Tag Archives: Riverboat Gamblers

Five perfect pop (punk) singles

I went to play my “Don’t Take My Clone” single this morning and found that it had mysteriously vanished. That’s a bummer but rather than get all sad, let’s spin it into something cool.

Originally, I was going to write my list of THE FIVE GREATEST POP (PUNK) SINGLES OF ALL TIME. But that’s a little tough and I’m struggling with the parameters. For example, the song “West Side Highway” by Pinhead Gunpowder is as good as it gets but is that record one of the greatest singles of all time? A single is usually just two songs and that 7-inch has three (one of which is even on Side-A!) Furthermore, those other two songs… not that great. Now, if there had just been one other song and it was on Side-B, well, that’d be another story. (If the “single” on “the single” is good enough, Side-B can be fucking empty for all I care). But [whatever]. Got an idea of the parameters we’re working with? Cool, let’s go.

HUNCHBACK – Werse Houses b/w Beautiful
The best song in Hunchback’s catalog is the fucking creepy-crawliest, haunted, spooky song I’ve ever heard. From the opening bass riff and screeching keys to the way Mike stumbles and stutters through every word, this song is the musical manifestation of mental illness. In the midst of his refrain (“just let me taste it“) he breaks to ask “Will you please play my mommy? I’ll play your little boy. I’ll be your little man if you could just play my mommy… [voice trails off].” The whispers, the screams – it’s all so fucking perfect. As for the spelling of the title – I don’t know what they had in mind – but stupidity is scary. You can’t reason with stupidity. Fuck The Monster Mash – this is the Halloween song so far as I’m concerned.

On Side-B, we’ve got Beautiful, which I’ve been told is Christina Aguleira’s anthem for gay teens or fat teens or [some group of] teens. Personally, a song with so simple an affirmation (“I am beautiful“) wouldn’t have made a shit bit of difference in making me feel any better about myself as a kid, but if someone else was comforted by it: cool. In any case, this “reimagining” is pretty disturbed and isn’t at all “beautiful. If anything, it’s ugly (in the best way possible). A little kid’s voice – cute in some other context but buried just a little bit in the mix behind a piano and some humming – is anything but cute. It’s got the same dark/scary vibe as Werse Houses but isn’t quite as strong – which makes it the perfect b-side.

werse houses

Riverboat Gamblers – Keep Me From Drinking b/w No Fair
Being on a “bigger” label is weird – on the one hand – when To the Confusion of Our Enemies came out, Riverboat Gamblers got a bunch of attention from Spin and Rolling Stone and other shitty mainstream press. On the other, fucking nobody even knows that this non-album single even exists. Volcom has no connection with any of the labels and distros that carry stuff like this, so probably the only place to grab a copy (other than at RbG’s shows) was at stores like Hot Topic or Best Buy. [Does Best Buy carry vinyl?]

These songs were recorded in the same sessions as To the Confusion of Our Enemies but were left off the record, which is kind of funny since the re-recorded version of Keep Me From Drinking is one of the strongest songs on the band’s next record, Underneath the Owl. (Even if that version does sound like the band recorded in a nursing home with seniors screaming at them,  “No, no, no! Play it right! Too noisy!”) Anyway, this version sounds rough and raw and awesome. A great song about the way we live and crossing that bridge when we come to it; tomorrow’s consequences aren’t ’til tomorrow – and tomorrow’s like… almost a whole day from now!

No Fair could have also been a standout track on Underneath the Owl. It’s not quite as special as Keep Me, but it’s got the right energy and attitude for dancing to in the hallway as you watch your girlfriend poop. What?


Let’s make this a TO BE CONTINUED. Nobody really wants to read this many words from me all at once, do they?

(Uploaded this myself and dumped a bunch of random images of my art into iMovie; figured it’d be more entertaining than four minutes of the album cover).


  • Astonishingly, Sacred Bones Records still has copies of Werse Houses. YOU SHOULD BUY ONE OF THEM.
  • Some dorks are selling copies of Keep Me From Drinking through Discogs.

Tola’s Approach to Demons

"Tola's Approach to Demons." 7/21/13. Acrylic paint and ink. 16x20".
“Tola’s Approach to Demons.” 7/21/13. Acrylic paint and ink. 16×20″.

The text at upper left:
“That was amazing,” Vincent said. “How do you feel?”
“Like garbage.”
I went back out on the dock with Tola. We sat out there for the rest of the night.
“I don’t really mind demons,” he told me. “So long as they’re not actively trying to fuck my shit up, I just keep my distance and everything is cool.”


Tola had been drinking and I don’t know exactly what he meant when he said “demons,” but it made sense to me either way. Everything he said to me that night made a lot of sense. And meant a lot to me. That conversation was exactly what I needed that night.

I don’t believe in evil. I don’t believe that there’s such a thing as bad people. I have to think that way ’cause if I’m wrong, then I’m most certainly evil – I’m definitely a bad person.

But I try really hard. So I give other people the benefit of the doubt. If someone does something fucked up, I choose to believe that they’re doing their best. (Their best just happens to be pretty terrible relative to average/acceptable standards). I try to keep that in mind whether we’re talking about some asshole on the sidewalk or someone like that kid that shot up Sandy Hook. It’s hard to give everyone that credit – that empathy – but I try. In return, I hope to get the same.

With all of that said, some people are not entirely well. (I should know; often enough, I’m one of them). And if you play with fire… if you fuck with a demon … that demon is going to burn you alive. Nothing good ever comes from it. When it comes to people who are sick – people that aren’t even interested in being well – stay the fuck away. This is a lesson I have learned the hard way, but am still having a little trouble applying.

I need to learn to more closely adhere to “Tola’s approach to demons.”


Everything you just read was written right after painting this. It was two days after I wrapped on “No Real Than You Are.”

July 4th (the night referenced in the piece) was my first night of filming. In the hour or so before we actually shot the scene, my co-star and I were not getting along. In fact, we weren’t even speaking to one another. And this scene we had to film – let me put it this way: the director told us that it was the scene in which it was most important for the audience to really see just how in love these characters were with one another. Suffice to say, I was not feeling any love for this girl on that evening and I’m pretty certain her feelings toward me were about the same. In hindsight, she was probably a scapegoat, but that didn’t change my feelings in the moment.

I still haven’t seen the footage, but – from what I’m told – we pulled it off. It took everything I had in me to not say FUCK THIS and just walk away from the set and quit. I was miserable and I was angry. But I didn’t walk away. I shook my shitty feelings the fuck out of my body and for [however long we filmed that night] I played and pretended and made myself alright. If that footage is at all believable, then I gave one fuck of a performance. More of a performance than anyone watching would ever realize. As soon as the director said “cut” though, I fell right back into it. Suppression and healing are two very different things. I can’t actually force myself to be okay. I don’t think anyone can. “Holding it together” and “getting it together” are two very different things. Real healing takes a lot of work. I think that this painting was one step of a walk in the right direction though.


During the month I spent working on “No Real Than You Are” (and scooting around Sarasota on my little thrashBike) I listened almost exclusively to the songs on a playlist that I made shortly after getting into town. The first song on the playlist isn’t online anywhere, so here’s the second. “Eviction Notice” by Riverboat Gamblers.


Signed and numbered 12×15″ prints of “Tola’s Approach to Demons” are available in my webstore.

Hit me up if you’re interested in purchasing the original piece.

Bug Problem

"Bug Problem." 8/11/13. Colored pencil and ink on newsprint paper. 3¼x9¾”.
“Bug Problem.” 8/11/13. Colored pencil and ink on newsprint paper. 3¼x9¾”.

There have been a bunch of big, mean-looking ants, trolling around my front porch like they own the place. And they’re biters. Yesterday, I sprayed some poison around. I went outside this morning: not a bug in sight! I don’t have to be hyper-vigilant when I got outside anymore; I can sit outside and relax.

I thought about how nice that is. And how simple. I’m all fucked up right now. I’m supposed to be celebrating one year clean this week and I’m not. Money makes no sense to me. The future scares the shit out of me sometimes. Life without heroin… it sometimes reminds me of why for so long I chose life with heroin. I needed a little victory today. A problem I could act on and resolve without years of uncertainty. Like I said: simple.

But then I started thinking about how the poison might effect the lizards that hang out on my porch. Are they gonna be poisoned by it too? Am I destroying their food supply? What other environmental consequences does this spray have? Is this really all that simple?

But ultimately, I’ve got too many real problems to let myself get caught up in shit like that. Sure, it’d be nice if I could save all the trees and the lizards and we could all live happily ever after, but – first – I think I’ll just work on saving myself. Not from bugs. That’s not what I mean. From the stress and anxiety that comes with taking on problems that I don’t need to. (“Precious on the Edge” by Drunken Boat is one of my favorite songs: He knows he’s gotta save the world somehow, but first he’s gotta save himself and that’s the hardest trick of all).

I’m also reminded of a Riverboat Gamblers lyric: It seems we’ve been conditioned to think it’s unreasonable not to be miserable. That was definitely one of my core beliefs for a long time and something I had to work on a lot in treatment. If I felt good, I felt like an idiot. Like, “Hey, dumbass! Look around you! What the fuck is there to be happy about??” I try not to think that way anymore. It hasn’t been easy to shed a lot of those old ideas. I held on to them for at least two decades.

I’m glad that I have the capacity to be thoughtful—reflective. But sometimes I need to tell my inner-critic to just shut the fuck up already.

Here are both songs (and the full lyrics to “Precious on the Edge”).

Precious on the Edge lyrics


This cartoon is available as an 8×10″ print.