Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
Sep 01st
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Put Smog Away

music_BillCallahanBill Callahan on old monikers and atheistic anthems
Score one for the atheists. On Bill Callahan’s first album (he was then known as Smog), 1990’s Sewn to the Sky, there’s a song called “I Want to Tell You About a Man,” where we learn about a person who doesn’t drop acid, is not a member of the New York rave scene, and doesn’t even read Philip K. Dick books—didn’t everyone parse “The Man in the High Castle”?

Well, the man in that song is eventually found out to be Jesus Christ (don’t make him say it twice), and it’s left to the listener to figure out whether this is a piece of pompous proselytizing, or an instance of black humor. The issue seemed to be cleared up 19 years later on the Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle track called “Faith/Void,” where Callahan implores his listeners to “put God away.” In a strong sense, it seems like the first legitimate atheistic exultation since “Believe,” and in fact it turns out the idea was to create a song that a certain community could get behind.

“There was really only one guy who objected to ‘Faith/Void’ in my sphere of interaction,” recalls the 45-year-old Austin, Texas guitarist. “I guess he was down with God and thought it was fine to use God as a social weapon. I'd been reading a lot of atheist literature and thought those people need an anthem.”

In fact, the intrusion of religious themes into Callahan’s lyrics is just one instance of how the singer-songwriter’s career has developed. Though his vocal delivery has always been perfectly described as ‘austere,’ the framing of that delivery has shifted greatly. Sewn to the Sky shares much in common with a Jandek album, featuring more creepy soundscapes than traditionally structured songs. It’s probably how the (apparently false) notion that Callahan’s a Jandek admirer developed.

Still, even in the context of natural artistic development over two decades, the contrast between Callahan’s early and recent material—Apocalypse, his 14th album and third under his own name, was just released in April—is stark. Lo-fi crackle has been replaced with Pro Tools, and free jazz-like meandering has been replaced with polished country-esque songs. So how does the man himself reconcile those extremes?

“I am a different person,” explains Callahan. “I've been several different people since 1990. I was interested in different things, I had different desires and the sound in my head was very different. Reconciliation is not necessary. Somebody else made those records! My tether is about three records long, which is about six years. I can ‘feel’ back about three records all the time. I can sense that connection or conciliation only for about a five- or six-year stretch.”

It’s kind of surprising, then, that Callahan stuck with the Smog moniker as long as he did. For 11 albums between 1990 and 2005, Callahan used the pseudonym to mark his recordings, and finally with 2007’s Woke on the Whaleheart, switched to releasing albums under his own name. Nowadays, it seems like the decision was long overdue.

“I was tired of it,” says the Maryland native about his old appellation. “And it dawned on me that it had lost any meaning for me. It was just like a nonsense word that I was using to name my recorded output. Like ‘Gozo’ or something.”


Bill Callahan plays at 8:30 p.m. Monday, June 20, at Don Quixote’s, 6275 Hwy 9, Felton. Tickets are $15. For more information, call 603-2294

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

The Meaning of ‘LIFE’

With a new documentary film about his work, and huge exhibits on both coasts, acclaimed Santa Cruz nature photographer Frans Lanting is having a landmark year. But his crusade for conservation doesn’t leave much time for looking back

 

Seasons of Opportunity

Everything in our world has a specific time (a season) in which to accomplish a specific work—a “season” that begins (opportunity) and ends (time’s up). I can feel the season is changing. The leaves turning colors, the air cooler, sunbeams casting shadows in different places. It feels like a seasonal change has begun in the northern hemisphere. Christmas is in four months, and 2015 is swiftly speeding by. Soon it will be autumn and time for the many Festivals of Light. Each season offers new opportunities. Then the season ends and new seasons take its place. Humanity, too, is given “seasons” of opportunity. We are in one of those opportunities now, to bring something new (Uranus) into our world, especially in the United States. Times of opportunity can be seen in the astrology chart. In the U.S. chart, Uranus (change) joins Chiron (wound/healing). This symbolizes a need to heal the wounds of humanity. Uranus offers new archetypes, new ways of doing things. The Uranus/Chiron (Aries/Pisces) message is, “The people of the U.S. are suffering. New actions are needed to bring healing and well-being to humanity. So the U.S. can fulfill its spiritual task of standing within the light and leading humanity within and toward the light.” Thursday, Aquarius Moon, Mercury enters Libra. The message, “To bring forth the new order in the world, begin with acts of Goodwill.” Goodwill produces right relations with everyone and everything. The result is a world of progressive well-being and peacefulness (which is neither passive nor the opposite of war). Saturday is the full moon, the solar light of Virgo streaming into the Earth. Our waiting now begins, for the birth of new light at winter solstice. The mother (hiding the light of the soul, the holy child), identifying the feminine principle, says, “I am the mother and the child. I, God (Father), I Matter (Mother), We are One.”

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of August 28

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Land of Plenty

Farm to Fork benefit dinner for UCSC’s Agroecology Center, plus a zippy salsa from Teresa’s Salsa that loves every food it meets

 

If you knew you had one week to live, what would you do?

Make peace with myself, which would allow me to be at peace with others. Diane Fisher, Santa Cruz, Network Engineer

 

Comanche Cellars

Michael Simons, owner and winemaker of Comanche Cellars, once had a trusted steed called Comanche, which was part of his paper route and his rodeo circuit, from the tender age of 10. In memory of this beautiful horse, he named his winery Comanche, and Comanche’s shoes grace the label of each handcrafted bottle.

 

Cantine Winepub

Aptos wine and tapas spot keeps it casual