The Mayor of Pine Street

Rodney Bingenheimer may be the Mayor of the Sunset Strip, but Kevin Willis is the Mayor of Pine Street. (If not Seattle, as Love as Laughter's Sam Jayne once claimed.) His art graces the cover of many CDs, including that of the Vells and Vendetta Red. His paintings are shown at galleries both locally and nationally. His drawings adorn the skin of those who like artwork inked on their body for a lifetime. His work with the band Tool is phenomenal. He climbed Kilimanjaro. (And I was lucky enough to be awake when he sent me an e-mail about reaching the summit, and how he did it for himself and no other reason. Also I enjoyed the one last month from Warsaw, about how he would write an autobiography someday called Wanderlust, because he realized the word summed up his life, but I had to laugh a moment later when that e-mail was followed with another cursing the fact that Danielle Steel had already written a book under that very same title. Injustice!) He's the most devious practical joker I know, can tell a fib with the straightest of faces, and begins each brilliant observance with "You know what it is? You know what it is?" We all crack a grin as we wait to hear "what it is." He brought Dale Crover in as guest bartender for the Cha Cha's 2003 Christmas party. And he sold out his Suicide Squeeze 7-inch--before it was even released--featuring a cover shot of a friend standing in front of Jack in the Box holding a cardboard sign emblazoned with the message "Kevin Willis Is a Fucking Cunt." That record held never-before-released songs by the Melvins, and now he's had a huge hand in a coffee-table-like book on the Melvins titled Neither Here nor There, officially envisioned by Buzz himself, and Mackie Osborne, who writes, "I'm not sure how Buzz first came up with the idea to do this book. I was skeptical at first... another one of his hare/hair brained ideas I thought. He's always got a lot of them. But here it is A big FAT reality, a testament to his vision and some other people's along with his. It's truly a labor of love--cockeyed as it may be." The bulk of the photos within are Willis', even the cover shot. Ryan Iverson's work is also featured, whom Willis rightly credits at the back of the book as being a "talented fucker with a perverse imagination," and if you've ever been sitting at the Cha Cha and found the backside of a coaster with a great cartoon drawing on it, it's probably Iverson's work. Throughout Neither Here nor There are interviews, tour diaries, and even an essay by Tom Flynn about the Melvins' influence on grunge via their inspiration on Kurt Cobain. Okay, Kevin is going to kill me when this column hits the streets, because he's such a humble guy. But he brought the book by my office last week with his goddaughter, the beautiful Babel--daughter of Nathan of Pretty Girls and his beautiful wife, Aska--hanging in a baby pack on his chest. Neither Here nor There is published, aptly, by Ipecac Recordings.

Next subject: Sunset Valley, who play the Crocodile on Thursday, April 8. Led by Herman Jolly, the once Portland-based band is celebrating its new self-released CD, called Goldbank 78stack. And I'll tell you right this second: It rocks harder than any of their other great albums, which tended to lean toward pop more than the hard stuff. If you're a fan, you'll adore this heavier, more frantic sound. If you've never heard Sunset Valley before, this Crocodile date is your chance. Also on the bill is Mark Pickerel, legendary for his Ellensburg record store and effect on women, and brother of Jolly's wife, Megan Pickerel, who sang in the sadly defunct shoegazer band Swoon 23. Goldbank 78stack is a rocker, but still rampant with the humor of previous Sunset Valley albums. Titles such as "Pull the Trig," "Mr. Extreme Jeans," and "Gaze My Shoes" prove perfect examples. Trust me, you won't be dissatisfied with the show.