicans fighting for their down-ballot lives on October 7 (the day of the “grab her pussy” video release) Trump, egged on by Bannon, whose entire alt-right operation has had a hard-on to destroy the current GOP establishment since 2010, has unleashed the exit strategy – blame, pillory and deflect. There will be no losing; only victimization from the elites who have stolen his prize.

Of course, this is all well and good for the Breitbart brand, the Drudge Report, Rush Limbaugh’s drug dealers, and Jerry Falwell jr’s hooker habit, but where do Republicans go once the insurgency of the Citizen Trump movement shifts from a cult of personality to the core of its ideology?

It needs to be pointed out that for all its blessed wackiness (thank you, Donald, from the bottom of this mostly bored political junky’s heart for stumbling in and entertaining the hell out of all of us), this is indeed a movement. It is real and it is relatively strong, about 33 to 40 percent, and maybe a little more had the candidate not been a stark, raving, crazy man, who is likely a sexual predator.

Still, there is a groundswell for what Trump represents. And as pointed out in this space since September of 2015, the candidate was only part of the story; a story the press rightfully leapt on as ratings gold and Trump exploited in his most media savvy machinations, but one that was merely a sidelight. The other, more lasting story is the fact that the system is fucked and rigged and skewered away from the ordinary citizen and run by lifers who could not give half a shit about what your needs are. People with money and influence make things move, while you get all riled up every four years and cast your little vote and bitch and moan. But it is a charade. The real shifts in the body politic come from time and culture exploited by those who make a living doing this shit.

And while Trump has further exploited issues that aren’t really monumental – illegal immigration, law and order, and some weird things about Muslims, there are real, pressing issues with trade deals and the death of manufacturing, ignoring the failures of 9/11, the Iraq War, and even the Benghazi affair, which the alt-right blew by failing to ask the key question, distracted as they were by trying to bring President Obama in 2012 and then Clinton down before the 2016 election season: Why was there a secret CIA operation being conducted in a U.S. Embassy situated in a war zone and was that mission to arm potential enemies of the United States?

The other aspect of the Trump fallout will be how the party deals with the obligatory accusing of its establishment – the aforementioned Ryan, RNC chairman Reince Priebus, and the host of gratuitous and hypocritical hacks that only jumped ship once the candidate began sinking in the polls – for the defeat. That’s coming. Believe it.

..but where do Republicans go once the insurgency of the Citizen Trump movement shifts from a cult of personality to the core of its ideology?

Well, if the somewhat lukewarm to outright revolt from establishment/elite Republicans and their media outlets after the Access Hollywood tape that put the Trump campaign on life support is any indication, it will be away from a base-oriented struggle to a more of a centrist/electable national party. This means a revision of the post-mortem conducted by the RNC after its 2012 defeat; a renewed outreach to minorities, a serious contemplation to engage in a comprehensive immigration plan, a rejection of science-deniers and a more flexible embrace of environmental issues, most notably the existence of climate change and how decades of pollution has altered it, and a kibosh on religious cultural nonsense like an attack on Planned Parenthood and marriage equality.

But what of the 35 to 40 percent who wants closed borders, no international free trade, extreme vetting, zero environmental regulations, the eradication of Planned Parenthood, and a modern police state? Who “deals” with them?

Speaker Paul Ryan’s feckless teeter-totter “support” of the party’s ticket is a grand example of the difficulty in walking this tightrope. It ended up the following Monday teetering out of the Trump business, thus abandoning a third of his party, which has given Bannon the hammer he needs in Trump to make it personal and thus blood sport. Trump has already added to these diatribes dressed up as stump speeches that there is a “sinister deal between the Democrats and Ryan” to demolish the movement. The collateral damage of which will be on VP Mike Pence, the heretofore “values candidate”, whom I assume has designs on remaining a viable cog in the party machine once this doomed run is over. Where does he end up in all this?

No matter the size and scope of Trump’s defeat in a few weeks, the party will have to “deal” with his constituency, which is real and unflinching and now really, really pissed that it has been set adrift by the keepers of the GOP keys; and if the Breitbart conspiracy model is any hint, it is going to believe it was duped and ripped off and ready to make mincemeat out of anything that reflects a non-Trump world view.

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THE JOKE’S OVER

Aquarian Weekly
10/5/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THE JOKE’S OVER
Donald J. Trump – Myth Buster Busted

The concept of the Donald J. Trump run for presidency remains the same today as it did the day before his epic fail during the first of the scheduled three presidential debates this past week: He is still the political grenade that has been celebrated in this space since last September when it became almost certain that he would have an impact on the 2016 race. His candidacy is still very much needed to shake the foundation of an irritatingly stagnant, systemically biased, and mostly broken political landscape that allows for creatures like Trump to emerge. But after what I witnessed for over 90 minutes on September 26, the idea that somehow this outsider business mogul cum reality TV star could actually be a viable chief executive of the largest economy and most powerful military on planet earth is kaput.

I am writing this for my well-informed, educated, and politically savvy friends, family and colleagues, who are Trump supporters, who have made salient arguments for his candidacy for months now. Those who are not the deplorable; you know, racist goobers, who think the Chinese, Mexicans and Muslims are stealing their jobs and their country is ruined by darkies and think pinching women’s asses and calling someone a Negro is their God-given right and that gays are going to hell and that the gun is a proper substitute for their penises can stop reading now – if, in fact, you do read.

Those 90 minutes in front of a record 84 million viewers has eradicated any and all plausible reasons why Trump could govern anything at any time with even the remotest efficiency, never mind be president. And this does not mean he is disqualified. Not as long as our list of presidents include Andrew Jackson or James Buchanan or Richard Nixon, but as debates will do, and should do, the veil as been lifted on this particular canard.

This was the political equivalent of Milli Vanilli.

Anyone under 40 please Google that.

The emperor was stark naked.

There was no beef.

Al Capone’s vault was empty.

Remember when Trump said he had proof Barack Obama was not an American citizen, and then he didn’t have anything? This was that. Remember when Trump said his casino would change the economic landscape of Atlantic City, and it didn’t, and then he closed it? This was that. Remember when Trump said the USFL would be the prominent professional football sports league in American and it was soooo not? This was…you get it.

Trump not only shat all over that stage that night, he illustrated in every possible way everything the well-informed and politically savvy opponents of his candidacy have argued against him. He could not have been more ill-prepared, unhinged and clueless. Worst still, he showed no signs of being able to defend himself or launch a cogent or even coherent argument against a vulnerable opponent. To wit: When accused of not paying taxes, he agreed with this sentiment, and then said he was smart to do so, pretty much mocking the rest of the tax-paying nation and in turn dismissing the most fundamental aspect of our democracy; you know, the taxation/representation bit.

But perhaps his greatest crime, besides being woefully unaware of the activity and assignment that he was presented months ago, he failed to broach many of his most ardent points for his being there in the first place; building a wall at the southern border of the nation, for one glaring example.

There were moments when Trump looked and sounded like he was either drugged or had just woken from a grandpa nap. And although there were reports for weeks that he was arrogantly unmotivated to prepare for the thing (his campaign said he was “the Babe Ruth of debaters”, that is if it is the ten hot dogs and sixteen beers before the first inning Ruth we’re talking about) and had never actually debated anyone (fourteen people speaking for two minutes and standing around for fifteen minutes while other people talk is a showcase, not a debate), this was as if he was shocked to be there and asked questions.

Sure, everyone expected Trump to blurt out the most blatant misinformation possible, like ISIS being in 30 countries, and the crime rate in NYC being up, or not admitting to his own quotes about climate change or supporting the war in Iraq. And, of course, he would insult women, misunderstand the plight of inner city black youth, break records for non sequiturs, do the pout thing, and exhale “Wrong!” at every turn. But his repeated defense of unconstitutional laws, excusing Russia (AGAIN, what’s the deal with that?) against evidence that the country has been hacking into his opponent’s servers, and an alarming confusion on how the nation’s nuclear triad works is beyond inexcusable.

The great negotiator and winner of all mano-a-mano tests got schooled. Badly.

But none of that really matters for those of us who see Trump as a symbol and not a legitimate candidate. Who didn’t think Hillary Clinton wasn’t going to beat him in a debate; a woman who over prepares for everything and has the minutest detail of every morsel of minutia that passes her desk? However, with her penchant for condescension and unable to connect to non-politicos and the usual creepy Clintonian stuff that gets in the way, this observer was sure it would be a beating, but not the annihilation we witnessed.

Here is where the joke is truly over for Donald Trump; your candidate is supposed to be tough (he was steamrolled) excellent at one-and-one negations wherein he dominates and makes people pay for walls and restructure trade deals and cower from his mighty presence (he lost every tussle that night save for four minutes on trades deals and that was a layup). Trump was so utterly subjugated by his opponent there were times I felt sorry for him. Then he got angry and started referencing Rosie O’Donnell, his 10 year-old kid, and a 400 pound hacker. The great negotiator and winner of all mano-a-mano tests got schooled. Badly.

The entire “Believe me” and “I got this” and “I’m the only one who can fix this” shtick was turned into a gooey mess of nonsense.

This was the most important chance yet in this election season for your candidate to at least display the very tenets of his purpose for running as “a movement” – he “wins”, “all the time”, and “big league”. He lost, severely and embarrassingly; looking petty, and stupid and overwhelmed. He became the caricature of his worst personality traits and proved the fears people who do not like him and are afraid of him have; a guy who woke up six days ago – not fourteen months ago – and decided he’ll try this president thing.

It would be as if Clinton showed up that night with a phone in her hand told people to give her a minute while she checks her private server for classified info she can send to her friends, who helped her cover-up the Benghazi attacks and then shifted their money over to a secret slush fund through the Clinton Foundation.

Trump may be an effective tool to mock the system, show Obama and Clinton and the progressive left that this country is not changing for the worse, and he may say things you think and appear like he could be an entirely new and effective president in an age when trust in politicians and their institutions are at a new low, but Donald J. Trump as a serious candidate for president is a joke and that particular joke is over.

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TIME FOR CHRIS CHRISTIE TO GO TO JAIL

Aquarian Weekly
9/28/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

TIME FOR CHRIS CHRISTIE TO GO TO JAIL
Obstruction of Justice, Perjury, Abuse of Power

Time for our governor to go to jail.

He won’t.
But he should.

It is apparent now, as the so-called “Bridgegate” trial begins, that for whatever the motives, or who may have been directly responsible for, and what eventually resulted from the fallout of the illegal George Washington Bridge closing of September 9 through September 13, 2013, the governor of New Jersey knew about it. Whether he cultivated it through a general atmosphere of tactical, systemic bullying or a direct edict, or whether he heard a joke about it in his Trenton offices or maybe knew the next day or even two weeks afterwards, Chris Christie, in fact, knew.

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This is the complete opposite of what Christie has told investigators and the public for two years over several press conferences, TV appearances, and ass-kissing Trump-fests. We call this in the biz “obstruction of justice” with a possible dollop of perjury thrown in for good measure. It also implicates him for the first time in a court of law for what the Port Authority deemed a “threat to public safety”.

Seems as if Christie’s own quote of “abject stupidity” by his staff now falls squarely in his ample lap – where it rests nestled next to his boyhood friend, a squirrely little shit named David Wildstein, one of the most notorious political attack dogs on the always rancid Jersey circuit. Wildstein has sung his song to the prosecution and will soon drive the stake in Christie’s back and bury the governor of New Jersey.

Of course, Wildstein, who has already pled guilty to federal crimes, is fingering everyone in sight for immunity from his years of malfeasance in service to Christie’s political fortunes. The investigation has revealed that the governor routinely referred to his personal Igor (a man he told reporters he “barely knew”) as “The Cleaner”, or “Winston Wolf”, the mob cover-master played by Harvey Keitel in Quentin Tarantino’s masterwork, Pulp Fiction. Michael Baldassare, the lawyer for defendants Bill Baroni and Bridget Kelly, who are also taking the fall for these half-assed shenanigans to allegedly punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for failing to endorse Christie in the 2013 gubernatorial election, called Wildstein “a miserable prick” in court in a torrent of abuse aimed at throwing the blame upwards.

And the only further up the prick you can go is Christ Christie.

Now, like the recent pass the FBI gave Hillary Clinton’s national security clusterfuck, the prosecution has left Christie out of legal harm’s way for now, concentrating on his surrogates, Baroni and Kelly, and using Wildstein to lay the hammer down. No one in Christie’s administration thought his old high school buddy would sell them out, but once “a miserable prick” always a “a miserable prick”, and now the boot-kicking shoe is on the other foot and it is aimed at the Sunday spread over at Drumthwacket, where the noose tightens.

Amid prosecutor Vikas Khanna’s opening argument this past week was the following; “The evidence will show that Baroni and Wildstein were so committed to their plan to punish Mayor Sokolich that during those precious moments they had alone with the governor, they bragged about the fact that there were traffic problems in Fort Lee, and Mayor Sokolich was not getting his calls returned.”

A video from this moment exists; showing Christie and his boys laughing and whooping it up like something out of The Sopranos. Good times.

And here we are only a couple of years later, and one is likely going to jail, and other may send the governor into impeachment hearings.

Now the boot-kicking shoe is on the other foot and it is aimed at the Sunday spread over at Drumthwacket

According to Middlesex Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the leader of the N.J. Legislature’s 2014 investigation of the bridge scandal, there has already been “serious discussions” on proceeding on such a measure due to “a confluence of individuals who are all saying the governor wasn’t telling the truth.”

Of course this is unlikely to happen for one clear political motivation; Chris Christie is a doomed man, anyway. His approval ratings hover around George W. Bush-like 26 percent and his lapdog obedience to the Trump campaign (the GOP presidential candidate is far below his national average in this state and some 15 points behind Clinton) has made him look desperate and silly. Moreover, Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey Kim Guadagno is far more popular and would give the Republicans the only chance to retain the seat of executive power in next year’s election.

In other words, business as usual in the Garden State, where politics is akin to blood sport played by bottom-feeders.

The chief bottom-feeder is the governor and he should go to jail for it.

But he will not.

And he will not be impeached.

And if by some miracle Donald J. Trump should find himself president, Christie will likely become Attorney General of the United States.

And judging from the rogue’s gallery that has held that position over the past forty years, it is fitting.

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WHY NOT ALICE?

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Cover Feature
9/21/16

James Campion

WHY NOT ALICE?
As Chaos Reigns: The Coop Launches Late Run for the Presidency

“A Troubled Man for Troubled Times!” reads the banner unfurled on main streets and town squares everywhere across the fruited plains. A rendering of a recognizable face adorned in disturbing deep-black eye make-up grins like the Cheshire Cat beneath the quaint tip of a top hat – his long, ebony locks drape the shoulders of his alabaster tuxedo. He is impish and defiant, a past filled with triumphs, resurrections, and a whole lot of rocking.

Alice Cooper wants your vote for president this fall.

“Do you know how un-political I am?” he chuckles down a phone-line from Nashville, Tennessee, somewhere along the campaign trail. “I can’t imagine why anybody would want to be president!” A welcomed sentiment for an electorate whose majority not only sees corruption and failure in government, but a foul distaste for the current front-running candidates from both major parties.

Why not the Coop? Why not now?

“Yeah…why not me?” he exclaims with the strident glow of a contender. “I have tee shirts to sell!”

The man who defined shock rock, parody, satire, and non-de-plume celebrity has been married to the same woman for 40 years, stone-cold sober for over 30, and still humbly travels with his beloved pet snakes. Hell, he plays more golf than Barack Obama, and that’s saying something.

After a stilted but lucrative run back in 1972 (If we elect Alice, no Watergate, right?) on the fuel of the raucous, campaign-ready release of the iconic single, “Elected”, which was noteworthy for being the most expensive single in Warner Bros storied history ($10,000 – about 57 grand today), for reaching #26 on the U.S. Billboard charts and #4 in the UK, and later to be included in the international #1 album, Billion Dollar Babies, he is once again primed and ready to go.

“The kids need a savior, they don’t need a fake!” he shouts above the din of raunchy electric guitars and the pounding of tribal drums, as salient an observation today as ever.

There is a wonderful promotional (campaign?) film from the period that depicts a visibly soused Cooper stumbling from a blood-red Rolls Royce, pompously adorned in his signature top hat and tails (sans shirt), clutching a cane and later a can of Budweiser, shaking hands and raising his arms in mock victory. He cavorts mischievously, surrounded by secret service and swooning women. Later he is joined by members of the original Alice Cooper group and a chimp in a tux smoking a cigarette while pushing a wheelbarrow full of cash, which the band tosses around like confetti.

It is hard not to see these images as nothing but prescient in these times when nothing less than a billion dollars can get you a sniff at the White House and unchecked funds pour from anonymous sources to peddle influence all over our body politic.

So this ain’t Alice’s first rodeo, as they say. In fact, it was an honor to tell him personally that in 1988, faced with a similar dilemma of rancid candidates and the restlessness of fleeting youth, I actually wrote in his name…well his given name, Vincent Damon Furnier as my candidate of choice.

Now, tanned, rested and ready – out on tour with a smoking band, a wonderfully bombastic remix of “Elected” – and a show that features a finale of fisticuffs between Madam Hillary and the Trumpster, The Coop takes time out from his busy campaign schedule to discuss his role in America’s political landscape, his bizarre but well-framed platform, an endearing friendship with Groucho Marx, the blessings of image over the banality of substance, and dining at Castle Dracula with Tim Burton.

james campion: Why Alice, and why now?

Alice Cooper: You’ve got some guy that keeps shooting himself in the foot every time he opens his mouth and then you’ve got another candidate that nobody trusts. Alice Cooper is probably more trustworthy and less chaotic than all of them. But of course I would hate the job; I couldn’t take the pay cut for one thing. Plus, I want to keep my hair dark not white. Every guy goes in with dark hair, comes out with white hair, because they’ve got the burdens of the world on their back.

There are so many people out there that want to be involved in how the political system works and how the game is played and the chess moves and this and that and to me that is the most boring thing in the world. It looks great when Kevin Spacey does it, but in reality it’s just the biggest chess game of all time and I’m much more interested in writing new songs. So to me politics is so much on the back burner that I believe I may be the most viable candidate.

jc: You’ve released a remix of the 1972 single, “Elected” to kick-start the 2016 campaign, as you did in 1972.

AC: That song is so satirical, and of course, we had such a great target for satire in ’72; Nixon. Who is more evil, Alice Cooper or Nixon? At the time that was kind of what the point of it was. Who was more absurd; myself or the President of the United States? And so now every four years it raises its politically ugly head and here we are this year in one of the most absurd elections of all times.

jc: The story behind recording the song and getting it ready for the election in the late summer of 1972 is fantastic: Produced by the legendary Bob Ezrin, your partner in crime, there are sixteen horn section overdubs on it, took you guys weeks to record it, you ended up doing the vocals in front of a mirror, as if you were giving a speech, and then you guys spent a record 80 hours mixing it. Tell me about “Elected” in 1972.

AC: The pure idea behind that song was a tribute to The Who, because it had those big Pete Townshend power chords. (sings) TA-DA! BA-DUH-DUN-DUN! DUH-DUH-DUN! We were kind of tippin’ our hat to Pete Townshend on that whole thing, and my natural way of writing songs is to tell a story. I always loved the way Chuck Berry told a story or the way Ray Davies told a story and I wanted to tell a story. Bob is the one that really turned it into the epic that it was with the (sings descending guitar riff) DUN-DUN-DUN-DUHN-DUN-DUN-DUN-DUN-DUN-DUN-DUN-DUN! It sounded like an American anthem, something that should have been written by Sousa, and yeah… it was way over-produced compared to anything else we’d ever done, but it just sounded so great on the radio.

I remember John Lennon came to our office in New York City on 13th Street and he listened to the demo tape of it like three days in a row. Finally, I passed him in the hall and he goes, (in Lennon voice) “Great record,” and I went, “Oh, thank you.” Then he took another two steps and he looked back and he goes, “Paul would have done it better.” And I went, “Well, yeah, of course he would have. He’s Paul McCartney!” But John loved that record, because it really had that power and it was satirical and it was something that he totally got. He was very cynical about politics and he understood the musical satire of it.

jc: It does sound like a big, sweeping band is ushering you on stage to make a political speech. Like everything you and Bob did, and still do, it’s very cinematic. You get the whole picture from that song. It’s brilliantly done.

AC: We always treated the studio as if it were a theater. When I sang “The Ballad of Dwight Fry”, they put me in a straight jacket and put a door on top of me, so I sounded even more stressed out. We always experimented on how to make this sound real. This guy really wants to get out of there. And for “Elected”, we asked; “How do we make this sound like a political speech and really make it sound convincing and take it up a notch?” Bob was not against bringing people into the studio as an audience, because I played better in front of an audience. From my remembrance of it, it was just a matter of let’s just sell this like a Southern diplomat. I mean, let’s just make this guy sound like he’s ‘top prime cut of meat’.

“Yeah…why not me? I have tee shirts to sell!”

jc: The remix sounds even larger, if that’s possible.

AC: And for this stage show, we actually have Hillary and Trump come out, except that they look like zombies. We kind of tapped into Walking Dead and I said, “We can’t just have them come out. They’ve got to kind of look like they’ve been through hell.”

jc: Which they have.

AC: They come out and shake hands and she turns over and he can’t help himself; he pinches her on the butt and then she turns around and smacks him and then he smacks her back and then they look at each other and she falls into his arms with this gigantic kiss and the audience just dies laughing. Of course after that there’s a fist fight and I just order them off stage and I get up in the podium and point to myself like, “See?! I’m the guy!”

jc: This harkens back to when Nixon resigned and you guys did the ’74 Muscle of Love tour, and the band ended shows with you beating Nixon up on stage.

AC: Right. We beat up Nixon on stage. We beat up Santa Claus on stage. At the very end of the show anybody that should never be beaten up was beat up. The funny thing about this is, in all honesty, and like I said, I’m not politically correct, I’m politically incoherent; Nixon in 100 years will go down as one of the greatest presidents because of his foreign policy. He brought Russian and China together. He brought America into that. He was actually the best foreign policy guy I think we ever had. He wasn’t very good at home or around Watergate, but internationally the guy was pretty good at what he did. And he just happened to be involved in the Vietnam War. That was the thing where the kids were so angry with him. Our government was all wrong and everything. I think that started out as a righteous war and became an unrighteous war.

jc: I want to discuss some of your platforms that I received from the campaign. My favorites are “a snake in very pot, getting Brian Johnson back in AC/DC, adding the late Lemmy from Motorhead to Mt. Rushmore, a total ban on talking in movie theaters, mandatory cup-holders for airplane seats, and a moratorium on taking selfies, except on Designated National Selfie Day”, but the one I wish to address is putting Groucho Marx on the $50 bill. I know that you knew Groucho personally. Tell me a little bit your relationship.

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AC: A lot of people don’t realize this, but Groucho, as much as he pretty much ran the Marx Brothers and was the quickest guy ever – I mean, he couldn’t go five minutes without doing three one liners, eighty-six years-old and he was still sharp as a tack – he would actually consult Presidents of the United States. They would write to him and say, “Groucho what is your take on this guy Tito? What is your take on this guy Castro?” He was a Kissinger kind of character to presidents. He wasn’t just a humorist. He was actually a pretty good judge of character. He could be used to feel people out. I read some of the letters to Groucho from heads of state and you could tell they knew this guy’s serious.

jc: He was a brilliant man.

AC: He really was. To be a good comedian you really do have to be very bright. You can’t be a dumb comedian. I don’t think there are very many dumb comedians, because you have to get what’s going to make people laugh. You have to understand how to set people up for the laugh. I think comedians are some of your most intelligent people.

jc: Speaking of which, we’ve previously discussed the humor and subtext of Alice Cooper, but here you have Groucho, who is a comedic character using makeup hanging out with Alice, a satirical character in makeup. I think it’s fantastic. You’ve always displayed great humor behind your work, so there was always the kind of intelligence behind it you’re talking about here. You’ve always been my hero for exploiting the guise of the anti-social behavior Alice Cooper was accused of incessantly.

AC: Yeah, I think it took a while for the public to get the fact that there was sense of humor behind Alice Cooper. In the beginning, it was just all Satanic. “This is Satanic! This is Un-American!” and “Blah! Blah! Blah!” on and on. We couldn’t have been more American! Three of the guys in the band were four-year lettermen. We were jocks. We came from really good homes. We didn’t come from broken homes. We were just All American, and maybe it was from associating with Groucho and (Salvador) Dali that we leaned towards the satirical artists, and we considered how to make Alice Cooper that also. We were already judged as being something that should never have happened and yet it took a while. Maybe it took me being on Johnny Carson a couple of times before people went, “Oh, wait a minute. This guy plays Alice Cooper.” It was like playing Dracula or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It took a while for them to understand that Alice Cooper was a character that I created.

jc: Well, people naturally conflated Chaplin with the Tramp or Bela Lugosi with Dracula. Bela Lugosi couldn’t shake that throughout his life as an actor.

AC: Yup. I’m like that. I didn’t want to see William Shatner in anything except Captain Kirk.

jc: Right!

AC: You know what I mean?

jc: I sure do.

AC: I never wanted to see Errol Flynn without a sword in his hand, because they were so good at that character that you just didn’t want to see them in any other part. I’m kind of like that with the guy that plays Dexter. I don’t really want to see him in anything except Dexter.

jc: Last thing; I know that you’re in Nashville now and you’re going to be working with Bob Ezrin on new material. I worked off-and-on with Bob for a year on my last book (Shout It Out Loud – The Story of KISS’s Destroyer and the Making of an American Icon) and I know how much he means to you. Give me a little taste of what you guys might be doing for a new record.

AC: Well, we already started. Last night was the first night that we actually talked about direction. And we’ve already come up with 25 great ideas and you know today is going to be one of those days where it’s a lot of, “Oh, that’s a great idea, but wait a minute!” That might be over the top! But there’s no such thing as ‘over the top’, ‘Oh, right!’”
This is the fun part for me, because this is the creative edge where you do a lot of laughing!

jc: Well, I know it’s going to be interesting and cinematic and all those things, because it always is. I love when you guys get together.

AC: It will be! It’s cool, because I know that we’re a hard rock band. It’s going to be a guitar-rock thing. That’s always what it’s going to be and I know what the lyrics are going to be already and I know what direction it’s taking already. Now it’s going to be fun to shape it.

jc: You said the last time we spoke that you and Bob are like Tim Burton and Johnny Depp.

AC: I was actually at Castle Dracula with Johnny Depp and Tim Burton this year! When the Hollywood Vampires tour had a day off we were in Romania and we had dinner at Castle Dracula.

jc: Perfect.

AC: And Tim Burton came along with us. It was the perfect threesome. We had the whole band there, but you know if you’re going to be there, be there with Tim Burton and Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp.

jc: Before we part ways, I wanted to ask you about Joe Perry, who had the medical scare during your Hollywood Vampires tour. How is he doing?

AC: Joe is great. You know, five days after this happened he was on stage with us in San Francisco and finished the tour out and I never heard him play better. I never saw him look better.

jc: That’s good.

AC: I don’t think it had anything to do with his heart. I think it was just exhaustion. You know, what we didn’t realize was I’m used to doing five shows a week, full out. I think he’s used to doing two shows a week with Aerosmith. I mean, they had a pretty hard life early on, where as I quit everything 35 years ago. I didn’t really take into consideration; this was our eighth show in 10 days in Brooklyn. He might have just been dehydrated or exhausted or whatever it was. We found out later on that it was definitely not his heart. He’s fine. I think he’s already gone to Australia or South America with Aerosmith.

jc: And you keep on running…

AC: Bye-bye!

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THE GARY JOHNSON FACTOR

Aquarian Weekly
9/14/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THE GARY JOHNSON FACTOR
Libertarian Candidate’s Mighty Wrench

Full disclosure: I voted for Gary Johnson, 2016 libertarian presidential candidate, in 2012, and I will likely do it again. This is not stirring news for those familiar with this space, as stated before, since 1980, my first year of voting at 18, I have only cast a ballot for a major party candidate twice; 2000, for George W. Bush, as an anti-Gore vote, and 2008 for President Obama, because of generational affinity. But this is not a column about why anyone else should vote for Johnson or to endorse him. This is to point out that he is affecting the landscape of this election unlike anyone since Ross Perot in 1992 and again in 1996.

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This has less to do with Gary Johnson than his two national party candidates.

Famously, or infamously, if you happen to be a fan of George H. W. Bush or Bob Dole, Perot unquestionably skewed the numbers that eventually elected William Jefferson Clinton twice with less than 50 percent of the national vote. The independent candidate in ’92 received nearly 19 percent of the popular vote, an unprecedented number, which was a reflection of his polling 39 percent that summer before he ceremoniously quit the race under some cloud of paranoia and fear of the Clinton Machine. In 1996, as a Green Party candidate, he garnered a still impressive 8.4 percent of the vote. In neither election did Perot, a fiscally conservative, anti-government business man, (sound familiar?) nab a single electoral vote, but he certainly pulled enough from the Republican candidate to usher in two Clinton administrations.

Gary Johnson is not playing on that kind of lofty pedestal… yet. Right now, depending on the poll, the libertarian is hovering around eight to nine percent of the popular vote. In some states, however, much more important than this popular vote nonsense (ask Al Gore about that), he is gobbling up 12 to 15 to even 18 percent. Most of that, it appears, is Bernie Sanders cast-offs and some conservatives either in the brushed-aside Ted Cruz camp or those distrustful of a Republican candidate who a mere two years ago was giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to his opponent and the foundation he now gratuitously attacks as corrupt.

What is not up for debate is Johnson’s effect on a pretty sizable percentage of normally Democratic voters; young people to be exact. While Clinton has cornered the market on minorities and women, she is woefully behind in a key demographic of the famed Obama Coalition that helped elect him twice in overwhelming electoral victories. This youth voting block potentially makes up 31 percent of the electorate, but historically, including in 2012, only 46 percent manage to actually vote. Millennials are the worst culprits of this. They have voted less than any previous generation; however a huge portion of them voted for Bernie Sanders and are showing no signs of voting for either major party candidate.

Although a July poll (before either candidate’s conventions goofed up the polling) showed Madam Shoo-In ahead among under-30 voters by 35 points, she is now around 20 percent. But the same polling indicated that Gary Johnson was pulling in a third of the youth vote, mostly under 20 – the “legalize pot, stay out of stupid wars I might have to fight in, and what’s with all the gay bashing and anti-pro choice shit?” vote). This is slightly less now, but still impressive. It should be pointed out – and to be fair there was no viable third-party candidate either time – Obama dominated the youth vote by twice as much as his Democratic successor.

Any way you slice it, Gary Johnson is a factor in 2016, which is why he should be allowed to debate on September 26, something, not ironically or coincidentally Bernie Sanders has fully endorsed.

This is important because this is the only voting block Clinton has left to exploit. The Never Trump Republican movement, many of whom, as mentioned above, are either trying to run a Mormon third-party guy, escaping to Johnson, or writing in Wendell Willkie, has peaked. The fact that Trump is only holding three-quarters of his own party, where the last GOP nominee, (who you might have heard, did not win) had 96 percent is as alarming as it will get.

What is not up for debate is Johnson’s effect on a pretty sizable percentage of normally Democratic voters; young people to be exact.

Polls that have tightened in late August/early September have mostly done so in a wave of anti-Clinton sentiment, as discussed last week, due to new evidence of shenanigans over at the Clinton Foundation, the State Department, Big Bill’s secret hideaway bungalow, and other unexplained phenomenon, while Trump’s immovable ceiling has remained between 42 and 44 percent at its peak and in the high 30s when he has Twitter wars with celebrities and says U.S. generals suck and for some interesting reason begins hinting at things he “feels” during highly classified pre-election briefings.

Speaking of faux pas, and a rather enormous one, this week Gary Johnson did not know what the hell, never mind where, Aleppo, Syria was. This is in the wake, mind you, of the usual media deluge of coverage of a refugee crisis that has been plastered all over the news and the Internet for months, and more recently this week. For informed voters and news-nuts and the media brethren, this glaring fuck-up far outweighs an obviously overwhelmed simpleton vice president in 2008, who knew less about anything than probably anyone running for elected office, trying to name something she reads. And that is saying quite a bit.

But you know what? This is not going to matter to most of Johnson’s libertarian voters, namely me, who wish they didn’t know what Aleppo or any festering boil in the Middle East was. In fact, this is the final charm of Gary Johnson, who, now that Trump has announced he wants annex Iraq in perpetuity to pillage oil from a sovereign nation that we’ve pummeled into ally status, is not interested in the least in what is going on anywhere but here.

Although, Jill Stein is looking awfully good right now.

Wait, goddamn it! Did she just get arrested?

Screw it.

Kanye West 2020!

Wait…

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