Notes from the Gutter
Everett True Returns to Seattle, Briefly
I'm sitting in the Elysian, Capitol Hill. I have few fond memories of this bar. The idea that beer should be fancy both alienates and repulses me, and though I'm not denying their burgers are fine, I'd be dumb not to admit that after an evening spent on Broadway, you wake up craving the taste of a Dick's. A Dick's, I said.
I'm talking to my buddy Eric Reynolds, who's someone high up at Fantagraphics Books—Fanta, of course, being still (relatively) flush with the money from the Charles Schultz/Peanuts reprints. I try not to knuckle-grip the table when Mr. Reynolds offers me $2,000 for an "art" reprint of my old "grunge" book, Live Through This. Frankly, I would do it for free, just for the association—but please don't tell anyone. It would devalue my bargaining power. I nod casually and suggest it'd be a blast to ask Sub Pop to supply a free CD for initial quantities... Hey, they did it for photographer Charles Peterson; they could do it for the damn person who invented this fucking city.
* * *
"That's Everett, as in the nearby city they named after me," I instruct the Sub Pop receptionist. Mark Arm is working in the Sub Pop warehouse. I know plenty of people who don't believe this fact. They think Mark Arm is some sort of a goddamn grunge guru, a pop star, a man who lines his Converse with million-dollar bills—they think Mark Arm still works in the Fantagraphics warehouse. They are wrong.
"Seen that TAD documentary yet?" asks Mark. A Tad Doyle documentary? I am so there. "Charles Cross is all over it." Charles Cross? What, Charles Cross, that well-known TAD and Sub Pop fan? Charles Cross, the world authority on all things grunge, especially the early years? Wow. What a coup!
"Yeah," remarks Mark dryly. "Charles Cross, that well-known TAD authority." Wow. Documentarians really know where to find the scoop, don't they?
I'm informed that Tad Doyle is working in a warehouse next to the railroad tracks in South Seattle, where folks create fancy lighting arrangements. This might not excite you. It excites me greatly. Tad Doyle is one of the few men that your fucking overblown, overhyped city (I'm talking music here, but you can expand this description to cover whatever you see fit) can feel proud to have played the part of "home" to. The first time we met, he informed me he was searching for a music of a certain frequency that automatically made men vacate their bowels (women, it would just leave a pleasant tingling sensation within). I'm informed Tad Doyle is sober. This is great news. I, too, am sober. It means we can quaff mineral water to our hearts' content. (I have a moment a few days after leaving Seattle where I'm asked by also-sober Breeders frontwoman Kim Deal whether I was ever a "social heroin user." I am at a loss how to reply.)
* * *
I'm asked how Seattle has changed in the three years since I last visited. More condos. That's it. (And what's with this perfect-day winter weather? It took me round about nine years to see Rainier first time round.) I personally think the problem lies in branding: Call condos bungalows and the problem is solved. "Hey, you heard they put up another 50 bungalows on Capitol Hill last week?" "Another 50? Wow, cool!"
"Twenty years ago," states Everett True look-alike and veteran producer Steve Fisk, "Seattle was a shitty small town with small-town attitudes and hardly any money. At some point during the '90s, it got rich—very rich—and in the process, became a big city and put up loads of condos. And you know what... I couldn't be fucking happier!"
Although this is of course a highly commendable attitude, I can't help thinking that only someone from Seattle would actually believe this town is now a big city.
Graffiti on the windows of the closed Cha Cha reads: "Condos suck." My, what polite vandals you have.
* * *
I visit Charles Peterson in his Pioneer Square studio. We have a laugh about the BBC Nirvana documentary that we both agreed to be interviewed for last year. The director—doubtless despairing of having to rehash the same Charles Cross interview that everyone else uses ("The world's only authority on Nirvana!")—picks up on the fact that I momentarily agreed to be interviewed on film and gives me a ridiculously long buildup, culminating in the use of a Smiths song over footage of my hometown of Brighton, UK. Cut to a studio in Pioneer Square, where Peterson is asked to describe Everett True: Charles stares at the camera, momentarily nonplussed. "What... Jerry?" he says and starts to laugh. [Everett True is Jerry's adopted name; this is possibly hilarious in England. —Ed.] It's quite my favorite Seattle moment of 2007.
* * *
Sub Pop vice president Megan Jasper reveals secrets about Sub Pop president Jonathan Poneman's bowel movements that I'm unable to pass along. PM me, or something. I'm ostensibly here for three days to write a story linking the formation of Mark Lanegan and Greg Dulli's supergrunge group the Gutter Twins with Sub Pop's 20-year anniversary ("Yeah, if you can't count" says Steve Fisk), but the Twins aren't actually in town—they're in L.A.—so no interview takes place. Later, my suffering ex-intern Natalie remarks that some of the Robert Crumb drawings at the Frye Art Museum exhibition opening seem a little, um, racist and, um, a little sexist. Mmm-mm, I nod.
* * *
Gutter Twin Dulli e-mails me in response to my Village Voice blog: "So nice to see you're still a cunt."
The Gutter Twins play Tues March 4 at the Showbox at the Market, with Great Northern, 8 pm, $15 adv/$17 DOS, 21+.