Those of us who still treasure our physical/musical media know the sensation. You peruse your cabinet of CDs at home. Or you comb through a box of records at a flea market. Or you simply read an article in a dogeared magazine, purchased (if not rescued) from a quality record store. And when you’re not expecting it, a band, or song, strikes your attention, a group or track that may’ve long since been relegated to an unfair spot at the end of the your bench.
I used to love X-tal. In an active, play-all-the-time manner. Of late, X-tal’s been in lighter rotation; I still love what they put together in the 1980s and ’90s, but in a more abstract, passive way. But after finding frontman, vocalist, songwriter and founder J Neo Marvin on Facebook, I’m rekindling my enjoyment of the band. Based in the Bay Area, the band created a handful of crackling records, filled with something akin to folk-punk. Or perhaps punk-folk. Ah, to heck with genres. It was thoughtful rock’n’roll, with lyrics that wound put a wry smile on the face of any Nation reader, while also causing your feet to tap in time.
Once, oh-so-long-ago, X-tal came through St. Louis and with my roommates on the road with their own band, X-tal stayed at my crib in Webster Groves. I’ve seldom felt quite so locked into the idea of DIY. And 20 years later, I interrupted the digital peace of J Neo Marvin for TS5Q, which he sent back, thoughtfully, of course, in a matter of a day. At the end of the piece are a handful of links he’s sent along, getting me (and TS5Q’s thousands of readers) up-to-speed with his latest efforts. In fact, if you find your way into some of those links, you’ll find links to music, progressive politics and all the good stuff that made X-tal so special, but in the newer guises of J Neo.
One. Which of the seven deadliest sins make for the best art?
Mmmmmm… let’s start by ruling out sloth, which prevents one from accomplishing anything at all in life, art included. Gluttony might inspire some artistically rich recipes, but other than that, I can’t see too many results. Greed might make for bad commercial pop music at best, while envy would inspire someone to imitate another artist rather than come up with anything on their own.
So, it’s down to pride, wrath, and lust. Pride is essential for an artist to get off his/her ass and get started, certainly. Wrath can produce some great art, but lust might just edge it out, if you consider that eros is an essential component of the life force itself. As angry as I can be at the state of the world today, I would have to say that lust without wrath will bring you more rewards than wrath without lust.
Two. For what are you going to need a little more evidence?
That everything’s all right and there is no need to be concerned.
Three. For personal creativity (or productivity), are you better served by contentment or restlessness?
To be effective at focusing on creativity, a minimum of personal security and freedom from worry is essential. That said, the creative process starts with restlessness and ends with contentment.
Four. Likeliest occurrence within your lifetime: true peace, total war, or the arrival of spacemen/spacewomen?
None of the above. Little wars will continue to be conducted in small areas so the general population can cheer it on or ignore it as they please while the spacemen and spacewomen will look on, shake their heads, and sigh, “maybe they’ll grow up someday”.
Five-c: These are your generation’s greatest successes.
Having been born in 1957, what constitutes my generation is an open question. I’m either among the youngest baby boomers, or among the oldest of the generation following the baby boomers. The latter rings more true to me. The greatest success of the generation between the baby boomers and Generation X? Punk rock, perhaps. We did finally elect our first president. The jury is still out on whether he can, will, or even wants to, live up to his potential.
My wife and I have our own label and production company that puts out our current music and videos:
Here is my own site, which has lyrics, old photos, a history of X-tal, some interviews I did in the past for different zines, and more:
Here is our Ear Candle Productions blog: http://earcandleproductions.blogspot.com/
Here is our online radio station, Ear Candle Radio: http://www.live365.com/stations/jneomarvin
(Photo from jneomarvin.com, circa 1982.)