DAILY LIFE

band photo by Daile Kaplan, faces scratched off by unknown scratcher

Barbara Ess buttonholed me at the Kitchen in November 1977, right after I’M WITH STUPID, my BYO nightclub performance, and invited me to be in her new band DAILY LIFE. She really liked my song ARE YOU FEARLESS? (you can find on youtube) which was very similar a lot of hers. As soon as I got to the first rehearsal I realized there were two other very cool things about DAILY LIFE: Christine Hahn and Glenn Branca. Christine was a hot redhead drummer and Glenn had a crazy Fender guitar sound and an excellent sense of humor. At that point in my life we were all about ready for primal scream therapy and that’s what Barbara’s songs were. She was the bandleader and she was all for the rest of us to front our own songs or covers. Glenn and I did a few each and I think Christine had only one, “He hit me!” She was also the only one who had a nice pad –a well-appointed loft on Greene St. around Prince. Her old man was in a prominent jazz band and making good money as a musician. He was also continually on the road so we were often there, especially for meals, which were always sauteed chicken livers and flat noodles, the cheapest food there was. Glenn and Barbara lived together but I never once went to their place. Glenn was always wearing dirty, black clothes, in layers, like really dirty and sort of tattered, though elegant, somehow. He claimed he found everything on the street, abandoned for whatever reason. He’s just put it on without washing it first.
The three of them were already a unit when I was invited in, and had started practicing. One or two years earlier I met Glenn at Artists Space when he came there looking for a gig. He had something called the Bastard Theatre in Cambridge, and he wanted to present it in New York. He was accompanied by a young girl who, like him was dressed in rags. We had a nice talk and he showed us what his work was about. It wasn’t the kind of post-conceptual thinking we were interested in. I think he hadn’t rejected certain tenets of the traditional theatrical form, and our idea of theatre was much more like Jack Goldstein bathing a contortionist in lime green light. It seemed to me he would be better off approaching La Mama and we did not offer him a show at Artists Space in 1976.
So when I met him again in this new context I was a little apprehensive but he couldn’t have cared less, having left theatre behind him as I had left Artists Space behind me. I was well into what astrologers call Saturn Return, which happens in one’s late twenties. Essentially I was blowing up my life: home, job, significant other, identity. Having suppressed music in myself for seven long years, that part of my psyche, with help from punk, was shaking free. I was having issues in my marriage and driving my boss crazy at work as I was getting more and more hyper and unable to focus on certain aspects of the job. Of course, I was also picking up what was in the wind, which was this rising tide of almost wannabe madness called punk. I had been fired, was becoming nocturnal, out all the time, confused and frustrated in my failed attempts at trying to ‘be’ an artist. Would soon break up with my wife and become homeless for a brief time. Never truly homeless, because Stefan Eins always provided a place to crash in comfort, but I went to at least one party resolving to go home with anyone who would have me.
DAILY LIFE was together from late November 1977 til about June 1978, with a gap in the spring when I split for LA.
Our marriage was not happening sexually for a long time and I took off for a wild vacation in LA, the result of which was a fling with Nancy Chunn, which soon resulted in the end of the marriage.
I left DAILY LIFE to move with Nancy to Hollywood for the summer of 1978. So I not only blew my own life up, I also blew up DAILY LIFE, which is too bad, but it led to the formation of THE STATIC, which was DAILY LIFE minus moi.
For me, the punk mentality was a kind of voluntary madness. Drugs were involved. Glenn was the drinker (Old English 800 tall boys) and the rest of us smoked weed. We never had money, except Christine, who had enough to feed us. One time she came on to me in the most original way I ever experienced. For some reason we were all walking on the sidewalk at night. Christine started physically attacking me, not to hurt me but more to try to wrestle me down or something. Maybe I was trying to go home and she didn’t want me to. In the early days of the band I was still married and lived in a sunny basement apartment on Thompson St. with Jody. My wife and I had extremely disconnected schedules and she was always asleep when I came home. Barbara, who accompanied me a few times, thought I had a baby because I would always ask her to be quiet. Jody was a light sleeper.
Anyway, Christine sort of tackled me on the sidewalk and I had to peel her off me a few times. She was also sort of roaring at me. It was quite strange and it wasn’t until later that I thought maybe she was coming on to me. Whatever it was it only happened once. Another big mistake on my part I suppose, but I was extremely monagamous.
Barbara’s songs were like screamed mantras; “No work, no job, no love and no money”, “Be my mother be my father be my sister be my brother” repeated over and over with a steady, on the beat, rhythm led by her bass. My guitar parts tended to thump along with the bass. The songs were meditations so I was thinking about the subjects.
Glenn did a few songs and so did I, but at least one of his was a cover: TRAIN KEPT A ROLLIN’ ALL NIGHT LONG. I’m not sure whether TAKIN THAT RIDE DOWN NUMBER NINE was a cover or not, but essentially Glenn’s thing was train songs, all about cranking up the momentum. He was great fun to play with. He played a Fender (Telecaster?) guitar which was alive with a crackling electricity, hair-trigger response, extreme high EQ attack, and his playing was naturally percussive. My Gibson SG’s sound was much less assertive and after seven years of inactivity I was happy to relegate myself to a more supportive musical role. This worked well because I had more understanding about chord changes, pop song structures, etc. In the punk moment non-musicians just became musicians without bothering to learn how to play their instruments. The B-52s are a prime example of this. I was the exception in our circles, having been a serious musician in high school. Glenn also had a background in rock groups. I’m not sure how extensive it was, but his theatrical chops were extremely effective and always on display. I invite the reader follow https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqHz7cUw4Ls to see Glenn perform what is arguably the best one man guitar tantrum ever.
The first time I left was in the spring to visit LA. They begged me to stay. The X Magazine Benefit was coming up and it would have been our biggest gig to date. I’m afraid I wasn’t committed enough. I was karmically rewarded for this behavior later on. Payback is a beach. When I finally left for LA again in June or July it broke up the band but they quickly re-formed as a trio called THE STATIC. Now it was Glenn’s music that took center stage and THE STATIC released quite a good single, paid for by Dan Graham, before it broke up. I started a new band called A BAND with Wharton Tiers, drummer of THEORETICAL GIRLS (Glenn’s other band, which he started with Jeffrey Lohn), and Joe Triola aka Gone aka Drift, an authentic NY punk bass player from Elizabeth, New Jersey. All three bands can be seen in 135 GRAND, a DVD of ten or so Art Punk or No Wave bands filmed in 1979 at our loft (mine and Nancy Chunn’s); 135 Grand St. Ericka Beckman filmed it for a German Public TV network.
Later Glenn started presenting all guitar (plus drums) pieces. I was in the first one, as were Christine and Barbara; a six guitar piece at Max’s Kansas City. Soon after this I was in another larger one at the Kitchen. Soon Glenn began doing the full guitar symphonies and the fabulous everything else he’s done. A youtube tour is highly recommended. And the same goes for Barbara Ess. A glorious career in music and art; after the Static she started an all woman band called YPANTS. She also did Just Another Asshole, which was lots of fun for everyone I’d have to say. Later she began doing the pinhole photography and has created some of the most luminously beautiful images (youtube search). Christine moved to Berlin and joined a different all girl punk group MALARIA, with whom she played for a number of years, the closest to a straight ahead professional rock career among us. She is now a painter living in Washington DC. It was a great honor working with these people.