LISTEN/WATCH & SHARE: Kramer – “GREGORY CORSO – ARMY” YouTube
Today, Kramer shares his brand new LP, WORDS & MUSIC, Book One,via Shimmy-Disc/Joyful Noise Recordings. Alongside the release, he has shares the album’s focus track, “AT APOLLINAIRE’S GRAVE,” with words by Allen Ginsberg, music by Kramer, and a music video by Ryan & Debbie Hover.
Each track on the LP features ambient music composed by Kramer and described by him as “…liquid foundations for the words to float upon. The music must never come between the listener, and the words. The words come first.”
Speaking of “AT APOLLINAIRE’S GRAVE,” Kramer wrote:
“‘AT APOLLINAIRE’S GRAVE’ has always been one of my favorite poems by Allen Ginsberg.
I’d seen/heard him read it at St Marks Church more than once in the 1980’s (including one time
in particular, when Gregory Corso was heckling him from the crowd), but i had never heard this Library of Congress recording of him reading it until Michael Minzer sent it to me. When Allen and i were working together at Noise New York in 1987 on a song called “Dear M”, I had told him that i’d wanted to compose music for his ode to Apollinaire, but we’d just never got around to it, as our respective schedules just never coincided. He was ther hardest working poet on earth, always accessible to any young writer or poet, looking for guidance. And now he is gone. But his words will never die, and the gentle thunder of his voice rings eternal. Few poets wielded the kind of power Allen possessed. He was Zeus tossing words of lightning down from Olympus, like so many raindrops. I was lucky enough to have been caught up in a few of those storms, at least for a little while.
This piece from my WORDS & MUSIC, Book One LP has been in-the-making for almost 40 years. I hope it speaks to you, just as Allen always spoke to me…with Love.”
He continued, writing about the new record and it’s concept:
“John Giorno died in 2019, but with his Dial-a-Poem Poets project, he kept poetry alive like nobody’s business. His Foundation has since resurrected the archive online so that anyone can listen to his seemingly never-ending treasure trove of historical audio. I was lucky enough to have spent some time with him in the early 1980’s when I was a member of The Fugs, and I often found myself surrounded by those whom Allen Ginsberg called, ‘..the greatest minds of my generation.’ Giorno felt it was important to juxtapose the works of well-known poets beside lesser-known ones, and Ginsberg and the other gods of that scene were in full agreement. Promoting the works of writers whose work they felt strongly about was a big part of those Dial-a-Poem poetry LPs, and it’s a big part of my own decision to launch this series.
It all began with a commission from Michael Minzer for me to compose music for Gregory Corso’s ‘ARMY.’ Once I’d put music beneath that extraordinary voice, I simply couldn’t stop.
With Minzer’s help, I secured the rights to one of my favorites of Allen Ginsberg’s poems, ‘AT APOLLINAIRE’S GRAVE,’ and set that to music, as well. I asked Terry Southern’s son Nile if he would contribute something from his father’s archives, and he enthusiastically agreed. Then I invited some of my favorite living writers, both young and old, to contribute recordings of their own. I think the Dead would have approved.
Ed Sanders (who’d ushered me into that scene) once told me that when he came to NYC, it was easy to go into a cafe or to St Marks Church and hear Burroughs, Corso, Ginsberg, Snyder, Waldman and all the greats, reading their poetry. He said that even if you were just “a nobody, like I was”, you could just walk right up to them and start a conversation. They were totally accessible. So i was shocked when Sanders went on to tell me he didn’t approach any of them, not even once, til he’d been going to their readings for nearly ten years.
‘For almost a decade, I went to every reading, every lecture, every panel discussion. But I never went near them. Not even once,’ Sanders said. ‘For ten years, all I did, was LISTEN.’
It took me four decades since I first listened to ‘Big Ego,’ the Dial-A-Poem double-LP I’d found so long ago in the $2 bin of a Woodstock used record shop, but … better late than never. I finally made WORDS & MUSIC, Book One.
The words are theirs. The music is mine. Together, they’re yours. And they’re on vinyl, where they belong.
One last thing; Following John Giorno’s trailblazing work to preserve the words and voices and sounds of the world’s greatest poets, there was another man whose love of the spoken word led him to devote huge swaths of his own life to creating audio works that brought these great poets and their words to a wider audience, via music; my dear friend HAL WILLNER, who died of Covid-19 in early 2020, when the pandemic was only just starting to look ugly.
Hal was one of the greatest record producers of his generation, and he was (and IS) the living link between Giorno and his Dial-a-Poem Poets, myself, and this series of vinyl LP’s I call WORDS & MUSIC. This debut LP in the series is dedicated to him. To Hal. In Loving Memory.
I’m working on Book Two.”
Allen Ginsberg – “At Apollinaire’s Grave”
(Official Shimmy-Disc Video)
Video By Ryan & Debbie Hover
Kramer’s work in music covers a vast spectrum of sound, unified only by an unwavering commitment to experimentation and collaboration. Even a straight telling of Kramer’s bio reads like a wild tall tale. He’s toured as a member of The Fugs and Butthole Surfers. He’s played bass for GG Allin, and live-mixed Sun Ra. Kramer has produced records for dozens of artists, including Daniel Johnston, White Zombie, and Low. Through Shimmy-Disc, Kramer released albums from a fascinating roster of artists that includes Ween, gore metal heroes Gwar, King Missile, and Japan’s noise rock masters The Boredoms. There’s perhaps no other living figure with a greater connection to outsider music than Kramer.
While Kramer has operated successfully in the extreme margins of music, he’s also demonstrated an equal mastery of pop music, producing influential recordings from artists like Galaxie 500 and Will Oldham. Kramer even scored a bonafide hit in 1994, handling production duties for Urge Overkill’s take on Neil Diamonds’ “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon.” That song was featured on Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction soundtrack, and climbed up to a #59 spot on the Billboard Hot 100.
Kramer first rose to prominence in the late 1970s, performing with New York Gong, a side-project connected to ex-Soft Machine guitarist Daevid Allen’s prog rock warhorse Gong. The 1980s saw Kramer co-founding a number of significant groups, including Shockabilly, Bongwater, and Captain Howdy, a collaboration with famed magician Penn Jillette. But the creation of the Shimmy-Disc label in 1987 would prove to be one of Kramer’s most enduring projects. With Shimmy-Disc, Kramer coalesced his varied talents as a producer, curator, and musician into one inextricably linked whole.
“I tried to release stuff no one else wanted to release,” Kramer says of his work with Shimmy-Disc. “I decided that I just wasn’t going to stand for seeing all this great music I was producing languish unreleased, passing into obscurity and nothingness right before my very eyes. I knew that there would never be anything I could do about a work of art falling into obscurity, but I could certainly rise to the occasion and challenge the specter of nothingness by starting a record company and releasing the music myself, on vinyl. At least then it wouldn’t be nothing. There had to be the opportunity, at least, to listen, or not listen. So I started Shimmy-Disc.”
In 2020, Joyful Noise Recordings named him their “Artist in Residence,” commemorating his career with a 5LP vinyl box set and over 400 minutes of newly recorded music. “I’m devoting the entirety of 2020 to the Artist-In-Residence series for Joyful Noise Recordings,” Kramer explained. “I’ll be focusing on my work as an artist and collaborator, precisely as I did when Shimmy-Disc was operational in the ‘80s and ’90s.”
WORDS & MUSIC, Book One – TRACKLISTING
1. GREGORY CORSO – “ARMY”
2. TINA MAY HALL – “THE EXTINCTION MUSEUM”
3 SAM LIPSYTE – “HOME LAND” (excerpt)
4. CHRISTINE SCHUTT – “AN UNSEEN HAND PASSED OVER THEIR BODIES”
5. GARY LUTZ – “IT COLLECTS IN ME”
6. ALLEN GINSBERG – “AT APOLLINAIRE’S GRAVE”
7. DAWN RAFFEL – “FLESH, BLOOD”
8. JASON SCHWARTZ – “JACKAL PATTERN”
9. KATHRYN SCANLAN – “VAGRANTS”
10. SCOTT McCLANAHAN – “JAMES”
11a. TERRY SOUTHERN – “SURREALIST DIALOG”
11b. TERRY SOUTHERN – “A PROCLAMATION”
WORDS & MUSIC, Book One Credits:
Produced by Kramer at Noise Miami
Music by Kramer (Secretly Publishing)
LP Layout & Design by Kramer & Ryan Hover
Front Cover Foto of Apollinaire (unknown photographer), 1916
Back Cover Foto of Gary Lutz’s typewriter by Kramer, 2016
Insert Sleeve Ginsberg/Corso photobooth pic, Paris 1957
Insert Sleeve Foto of Noise Miami by Kramer, 2020
Executive Produced by Michael Minzer In Loving Memory; Hal Willner