JIM SCLAVUNOS – Song For Ewe

Jim Sclavunos photo by Kerry Brown

“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists & music people beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day. Today’s guest is a multi instrumentalist and punk rock polymath who I’ve admired for a good while and who I’ve been vying to get on these pages for quite some time. But that time is now, and it’s for an excellent cause too. Jim Sclavunos, a long time card carrying member of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, has his first solo record “Holiday Song” out since New Year’s Day via Lowe Amusements Records and all the proceeds from the release during the month of January will be donated to the Grassroots Music Venue Crisis Fund set up by the Music Venue Trust (#saveourvenues) – more of which below.

New York born, London based Jim has had a long and distinguished career in the indie underground. He was founding editor of No Magazine (1976-1980) a fanzine which was often credited with inventing the phrase “No Wave”. Alongside Lydia Lunch, Jim was a key mover in the scene with bands like Teenage Jesus & The Jerks, Beirut Slump and 8 Eyed Spy before drumming for Sonic Youth on their debut album  (and a real fav of mine to this day) “Confusion Is Sex”.

Sclavunos has been a Bad Seed since 1994 and is a co-founder of the band Grinderman, with multiple co-writing credits with band leader Nick Cave. Not to mention recording with a diverse army of rock & roll reprobates like The Cramps, Marianne Faithfull, Iggy Pop, Thurston Moore, Mark Stewart, Nicole Atkins, and Wendy James, along with albums with his band The Vanity Set. And if he were to commemorate all his collaborations in tattoos his body would be fully inked, especially counting multiple production credits for The Horrors, Gogol Bordello, Beth Orton, The Jim Jones Revue, and Beth Jeans Houghton (Du Blonde), remixes for the likes of Depeche Mode, Alan Vega and Boss Hog and Philip Glass. And not to mention being part of a band called Genius Steals with my own mentor Toby Amies (ex of MTV Europe) and Matt Verta-Ray.

Jim also fits in time for a regular stint as a broadcaster on Soho Radio. Not sure he truly has time for a Holiday let alone a “Holiday Song” so it’s with immense pleasure he found a slot for Velvet Sheep. We bid a hearty festive, charitable VS welcome to Jim Sclavunos!

“Holiday Song” features Jim Sclavunos on lead vocals and celesta (google it) and has a bit of an all-star cast of players to accompany him including the inestimably talented Spider Stacy (The Pogues) on tin whistle and long time Velvet Sheep supporter and the multi-instrumentalist’s multi-instrumentalist (more of a mouthful than a double sax) Terry Edwards – this time on fluegelhorn, with Dave Sherman (Nicole Atkins) on piano and Sarah Lowe on the BVs.

As aforementioned, the January proceeds go to the MVT or Music Venue Trust which is a UK registered charity set up to protect and secure UK grassroots music venues and help them weather the literally dark times where they’ve been unable to open due to the ongoing global Coronavirus pandemic. So far they’ve managed to support 920 Music Venue Alliance members and will continue to do so this year with the aim of keeping every one of them in a position where they can successfully and safely reopen once conditions and restrictions allow. So far the #saveourvenues campaign has raised a total of £3,872,512 in financial support to the venues which keep grass roots music (and the kind of bands we love on Velvet Sheep) alive.

Jim Sclavunos, a man of many such bands and a man for all seasons, has made a “Holiday Song” (Jim’s for life not just for Christmas) hoping to do his bit and add some shekels to the pot. You can too by buying it here via the Bandcamp link below…

With Jim not only a brilliant and multi faceted musician, but also an engaging and knowledgeable broadcaster with plenty of tales from a road well travelled, I couldn’t wait to find out his choice of tune for our feature, and I wasn’t disappointed…without further ado here’s Jim Sclavunos’ “song for ewe”…

‘The Screamers “Magazine Love”

In 1977, at the very height of punk fever and its signature buzzsaw guitar roar — as exemplified by The Ramones and typical so many of the bands of that era – there emerged a band out of sunny Los Angeles, The Screamers, who shattered that genre’s guitar-driven conventions and in the process established themselves among the early progenitors of what would later be identified as electro-punk.

Like their predecessors, Suicide and Silver Apples, The Screamers totally eschewed guitars in favour of gnarly distorted keyboards and an anarchic stage presence; unlike their predecessors however, The Screamers were unmistakeably bona fide punk in both their look and recklessly break-neck rhythms.

Founded by Tomata du Plenty (the band’s grotesquely compelling lead singer) and Tommy Gear (architect of the band’s ground-breaking combination of ARP Odyssey synthesizer, overdriven Fender Rhodes electric piano, drum machine and stomping drums), The Screamers never properly released any music, famously claiming they were holding out for the videodisc format so as to capture the totality of their hyperactive sound and manic live visuals.

Jim Sclavunos with KK Barrett of the Screamers taken a couple of years ago

It has taken a mere 44 years and dozens of live bootlegs of appalling substandard audio quality, but finally the long lost Screamers demo recordings have been unearthed by their drummer KK Barrett and unleashed into the light of day by Superior Viaduct. Featuring the original Screamers line-up of Tomata (vocals), Tommy (ARP), KK (drums) and David Brown (electric piano) – shortly afterwards replaced by Paul Roessler – the five track EP titled “Screamers Demo Hollywood 1977” is the very first official release by the band, cover adorned with the iconic Gary Panter logo image that he designed for them, an image that has been pirated and bootlegged probably just about as much as the band’s live performances.

Precious as these ultra-rare primitive recordings are (done in Tommy Gear’s bedroom for demo purposes), the tracks can’t equal the berserk energy of how I remember The Screamers. I saw the band every time they played NY – Paul Roessler even crashed at my apartment on one trip – and they were an absolute revelation, particularly Tomata, who as a frontman was the perfect embodiment of punk’s nervous aggression, mixed with hints of guerrilla comedy and queercore outrageousness (Tomata was briefly a Cockette), and hued with the disintegrating theatrical pathos of a Beckett anti-hero.

My interview with KK Barrett can be heard here….”

(Interview starts at 6:30)

THANKS TO JIM SCLAVUNOS AND TO SARAH LOWE OF FIFTH AVENUE PR

Please buy “Holiday Song” this week on the link below, or before the end of January to support the Music Venue Trust and to #saveourvenues

https://jimsclavunos.bandcamp.com/

More about Jim here:

https://www.jimsclavunos.com/

The Screamers EP “Screamers Demo Hollywood 1977” is out on 19 March via Superior Viaduct Records, with liner notes by Jon Savage and is available here:

 

Screamers

Author: Nick Hutchings

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