Saturday, October 25, 2014

¡ Vampyre ¡

This article originally ran in March 2013 to celebrate Easter. As Samhain is upon us, I thought it would be timely to run it again. We will return next month with another installment of "A Day In The Life Of a Rock n' Roller".

Happy Halloween!

Julie Pavlowski Green
October 25, 2014

The more I dig into the idea of the collective psyche, the more I realize how little we verbally discuss the issues of death and dying. We are more comfortable with visually seeing death than we are actually discussing it. Just ask yourself why we all slow down for a traffic accident... I believe this suppression of vocalizing our feelings on the subject finds a way to express itself in our fascination with fictitious characters we have conjured up to help us deal with these internal feelings. Perhaps its not just our American culture but the Modern World which has since shed their folkloric traditions, that helped to allay the fears of death, decay and denied desires, and replaced them with these fictional archetypes.

The Vampire is a perfect example of how we project our fantasies on to a mythical character. Its existence in our popular culture can be seen as our way to explore the dark and repressed aspects of our personalities. Folklore on the Vampire can bee seen in nearly every culture around the globe. Tales of the demon Lilitu are seen in early Babylonian writings and blood sucking creatures known as Akhkhar have appeared in ancient Sumerian text. These female demons were transformed in Jewish demonology and reinterpreted as the demon Lilith. In old Sanskrit folklore, ghouls that inhabit corpses can be found. And then there is of course the hopping corpse in the Chinese tradition but the main characteristic of the vampire here has a twist. The creature, instead of sucking blood, sucks the victim's life source or chi out of them. Perhaps it was the geological distance that skewed the tale...

What a rich collective imagination we have! Our ancestors created these stories to placate their fears of the unknown. The fear of revenants has existed since time began, most likely due to the lack of knowledge and control over disease and the visual manifestations of decay in the human body after death. Man has always needed to explain and categorize in order to comprehend and it is through our ancient customs, rituals and folklore that Man has interpreted the world around him.

The sucking of blood from a virgin is not exactly without sexual overtones. The draining of fluids seems to me an obvious symbolic reference to semen. Oral sadism that evolved into the basis of "vampiric action", releases the repressed expression of certain sexual desires. No wonder Dracula has been rendered in over 750 movies since the turn of the 20th Century! This monster's role in different societies has changed, as we as a people have changed. From religious associations to more of a sexual orientation. Sexually repressed eroticism is something more common than we probably would like to discuss and manifests itself in the form of the undead coming to drink your blood!

We all have encountered someone that makes us feel drained and exhausted. Every time we interact with them, it feels as if our vital energy is literally sucked out of us. (Hopping Corpses anyone?)  I call them energy vampires. What they really are, are people suffering from a narcissistic behavioral disorder. The can suck the air right out of the room! This predatory personality is a parasite on the life energy of others. With an inflated concept of themselves, they seek constant praise and admiration from others around them.  In Christopher Leasch's book The Culture of Narcissism,  he explored  the acceleration of moral self absorption that is emerging from the modernization and secularization of our Modern World.

The conscious and unconscious metaphors surrounding the myth of the Vampire are rich in allegory. From sleeping during the conscious daytime and subsequent death upon the exposure to light, to the enclosure of the symbolic unconsciousness represented by the coffin and the Vampire's nocturnal excursions, the desire to represent this character in art, film and fiction is too delicious to not take a bite! The creature oozes with the kind of symbolism we artists desire to represent and reinterpret in our work.

John Polidori's The Vampyre (1819) was the first popular fictitious account of our undead friend, in the form of Lord Ruthven. Our course Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897), has become the pre-eminent Vampire novel of all time. But it wasn't until film took a hold of this richly decorated character that our nightmares were truly animated. In F.W. Murnau's ground breaking silent file, Nosferatu (1922), the ghoul is a visual feast of terror. My personal favorites come later in the form of Béla Lagosi's interpretation in Universal Picture's 1931 Dracula and of course the entire Hammer Horror series which I grew up watching every Saturday night on Creature Feature. (Thank you Bob Wilkins!)

The haunting images of a little boy playing dress up as a Vampire seemed to hit the right chord. The darkness dappled with hints of light showing us a little more detail of his world of make believe, helps us to understand our own psyche and our hidden, dark desires that manifest themselves in different ways. A painted face, some fake blood, a cape and a kitchen towel used for a loin cloth are all you need to face the unknown and shed some light on the darkness within.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Howlin' Wolf from The Mask Series

"Howlin' Wolf  No. 1" from The Mask Series

Ghosties, ghoolies and things that go bump in the night... Oh Hallows Eve, you have always been my favorite time of year! A time of transition, a time to enjoy being frightened and delighted by the darker sides of ourselves by putting on a mask which transforms us into someone or something beyond ourselves...

Howlin' Wolf is the 7th set of images from The Mask Series and is a celebration of this exuberance and freedom we feel once we don a mask. This set is my interpretation of the shape shifting werewolf howling and prowling about the rocky crag of a distant and imaginary landscape,.

As a special treat for Halloween, "Howlin' Wolf No. 3" has been silkscreened in an edition of 15 prints. These prints, along with two limited edition Giclée prints from this set, will be available through my Etsy store

As Samhain draws near, listen for the werewolf moaning in the moonlight,

Julie Pavlowski Green
October 18, 2014


"Howlin' Wolf  No 2" from The Mask Series

"Howlin' Wolf  No 3" from The Mask Series

"Howlin' Wolf  No 4" from The Mask Series

"Howlin' Wolf  No 5" from The Mask Series

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Catching Up with The Count Backwurds

It was a rare treat indeed when The Count Backwurds rolled into town and played an amazing set at Cody Bryant's Viva Cantina in Burbank, California for Real Boss Hoss this Summer. It was their first show in 18 years and the kids packed the back room to see these Goof Rock greats.

With Peepin' John on vocals, Brett Stillo on guitar, Steve Cox on bass and Russell Quan on drums, it was indeed a 1995 flashback and a reunion of sorts with pals from near and far lining the room like it was a Saturday night at The Purple OnionHere's a video I shot of them covering the fab tune "No Reason to Complain" by The Alarm Clocks for your listening pleasure.

The following interview brings no light to any of my questions but does raise quite few! As those of us who know this lot of hooligans, we wouldn't expect anything less, and that's why we love them...

It is with great pleasure that I present to you: The Count Backwurds!

Julie Pavlowski Green
October 11, 2014

JULIE GREEN:  When did the band form?

RUSSELL QUAN: Julie! Thank you! I must learn to read and then I will answer some heap good.

BRETT STILLO:  We started to get backwurds sometime around 1992.  We actually used to rehearse at the Purple Onion one afternoon a week.  In retrospect, that seems amazing that we would just head to North Beach and play at this club when no one was around.  Ready or not, we started playing in August of '93...our first gig was at the Onion of course.

STEVE COX: We first practiced in Brett’s folks garage in Novato. I learned to play Hi Healed Sneakers , Roadrunner, and a Sonic’s song. Brett showed me how to do it  - Russ played drums. I was in heaven but it went down hill from there.

JG: Tina Luchessi, Elka Zolot and Danielle Pimm from The Trashwomen used to be in the fist line up and then morphed into Steve Cox, Brett Stillo and Peepin’ John. How did that happen?

BS: I can’t remember all the details of the Gender Switch Backwurdz. Hell, I can’t remember how we spelled the band’s name: “Backwards”, Backwurds”, “Bakcwardzzz”, Buchwartsch”. I think the name of the band for the record, was supposed to be “Crash Cart and the Drag Hags” or something like that. Steve, as I recall, came up with “Count Backwards” for us, and somehow somebody stuck the name on that record. We all handeled it like adults and sued each other. In fact, somebody owes my lawyer 25 cents!

Peepin' John

PEEPIN’ JOHN: Was that Sling Shot Railjob and the Drag Hags? Steve came up with the name I think. He also named the band, The Count Backwurds, right? This was before my time, so you might wanna check with Steve.

BS:  Yup!  Slingshot Railjob and the Drag Hags!  That was the name of the band.  And yeah, I think you're right about Steve coming up with Count Namewurdz.  Steve, you have a gift for band names!

Russell Quan

SC: Here’s my 2 cents. I came up with the (name) Count Backawrds at a Star Trek Convention with Mike Kettlestump. I think Christoff (Certick) was there, maybe Russ. I was thinking of good band names. I was into The Count 5 and was looking for something Count. I was in a terrible car accident in '86 and had surgeries till '88. Before I went under the knife, they told me to count backwards from 100. The next thing I knew, I was awake, I was in a coma also but the Coma 5 didn’t sound so cool


 Good thing someone remembers this stuff!

    BS: I’m making it all up. I didn’t join the band until ’96 to replace that creep who looked like me.
    What was his name? Stett Brillo, right? Whadda jerk!

JG: Is it true you guys were in a battle of the bands judged by Bob Denver & Bobby Darin?

BS: I am sworn to secrecy about the Bob Denver incident. Bobby Darin was dead by then but James Darren was alive and well… if you know what I mean! Someday the world will know the true story when the file is declassified in 2044.

Brett Stillo

JG: Tell us a Tom Guido story!

RQ: Ha ha ha!! you mean the death threats?
 I saved the last one on my phone.

Steve Cox

BS: As long as they were wacky, funny death threats like "I'm gonna kill you Mother Fucker!  Kill you with my witty comments!"

RQ: And then the resultant  “I’m sorry, I was just kidding, did I sound mean"?

PJ: Well my Frenemy Tommy G for some reason believed that I blew up the toilet at the purple onion with an M-80. I totally didn't do it but he wouldn't believe me. The toilet in the men’s room was ancient and always overflowing. Some jocks probably sabotaged it in a drunken rage! Tom was always going off on people when he would get drunk during every show, so its possible he offended someone and they jacked up the john! Anyway, he was ranting to someone when the toilet exploded for the umpteenth time, and was yelling " How did Peepin’ John get in here without me seeing him?!" I wasn't even there cause he 86'd me from the previous weekend. He is still convinced to this day that I blew up his toilet.  

Another funny line of his he'd yell out: " Neala turn on the crazy light!". The crazy light was a lamp with a shade that had multi colored cellophane on it and would send colored light on the walls and roof. A 50c light show to go with the cheezy tinsel on the stage! Of course there is the classic Q: "what time is it?"  A: " the 60's!"

    Do you remember his lyrics? “Rap is crap, rap take a nap!” Or he had one called “I Like to Spill” 
    which was about getting so drunk that he would spill his beer all over!


PJ: I like the funny stories best!

BS: I'm trying to think of a Tom Guido story that won't go beyond 50,000 words!

JG: Who did your illustrations of the lovely Lil’ Count?

RQ: The cartoon mascot for The Countbacwurds is ripped directly from Clark Kolher’s “Varmints”.

BS: Who drew that little gremlin dude with the Tricorne hat?  I want to find that guy and punch his head for drawing such a horrific monstrosity.

JG: Did you watch Sesame Street when you were a kid?

BS:  I watched Sesame Street, but The Count showed up after I had moved on to The Electric Company.  I did get to see The Count in action a few times when my little sister watched Sesame Street.  Stylin' dude.  I think that's where I get my love of capes.

JG: What is your favorite number?

BS: I have many favorite numbers as long as this symbol precedes them:  $

JG: What is your favorite Count Backwurds song?

BS: My favorite Backwuardszszsz song is probably "Sadie's Ways" by...hmmmm... The Esquires?  I'm forgetting the name of the band at the moment, but as I recall it was one of those classy-sounding band names that seemed to go with matching red blazers with little crests on the chest.