Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Book Review : I'm In The Band by Sean Yseult

Welcome to 2011.  I'm liking this format and judging by the number of you who stopped by last year, we're on to something.  Thanks.

Following another year of declining CD sales I'm hoping the trend of "Media" continues for many years to come.  Documentaries, DVD's/Films, Books and other tough to steal media should do some damage this year with the long awaited Lemmy documentary coming on DVD as well as cinematic premieres.  The Malfunkshun documentary was shown at film festivals in 2005!  It's to be released in the first quarter of 2011.   

Speaking of 2011, what a way to kick things off...

For you to have “been there” you must be at least 31/2/3 years old or close to it.  You would remember, amongst other things - black and white television, MTV showing videos, the 3-D television premiere of ‘The Creature from the Black Lagoon’ sponsored by 7-11.  You remember when “Freddy Krueger” and “Jason” weren't franchises, you get extra points for knowing Greg got the Johnny Bravo gig because he fit the suit. If you remember this stuff, not only are you “old,” but you'd fully remember when White Zombie exploded!  Not imploded, that came later, but when the band really hit.  To the World at large they seemed to appear out of nowhere.

This colorful, disturbing, shredded, out of place, can’t take your eye off em cartoon existence come to life.  Kinda funny- the word “life” was never really associated with the corpse-y skinned  White Zombie klan.  Which weirdly enough their biggest shot of “life” was administered through both a legendary A&R guy and later the opinion of two cartoon morons.  In the years 1985-1997/8 White Zombie went from art house noise mongers to bona fide worldwide arena headliners. From the day the band started, Co-Founder, Bassist, and new author Sean Yseult was there.  

In her recently released coffee table book, ‘I’m In The Band’ (‘Backstage Notes from the Chick in White Zombie’) Yseult opens the crypt and what she unveils is quite the bible for fans of the much missed and at times horribly imitated band. I mean, a more thorough documentation on the band won’t be found, no need to look, it’s all here.  

From the day she was born Sean Yseult was involved in some sort of art, her fate was sealed early on and digging into the story of not only the band’s meteoric rise it, but her own development from a North Carolina outcast to a global Bass Monster - it almost seem fitting she’d end up on top.  A true rags to, uh, nicer rags story! 

Featuring over 2,000 images, everything from the very first photos of Sean and the then Rob Cummings as a couple, pre band in 1985 to their final tour itineraries not to mention all the personal journals, mementos, photos, memories and scars too.  Yseult is a lifer; her time spent in New York City’s Lower East Side definitely helped condition her to the rather rough lifestyle of a musician, especially a “Metal” musician.  She definitely absorbed the rigors of touring and life in general and really shares it ALL with you. 

However, if it were just Sean’s POV on the decade plus romp around the world the story might be a bit one-sided.  Yseult, who knows a thing or two about being excluded from decisions, has really gone the extra mile in compiling the text for ‘I’m In The Band.’  By getting written contributions from some of the key souls who participated in creating the White Zombie beast the story goes from strength to strength in a way a single (usually) author just can’t compete with.  Key moments with former members J. Yuenger, Ivan de Prume, Johnny Tempesta and the aforementioned A&R guru Michael Alago as well as many others who help paint the picture of the band from every step in their career.

There’s some really great early stuff where the band had their own fanzine where’d they had total control to get whatever information they wanted out and about, sell merch and music.  The zines are fucking COOL to see.  These documents show what it was like “back in the day.”  Before ANYTHING we currently rely on, Zombie created their own world from day one and it was just a matter of time until people landed on it. When people finally land they’re carrying Grammy Nominations, A-List Hollywood Screenings, the ability to hold court with your heroes, trips to exotic locations, planes, trains and automobiles and of course flesh and party favors.  Lots of both.  

So it’s unfortunate how quick Planet Zombie (it’s main moons at the time of it’s demise: rz, sy, jy, & jt) implodes.  That’s in here too.  While it’s true, White Zombie was an unconventional band from the get-go, the inner workings after the success hit is some really good reading.  Brutally honest in not only her band mates and management, she’s also that way with herself.  All the mental and physical scars are shown and at times they’re not pretty, but they’re very real and very human. 

Don’t get me wrong, there’s no doom and gloom here.  I’m happy to say Sean Yseult had a fucking BLAST!  I mean, she lived her life to the fullest during those days and thankfully still has the pictures and memory to do something like this!  The stories of the band’s Brooklyn rehearsals to their Geffen signing to relocation to California to the David Letterman Show and on and on and on!  I cannot say enough good things about this.  It’s definitely one of those “you always find something” books.  Great memories from tours with Danzig, Kyuss, Pantera and tons more. There’s just SO MUCH stuff.  It’s killer.       

As great as the visuals are the writing is right up there too.  Straightforward and easy to digest, it’s a definite great addition to the world of Rock N Roll books.  A real unflinching all-access pass into the life of a Zombie. If you were letdown (as many were) by the information (or lack-there-of) included in the ‘Let Sleeping Corpses Lie’ box-set, this is your retribution.  

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie

White Zombie was an interesting entity.  The way they "made it" was the old way. Total D.I.Y. (running their own label, booking their own tours, making their own merch etc. etc) That hard work and a pinch (or punch) of luck will allow them to go down in music history.  This book ties everything together and is a great way to start the new year.