Tuesday, August 24, 2010
JOHN D. MORTON INTERVIEW
Some years ago I discovered the electric eels cd 'Eyeball of Hell' cd. The cd was a collection of the band's rehearshal and home tapes recorded around 1975. The opening track 'agitated', with the lyrics, ' It's five a.m. and I'm crawling the walls, waiting for imaginary telephone calls, you know what I think, I think the whole world stinks, and I don't need no shrink, I just hate it,' had me hooked in. After reading up on the history with the stories of fighting, being banned in clubs, fighting with policemen, leaving town from fucking too many husband's wives, you knew this is what punk rock should be.
Actually most of the reports of violence, and fucking, seem to concern the guitarist John D. Morton, so who better to ask questions to? I emailed John, who is also a fine artist, to ask him some questions.
Go buy everything you can of electric eels and say hello to John HERE
and visit his electic eels site HERE
GVE: I read at that at the start of The Electric Eels you saw yourselves as art terrorists and nihilists.
JOHN: F.Y.I. (with out snottiness) electric eels is not capitalized. Dave E.'s call.
I stridently was (and am) a nihilist. Nihilist, as in ‘nothing can be proven.’ I did send death threats to artists I didn't like and suicide notes to other people, like my mom. This was born of the Dadaist tradition.
GVE: For you, do you think the electric eels achieved everything you set out to do?
JOHN: No, we fully expected to be a mammoth success on the level of Roxy Music, the Stooges or the Dolls. I am grateful that the eels received some degree of posthumous recognition, but I really was looking forward to driving around in that god damn gilded fucking Hummer.
GVE: You had this reputation as a kind of tough guy who liked to fight and fuck (Stories of beating up policeman and having to leave town from fucking too many men's wives)
JOHN: Yes, tough & fuck was true. Along with nihilism was a deadly combination of a giant sense of entitlement and grandiosity.
GVE: Was this really true and was the music you were producing a real representation of your character?
JOHN: Yes. Ear splitting industrial guitars and lyrics like (mine) "Giganto has had it with you, Fucks." & Dave E.'s "You know what I think? I think the whole world stinks & I don't need no shrink, I just hate it." That was our character.
GVE: For me you were tougher, cruder, louder and with more attitude than all the other punk bands that followed. . What did you make of the punk explosion?
JOHN: Left out & "Oh, now you get it!"
GVE: The electric eels (and even your newer band The New Fag Mother Fuckers) set out to offend and shake shit up (the use of the swastika etc Which seems to offend people even though you are Jewish)
JOHN: Paul Marotta stated the situation accurately when he said, "I thought we were Lenny Bruce, our friends thought we were Adolf Hitler." I am not Jewish (but my sister is, does that count?) The following is not a justification to my use of the swastika; A number of bands with Jewish members used the swastika and Nazi memorabilia, The Ramones, The Dictators and Kiss (well, Kiss was never punk.)
It was my (or our) wish to shake people up, however people just saw a swastika and reacted. Do you think calling the people that were previously known as Indians, ‘Native Americans’ settles our distribution of small pox blankets? Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. I could go on FOREVER on this subject!
Finally, to quote former San Francisco State University president, S. I. Hayakawa. Hayakawa was called a pig during the 68-69 student strikes. As a semanticist, he knew in fact he was a human being and not a pig, so his reply to the taunt was, “I am not a pig.”
GVE: What first got me into your work was the awesome cover of the Eyeball of Hell. Can you tell me how you got into art and what were your influences?
JOHN: I was precocious in art. I was kicked out of Sunday School (Lakewood Congregational Church) when I depicted a crayon tableau with the church afire. There were all these neat portrayals of beatnik (Tuli Kupferberg preferred the term bohemian) artists in the movies when I was growing up in the 60's. Louie Nye riding a tricycle dripping paint off the back wheels in 'The Wheeler Dealers' says to a visitor, "If you're going to walk on my canvas, the least you can do is put a little crimson on your soles." Paul Newman in ' What a Way to Go! ' and Sir Alec in 'The Horse's Mouth.' It seemed like such a wonderful life. I wanted to go to espresso bars and be served macchiatos by Walter Paisley (Dick Miller's character in Corman's "Bucket of Blood.") Since I no longer take drugs or drink I have been relegated to making my own espressos at home. Hey! Where's my fucking beret?
GVE: what were your influences?
JOHN: Art came first. Being a musician was part of art for me. The Dadaists, early conceptualists, Rodin's 'Thinker' (our Thinker (cleveland's) had been blown up with a pipe bomb, cool,) The ‘Armor Court' @ the Cleveland Museum of Art replete with a giant [fake] Rubens 'Diana and Her Nymphs' featuring a plethora of naked breasts and horny satyrs. A painting of St. John's head being served up on a platter. What could possibly be better?
GVE: What's your preferred medium?
JOHN: I have worked in almost anything. Computer generated work, drawing, sculpture, painting, photography, performance art (see 'Johnny & the Dicks'). It depends a lot on time and space and available funds.
GVE: Your websites you designed are great, I saw you studied web design. What made you want to get into that?
JOHN: I thought I might earn a little do-re-me. It was the first time I worked with computers. I was surprised to find out I was good at it. The Dot Com biz dove and I was left with a creative skill that doesn’t earn money, like the rest of my many esoteric avocations.
GVE: Is art and music a full time job or do you have another job now?
JOHN: Last year I grossed over $700 in art & music combined! I am formally trained as a alcohol and substance abuse counselor. I'm endeavoring to gain employment in the field. What else is an old junkie to do?
I am hoping to cash in big with my memoirs. So far I only have the title, "I."
GVE: Any projects/shows etc coming up that you want to mention?
JOHN: Re-releasing the X____X singles with additional material is being bandied about, and my unauthorized autobiography, "I" which should be out in early 2011. I am doing comedy videos on YouTube which I am sure will lead to a grass roots swelling that I am sure will lead to a lucrative stand up career.
GVE: Finally, what for you is Good (something you really enjoy) and what is Evil (something that really annoys you?)
those cute little knives that they slash open poppies with.
(These knives are actually sickles (because of their curved blade ) so they are called "poppy sickles.")
war in Afghanistan.
Photo by Michele Zalopany