I had a dream last night that I somehow directed a commercial airplane to fly into a set of power lines to knock out electricity in the area. I did this using a computer while sitting in the bedroom bathroom of my parents' house. The reason I committed this act was to frame the Trump administration. The pilot of the plane blamed Kayleigh McEnany for directing him to fly into the power lines, and this was an excerpt from an interview with him in the newspaper the next day:
"She's a n-n-n-nerd," said the pilot, who was not previously thought to speak English. "I knew it was a bad idea to fly into the power lines, but I did what I was told. I'd like to thank for inspiration Jesus, MDC*, and Martial Arts."
The power came back on, and credit was given to the current administration for acting quickly. I was relieved to know that nobody was hurt, but I still felt a little guilty about what I did. I told Donna Jo that I felt everything went exactly as planned.
Electric Grandmother: Hello Man.
Marilyn Manson: Hi man.
EG: Where were you born?
MM: Canton, Ohio.
EG: That's pretty good.
MM: Thank you.
EG: Why are you like this?
MM: A lot of reasons I suppose. You're from Ohio, so you probably get it. There's not a lot to do. I guess I'm just mad.
EG: How come?
MM: My dad.
EG: I'm sorry.
MM: I'm sorry.
EG: A lot of people are saying you aren't very good.
MM: I know, and it kind of tears me up. I've always tried to be nice, despite my uproarious public image. I owe a lot to the people I grew up with, and they understand. I don't know if I'll ever be the same. Might be time to do something else.
EG: Like what?
MM: Singing. They say you should sing every day.
EG: That's very well put.
MM: I was taught to do that.
EG: Well, what's next on the horizon for you?
MM: A lot of people don't know the Pro football Hall of Fame is in Canton. I'm not sure when I'll ever get back, but I always enjoy being inside.
EG: Are you going to watch the Super Bowl?
MM: A little.
EG: Are there any misconceptions about you that you'd like to clear up right now?
MM: All I ever wanted in life was a house to live in.
EG: Like in the movie Bowling For Columbine?
EG: Well, it's time to go.
MM: (laughs) I knew it.
EG: Thank you for speaking with me today.
Written by Mary Alice
Most of the time, I don’t find myself affected by celebrity deaths, though there are notable exceptions. One such exception was Isabel Sanford, who played TV’s Louise “Weezie” Jefferson on the 1970s-80s sitcom the Jeffersons, who passed away in 2004. Not being a particular fan of the show, I was struck by how saddened I was to hear of this. At the time, I think I was mourning the loss of a notable cultural icon from before my time and the knowledge that someday, they would all be dead. I was 25 at the time and think it marked the beginning of my truly understanding human mortality and indeed my own. This detached sense of sadness stands in stark contrast to how I feel about the passing of Dustin Diamond, known to most as Screech from Saved by the Bell.
I turned 41 this year and have changed a lot from the self-centered 25 year old who was a little sad when Weezie died. When I heard that Dustin Diamond had sage four cancer just a few short weeks ago, I was 100% aware that the colossal bummer that this death sentence laid upon a man just 3 years my senior is rooted almost completely in empathy for a person who had a pretty terrible life overall and never found peace in it.
Screech was a joke-character on a show that in its time tried to present an aspirational picture of the American teenage experience in the early 1990s, which eventually became a joke in itself. Screech became a joke within a joke. The tragedy of the Child Actor trope is a well-worn cliché at this point, but doesn’t stop it from being tragic. This place in pop culture history does not excuse his behavior post-Saved By the Bell, but does kind of explain it.
I don’t need to list all of the shitty things Dustin Diamond has done since Saved by the Bell. His stint in porn isn’t itself problematic except that it’s rooted in his attempts to repair an image rooted in fragile masculinity that never existed in the first place. Which at minimum makes it really, really gross. He scammed people out of money for various reasons related to his housing situation the details of which I don’t really remember. The one that hits closest to home to me is the lies he told in his trash memoir Beyond the Bell. Among other things, he claimed to have had an affair with NBC VP of Children’s Programming Linda Mancuso, who died in 2003 of breast cancer. I don’t think it was coincidence that she was not around to challenge these claims when he made them. That’s a sensitive issue for me for some reason. Making claims about things people did after they died when they’re not around to contradict them.
After Saved by the Bell, we watched Dustin Diamond try very hard to reinvent himself into the anti-Screech. Through it all, whether it was challenging the drill sergeant on that VH1 weight loss show to a fight or the public humiliation of listing his house for sale in 2020 as a “great rehab opportunity,” it’s very clear to me that he was a very unhappy person.
He felt ridiculed and left out during the pinnacle of his career. He spent a large part of the aftermath extremely angry and persistently making moves in an attempt to get “revenge” for wrongs that were never really committed. In doing so, he permanently alienated anyone who could come close to understanding. He experienced financial ruin, was sent to jail for stabbing a man in a barroom brawl and faded into obscurity. Then, when his child-star peers did the impossible and successfully revived the franchise that made them stars, Dustin Diamond is diagnosed with stage four long cancer and passes away three weeks later.
He was not a good person, but I’ve spent a lot of time with his Saved by the Bell character over the years. His character isn’t a particularly good person either. He’s like Urkel Light and seems to feel like he’s owed something by women for not being attractive—or something. But his illness and subsequent passing reminds me only that he is a person who lived a pretty tragic life. He never found peace and now he never will. I don’t think anyone deserves that.
Sleep easy, Screech. I wish better for you.
My household didn’t have a lot of salty or sugary snacks when I was growing up, so I always jumped at the chance to eat stuff like that whenever I could. When I was in 5th grade, this rich boy named Ricky brought peanuts for a snack every day, and I would always ask if I could have some. He never wanted to give me any, but eventually he realized that if he threw a peanut on the floor, I would retrieve it and eat it. He would ask other kids to watch, throw a peanut on the floor for me to pick up and eat, and laugh hysterically.
He later claimed to me that he had put the peanuts in his mouth prior to throwing them onto the floor. I knew this wasn’t true because I had never seen him do that, and besides, I would never have voluntarily engaged in doing something so degrading.
Just in case you need any sort of reminder of the effect that recent events can have on people, here is a picture I drew of a Trump supporter firing a gun at the Capitol Building engulfed in flames.
June 19, 2004, at Pat's in the Flats
Before EG hit the stage for the first time that night, I took the stage earlier with my friends Mike and Eric as The Pinheads. I was actually standing in for our friend Gary who was unavailable, and Eric was essentially playing the part of our friend Brandt, who was probably somewhere doing something else. The Pinheads, along with The Doldrums which preceded it (which was myself, Mike, and Gary) were the origins of what we now know as "Sitcom-Core."
Mike and I had been wanting to be on stage together since we were teenage punkers, and we were finally able to here in our mid-late 20's. Eric was the guitarist for the punk rock band I sang for in Columbus called Upchuck Berry, which featured our friend Brandt on drums and our friend Jeff on bass. This marked the first time we had been on stage together since 2002.
Mary Alice and I were extremely nervous to be doing EG that night, and when the screen we brought for projection kept getting blown over by the strong wind outside, we were panicked and just wanted to forget about it. "No," Eric said. "That's why we brought it." We then got concrete blocks to hold up the screen, and we went on went the show as planned.
It's a mantra we still use to this day when we flummoxed or frustrated when trying to do something ambitious: "That's why we brought it."
My awesome wife got me a Cameo from Leanna Creel, aka Tori Scott from Saved By the Bell. She mentions EG and the time I pranked called her manager in the late 90’s, telling her I had an acting job for her. She’s cool as hell.
Now listening to "London Calling," which I always associate with Christmastime. I realized this morning that I got it as a Christmas gift 25 years ago. The year was 1995, same year as my car accident. I felt disheveled emotionally and wanted to get back to living life asap. Kurt Cobain had been dead for a year and a half, and I feel like we were all extracting what we wanted from Nirvana (and in my case I'll certainly add a major assist from Green Day and Rancid).
So basically that year I had been like, "Yes, punk rock. I'm a punk rocker, and my favorite band is The Clash." My parents have always been historically bad at gift giving, so that December when I was in this long-gone store at Aurora Farms (Aurora Farms, anyone?) called "Music For a Song" and I saw this CD, and I decided to go for it and tell my mom that I wanted it. She then told my sister later that "A little birdy told her I wanted this CD," and my sister bought it for me. We drove to my Grandma's in North Carolina that year for Christmas, and I happily listened to the album on my Discman while wearing my new Ramones shirt that I got when I saw them at the CSU Convocation Center.
I remember when I was about in 4th or 5th grade I was sitting in a small classroom group (for whatever reason), and this girl piped up "I heard the school is going to have a new thing where kids go to school for five days, and then have two days off. Then five days, and two days off." "Really?!" I asked excitedly. "Yeah, Saturday and Sunday!" the teacher chimed in. "Yep!" the girl said.
I'd never been so furious. I don't know if the girl was trying to be cute or funny or whatever, but she sounded more crazy than anything.
I had a dream last night I was sitting with Doogie Howser, Vinnie Delpino, and a group of other faceless people in a cafeteria. Doogie told the group that he was a doctor, and we all laughed at him. "At Eastman Medical Center? Yeah, right," I taunted. He got up from the table visibly distraught, and all of us (including Vinnie) started chanting "Crazy Doogie, Crazy Doogie!!!" as he walked away.
I had a dream last night that I had to do 20-page book report for school for a book I'd never read, and I really didn't want to read it or do the report. I knew that if I didn't do the report that my grade would be dragged way down, so I decided to approximate what I thought the book was about, and instead include stories about my feelings, my friend Mike, and episodes of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I wrote about 6 pages, and then I heard on TV about how if there's not enough of the actual book in the report, that the teacher would know.
I then tried to figure out how to get a Cliff's Notes version of the book, while noting out loud that they were referred to as "Cleland Notes" on The Cosby Show. I found this guy with a computer, and I frantically tried to rush order the Cliff's Notes from Amazon. I ordered them, knowing that they would arrive at my house in 20 minutes, and I had to quickly get home. I tried to board a bus and then I turned into a tiny Brooke Shields, and I was then riding an elephant, holding on to its tail while my face was pressed into its butt.
The other night our treadmill, which does not feature any audio setting (with the exception of a "beep" sound) started broadcasting a radio signal, it was the freakiest thing. I was flushing the toilet, and all of a sudden I loudly heard "THE OFFER ENDS AT MIDNIGHT, (something something etc)," it was the most bizarre signal interference I've ever been witness to. It was my own Max Headroom incident. I only knew what was happening because I used to record with a karaoke machine and it would sometimes pick up a signal from CBs. I don't believe in supernatural occurrences, but I guess I was spooked enough where I still had a dream that night about our appliances coming to life.
On March 13, 1987, they aired a David Copperfield special on TV called "Escape From Alcatraz." I was looking forward to it all day, like, "YES, I am going to watch Escape From Alcatraz," and about 6 minutes in (queued up here) I started to have a severe anxiety attack. As was customary in the 1980's, if you were parent seeing a kid having an anxiety attack, you began to yell, as my dad did at me telling me to turn the TV off, which I did through tears.
I turned it back on later to see a minute of the baby magic tricks they were doing afterwards, but I wasn't in the mood anymore.
Top 40 radio was generally frowned upon in my house when I was growing up. I was mostly raised on classical music, showtunes, and Roger Whittaker. I would do my best to sneak in some pop music on my alarm clock radio, and I often times I would forget to change the station back to Cleveland's classical music station, WCLV 95.5 FM. My mom would inevitably ask for an explanation if she noticed pop music coming from my bedroom, and I would tell her that it was because my radio had been set to a different channel so I could listen to a sports broadcast and then forgot to change it afterwards, and we were now listening to station's regular format.
That all seems really weird and extreme when I see it typed out like that.
However, my morning and afternoon bus rides were my salvation. Our sometimes-mean-but-usually-ok busdriver Miss Clark always had the radio dial turned to Power 108 FM for us kids. For a few years in the late 80's, it was my primary source for popular music, and it helped furnish my love of music overall.
Sticker with the mighty Power 108 Logo
I think of 1988 as the prime year where the school bus was rockin' every morning and afternoon. This was before puberty, and before there were group divides between all of us, so we all rocked out together, often loudly singing along to the songs on the radio. My absolute favorite song was "Wild, Wild West" by The Escape Club, who I thought was named "The Ski Club" for a while.
"Don't Worry, Be Happy" by Bobby McFerrin was a song I possibly liked even better, but it seemed to be played rarely. I thought the lyrics to "Faith" by George Michael were, "Cuz I gotta have sex, a-sex, a-sex."
Other favorites of mine included:
"Got My Mind Set on You" - George Harrison
"Never Gonna Give You Up" and "Together Forever" - Rick Astley
"So Emotional" - Whitney Houston
"Heaven Is a Place on Earth" and "I Get Weak" - Belinda Carlisle
"Wishing Well" - Terence Trent D'Arby
"Get Outta My Dreams, Get into My Car" - Billy Ocean
"Simply Irresistible" - Robert Palmer
"Tell It to My Heart" - Taylor Dayne
"Red Red Wine" - UB40
I really hated "Could've Been" by Tiffany. However, when I would hear it, I would imagine a scenario on The Wonder Years* where Kevin and Winnie had broken up, and Kevin was pedaling his bike away from her house. I didn't start off hating "Endless Summer Nights" by Richard Marx, but I eventually hated it because it was so overplayed.
*I had yet to seen a single moment of the show at this point
On May 12, 1992, the station abruptly changed its callsign to WENZ and flipped its format to alternative rock, branding itself as "107.9 The End". As a publicity stunt, the station infamously aired a 24-hour loop of R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)". A lot of people took that it to mean the world was actually ending, and I suppose a part of my world did end that day. The kids were all super pissed at the time, because we wanted our Power 108 back, and we didn't know who the Talking Heads were. But of course, I grew to love WENZ, and there were eventually other pop radio stations for those who were interested.
There was a "Lake School" in Aurora, Ohio, I swear to you. It may have been torn down long ago, but I'm telling you it very much existed. (I suppose I should check next time I'm in the area?) There doesn't appear to be any record of it online. Well, that changes today.
That school pictured above isn't it, I just Google'd "run down school." It maybe didn't look quite that run down, but it was a piece. One thing I can tell you is that Aurora was hit by a tornado in March of 1986, and it tore the roof off part of my elementary school. My mom told me that the roof was rolled up like it was a sardine can. My family and I were on vacation at the time, so we completely missed it. I think it was Spring Break, so nobody was at the school except for a group of hapless Girl Scouts, who according to a teacher were screaming in terror and not following the safety protocol we all seemed to engage in weekly. If you're from the Midwest, you know of that head-down, curly ball thing I'm talking about.
Anyway, I don't recall how we spent the rest of that school year - it was possible we were shipped off to Lake School right after, but I can tell you for certain we were there come Autumn 1986 so that damaged parts of our real school could undergo repair. When I say "we," I'm talking about just my 3rd Grade class. I don't know why our class was singled out. I think we were told some bullshit reasoning like "Well, the 4th grade class is getting ready to go to Middle School, so we don't want to jostle with their emotions, and the younger kids are too young." So there we were, the 3rd Grade, shipped away to this dump known as Lake School. I remember when the bus pulled into the driveway of the school, my older neighbor friend was like "Oh, this place?" It was coincidentally right near where I lived, but at the time seemed just as far away as any other place. It was no doubt known as "Lake School" because it was right on Aurora Lake, which also bordered my backyard. I had never been there before, but it was basically a destination for neighborhood fights and cool boys riding 4-wheelers. I don't think it was being used prior to our arrival, and it certainly showed.
It felt like the Wild West being there - no doubt burgeoning hormones had something to do with it, but I feel like it was a constant barrage of boys punching each other and kicking each other in the balls. The classrooms and hallways were pretty dirty, and the gym floor was made of this weird rubbery material that you could pick apart. My memories of that year are pretty vivid party due to the drastic relocation. And well, here are some...
I remember farting being a big deal that year. I sat next to my friend Pat, who was big into BMX/Skateboards, and we would talk about farting all day, and try to outdo each other with farts. I remember when I had my best fart of the year, it sounded like I was playing a musical scale with my butt. Sadly though, Pat was away at the pencil sharpener when it happened, but this kid Alex heard it, and he laughed his head off. If you ever see Alex, ask him about the fart.
Flipping people off was also important. I was constantly giving people the finger, even my own family when they weren't looking. It was nothing personal, more of an OCD thing. I remember one day walking back to my desk and giving my teacher the finger, and when she looked up she might have seen me doing it, because she looked down and shook her head in disgust.
I remember our music teacher practically having a nervous breakdown. One day she was teaching in our classroom, and we were all being so rowdy that she picked up her stuff and walked out in the middle of the lesson. On the way out she paused wide-eyed, put her hand up in the air and said "No one touch me..." After she left, she told our teacher, and when our teacher confronted us about it, my friend Bobby was like "That's a lie!"
One day we were assigned to make PSA-style posters. A lot of kids were doing something stupid like "Don't Do Drugs!," but I made one that warned "Don't eat something if you don't know what it is." The poster had a drawing of a guy taking something out of a cupboard, eating it, and then I drew a gravestone to show that he died from eating the thing.
Garbage Pail Kids were still a fad, but they were on their way out. I mentioned in a prior blog entry that during 3rd Grade I gave away my GPK cards during random moments. I would sanction races between boys in our school's gymnasium, and the winners would get a card. I remember I told my friend Scott I would give him a card if he jumped six times in five seconds, but he angrily yelled "I can't do that!"
I brought a couple of G.I. Joe figures to school one day for show & tell, and they later got stolen out of my locker. I had never had anything stolen from me before, and it broke my heart. I pretty much know who did it, it was the same person who stole stuff from me multiple times over the years. I won't name him here, because of the possible beatings.
We just spent that one year at Lake School, by 4th grade we were back at Craddock Elementary. What a time. I don't want to be a kid again, but I can't help but get a little nostalgic, especially when talking about stuff like BMX riding and skateboarding. My family couldn't afford a BMX, and they didn't want me riding a skateboard because I'd break my neck. If only we couldn't have known it was the mid-80's while we lived it.
I think this is the second time I've used this picture of BMX rider Ron Wilkerson on this website.
I had a dream last night that I was in a building and I took an elevator on a random guess to the 4th floor (out of 32) and entered this fancy bar area where a bunch of celebrities and cultural elite were hanging out. I somehow had an arrangement where the people there thought I took on the identity of a dead famous comedian named Charles Cessner, and there was a drink called the Cessner he was famous for getting, which was beer with Skittles floating in it (which many of you know as Skittlebrau). I ordered a Budweiser when the bartender asked for my drink, and he remarked that it was off-brand for me.
I was sitting next to my friend Kevin at the bar, and there were a bunch of fabulous looking people laughing and watching a man talk. I believe the person sitting in the middle at the bar was RuPaul. I had started off surrounded by friends from my hometown of Aurora, but at one point I turned and they had cleared out. I asked Kevin if he could give me a ride home (to my parents house), as he had so many times before. He agreed, and got up from the bar. I asked the bartender how much I owed, and he said I owed $11.14. I gave him $51.14, and he gave me $20 back. He then told me to duck down, as there were some mafia-types outside ready to shoot through the window. I crawled away and told him to have a good night.
I had to pee real bad, and there was no bathroom around, so I entered this cavernous parking garage to find a place to go while double-fisting Budweisers. I walked by these uniformed fascist-looking young men, and then turned into a very bleak, dangerous looking part of the garage. There was a mysterious smiling man standing there frozen who resembled the smoking man from X-Files, and I made sure to walk out of his sight, for fear he would come after me. I pee'd in one of the bottles, and then this teenage boy crashed into a table near me with this cardboard-looking dune buggy. He then crashed into his friend who was also operating one of this bizarre contraptions, and they laughed hysterically at each other. I began to walk back to leave the garage area, and there were now a bunch of teenagers wearing roller skates gathered about. A teenage girl holding a serving tray rolled her eyes at her supervisor and said, "Oh great, it's Go-Kart night."
I was now wearing roller skates as I attempted to leave the garage. I sauntered down the side of the garage trying to avoid the masses of teens on skates. I got to where I was almost in the clear, and I had to squeeze through this tight area that had a wooden barricade. As I shuffled along I started to make a phone call. I left a voice message that said "I know I've been missing for a day, but I wanted to remind you that your son Jim Halpert was still the first to wish you a Happy Anniversary." I then spun around with my legs in the air and woke up.
Since the pandemic started, I've had a couple dreams about traveling to other countries for long periods of time. They're not exactly pleasant dreams, they have more of a tinged feeling of homesickness.
Last night I had one of those dreams, and in it a classmate of mine who died in a car crash in 1995 (same year as my accident, his was after) shortly after he moved to Chicago took this pair of black shorts from me. They were just sitting out on a table, and he asked if he could take them. I said that he could, but then immediately regretted it, because I was about to travel to Asia, and I needed this pair, because I only have that other pair that Mary Alice knows about, the drawstring ones that eventually fall down if I wear them too long.
Like most of you I was unfamiliar with the term "gaslighting" before that famous Teen Vogue article about Trump. If you were a kid that was ever bullied by classmates, you probably experienced it at some point. I know it when I see it, and I often flash back to this one incident. I was over at my older friend's house one afternoon playing this Nintendo game called "Play Action Football," and I beat him for the first time ever. I used his bathroom before going home, and while I was in there, he and my other shithead friend devised a scenario where since it was 5:30 PM, and I was officially supposed to go home at 5:00 PM, that the game never happened, and my win was invalid. I stood there are argued against the logic they were using for who knows how long, until I gave up and went home teary-eyed while they sat back with shit-eating grins on their faces.
Once home, I was up in my dad's bathroom, just standing and staring angrily out of the window, and I heard my mom call me to set the dinner table. I flipped out and started screaming and crying so loudly that she thought I was severely injured. I tried to explain the situation to her, but of course it made no sense to hear it as an adult in the year 1990. I was obviously more upset at their stupid-ass attempt to manipulate me, and that they thought so little of me as a person. My mom later told my therapist what happened, which sucked, because I hadn't planned to.
The CD version of "Relaunch" is here!
As you can see by the photo collage that Mary Alice assembled here, the album is dedicated to our late friend Josie Rubio. I knew that based on the time it was taking to finish this album that she wouldn't be around for it's release, so I had privately planned to dedicate it to her for a little while now. It's something I wasn't interested in telling her because I felt it too morbid, and besides, she just would have given me a weird look and changed the subject.
I had thought of writing a song about her to tie into the album's story, but it never really felt right. Instead there are bits and pieces of Josie's inspiration throughout, including a line in one of the last songs I wrote that goes "We're still playing, in my bad dream," which is based on a dream I had where she was still alive and we were hanging out together.
So maybe it wasn't really a bad dream, just one that was hard to wake up from.
When I was about 5 or 6 years old, I was over at my friend’s house one afternoon, and his older brother kept rewinding a part of a movie he was watching and laughing his head off. I kept asking him to do it and laughed along with him, not because I understood what was happening, but just because he kept rewinding the tape over and over, and as a little kid I thought that was hysterical.
For years I’ve wondered what it was that we were watching, and while I had a general image in my mind of the scene, I had no real way to describe it in words. Last night, my long search ended, as it turned out it was this scene from the 1979 movie, “Meatballs.” I got excited while it was starting, because I just had a feeling this was finally it.
The one guy blows the power out in the camp, and another guy calls him a dick.
President Ronald Reagan has mysteriously vanished following his decision to shutter the space program following the disaster. First lady Nancy Reagan has ordered that the space program be relaunched as part of the search and rescue effort for the President. The crew of the Challenger II is assembled to find the President, but what will they encounter? Will they find the President, or just goof off in space? And maybe, is there something more sinister that awaits them up past the air?
I had a dream last night that I was interviewing to be a part of a comedy troupe called the Green Hill Gang. To get to the interview, I had to walk through a windy and dusty city block with crumbling buildings, and I arrived to the interview in a t-shirt and shorts. They told me that as part of the introductory process, I had to contact a list of musicians and "Gimble" with them, meaning that I had to try and subtly make fun of them in a Daily Show-esque interview style. I only remember two names on the list they gave me, Neil Young and Bikini Kill.
Before "Nancy Reagan"-mania took over EG land, this was our planned lead single, "They Made It," available for free right here right now via Bandcamp!
I had a dream last night that I was watching Billie Joe Armstrong being interviewed, and the interviewer asked him about an incident at a frozen yogurt shop where a staff member accused him of acting conceited. “I remember that,” he said with a grin. “The guy behind the counter asked me if I had any tax advice for him. I told him no, and that I’m not really the hunter-gatherer type.”
Mary Alice and I both agreed that he was probably trying to be nervously sarcastic about being rich enough to hire an accountant and not worry about it. The interview looked like it was from the late-90’s/early-00’s, and he had gotten his teeth completely replaced, which made him look a little weird.
The Electric Grandmother is pleased to announce a live launch party for their new album, Relaunch on Saturday, May 16, 2020 at 9:30 PM on YouTube Live. We will talk a little bit about the album, premier a video, and release the album on BandCamp for your downloading pleasure. You don’t have to pay for the privilege but if you do, please support our favorite local business and Venmo @slashrun
The total eclipse visible from large swaths of the continental United States occurred roughly a month before we released Cancelled. On nearly the spur of the moment, Pete and I decided to rent a car and drive down to Charleston, South Carolina for a weekend away to see the eclipse for ourselves. We had neither the time nor the money to do it. I think part of my current credit card balance still carries charges associated with that trip. I was still working on the live show for Cancelled between beach trips and dinners out. I remember specifically working on the images for “We Made It” in our dark little room at the Best Western Charleston Inn. The eclipse itself? Really lived up to billing. This was shortly after Trump was elected and watching something so effectively inconsequential in a public park with a bunch of strangers felt like good medicine. Seeing friends’ social media posts from across the country, all nerdly with their eclipse glasses on, gave me such a warm feeling. Something normal and natural but rare that happened between two celestial bodies in space made being on earth feel cozy and personal.
I think--and Pete can contradict me on this if he dared--it was that trip that led us to decide our next project was going to be about space. What we didn’t necessarily plan for, was that it would wind up being a perfect companion piece to Cancelled. Cancelled was about loss on earth, kind of suitable for its time. Cancelled was born out of a catastrophic personal event, but applied almost equally to a post-2016 election America. Relaunch, to complement it, is about the hope that space and its endlessness brings. It was inspired by building a better and stronger self after a catastrophic personal event. Incredibly, after all the songs had been written and recorded, plans for videos and art made, we find ourselves in the midst of a broken country and world just as we are ready to release it. Relaunch, as it turns out, is equally fitting for its time.
Relaunch is also somehow very much about death. Our dear friend Josie Rubio had been battling cancer for more than six years when she passed away in early December of last year. There is a lot of Josie in Relaunch. Pete is easier with his more difficult emotions than I am and since she passed, I have been really having a hard time connecting with the loss. In the early part of this year, throwing myself Relaunch has helped me grieve. By the same token, the loss has helped me connect more with the emotions in the music and I hope you can hear that in some of my vocal performances.
If this album weren’t also about absolutely everything, it’s also about us, Pete and I. At some point when we were talking about where to take the plot of this thing, he said to me “really and truly, the Electric Grandmother is the story of a couple.” Which is odd, because our couplehood has traditionally been somewhat disconnected from our work on Electric Grandmother. We have become increasingly better collaborators over time, but it was not always like that. As we grew as an entertainment powerhouse, we also grew as a couple. We have always had a good relationship but it has definitely matured with us. We’re approaching near perfection when it comes to honesty, communication, trust, and support. But one thing I’ll be shocked if we ever get right is escaping the fear that one of us might someday have to live without the other.
Whew, so all that said, this album fucking slaps. Yeah, it’s another concept album, which also makes it an obvious companion piece to Cancelled. If you’re unaware, Cancelled is the story of a man who loses his mind because his favorite cop drama gets cancelled. That’s it. That’s the whole plot. Relaunch is a bit more complicated. It is the story of a crew of astronauts who travel into space on the Challenger II to save a kidnapped President Reagan. If Cancelled was our cinematic 70s glam treatment, Relaunch was to be our love letter to the 1980s. For Cancelled, we produced short films to accompany the music. For Relaunch, a series of FIVE music videos were going to help us tell our story. And then COVID-19 happened.
So instead of heaping all of these answers to the mystery of what happens in the album, we’re going to drag it out. We will have one to share for our virtual release of May 16 and will continue to release the remainder as they are completed throughout the year. Hahaha, sorry. We are still pressing copies and we will have them available at a Slash Run release show--as soon as we can. We’ll release the videos over time that will give you a clearer sense of the story. Puzzle pieces will fall into place. I’m sure you’ll all be riveted.
It’s kind of fitting that the release is going to be a goddamned process because honestly writing, recording, producing--everything about this--has been a goddamned process. It’s a persistent joke in our house how many twists and turns this thing has gone through. I think traditionally the final product coming from projects like these end up being an unfocused mess, but I objectively don’t think that’s the case here. I think in the end, by some miracle, it came together in every aspect. It’s cohesive and powerful.
I am absolutely thrilled to also share the album art. The front and back cover images are paintings by my incredibly talented, generous, and beautiful sister-in-law, Dena Nakahashi. I want to call it a collaborative effort, but really we gave Dena some idea as to what we wanted, she took the ball and ran. I’m so happy with it--it is absolutely perfect.
The music! I said this same thing about Cancelled but it’s even more so this time--it’s the most involved I’ve ever been on the music side of things. I think I also said the same thing about Cancelled but I’ll say this too again: I love these songs. I love them a lot. They’re beautiful, catchy, gut-wrenching--they’re everything. The finished product has been freshly mastered by Ben Schurr whose thoughtful and thorough work elevated the sonic quality to effectively kick your aural ass.
Unlike Cancelled, you may know some of these before they’re released. “Nancy Reagan,” the song that has a life of its own, was never meant to be on the album. It was meant to be a one-off single for a President’s Day show, but here it sits, proudly in the sweet spot that is Track 3.
But the album leads off with some context for ya. “This Just In” is a spoken word track featuring Andy Prestwich, the Golden Voice of Slash Run and our very good friend Hilly Kenkel from the Cincinnati Crew. Also featured is Alan Android, Robot Reporter (origins unknown). We will be producing a video for this track for the virtual release, featuring Hilly and other DC friends Mason Shelby of Catscan! and Frank Gomez from your wildest dreams. It will also feature artwork from Honorary-Third-EG-Member Derek Stewart (not Super Steve Caruso) and the amazing editing and production stylings of my very favorite new best friend, Fred Yi. Fred’s work will keep popping up throughout the year, so look forward to that.
I mention the second track, “The Kidnapping of Ronald Reagan” at the risk of feeling like I need to talk about every song, but have to because in the fall, when silly Pete thought that the album was done (lol), he had me listen to it and I told him that it needed something else. I was like “write something good,” to which he gave me a deadpan stare. We then started referring to it as the “track one banger” before we put “This Just In” on the album as well. But haha, look what happened. He wrote another hit.
“Space Phone,” is in my personal top-three for this album. It’s about two of the astronauts who are the protagonists of the story and how they miss each other when one goes on a space walk and the other stays on the shuttle. This one is personal, it’s very sweet and was inspired by a microphone I bought like THREE FUCKING YEARS AGO that was built into a phone receiver. It’s good.
In my lead-vocal-performance debut, “Around the Moon” is a gut punch for me. When we were recording, I had to occasionally stop and cry for a while. We have a video planned for this one and it will feature familiar faces and it will be adorable and you will love it. You might die. I hope not, but I’m warning you. Fred is again the main technical producer (and cinematographer and editor AND effects coordinator and he is amazing at all of it). We started production before COVID and WILL FINISH IT BECAUSE AMERICA NEEDS IT.
Tracks 9-12: “Dernier Rendez-vous,” “The Air Demon,” “Stand For the Air Demon,” and “Nine Miles to the Water” are all post-catastrophe in the plot of the album. I don’t want to lump them all together, and although they’re not all instrumental, they’re all heavily ambient and are kind of reminiscent to me of the songs at the end of Cancelled. They’re moody, emotional, and textured.
“The Great Swim” shares a title with and was in part inspired by a short story I wrote in high school shortly after Pete and I met. In the story I swim across the Pacific Ocean and run three quarters of the way across the country to be with him.
“We Land” is my favorite of the ambient/instrumental pieces on the album. I find it sweet and cute.
“They Made It” is a song we like so much, when Pete was done with it, we shared a bottle of red wine while dancing to it in our living room. We never drink red wine. That’s how much we like the song. We have a video planned for this one as well and will be working with the incomparable Dylan Mars Greenberg, who also did the video for “Nancy Reagan.”
Jeez, so that’s that. Releasing this album in the middle of a pandemic has caused me as much or more stress than the pandemic itself. We are doing this in a dramatically different way from anything we have ever done before. Why not wait? I dunno, I think we kind of need it. It’s about loss, life, and hope. It’s for our smart, funny friend and our sweet, little cat and for us. We need to share it with you now.
- Mary Alice Hamnett, 4/24/2020