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Gene Booth

Lead singer for USA , has also done some work with Chestnut Station (Link needed). He was a member of the often-heard-about-seldom-heard Chicago trio Mantis  with Rian Murphy and Dave Marr.

I remember the first time I saw him in Hyde Park in 1987, he had a Husker Du T- shirt on.  I guess my subconsious replied "yes."

He turned me on to Squirrel Bait, the Pet Sounds album  and The Replacements.  After finishing a theology degree at NYC, he moved back to Chi-town and then headed to Las Vegas with his girlfriend. He came back and was a spokesman for Drag City for a while. He self-gens an amazing amount of energy which he transfers to people in a universal donor sort of way. 


Weirdo British rock band Flying Saucer Attack is more conflicted about commercialism than Taylor, but the group is also happy about its Nike deal. (Flying Saucer Attack, on Chicago's ultra-hip Drag City label, specializes in droning guitar feedback and slow-motion drums.)

"This is either the subtlest version of capitalism to date," says Gene Booth of Drag City, "or--as a Flying Saucer fan--it's great news. Nike is using music in the mainstream that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago."

Ultimately, Booth says the good of having underground music in Nike commercials outweighs the bad, but he remains skeptical. "There's definitely a trend in corporate America to access this notion of cool to appeal to the young audience, and it has been cosmetic," he says.

Drag king Gene Booth refers to Smog's current output as "The Mature Phase," which makes sense. Early Smog albums like Forgotten Foundation and Julius Caesar were more like inspired mix-tapes than albums, incorporating song fragments, tape splices and other staticky silliness.


Feb 7 @ the empty bottle 2000

Saturday, August 19 9pm-2am CINEPHONIC The Hideout 1354 W. Wabansia (773) 227-4433 Admission $5 Michael Galinsky, Suki Hawley, Gene Booth, and Bob Ray. Braden King and Michael Krassner of the Boxhead Ensemble. Califone Bablicon Featuring selections of music and film created for this evening by these multitalented performers. Insound.com will feature videos on bands/labels with strong Chicago ties. Presented by Insound.com.


Camper Van Beethoven - Telephone Free Landslide Victory Click here to see this CD at Amazon.com!

The Camper's first album appeared between R.E.M.'s birth and a time when there were no more rules to break in American rock, with an attitude split between the Dead's looped, arcane optimism and an upbeat cynicism that later became known as indie rock. Instant classics such as "Oh No!" are interspersed with instrumentals such as the joyous blue-beat of "Border Ska" (which never predicted the Mighty Mighty skacore mire). It's collegiate psychedelia, '80s style, endeavoring to utilize a different style of music for every song, with rich ethnic referents subbing for "intense" jamming. They stood apart from 10,000 jangling R.E.M. imitators, and their "kitchen-sink-too" style has been absorbed by Dead-inheritors such as Phish (albeit sans punk roots; see CVB's folky take on Black Flag's "Wasted"). The humongous titles, the album and band names, even the sheer volume of tiny catchy tunes (17!) point to a willingness to flout convention by doing everything at once. --Gene Booth

The Fall- wonderful and frightening world of


Velvet Underground

1969: Live With Lou Reed, Vol.2
It's the rarest of live albums whose songs add anything to the majesty of the original studio recordings. This one adds immeasurable data to the Velvet's story. Without 1969: Live we might never have known that they were more than just an art outfit, that they could actually rock with fury. Check out Reed's strumming on "What Goes On" if you want to have your mind blown. None of these staples of the V.U. catalogue can be truly known without hearing these fully formed, fleshed-out versions, so for history's sake alone we must treasure this. History's tragedy of course is that we get to hear the excruciatingly light applause--it sounds like there's only 10 people in the room at some points--after each course in ass kicking. They were wrongly under-appreciated in their time, and for this we must all pay forever by playing this record constantly. --Gene Booth
Review copyright Amazon.co.uk

In 1973, fed up with Bryan Ferry's domineering in
Roxy Music, Eno leapt into a solo career that would find him championing the "art" in "artifice." This record is a who's who of the then-burgeoning English art-rock scene, featuring Robert Wyatt, Robert Fripp, and every member of Roxy Music except its leader (thus answering the musical question, "What if Eno had helmed the third Roxy record instead of Ferry?"). Warm Jets sports a lightheartedness that was a refreshing antidote to the pomposity of Yes and ELP on the dark side of art-rock's spectrum, with nonsensical, sound-based couplets such as "Oh headless chicken / How can those teeth stand so much kicking?" This debut is a milestone not just for Eno, but for all rocking music. Listen to Fripp's furious guitars on "Baby's On Fire" and "Blank Frank." It's incredible, Velvet Underground-inspired rock in a scene that had forgotten what rocking meant. --Gene Booth

LOST IN TRANSLATION: ENO review above in Japanese


   1973???????·????????????·?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????·???·???·????????????????????????????·??????????·???????????????????·???????????????????????????????????????3???????????????????????????????????Warm Jets??????·???????????????ELP???????????????????????Oh headless chicken(???????) / How can those teeth stand so much kicking?(?????????????????????????) ?????????????????????????????Baby's On Fire???Blank Frank???????????????????????????·???????????????????????????????????????????(Gene Booth, Amazon.co.uk)


Dinosaur Jr. - You're Living All Over Me

Kinks Face to Face

CAN Ege Bamyasi


...But the piece I did on the Who's BBC Sessions for the Chicago Reader got me an actual printed-out-and-mailed letter from Gene Booth, which was way better written than my actual piece--he starts "You have hit the nail on the head once again in your assessment of the mechanics of a song and a band, but this time the nail was sticking out of my ear. You see, THE WHO are my all-time favorites, the ones I sing at dusk. My road, my crutch, and my throne." --and goes on to list "The Who's Top Ten Greatest Mistakes," in the sense of mistakes they made that turn out to be great ideas.

Masters of forthcoming albums arrived in the mail this week from the Mass Producers and the In Out. I'm very happy about this.  -Douglas




Gene Booth Known from: USA.

BRUCE: The visual style of Palace's albums and singles and the Palace Records - they're very beautiful objects. Do you have a group of friends that are visual artists, that you go, "That's a great photograph or drawing, I'd like that on an album." In terms of Gene Booth doing the cover of Arise Therefore, was the drawing there before, or was it done just for the album?
WILL: Visuals are very important. For Palace Records everyone puts their own designs together. Gene's drawing was done just for Arise Therefore. I asked if he would draw a cover for the album. He had a tape of the record, and I asked him because he played guitar on this last tour, the last tour just before we were recording. It was about a month worth of shows, and he would draw very intense, detailed flyers for every show. He made them on that day - the day of the show. He would xerox ten copies and just put them up, around, right before the show, but each one was so spectacularly different - it was hard to believe that they could come day-by-day from the same pad and be executed in that way. He also did a T-shirt that's still available in the Drag City catalogue - it's from that time, it's just great. Gene worked on a few drawings and then we just decided on one. I think about half is asking people to do things and half asking if we can use things that we've seen.

Comics in Rocktober?

Shellac the futurist: The boys did an album of music for some sort of dance production, and decided to press it to vinyl and give it to 779 of their closest friends. The band apparently wants the record to not get into the hands of anyone besides the original recipient. Each recipient's record has their name circled in silver ink. This is so that if any of them turn up for sale, the band will know whose copy it is. 




by Chad Bidwell

Why would you choose USA as your band name? I still don't know. I'm still learning how to conduct a successful interview, and I definitely learned some more things not to do during an interview. Still, even after I made the mistake of introducing gender issues, this was entertaining. I think I may have mentioned this previously, but what appeals to me so much about USA is their ability to play pop music without following many formulas, patterns, or expected pop song traits. Conversely, it could be quite possible that USA has digested so much pop music over the years that they're now able to vomit up every trick recorded over the past 30 years in a nearly-controlled stream of high pitches and harmonized esotericisms. And that's not supposed to make USA sound putrid, that's just what came to mind.

You will find referenced in this feature two USA albums: Ybissai Baby and Little Birds, both available from Drag City. Ybissai Baby was released first, and contained driving rhythms and unexpected twists and turns. Little Birds was released a little while later as what appeared to be an aborted concept album about either Chicago roads or Egypt.

I just noticed who recorded the two USA albums. What was it like to work with Bundy K. Brown and Jim O'Rourke? I've noticed that some other things that O'Rourke's been involved in have ended up sounding like something he might record (like the last Smog album). Little Birds doesn't sound like he had his hand in it at all.

Gene Booth (guitar, keyboards, vocals): Jim's a prince, Bundy's a great guy. Both share with me untapped reservoirs of love for the '73-'74 period of King Crimson, so how could working together be bad? Working at Solid Sound in Hoffman Estates opened up a lot of possibilities that weren't available to us at Soma, like the magic signal processor with effect names like "Brite 'n' Tight." Can you imagine what that sounds like? I don't remember the name of the wind effect we culled from that box for the moment in "Seven Faces," but it was somewhere around #154 or #155. Jim says he wants go all out on the next record, the only blatant tinkering (in the "Jim"ing sense) was some "clap" sounding drums triggered by Corre's kit on "He Hath Comet." Next time we may not get off so easy.

Devin Johnston (guitar, keyboards, bass, vocals): Both experiences were very positive, both of them worked to reflect the sound we wanted without being intrusive. Bundy had to endure our inexperience (and demands such as "we want that guitar to sound like it's underwater"); he had heard us live, and I think that recording is pretty faithful to the way we were sounding at the time. A year later, recording Little Birds, O'Rourke had far more to respond to (our songs were more developed). His advice was often instrumental to the success of those songs: at a chaotic point in the long process of recording "Seven Faces," he confirmed Corre's suggestion that the vocals needed redoing. I think one of his great strengths though is that he leaves no fingerprints.

Brian Calvin (guitar, keyboard, bass, vocals): When we recorded with Bundy, we had never even properly heard our vocals at all. We really didn't know what we were doing. We played live just as we did in our practice space and did very few overdubs. I don't think it was really a project where Bundy's aesthetic was in full view. For Little Birds, we wanted a different feel. We had now heard ourselves and desired some improvements in our "sound." Little Birds was written much more with the recording process in mind. Jim was great at helping us realize ideas we had and at shooting down some things that weren't working. But he definitely wasn't "producing" the record as he did with Smog. If he had, I know he would have made a lot of changes. We plan on having him as much more of a producer on at least a couple of the cuts on our next album. Did I mention that Jim is a prince?

Corre Dilworth (drums, vocals): It's great working with Bundy and Jim, because they're our friends and we love them. Bundy was real limited in what he could [do] because we only had seven working tracks at Soma. But I think Ybissai's sound suits those songs.

The songs on Little Birds are more complex and have a lot more going on than those on Ybissai Baby. How did a song such as "7 Faces" or "Ashland Flies" evolve? None of these songs sound like any one person sat down and came up with them. It almost sounds like three or four people came in with different songs and tried to cram them all into the same drum beat.

Brian: You basically got it right.

Gene: Democracy in action. "Ashland Flies" actually begins with the lyrical structure of Sting's (huge USA influence by the way, both pre- and post-Police) "Fields of Gold" so his "bla bla bla bla bla/ as you kiss her mouth/ and walk through field of gold" turns into our "in the lines the minds/ are preoccupied/ dreaming of the highway" etcetera. The basic idea is yes, like REM and even worse/better bands like them before us, someone brings something in and the rest hammer it into something unrecognizable. Even the lyrics in the above two cases involved throwing ideas into a pot with a premise, trying to out-funny (or whatever) the others and staying in the rhyme/rhythm schema. Actually I suspect a lot of bands just SAY that's how they work.

Devin: Both of those two began with a few parts Gene had come up with and (believe it or not) a sense of the sort of additive structure we wanted. More and more often, one member (or two together) will bring in the skeleton of a song, and we will collectively work on it; the result is, as often as not, entirely distinct from the original version.

Corre: Writing and recording "Seven Faces" was like giving birth to a three-headed baby. It was never, at any point, effortless. "Ashland Flies" came together really quickly. Gene had a skeleton and the rest of us filled in. I think you're right in that "Seven Faces" feels kind of disjointed. I think we pulled "Ashland Flies" off, though.

I heard some Mantis the other day. Is that you singing on that?

Gene: Yep.

How did you get from there to USA?

Gene: Two steps forward, one step back.

How did the tour with Palace go? Do you contribute to many other Drag City projects?

Gene: A third were really good shows, a third really bad shows, Atlanta was amazing, Will doing his best Dolores O'Riordan -- it is, of course, regarded as the worst Palace tour ever in the history books, due to some hyper Canadians with email, but if you saw the Southern leg you know different. There's a live track of "Blockbuster" from that tour on the Felidae comp.

How long has Miss Dilworth been playing drums? She plays drums more like an instrument than like a set of drums. At the risk of generalizing... is it possible that women approach the drums differently than men? Instead of trying to hurt the drums, maybe they are more interested in playing them? I am wondering because I see similarities between the way Corre plays drums and the way that girl in Sleater Kinney plays drums. They both look for ways to turn it another instrument.

Gene: You may have really bitten it off with this one, bub -- I can't wait to see what she says. I'll bet money it will include the question "would you be asking her this if she was a man?" and even though this is her turf, I'm sufficiently piqued to ask myself. Would you be asking her this if she was a man? Why isn't there a question about the way men and women's guitar styles differ in this interview?

Devin: I'm sure that Corre will answer the question about her drums, though I would throw in the following: It would be difficult to trace her drum-style too directly to gender. However one deals with that issue, her responsiveness, and her ability to think beyond technique to consider how a song comes together, are pretty central to the way we sound.

Brian: I love the way Corre drums. I really prefer openness to precision in drummers. Like Mick Avory did for the Kinks, Corre pushes USA songs into a really different realm with her parts.

Corre: I've been playing drums about six years. As I'm sure you've heard by now, bringing up the fact that I'm female is dangerous business. I'm going to help escort you into the next century by not answering that question. Unless, of course, you want to hear some bullshit about the natural rhythm of my menstrual cycle.

What is the response like at the live shows? Here's my vision of a show in Chicago: You guys are playing to a crowd of 50 or so people, all of whom are in another band or two. One by one, they're either asked to come up and play their xylophone or drum machine or they just walk up and grab a mike until two or three lonely drunk souls are left to watch the spectacle. At this time everyone on stage decides that what they're doing sounds really good and an album is subsequently released.

Gene: I miss the days of live reviews. We're a completely different thing live, and it's funny, because your vision is pretty accurate, except that the 50 start onstage and leave one by one until we're all in the other room playing video golf. And there's a lot of heckling, but we call it "sharing."

Devin: Our live performances have really changed over the years. Early on, the music was fairly undisciplined, though we had a sense of spectacle in the presentation: dramatic skits, jokes, etc. On some occasions, we were greeted with some resistance: in Kalamazoo, I recall, playing with Gastr del Sol, someone kept yelling at us. Since then, we have worked to focus on our own UMOJA or harmony rather than audience response. As a result, the music has become much more spiritual. Nobody joins in from the audience, but we do.

Ybissai Baby = excited, confused, unfocused and focused adrenaline, drunk. Little Birds = precision, high pitches, brainstorming, drunk, late nights The next USA album = ???

Corre: The next USA album = pretty, sublime, melancholy, sober, free jazz -- scratch that last part -- pretty, sublime, melancholy, sober (but not sobering), poetry and luv.

Flygirl # 7 zine
PO Box 786, Flagstaff, AZ, 86002
I’m reviewing an advance copy of this zine with contributions from many people including: Jeff Smith (Feminist Baseball), Bob Fay (Sebadoh), Billy Childish, Gene Booth (Drag City), and Dennis Callaci (Shrimper/Refrigerator). This is mostly mail-art stuff. Rantings, writings, drawings... with a rather random feel. If you like any of the artists I’ve mentioned, you’ll probably be interested in their contributions to Flygirl. Included in the non-advance copy will be a 7” with tracks from the Swirlies, Lou Barlow, Ohia, John Davis and a couple more. I’m not sure how limited the print run is on this thing, but I’d order one now. $5 ppd[Matt]


Here is my question, Jay: where did you get the idea of having the lead character in Ransom sweep out his home every day as a kind of semispiritual cleansing ritual. Did that come from anywhere? Something in your own life? Something from Japanese culture? However remote or ambient, if you can trace that memory down and email me I'd appreciate it

Aug 2006 Gene Booth is currently teaching Environmental Science and Biology to pregnant teens at Simpson Alternative High School.  He's been with CPS for four years, teaching his progressive take on History and Poetry.  Gene runs Victorvision Shorts, a production company specializing in small films by local directors, edits The Molten Rectangle, a groovy movie magazine, and plays with the anti-globalization rock group Xianggang Delight, shooting his mouth off in alternative spaces throughout the city.

Our friend Gene Booth has a new zine called The Molten Rectangle, about arty movies. I don’t know where you can get it, but I’ll let you know. He’s also started a DVD company called VictorVision, which puts out short films (call 312-493-9736 for more info on both). We watched three of their shorts which were all great – one is called “The Moschops,” an animated film by Jim Trainor, about a creature before the dinosaur that was believed to be “capable of interior tenderness.” Another is called “Untitled (Band), An Antal Grevens Intervention,” by our friend Thom van der Doef. He’s written a piece about it in the zine, but here’s the description on the back of the DVD: “Footage of the “special musical guest” is acquired, and the lost audio is replaced with a response to the cliched visual cues that comprise the discourse of popular music and entertainment TV. Hilariously!” I printed all that just to get to the last word, because it is seriously hilarious. Ben and I laughed so hard, and I would do anything to see what Thom would do with footage of Ashlee Simpson. Finally there’s “Justin: Secret of the Lifeform,” Gene Booth’s short about three boys living with “the shame of their hidden love for the new Justin Timberlake solo album. I’m embarrassed to say that I had no idea until the credits rolled that my husband was the voice of one of the boys, but anyway, this movie is also fantastic. I think Gene should get hooked up with Netflix, because people should see this stuff.