Malin arrived for a recent interview after his daily six-mile jog and, in a tone more befitting an outraged middle-class citizen than a rock 'n' roll outlaw, complained that his incarceration had caused him to miss the New York City Marathon, which took place the day following his arrest. Describing his time on the cross, the frontman explained, "I hadn't fliered in years, but I figured it was a new band, our seventh gig, and it was time to get out there. I am not too proud, and besides, the show was going to be at Don Hill's Rock Candy, which is a scene I want to support."
Malin continues: "So the cops rolled up on me and I told them I used to own Coney Island High and knew the landlord. I told the cops, go into any store on the street and ask anyone who I was. But they weren't having it and the next thing you know they called a car and took me in handcuffs to the precinct." Things?already unpleasant?were about to get worse.
Initially, Malin's fate at the 9th Pct. didn't appear to be too doomed. The cops asked him if he'd ever been arrested before and when he said no, the perp was told he'd probably be held for a few hours and then released. That assessment was, however, grossly understated: when the authorities checked him out, they found, much to Malin's surprise, that there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest. Seems that after opening for Kiss at Madison Square Garden in 1996, Malin received a ticket for possession of an open bottle of Rolling Rock as he exited the venue on his way to the post-gig party. At the time, the ticket was a mere footnote to his big night and quickly forgotten in the midst of the evening's celebrations. Malin admits, "Then I went on the road, threw the ticket in a drawer and that's what came back to haunt me."
Malin's carelessness would now cost him. He was promptly informed that as a wanted man he would have to "go through the system" and spend the weekend in the Tombs until he could appear before a judge the following Monday. It was not a fun weekend. Malin recalls: "I was in a cell with 25 other guys packed in there. Some of them had shot people and all these tough guys are coming up to me asking, 'What you do?' and I had to tell them that my weapon of choice was a scotch-tape dispenser." He also found the accommodations themselves lacking in the usual amenities: "There were people who were really disgusting in there. They had been living on the street. There is one toilet in the middle of the room. I didn't go to the bathroom, eat or sleep for over 30 hours."
The newly chastised rocker blames his troubles on Mayor Giuliani and his policy of zero tolerance for such traditional subcultural activities as unlicensed postering and public drinking. He sadly reminisces about the pre-Rudy era when you could sit in the park with a brown paper bag?or put up fliers?and at worst the cops might take your paste away. The experience has left him wondering if there is a place for real rock culture in New York anymore; he says that he's even given thought to leaving. But Malin also acknowledges that there really isn't anyplace to go and that the commercial sanitizing of cities is occurring nationwide. He also correctly points out that, despite repeated promises that the Internet will make it easier for local bands to communicate with their fans on ground zero, posters are still one of the principal means by which the masses below 14th St. learn of upcoming gigs. Plus, he notes: "As much as the Internet is amazing, it encourages people to stay in the house, and rock 'n' roll has always been about community. If you are hanging out together there is a different energy in the room that you can't translate into a cybercast."
The good news is that, in the face of repression and cultural homogenization, an organic resistance is beginning to take shape. Malin points to the growing success of the Rock Candy shows at Don Hill's as an example of an old-school effort to create a scene without the benefits of high technology and venture capital. In fact, in the upcoming year Malin'll be hosting all-night parties at the original location that will continue the tradition of his legendary Green Door events. Giving us hope for the millennium, Malin says the monthly celebrations will be "real and illegal." And then wisely adds, "People have to start getting it together to make these times fun and decadent."
Falling Up Most instrumental rock is a big bore. It seems to attract people who can't give up the habit just yet, who need a transitional stage on the journey away from the hard shit on the way to jazz. The exception that proves the rule is Larval, a Detroit-based band that is so hopelessly out of step with the prevailing trends in the industry that they have no business plan and strangely believe in focusing on their work and letting the chips fall where they may. The leader of this defiant group of Luddites is guitarist Bill Brovold, who keeps body and soul together as an artist, professional carpenter and owner of Koko Recording studio. A veteran of the New York scene before moving out West to found a family, Brovold played with Rhys Chatham in the early 80s and founded such avant ensembles as the arcane but credible E.I.E.I.O.H. and Zen Vikings.
Brovold is a genius who's lucky to be alive. His own father referred to him as the "accident," but this moniker had nothing to do with the manner in which he was conceived. He is blind in one eye due to an unfortunate chance meeting with a stick; other misfortunes include falling off a roof twice, being sensitive to certain frequencies after his eardrum was punctured by a nail and almost dying of carbon monoxide poisoning after the chimney in his Lower East Side tenement collapsed, blocking the flue. The last incident was recorded in the local press and immortalized by a photograph of the unfortunate savant sprawled semi-comatose on the hood of a car while awaiting an ambulance. Brovold's commitment to his work is best exemplified by the time he sliced off the tip of his middle finger on the day of a gig, crazy-glued it back in place, wrapped it in gaffer's tape and then hours later proceeded to rock out.
Even if Brovold is accident-prone, there's nothing accidental about his music. Larval's efforts can be heard on an eponymous disc on Avant Records and Larval 2 (Knitting Factory Records). Often a mixture of melancholy and rage, Larval's volatile mix is described by Brovold as, "Scary in a thought-provoking way." Further defining his work, he adds, "I always think of my music as biblical as in every ascension to heaven is accompanied by a head on a stick." Such utterances leave him open to the suspicion that he might be some "intellectual shithead," a prospect that seems to terrify Brovold. Take for example his analysis of the competition: "Don Caballero are pretty fucking good but they don't vary much from what they do and that's the problem." He continues, "It's math rock, it's more about structure. A lot of instrumental music is purely intellectual, it's not very emotional or emotive."
But what really separates Brovold from his peers is his attitude toward the industry and his message: that despite the prospects of cyberspace, don't give up your day job. The more things are going to change, the more they are going to stay the same. He says, "When you think about how many people actually make a good living off their music, it's minuscule. So don't even think that way. Your chances of winning the lottery are just as good as becoming U2, so if you are doing it for the money, take that same amount of investment and buy lottery tickets." It's sound advice but, naturally, few will take it. And inevitably Brovold is consigning himself to lists of "This year's best records that you never heard" when he dismisses the much-heralded coming age of total entertainment as nothing less than "a change in the level of importance from creation to marketing. It is no longer how good the product is, it's how salable the product is and how quick it can be turned over to the lowest common denominator that will buy it."
Larval plays CBGB's on Dec. 9 and Tonic on Dec. 11.
Future King The year 2000 will undoubtedly result in a vicious bidding war for gentle country singer Daniel Simonis. Try imagining Woody Guthrie as played by James Dean and you'll get the general idea. A bitch magnet par excellence, Simonis has the face, voice and songs that will yield him a career on disc, soundtracks and the silver screen that comprises the holy triumvirate among A&R types these days. Right now he is even good enough that even old punk rockers can sit through his set without developing symptoms of dysentery. See him now if the whole star-is-born phenomenon tickles your fancy. Once the big boys get a hold of him, things will inevitably get ugly.
Daniel Simonis plays Baby Jupiter on Dec. 16.