John Olson is one-third of the seminal American new music trio Wolf Eyes and the creator of American Tapes, a boutique label specializing in limited-edition objects that often blur the line between fine art and music. He is 115% Trip Metal.
One Michigan week with family man Olson is truly jam packed. Every day starts with an early run near the campus of Michigan State University (MSU), followed by the kind of expert media consumption that one might expect from the member of a groundbreaking group often referred to as the “kings of American noise.” Music ranges from hardcore to reggae to jazz to prog rock to folk to DJ Screw and beyond. Sci-Fi gets read and Olson’s forthcoming book Life Is a Rip Off is edited furiously to meet a deadline. Also: father/daughter jam sessions, weight lifting to Pink Floyd, and a lot of ripping skateboard action. All this and a lot more below! -John Chiaverina
Monday, Nov 16
Up and ready for action yo: welcome to Monday with 32 degrees and sunny, ready to attack the weekly run. Stretch, get the tight running pants on, read that “What Isis Really Wants” article that Clint Simonson wrote after the horrible Paris terrorist attacks. Drink a half gallon of water.
Five and half miles thru the secondary route of the raw river trail complete with homeless “Tent Village” bypass opposite of MSU. Nice route. Recognize all the street types on this run cause they all hang out at the skatepark, which I will see in five hours… Perf weather for run: nice and steady chops back after make up last week. Post tour, which always sux.
Monday is reggae day so Alton Ellis Featuring Hortense Ellis 2LP Studio One is on deck along with Studio One Soul 2LP Soul Jazz comp for the morning hours. Make bfast for Moma Tovs and baby Lila, Tovs off to work. Coffee, shower, eat breakfast while watching episodes 4 & 5 of OG Dark Shadows and bask in the grim dull burn excellence.
Lift free weights in basement with Pandora “Prince Jazzbo” station on blast. Lila plays along with baby Armadillo.
Do light mail, start editing Life Is A Rip Off, a book of year long daily record reviews. Deadline is next Monday, three months of editing condensed to a week. Requires ZERO exterior sound. Take editing breaks to practice new horn ensemble Wolf set-up of Soprano Sax and brand new killer Alto Clarinet: stoked on the new reeds. Brain tense from inzan-ese editing …ugh…
Walk thru the woods on a 55 degree beautiful afternoon sunny dream with Lila to her $5 local daycare afternoon deal. Drop her off, skate over to the sacred “Trowbridge Mani Pads” to solo warm up with kickflips, ledge work, manuals, ollies and curb stalls. Do this for half hour until able to do a long clean line of said tricks and drop the mail off at a old school “pull dump box” and skate two miles to the Ranney Skate Park to meet the squad (+homeless from the morning drinking) full warmed up.
At Ranney Park with full squad of rippers: amazing session complete with side view of four-car accident that takes the entire two hours to settle up. No big injuries but a nasty knee bump on the rail. Crew is raging cause the nice days are a rarity now, amazing soul stirring excellence. Young metal heads there talking about how rad “Witch” is… None notice my MITOCHONDRIAN long sleeve. Crew consists of G-Man, Slick Nick, Beetle, Sly Eli, others. Missing: Stolen Nolan, Don the Player, and my main partner Sean Bonnette of Andrew Jackson Jihad unit who is midway through a weeker tweaker down south. Amazing session regardless. Long skate back to daycare usually consists of at least two cars yelling “poseur,” “Fag” or “get a life.” Not let down this time; got one of ’em.
Pick up Lila, get some lunch at the Fresh Tymes grocery store. Walk home as sun sets. Shower again. Take a quick nap until Tovs gets home. Jam Look How Me Sexy 2LP by Yellowman and Non Stop Disco Style by Dillinger in the background as nighttime regime sinks in. Tovs gets home; I edit in total silence until 9pm.
Take Lila to sleep with me as I grip my two sci-fi books in progress: Titan by John Varley and S.O.S From Three Worlds by Murray Lainster. Titan is an amazing sex-starved hardback 78’ deal with amazing illustrations by “Freff” and is about a female-led space edition that gets “digested” inside a craft-creature Moon of Jupiter and thrust into a super weird world. S.O.S is by common but solid-state Murray about three ventures of a traveling Medical Starmug and his creature sidekick dealing with Plagues and timeholes. Read in silence until 11 p.m. and pass the f-out with dreams of hanging with the Necros and rebuilding people in shut down dystopian Walmarts. Great day.
Tuesday, Nov 17
Awake and rested. Head downstairs and get in some morning editing, lots of that today. Forecast says rain at 1 p.m. and throws a wrench into today’s plans. Nice and warm out, 45 degrees, cloudy.
Five and half miles thru MSU campus. Uneventful but perf running weather. Chops feel fine.
Bfast, Tovs send off. Dark Shadows. Tuesday is Blue Note day, pull out Horace Silver, Donald Byrd, J.R. Monterose and Clifford Jordan as the platters of the day. Amazing jams for a cloudy day.
Weights. Blue Note on Pandora as soundtrack. Lots of skipping but best station is Dexter Gordon that has most Gruff. Decide for open swim because of rain.
Free swim at suburb Hell Haslett Goldfish. Lila now swims solo so it’s all chase and dunking. Swim friends are rare here cause of cold Mom vibes; Lila’s crew isn’t here so it’s a quiet session complete with broken showers, so skin is all Chlorine’d out. Still in a heavy PUSMORT zone so the stunningly epic Execute/Inferno split & Thrash Till Death comps are played in the whip.
Lunch date with Tovs at Soup Spoon. Crap millennial service, good food. Tovs is getting ready to launch a new “Storyteller” series after work: hour and half of peeps from the community telling stories. She’s home late so its back home for a long stretch.
Go to Staples for CD-Rs, supply is dwindling down cause mugs just don’t use ’em anymore. Roll by skatepark in the car to see if any crew is posted up; just the homeless. Missing nothing, but rain never came, made wrong choice not to ride. Usually Tuesday night is skaters only at the Xian Run Building 21 in nearby Holt, which promises super intense testosterone shredding supreme, but have Bucket all night so no go. Need a day of skate rest anyway cause I hit it tuff all weekend. Post up in silence after a Donald Byrd Catwalk session and literally edit for six hours straight while Lila watches Shezow and plays with her My Little Ponies. Time goes by fast but brain is FRIED. Have daily phone talk with Nate about plotting out upcoming tours and new Wolf Alphabet reissue 7” series from the 26 10” lathes we cut live in Nashville at Thirdman Studios. Exciting cause the jam session was dull murder supreme, super cold.
More Blue Notes. Let my nugget think NOTHING. Dying to skate tomorrow. Somehow. This editing deadline is a mug, but on top of it. Dub some tapes from mail stragglers and burn some John Spykes CD-Rs for the monthly box sets. Jam soprano with Lila in my lap playing mini synth for over an hour. Good times there, trying to get a solid tone out of a low Stan Getz west coast sound and boy its tuff, getting there. Hit a couple chapters in each Sci-Fi book. Pass out. Dream of a big gig in Seoul, Korea. Before I leave, the skate crew is adding on to my already big backyard skate zone and the goons are drinking and causing a ruckus but all in good fun. I watched them pour concrete as I get dressed up in a white tux for the plane ride. Get to Korea and am in a Blade Runner type of back alley steaming kitchen scene waiting for my Uber ride to the jam. When the car rolls up, the driver, car–everything–is neon green. I ask about it and he says “It’s the Seoul way: if you like one color you use it EVERYWHERE, no substitutes.” Weird.
Wednesday, Nov 18
Up, no alarm, grey sun grudgingly getting up. Got a tap tap on my shoulder at 2 a.m. letting me know that Tovs gotta head to work early so I gots to hit the slab by 7:40 to get the mileage in. Stretch, gear, blah blah. Answer emails about spring two-part Wolf Euro tour. 60 Degrees out, no wind, very nice.
Five and half miles: pass of couple of early birds on the River Trail route, no homeless this trek. Eventless and chill, find a ZZ TOP snapback blowing on the streets, after a double wash it’s a keep. Don’t even like ’em. Rain beckons…
Bfast with Dark Shadows episodes 9-11: Not even a mention of a Barnabas YET and it’s super tense, nothing happens. Haunted House, Haunted Collingswood town. Rules. Grimness on screen matches the scene outside. Practice soprano horn for 30 min. Hit some scales and new fingerings, still waiting on Alto clarinet mouthpiece to arrive to fully dive into that beauty. Got a normal mouth piece on it with duct tape, doesn’t cut the highs, can’t wait, should be tomorrow. Today is Euro Progressive jam day so its Igra Staklenih Perli Soft Explosion live LP on deck and some other amazing Kalemegdan Disk jammers like Tako and some Polish blasters SBB along with the almighty Solaris Martian Chronicles masterpiece I found in Milwaukee ages ago for pennies. Good stark-but-complex grim jams for the now rainy late fall blustery day outside.
Weights in the basement. Play live Pink Floyd ’73 era on Pandora. Classick Dilloway-era Wolf Tour afternoon nap soundtracks. Weird for lifting weights but it’s a weird day.
Clean out the garage aka “The Cold Noose” so its skateable for the upcoming winter months. Enough room for one trick back-to-front, maybe two. Perfect for flatground really and a jam box: usually put a curb slab in there as well and a bank for flow. Lila rolls around SHINING style on her big wheel while I try to get these old bones back into Melancholy flat Ollie mode. Good session. Keep your flat ground up and everything else falls into place.
Walk to Trowbridge Plaza for lunch, light rain. Chill outside. Hit the Fresh Tymes for free coffee samples and roll home to edit.
More Edits for Life is a Rip Off Deadline. On top of it; getting faster but still a silent concentration burn. Kool off with some more Solaris and watch some crazy new skate videos.
Take a nap: wake up dark. Mama Tovs gets home, I drive to get a pizza from the raw Papa Johns so we can watch new episode of Fargo. I okay middle-of-season jump off: last couple have been NUTZ so it makes sense it cooled down/built up a touch. Season now is better than last which is really saying something. Billy Bob’s best roll, natch.
Mail in the office: Nothing heavy but lots of putting pieces together. Jam my favorite night mail soundtrack: best of DJ Screw playlist I’ve been adding to for years with Point Blank, Mr. 3-2, Everyday Street Gangster, “Smoke On,” “All Kinds of Cars,” others from the 3 a.m. tape. Perf day bring down office work jams. Goes smooth.
Big day tomorrow: Long run in the AM and got Bucket solid till 10 p.m. Weather looks 50 and grey: no rain so we both will do our favorite mid-afternoon skate to the park trip. Quick eBay search for a cheap piccolo I got my eyes on as well as some Duduk reeds. Then off to zzzzz land. Dream I get married to some Redneck family in Vegas and try hard to split outta town but keep getting hunted down. Weird.
Thursday, Nov 19
Choppy sleep cause I’m hyped to the get the long run over with. Crawl outta the sack to a dark morning, weather says it’s nice to attack. Stretch, water: answer some whatever emails and hit the pavement ready. Get 7 miles in: eventless dodging thru the iPhone MSU zombies. Have Tenor Saw’s anthem “Reality” stuck in my head the whole run. Goes by fast, but as the timer says, not fast enough. Perfect weather but a killer cold breeze hits my sweat frame at mile 5 and it’s a gnarler.
Bfast: Use up the remaining 8% of cereal around the kitchen so make a big bowl hybrid of A: Frosted Mini Wheats B: Cinnamon Toast Crunch C: Apple Jacks D: Frosted Flakes. Pretty good. Anyone remember the rare “BIG MIX” Kellog cereal that was just a conglomerate of all their mixes with brown sugar to tie it all in? Mascot was Hybrid of all the characters too? Practice soprano sax after cereal while adding my own woodwind eerie soundtrack to Dark Shadows. An hour of editing closes out morning. In a loner folk mood so pull out classicks Bob Desper, Tree People, Timmothy Strange But True, John Palmer, and “Not Alone” by Kansas’ Paul Fleeman. Fits the mood the day perfect.
Basement weights. No Pandora cause the closest thing they have to a loner folk station is Jandek, which has too much fast finger forwardin’.
Roll out with Bucket Li to Ranney Skatepark: It’s a mess. When it’s windy in general it’s like a NASA wind test at the curves of the local skate hut. Able to get in a half hour before Lila tips over a tin Jim Jones style trash can and we pack it in. No other shredder there. Head to the car for daily Wolf talk with Natas: a dude rolls up to shred I watch him while I talk in the car like a creep. Hit the bank for further Wolf business. Car jams: Septic Death and Poison Idea’s massive Kings of Punk. Amazing.
Every Thursday me and YIYI hit up El Azteco in East Lansing for burritos. Always chill, have our fave waitress there: always a good time. Load up on chips and Diet Coke: get a burrito for Moma Tovs, drop it off at her Lansing State Journal job. Get some cider on the way home.
Nap time while we snuggle up and jam one of my fave loner LPs: the sleeper emotive chill of Conjerti, Morreale & Dibley’s Earth Free joint. Void put out some bangers, cheap too.
Nonstop Live is a Rip Off editing. Getting fast but it’s stretching the week waaay too out. Getting me in a cold mood. Tovs not home ’til late again watching the new Boston newspaper movie [Spotlight] with her journalism coworker squad.
Shut down the fucking editing for the night. Practice soprano to ease the nugget. No nap Lila snuggles up and I look at cheap Alto Saxes on eBay for a minute and find a playable cheapo for 70 bones. Nice, pull the trigger on that and thus spend the rest of the night watching Alto master Abe Kaoru live clips and some TM head sends me a link to his ’95 biopic Final Waltz about his turbulent life with his writer wife. Watch half: go upstairs and read both Sci-Fi books until I knock out. Looking like skating tomorrow night may be a loner move cause the squad ain’t hollering about no session no where. Cold and snow in the forecast. Outside grindage looking more bleak by the minute. Dream I’m doing a photo shoot for Subway Jared before he goes in for his 15+ year sentence. The dream mood is tense to say the least.
Friday, Nov 20
Wake at the relaxed 7:15 a.m.
Light final 5.5 mile run today, damn good cause its 30 degrees out with snow storm beckoning for the weekend. Quick stretch, email peeps. Hit the slab dressed thick and disappear into the river trail route with nada fanfare. No jams ringing through the nugget: starts and ends steady. Glad when it’s over.
Usual business. Still no GD Alto clarinet mouthpiece so can’t practice that boo hoo. Sunny out but chilly so its garage skate action. Edit some, bfast. Finish watching Final Waltz, peep some more Abe Kaoru fire on the computer. Week has been long. Still in a loner folk mode. Jam Fred Neil’s unmatchable sessions LP on repeat. Such a slow monster by the monster. Jam Sibylle Baier’s soul wrecking downer Colour Green record and get slowly suffocated by the grim vibes.
Weights. Listening to The Folk Sound Of Terry Callier as I finish up work in the cellar. Amazing downer album there. Lila insists on bringing her Xmas-Birthday tree up and we light it up. Making it a snuggly scene.
Muck around in the garage on a cold sunny afternoon. Jam Xcentric Noise’s Raw War comp on the skate jam box with its all-star cast of old school Rattus, Nabat, Olho Seco, and Neos. Rules. Grab the curb block and with the first board-to-5-O style deck pressure snaps. Too young of a deck to admit defeat: only option is to put on rails, a hour solution cause all I got is crappy Rat Nuts that are too big for the holes, so it’s a nightmare on what could be a ten-minute job. Anyhow, put it through, do some more shredding. Go inside, make lunch, more lonerism with the magic of Strange’s Souvenir Album.
Edit in silence as the sun goes down, get email about deadline pushed forward. Gotta hustle up now to get the first Rip Off done by Saturday afternoon.
Tovs gets home from work, picks Lila up for Silver Bells In the City parade. I stay home to write-edit more. Still the silence. Take a break to practice horn and peep some more Abe footage. Get to a point where tomorrow’s deadline is do-able and shut her down for the night.
Rare night where I can stay up late cause no weekend running. Take advantage of the slot looking at more rare Japan 70s free improv footage. Find Hirokazu Yamada’s 1985 Kozan LP to listen to and get totally mind-morphed. Jam some more Abe K tracks with him on bass clarinet with guitar mastermind Masayuki Takayanagi, and left speechless. Perf late night duo magic. Crawl upstairs to the sack: within two seconds have a complex dream that Me, Tovs and Lila are waiting on a mobile “Sperm Sample” truck so we can have another daughter. Weird, esp when the truck rolls up and gets all tangled up with some neighbors that are moving out in a gnarly rushed style. So ends a strange and long week.