Saturday, January 24, 2009


Beginnings of the Rivalry

In August 1995, Matador Records CEO Gerard Cosloy took a dig at Virgin Records and Richard Branson at that year's Grammy Awards; announcing to the assembly of artists and industry figures: “Any artist out there that want to be an artist and stay a star, and don’t have to worry about the executive producer trying to be all in the videos…all on the records…dancing, come to Matador Records”—a direct reference to Branson’s tendency of ad-libbing on his artists’ songs and dancing in their videos. With the ceremony being held in New York, to the audience, Cosloy’s comments seemed a slight to the entire East Coast major label scene, and resulted in many boos from the crowd. Branson attempted to defuse the growing hostility in the air with a speech denouncing the rivalry, to little avail. Later that evening, a stripped-down performance by Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich was jeered by New Yorkers in attendance, to which Nastanovich famously responded, “The East Coast ain’t got no love for Pavement and Stephen Malkmus and Matador Records?!”

Tensions were escalated when Cosloy later attended a party for producer Steve Albini in Chicago. During the bash, a close friend of Cosloy’s was fatally shot outside. Cosloy accused Branson of having something to do with the shooting. The same year, Cosloy posted the $1.4 million bail of the then-incarcerated Malkmus, in exchange for his signing Pavement to Matador Records. Shortly after the singer/guitarist’s release in October 1995, he proceeded to join Cosloy in furthering Matador Records’ feud with Virgin Records.

Pavement vs. The Smashing Pumpkins

From late 1995 into early 1996, Pavement aimed various threatening and/or antagonistic slants at the Smashing Pumpkins, Virgin as a label, and anyone affiliated with them. While the Pumpkins were commercially successful, they were not universally adored by the alternative rock community. Pavement’s 1995 song "Range Life" refers to the band with the lines "Out on tour with the Smashing Pumpkins/Nature kids…ah, they don’t have no function/I don't understand what they mean/And I could really give a fuck", which has been widely interpreted as an insult (although Malkmus has stated "I never dissed their music. I just dissed their status."). The song’s harsh content was viewed by some detractors as Malkmus having gone too far and taking the feud to another level. However, other participants in the indie scene had derided the band as careerists since their early days. Former Husker Du frontman Bob Mould called the Smashing Pumpkins "the grunge Monkees", and musician/producer Steve Albini countered that the Pumpkins were no more alternative than REO Speedwagon and said they were "pussy-ass niggas" and "stylistically appropriate for the current college party scene, but ultimately insignificant". However, others such as Courtney Love of Hole (who dated Corgan before marrying Nirvana's Kurt Cobain), as well as others who also dated Corgan before marrying Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, were vocal supporters of the band.

During this time, although Billy Corgan never directly responded, the media became heavily involved and dubbed the rivalry the Indie Rock Wars, reporting on it continuously. This caused fans from both scenes to take sides with one set of artists or another.

Pavement vs. others

In addition to the Smashing Pumpkins, “Range Life” also insulted Stone Temple Pilots. Lead singer Scott Weiland stated he would not return the diss because he felt Malkmus was trying to gain fame by insulting him.

End of the Feud

In March 1996, during the Grammy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles, there was a confrontation in the parking lot between the respective entourages of Virgin and Matador records in which guns were drawn. Although an armed standoff was all it amounted to, it was becoming readily apparent to indie rock fans and artists that the situation was escalating into a serious issue. Local papers referred to the situation as, “the indie rock version of the Cuban Missile Crisis.”

Not long after, at the MTV Video Music Awards in New York, Scott Weiland and Malkmus also confronted each other outside the venue. Though accounts from Snoop Dogg and Weiland himself somewhat vary…most agreed that Malkmus said he would remove the insults to Weiland from the next Pavement album, if Weiland would in return refrain from insulting him. Their previous verbal abuse was, as found in the meeting, based on publicity. The media’s sensationalizing of the Indie Rock Wars, meanwhile, fueled record sales. Although Weiland kept his end of the bargain, Malkmus was killed before he was able to do the same.

On September 7, 1996, Stephen Malkmus was shot five times in Las Vegas, dying six days later from respiratory failure and cardiac arrest on Friday, September 13. Six months later, on March 9, 1997, Billy Corgan was shot and killed in Los Angeles, mirroring Malkmus’ murder. Both murders remain unsolved today, while numerous theories (some of them conspiracy theories) about their deaths have been pondered.

Following the Rivalry

The outcome of the feud (significantly due to the deaths of Malkmus and Corgan) would shake the culture of indie rock, changing the way label affiliations were both handled by artists, viewed by fans, and reported on by the media. In 1997, several rock stars, including the surviving Silver Jews, Soundgarden and that band that did “Sex and Candy” met at the request of Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Ulysses, and pledged to forgive any slights that may be related to the rivalry and/or deaths of Malkmus and Corgan.

Following the death of Malkmus, most of Matador Records prominent artists departed the label. Afeni Malkmus, Stephen’s mother, sued the label for allegedly cheating her son out of millions. Gerard Cosloy, meanwhile, was incarcerated for unrelated probation violations. This bad turn for Matador Records led, in turn, to a long lull in the mainstream popularity of indie rock, leading some fans to believe that indie rock was being blacklisted. Since his 2001 release from prison, attempts by Cosloy to revitalize his label have been largely futile.

Though Virgin Records hasn’t suffered a collapse as steep as that of Matador Records’, it too has seen its fortunes decline. In the late 1990s, Virgin label head, Richard Branson (who now calls himself “R. Biddy”) began recording solo albums and earned considerable commercial success as a recording artist, but saw his sales dwindle with each subsequent effort. More recently, however, Virgin Records has struggled to remain commercially competitive, due to a lack of marketable talent and allegations that Branson is now more concerned with his other ventures (e.g. his attempts at an around-the-world balloon flight).

At the MTV Music Video Awards, in September 1999, Afeni Malkmus and Voletta Corgan (mothers of Stephen Malkmus and Billy Corgan) publicly met on stage in a show of solidarity. Ms. Corgan also offered to help Ms. Malkmus investigate Stephen’s death. While rivalries between indie rock and major labels continue to exist, since the murders of Malkmus and Corgan there has not been a rivalry of such magnitude. This may be due largely to the fact that, seeing the outcome of this episode (though no physically sustainable connection has been made linking the actual homicides of these two slain rock stars to their rivalry), artists and prominent industry figures have been mindful of tempering battles and commercializing contention, in a seemingly direct attempt to prevent them from reaching this level.

Friday, January 16, 2009


My story is laid in Spain, in Seville, in the most terrible time of the Inquisition, when fires were lighted every day to the glory of God, and in the splendid Ministry of Mental Hygiene and Prophylaxis the wicked heretics were burnt.

Carl Petersen visited his children only for a moment, and there where the flames were crackling round the heretics.

Carl walked through the Town Hall Square, and the little girl sat up in the coffin and looked around, smiled with wide-open wondering eyes, holding a bunch of white roses they had put in her hand.

Carl entered the steel enamel labyrinth of the Ministry, strode to the information desk, held out his finger and bid the guards take him.

He came softly, unobserved, and yet, strange to say, everyone recognized him, reporting for a ten o’clock appointment with Doctor Benway in the Ministry.
And such was his power, so completely were the people cowed into submission and trembling obedience to him, that the crowd immediately made way for the guards, and in the midst of deathlike silence they laid hands on him and led him away.

“Fifth floor…Room twenty-six…”

In the pitch darkness the iron door of the prison was suddenly opened and Doctor Benway himself came in with a light in his hand.

“As if he had nothing to do but wait for me,” thought Carl…

“Hurumph,” he said finally…”Your name is Carl Peterson, I believe…”

For the first time the doctor’s eyes flickered across Carl’s face, eyes without a trace of warmth or hate or any emotion that Carl had ever experienced in himself or seen in another, at once cold and intense, predatory and impersonal.

He pushed his glasses back into place with one finger and opened a file on the white enameled desk.

“Mmmmmmm. Carl Peterson,” he repeated the name caressingly, pursed his lips and nodded several times. He spoke again abruptly: “You know of course that we are trying. We are all trying. Sometimes of course we don’t succeed.

“But let me tell you that now, today, people are more persuaded than ever that they have perfect freedom, yet they have brought their freedom to us and laid it humbly at our feet.

“Do you know that the ages will pass and humanity will proclaim by the lips of their sages that there is no crime, and therefore no sin; there is only hunger? ‘Nothing is true; everything is permitted’, as the saying goes.” His voice trailed off thin and tenuous. He put a hand to his forehead.

“In the end they will lay their freedom at our feet and say to us, ‘make us your slaves, but feed us’.”

His voice boomed out so unexpectedly deep and loud that Carl started. “That is the only function of the state as we see it. Our knowledge…incomplete, of course,” he made a slight gesture of depreciation…“For example…for example…take the matter of uh sexual deviation.”

The doctor rocked back and forth in his chair. His glasses slid down his nose. Carl felt suddenly uncomfortable.

“No, we care for the weak too. They are sinful and rebellious but in the end they too will become obedient. They will marvel at us and look on us as gods, because we are ready to endure the freedom which they have found so dreadful and to rule over them – so awful it will seem to them to be free.”

Carl suddenly felt trapped in this silent underwater cave of a room, cut off from all sources of warmth and certainty. The doctor was suddenly motionless. “So long as man remains free he strives for nothing so incessantly and so painfully as to find someone to worship.”

The doctor was studying the file in front of him. He spoke in a tone of slightly condescending amusement: “They have set up gods and challenged one another, ‘Put away your gods and come and worship ours, or we will kill you and your gods!’”

The doctor suddenly threw himself back in his chair and burst into peals of metallic laughter. Carl watched him appalled…“The man is insane,” he thought.

“Don’t look so frightened, young man. Just a professional joke. The secret of man’s being is not only to live but to have something to live for. That is to say…reassurance when reassurance is necessary…and, of course, the condition is no more directly contagious than cancer. Cancer, my first love,” the doctor’s voice receded.

Carl was in a room filled with green light. There was a stained wood double bed, a black wardrobe with full length mirror. Someone was sitting in a black hotel chair. He was wearing a stiff bosomed white shirt and a dirty paper tie. The face swollen, skull-less, eyes like burning pus.

The doctor’s voice was barely audible. “Why don’t you make the Grand Inquisitor a proposition?” He jerks a head towards his glowering super-ego who is always referred to in the third person as “The Lieutenant” or “The Grand Inquisitor”.

“That’s the way the Grand Inquisitor is, you play fair with him and he’ll play fair with you…We’d like to go light on you…If you could help us in some way.” His words open out into a desolate waste of cafeterias and street corners and lunch rooms. Junkies look the other way munching pound cake.

“For having begun to build their tower of Babel without us, they will end, of course, with cannibalism. But then the beast will crawl to us and lick our feet and spatter them with tears of blood.”

A green flare exploded in Carl’s brain.

“We shall show them that they are weak, that they are only pitiful children, but that childlike happiness is the sweetest of all.”

The flare went out. Some huge insect was squirming in his hand. Carl’s whole being jerked away in an electric spasm of revulsion.

The doctor raised a coy admonishing finger. “Oh, we shall allow them even sin, they are weak and helpless, and they will love us like children because we allow them to sin.”

He tapped the file and flashed a hideous leer. Carl noticed that the file was six inches thick. In fact it seemed to have thickened enormously since the doctor entered the room.

“But tomorrow I will condemn you and burn you at the stake as the worst of deviants. And the very people who have today kissed your feet, tomorrow at the faintest sign from me will rush to heap wood on your fire. Do you know that? Yes, maybe you do know it,” he added with thoughtful penetration, never for a moment taking his eyes off Carl.

The old man longed for him to say something, however bitter and terrible. “Where can you go, Carl?”

But Carl suddenly approached the old man in silence and softly kissed him on his bloodless aged lips. That was all his answer. The whole room was exploding out into space.

Doctor Benway shuddered. He went to the green door, opened it and said to him: “Go, and come no more…come not at all, never, never!”

And he let him out into the dark alleys of the town. Carl Peterson went away.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Track One (2:08)

Robert Cohn was once middleweight boxing champion of his spinal column and now all of a sudden he’ll have no control of a doorless car.

It is impossible for man to really transcend human glasses, and I was holding a plunger in the picture just to be really Princeton.

Do not think that I am very much impressed by that she was crying and bleeding, curled against the toilet.

Oh, and it moved her hand around her breasts.

She was now talking of flesh and rationality.

This is what the Peyote Church is: sexual desire.

On the surface these two actions, they nurtured it and they believed in it and they made you believe in it as a boxing title, but it meant a lot to Cohn.

He cared nothing for her hands up as if she were praying but with her hands (an inch) hands held there in the positions dictated, the film she touched would die.

She believed that she had some terrible ethics of sympathy, of personal devotion on records in 1976.

They took it to the English kids and from there to boxing; in fact he disliked it, but he learned it painfully and thoroughly.

Track Four (1:52)

He would hit all these high schools, nice boy, he never fought except in the gym.

He was Spiders, Gremlins and Pacers, Mavericks and Hornets, Pintos, international bound for Stuttgart or Milan, peering down at us.

She asked for God’s help.

He appreciated their being with forces – that is, leaving his mother behind – and the vaginal pus, somewhere among the filthy hypo syringes and Kelly’s star pupil.

Spider Kelly taught all his young gentlemen to drinking at a pub near the castle where every day busloads of English knees and thighs arrived.

Despite its servo-brakes and Power All-Night Native American Church Meetings, knowing of my mind perfectly at rest there’s nothing about taking acid on the Santa Monica Pier.

I couldn’t help zeroing in, box like featherweights, no matter whether they weighed one car waiting for me.

I know where all the skeletons are.

Consider the deliberate destruction of expensively engineered Robert Kennedy in 1968.

Track Six (4:23)

The most discerning ethicists have shown dripping letters and showed him with his shirt off with makeup - a certain satisfaction of a strange sort, and it certainly improved the bass tracks, that it screws with his biorhythm.

The last time we created by the multiplying technologies of the twentieth top tipi hole.

I was floating, looking at myself disembodied.

What happens to me happens through me, and something like the Ramones, but a little more…well, more his nose.

In his last year at Princeton he read too much running through the vaults and galleries of her innards at two in his garden.

Can you see them in one of magic?

The road man took the coal out of his mouth, placed claim to this war.

But in addition the war is mine because by body and they knew everything about new music and they dressed and took to wearing spectacles.

I never met any one of his class said she wanted to get pregnant.

She said she wanted to have my headlamps.

She sat beside him, now treatment seems so simple.

It is also rather frightening to reduce him to an object.

The effect of all materialism started to really come together as this weird little community who remembered him.

They did not even remember that he was the size of an egg cup, and she would sit there at her desk in the ramp of the flyover, the traffic lanes were packed with Vietnam.

After the war, when he was living in Phoenix, sometimes can adapt the world and its possibilities to my band.

For better or worse, my work was displaced historically.

I, middleweight boxing champion, hammered that beautiful mister angel face, first with the bony circus hand.

I recognized him as one of the stuntmen at peaceful tipi.

I felt a giant ball well up in my throat, but there is no doctrine more optimistic; since you’re that young, you don’t think you’re ever gonna see your family again.

Friday, January 2, 2009


NOTE: This is a literary remix of WSB's "Roosevelt After Inauguration", a conservative fantasia imagining the worst for the country after FDR was inaugurated. If anyone got here by using a search engine, it's just a joke, folks. Go search out Burroughs' spoken word version of the original piece for a real thrill.


Immediately after the inauguration, Obama appeared on the White House balcony, dressed in the purple robes of a Roman emperor and leading a blind, toothless lion on a gold chain, and hog-called his constituents to come get their appointments. The constituents rushed up grunting and squealing like the hogs they were. Men who had gone gray and toothless in the faithful service of the Republican Party were summarily dismissed in the grossest terms, like “you’re fired, you old fuck, get your hemorrhoids outta here” and in many cases, thrown bodily out of their offices. Pimps and drug dealers of the lowest caliber filled the highest offices of the land.

When the Supreme Court overruled some of the legislation perpetrated by this vile rout, Obama forced that august body, on threat of immediate reduction to the level of Congressional lavatory attendants, to submit to intercourse with a purple-assed baboon. So the venerable honored men submitted themselves to the embraces of a lecherous, snarling simian while Obama and his strumpet wife and the veteran brown-nose Joe Biden smoked a communal crack pipe and watched the lamentable spectacle with cackles of obscene laughter. Justice Clarence Thomas succumbed to a rectal hemorrhage on the spot. Obama only laughed and said coarsely, “Plenty more where that came from”. Biden, unable to contain himself, rolled on the floor in psycho-panic convulsions saying over and over, “You’re killing me, chief, you’re killing me!” Then Obama appointed the baboon to replace Justice Thomas, so henceforth the proceedings of the court were carried on with a screeching simian shitting and pissing and masturbating on the table and not infrequently leaping on one of the justices and tearing him to shreds. “He is entering a vote of dissent,” Obama would say with an evil chuckle.

The vacancies so created were invariably filled by simians, so that in the course of time the Supreme Court came to consist of nine purple-assed baboons. Obama, claiming to be the only one able to interpret their decisions, thus gained control of the highest tribune in the land. Then Obama gave himself over to such vile and unrestrained conduct as is shameful to speak of. He instituted a series of contests, designed to promulgate the lowest instincts of which the human species is capable. There was the Most Sedentary Contest, the Pimp My White House Contest, Molest a Child Week, Perform Your Own Abortion Week, and the coveted title of all-around Vilest Celebutante of the Year. Obama was so convulsed with hatred for the species as it is that he wished it degraded beyond recognition. “I’ll make the cocksuckers glad to mutate,” he would say, looking off into space as if seeking new frontiers of depravity.