Brain In A Vat

A DJ Motato Loop (But First: My Life in The Gutter)

Satori Dog | Friday 03 February 2017

Back in the mid-1980s, I used to work live sound at the only punk nightclub in Fort Lauderdale, a sleazehole appropriately called The Gutter (motto on back of t-shirt: "I Spent The Night In The Gutter"). The punk wave had crested years before, but its trickle down acceptableness into the suburban fashion scene was only then coming into full flower. This was around the same time when The Smiths' "How Soon Is Now?" was as ubiquitous as Ronald Reagan jokes on ALF. My day job boss was the DJ at the club, and he probably played that damn song at least three times during the course of the evening, so that the disaffected youth from Coral Springs and other hardscrabble South Florida neighborhoods could dance in Charlie Brown fashion, head down, shoegazing, for the whole extended 20 minutes.

The Gutter was down and out back behind a seedy U-shaped hotel right off the Strip, whose name escapes me, whose name I probably actually never learned, and the rooms all looked down onto the pool and ad-hoc tiki and burger bar in true Foucault prison design fashion. I went up there just once to get a burger, placing my order then sitting down next to a scruffy looking guy who initiated our conversation by saying he was a Vietnam vet and that he had a knife in his boot and that he could kill me in two seconds flat if he wanted to. It wasn't a threat, he said, he was just sayin'. I found him to be a nice enough fella as we chatted while I waited for my burger, which I decided to get to go.

And oh what great bands we had at The Gutter! Stevie Stiletto and the Switchblades was a personal favorite. They drove five hours from Jacksonville just to play for beer. They were known throughout all of Florida for being the LOUDEST BAND IN THE HISTORY OF SOUND. The club space was all of 600 square feet total, and Stevie and crew setup stacks of amps which overfilled the stage to the point that they had to stand on the dance floor to play. I hid crouched under the console the whole show, pressing my hands over my ears as hard as I could push, my ears drums near-bleeding, in excruciating pain. I could feel my liver and kidneys vibrating within my body cavity, attempting to reposition themselves, trying to find some bone matter to hide behind for safety's sake. If you stood outside the club (which is where I spent the rest of the show doing the sound), with the three-inch thick metal fire door shut tight, it was still the loudest thing you'd ever heard in your life by any measurable factor.

The owner of The Gutter was a nightclub owner type who grew up on Miami Beach, where he and his best friend Mickey Rourke used to walk mob guy Meyer Lansky's shih tzu for pennywhistles and moonpies when they were kids. (Lansky was the inspiration for Hymen Roth in "The Godfather Part II.") The owner had the nightclub scene down pat: shoddy workmanship, over-priced drinks, loud music, greasy food, stiff the help. He had great stories which he would regale us with after hours, when we'd all be sitting around the bar, waiting to get fucking paid. One night, he was walking home and came upon a barefoot young girl who had stepped on a metal grate in a construction site that was accidentally and lethally attached to a live main 220V power line, her friends screaming in horror as they watched her electrocution. My nightclub owner friend took a flying jump and kicked her off the grate, the electrical shock-force of which threw him a good thirty feet in the other direction. He was able to stick a light bulb in his mouth and make it light up for a couple days after that. That was one such story.

Brush With Future Greatness

There was this soft-spoken, good-looking kid named Scott who used to come into The Gutter whenever we had a live band. He knew I played guitar and he said he kind of played guitar and did I want to meet his buddy Brian and talk about starting a band? (I think he thought I was good, which I wasn't very at the time.) I had a day job, a nice live-in girlfriend, and life was pretty good, so I didn't take him up on his offer. He and Brian started the band a couple years later, Brian changing his name to Marilyn Manson and Scott to Daisy Berkowitz, and the rest is history. Perhaps the most understated thing I can say about that particular road not traveled is that my life probably would have been quite different if I had somehow found myself in Marilyn Manson.

I met up with Scott once down in Miami Beach to meet this dude Frank Falestra (a.k.a. Rat Bastard), who had a pretty cool noise club called Churchill's in a nasty part of town. Frank had a band called The Scraping Teeth which SPIN magazine voted Worst Band in America; they were that good. Frank was a nice guy but I just wasn't into the whole noise scene. He produced early Marilyn Manson sessions and is still around doing noise installations and other such events of a reprobate nature. (We had an industrial noise band come through The Gutter once called the Vociferous Mutes. I seem to recall that part of their whole shtick had something to do with a truck axle, hoisted horizontally across the stage, which they beat on throughout their whole Skinny Puppy-wannabe show. I'm pretty sure that was them. Our super sweet blond New Age bartender quit right after their first song, right on the spot, claimed their music was harming her aura. No one disagreed.)

Brain In A Vat (Finally)

In addition to running sound, I would occasionally DJ at The Gutter. I thought I was being given a chance to show my musical tastes and cross-dissolving-mixed-speed chops; but in reality, the owner let me spin only when he needed to clear the dance floor and get people buying more drinks. He'd give my DJ friend the nod to put me in, like a relief pitcher he knew couldn't possibly save the game; he just wanted to throw in the towel and get home early. In this regard, as far as selling drinks went, I was a pretty good DJ. I could clear a dance floor by at least the second song, if not right after my first needle drop.

Anyway, all of the above has practically nothing to do with the title of this blog and or the accompanying song below, which I created the first time I opened up GarageBand by mashing up a few of its canned loops with a sample from a philosophy lecture CD. I guess the word DJ is the thread between the whole The Gutter story and the song, as DJ Motato was the moniker I used for this track.

After listening, I'd love to know: what would you do? It's kind of a "The Matrix" question. Personally, I'm not so sure I would. Drop a line.

It's time, meet me on the sunny road, then we'll jump on the Facebook bandwagon and sign up for my mailing list! Love, Greg