Byron Coley

• Picture by Naomi Yang at Yod Space for the new Byron Coley – Father Yod’s Kitchen cookbook

I’m not a writer. I don’t pretend that I know anything about any of that kind of stuff. But it has always been important to me to try to capture, document and archive all the things that I’ve been trying to do in my life and in many ways, that is why I decided to start the Lost Treasures of the Other Worlds featured artist column on the LT website. The column is dedicated to connecting the dots to all the great people I have worked with or people who have inspired me and shaped my world and have guided me through all of life’s twists and turns. Today’s featured artist is one of those people. Through his writing Byron Coley has recognised so many musicians  and helped to tell their story and in many ways created this kind of mythology about these bands that is so fascinating that it makes you feel compelled to go buy the record or go check them out on stage to see for yourself. His words are genuinely thoughtful, colorful, comical, and at times, perplexing. You can really tell that this guys loves music and listening to records and it’s always interesting to hear his thoughts. Along side of his career as a writer, Byron is also responsible for so many great music releases. I grew up listening to Loren Mazzacane Connors, Keiji Haino, Nels Cline and many other very cool albums on his Father Yod imprint. Byron Coley is a poet who seems to define the times in which he lives. An admirer of the obscure and chronicler of all the beauty that is rocknroll, to help insure that it will be preserved in its purest form for future generations.

LT: You’ve been at it for a long time. You’ve published books and poetry journals and captured it on vinyl, all in many beautiful editions . Your work has appeared in Wire Magazine, Arthur Magazine, Forced Exposure and really all over the place. You are practically a household name these days! How did you get started writing and what inspired you to start writing?

BC: Pathetically, I aspired to be a rock writer from the very moment I came to understand the position existed. I got a typewriter for Christmas in ’65 and almost immediately started typing up single paged musical “reports” I would pass around in class. Every couple of weeks I would basically re-type a bunch of listings and whatever other stuff I could glean from the NY Times, the news weeklies and a friend’s sister’s teen mags. The rest of my life has pretty much been a direct downhill trot from there.

LT: I have always really admired that you not only write about big bands but also no-name musicians that most writers wouldn’t touch. What is it about the lesser known bands and musicians that makes you want to listen to their music and want to write about them?

BC: One of the few actually positive functions you can perform as a chronicler of any sort of culture, is to write about artists who no one else bothers with. As someone who has long worked at something for which there is little monetary recompense, I am always especially interested in musicians or bands who are clearly creating music because they have to, rather than because they think it might be a cool job. In broad terms it’s the idea of lifers vs. careerists. I certainly don’t begrudge anyone the possibilty of making a living from doing what they love, but I think the motivation for creation is as important as the result. There’s always so much great art out there being produced by maniacs who have no idea how to get their stuff “across” to an actual audience. That’s one place where I can help in my own small way. I’m very fond of some popular music, but does anyone really need to hear my voice added to the chorus? I think not. 

Picture by Dylan Nyoukis of Byron arm wrestling Karen Lollipop in Easthampton Mass

LT: I went with my wife and some friends to Elsewhere in Brooklyn and saw you on stage reading some of your work. There was a huge audience. You were awesome! I really enjoyed it. How often do you do that kind stuff? 

BC: First, thanks. ha. I’ve been doing it off and on since the turn of the century. Thurston Moore & I started collecting small press underground poetry seriously in the early ’90s, and after about 10 years of reading it, we both worked up the nerve to write some, and then read it in public. he was a little ahead of me, but he’s a far more social human than I. But I’ve done a few tours, and have read in the UK, Belgium, Canada, although I mostly do it in the Northeast. I am more likely to do readings if I’ve had the time to write a bunch of new stuff. If i’m just grinding out work, then not so much. But I also do ‘covers’ sets, like on the weekly Feeding Tube zoom concert, I read other peoples’ poems. Often that’s the case for my bi-weekly reading on Benoit Chaput’s “Sleepy King” radio show. I like doing readings a lot.

LT: I was a teenager in the mid-90’s and I would read Muckraker and Bananafish and  stuff like that. I’m sure that’s probably how I stumbled onto the Loren Mazzacane Connors/Keiji Haino record that opened my mind to a whole new universe and changed me forever! You released that record along side of tons of other great stuff! When did you start making records and how did you get into that? Any new stuff you are working on these days?

BC: When I was still in college, my friend Chris Osgood was leading a band that evolved into the Suicide Commandos in ’75 or so. He shocked us all by putting out a single of his band by himself (more or less). Discovering that was possible was a big shock. I started putting out records myself in the early ’80s. They were cheap to do back then, and I always asked Tim Warren (from Crypt) and Mirian Linna (from Norton) where the cheapest places around NYC were. I’ve put out records on other peoples’ label (like Twisted Village & Ecstatic Peace), as well as Forced Exposure, Carnage Press, Father Yod, Ecstatic Yod, etc. These days I recommend some stuff to Feeding Tube, but I just don’t have the bandwidth (or cash) to do a label.

LT: Any new bands/music out right now that you’ve been digging?

BC: More than I can shake a stick at. Almost every day there’s something crazy that comes along, whether it’s the new “No Friends Band” record (Baggage Claim), Jason Kenn’s “Jazz Pigs In High School” (Cara), Lend Me Your Underbelly’s “Lost Campfire Folk” (Vrystatet), unraveling the new Smegma related stuff on Gilgongo, or whatever. Some new, some old, all great.

LT: Anything new that you’ve been working on that you’ve like to tell our readers to keep an eye out for?

BC: There’s a bunch of stuff coming (eventually) on the Feeding tube/Neg glam series Thurston & I assemble. The rest of the Loren Mazzacane Connors Unaccompanied Acoustic Guitar series, a couple LPs by Bound & Gagged, a Stare Kits LP, hopefully one by the 2X4s, some Kongress stuff (if we can figure it out), Sumner Crane’s “Coffin Full of Blues” and surely other forgotten treats.

bc bibliography

Boozefighter, 23 (Please Shute Me Books, Norman OK) 1985

Chuck Norris; The Great Dull (St. Martin’s, New York NY) 1986

Motley Crue: Monsters of Metal (Ballantine, New York NY) 1986

Enemies of the State (Conway New Music Society, Conway MA) 1996

Revelations (w/ Rita Ackermann) (Rockin On Books, Tokyo Japan) 1999

Threnody for Jon Easley… (Carnage Press, Northampton MA) 1999

Tanka for Lady Stardust (w/ Thurston Moore) (Glass Eye Books, Florence MA) 2000

Lady Hair (Wholly Other, Austin TX) 2002

Playground Forcing Hearts Ensemble ( w/ Valerie Webber, Matthew Wascobvich, Christina Carter) (Slow Toe, Cleveland OH) 2003

Trash Tanka for Corndog (w/ Thurston Moore) (Glass Eye Books, Florence MA) 2003

Tanka for Treasure Box  (Eremite, Northampton MA) 2003

Trash Tanka for Canadian Content (w/ Thurston Moore, Valerie Webber) (Glass Eye Books, Florence MA) 2003

Apesma (w/ Joanne Roberston) (Bad Taste Books, London UK) 2006

Voluntary Quicksand (w/ David Keenan, Bill Shute) (Kendra Steiner Editions, San Antonio TX) 2007

Trash Tanka for Canyon (w/ Thurston Moore, Valerie Webber) (Glass Eye Books, Florence MA) 2007

No Wave (w/ Thurston Moore) ((Harry N. Abrams, New York NY) 2008

Trash Tanka for Little Teeth (w/ Thurston Moore, Valerie Webber) (Glass Eye Books, Florence MA)  2008

Thank Fucking God It’s Over (Glass Eye Books, Florence MA) 2008

Dreams, Drunks, Drugs (w/ Angela Jaeger) (Glass Eye Books, Florence MA) 2009

Trash Tanka Omnibus Vol. One (w/ Thurston Moore, Valerie Webber) (Ecstatic Peace, Northampton MA) 2010

Trash Tanka Omnibus Vol. One (w/ Thurston Moore, Valerie Webber) (Ecstatic Peace, Northampton MA) 2010

C‘est la Guerre (L’oie de Cravan, Montreal Canada) 2010

Beefheart (Longhouse Books, Brattleboro VT) 2011

Poems Inspired by the Song Titles on Alvarius B’s Album Baroque Primitiva Composed by the Dancers at Club Castaway Whately, Massachsetts (Ecstatic Peace, Northampton MA) 2011

Defense Against Squares (L’oie de Cravan, Montreal Canada) 2017

1971 (a year in record review poems) (w/ Joanne Robertson) (Tender Books, London UK) 2018

1979 Songbook (w/ Joanne Robertson) (Tender Books, London UK) 2019

Father Yod’s Kitchen

OTHER LINKS

Feeding Tube Records

The Sleepy King Radio Show