Where did 2018 go? Roughly a year ago, I penned a blog reflecting on how quickly the decade seemed to fly since Repo! The Genetic Opera‘s big screen debut in 2008. And here we are again, with the calendar continuing its breakneck march.
2018 has been a busy year for this workaholic artist. I wrote, recorded and released a new album, developed and manufactured a board game, went on a couple of tours – including one with Rasputina, one of my favorite bands – and experimented with being blonde. Note: the yellow-haired misadventures were my own, the other undertakings were collaborations with my American Murder Song partner in crime, Saar Hendelman.
2018 also marked the completion of projects that began years earlier. The Happiest Place, a graphic novel written by director/animator Harry Chaskin, for which I drew and inked a chapter, was released in September to rave reviews.
Harry collaborated with a group of talented illustrators on The Happiest Place, designating pages of his story that he felt would resonate with specific artists. He assigned me a chapter that featured a pair of emotionally-damaged characters fucking after-hours in a theme park ghost ride… all the while wearing cartoon masks. I’m not sure what this says about Harry’s psychological assessment of me, but I believe he may have missed his calling as a criminal profiler. The Happiest Place is available in both Kindle and paperback form: https://www.amazon.com/Happiest-Place-Harry-Chaskin/dp/0692140816
I don’t know if I’m ready to admit to getting freaky in cartoon sex masks, but 2018 was a year of monkey suits. In fall, Saar and I embarked on a series of super-intimate, living room-type concerts that we called Anti-Recitals. It was just the two of us and thirty fans sitting around a keyboard in private, artsy settings, drinkin’ with our pinkies raised, and dressin’ real fancy together. Saar and I wore three-piece suits every night, which was a real upgrade for this otherwise dirtbag of fashion.
On the Anti-Recital Tour, we sang songs from Repo! and The Devil’s Carnival that had not previously been performed live. We also played tunes from American Murder Song and an assortment of cover songs near and dear to our hearts. Every night, we also took a song request from someone in the audience. The requests ranged from Saar singing “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory to a dramatic reading of Poe’s “Annabelle Lee” by yours truly (not exactly a song, I know, but pretty damn cool nonetheless).
We also passed around an Inappropriate Question Jar nightly, from which we drew at random a question posed by someone in attendance. As one might imagine, this self-imposed Truth or Dare contest resulted in some embarrassing moments for both Saar and me. My favorite was Saar being asked to play Fuck, Marry, Kill with the crowd. Needless to say, between the song requests and inappropriate questions, the Anti-Recital really kept us on our toes.
Embarrassing questions included, the Anti-Recital was an amazing adventure. Aside from seeing all of our beautiful fans dressed to the 9s, the experience felt more like a party than a concert. There was no separation between us and our audience. Hugs were given and received by all (except for a couple of grumpy cats), stories were shared and friendships were crystallized. It’s a remarkable honor as an artist to witness such a sense of community thrive over songs about murder, organ repossessions and the Devil.
As a performer, the Anti-Recital provided a very pure platform by which to do what I love. There were no microphones on this tour, so Saar and I were free to sing our hearts out without the technical complications that go along with vocal amplification. Singing, really singing for an intimate room of well-dressed souls, with all cell phones tucked away, where eye contact and a chance for legitimate human connection was ever-present, was an absolute treat. To everyone who attended or assisted with the Anti-Recital, thank you for being a part of such a wonderful journey.
Sadly, 2018 was not without its losses. Kristin “Kris Boss” Botha, a friend and O.G. Repo! fan, passed away in October. I met Kris ten years ago at some of Repo!‘s first public screenings. Her warm face and presence have been a mainstay over the years at almost every touring event of which I’ve been a part. Kris’ life and untimely death are a profound reminder of the preciousness of friendship and the kindness that’s continually demonstrated by the ragtag community of which I’m proud to be a part. My heart goes out to Kris’ friends and family. She will be dearly missed.
2018 also had its unpredictable gains. In April, I learned of the existence of a half-sister. Krista was adopted at birth and only this year discovered the identity of some of her blood relatives, including me. Due to the dysfunctional nature of many of my known family members, I was at first resistant to the idea of making contact with this new blood, but I’m happy to share that my apprehensions were unfounded. Krista’s a real sweetheart. She even brought her husband and daughter to one of our Anti-Recitals. It was a little weird singing songs about sodomy and alcoholism in front of my new sis (yes, these sorts of tunes were part of our nightly set), but it was really cool to share my art, and the community that surrounds it with her. It was a live crash course in Zdunichdom.
The Anti-Recital experience was such a joy that Saar and I are taking it back on the road for a Hardcore Encore in February. We’re hitting all new cities, including our first singing jaunt through Europe, with stops in the UK, Netherlands and Germany. We hope these European shows go well, as we’d like to make more International appearances. The costs associated with traveling abroad have made this difficult thus far (as have the years of reading online comments from fans outside the US bemoaning our lack of non-American shows)… so if you’re a European fan, be sure to get your tickets to the Anti-Recital Hardcore Encore, as these initial shows will determine our future abilities to continent hop.
For fans who’ve already attended an Anti-Recital, we hope that you’ll join us again for the Hardcore Encore. We’ll be changing up our suits and set lists quite a bit, so it will feel like a new show. And some of your song requests – even if we didn’t select them the first go around – were so good they may be incorporated into our main Hardcore Encore set. As a bonus: all tickets purchased include a Free Download of our new American Murder Song album, “The Killing Place”.
December is always a busy (and expensive!) time of year, but with 2018 coming to an end, I hope you’ll consider doing some of your holiday shopping with this independent creator of dark, dork art. In addition to tour tickets, board games and new albums, Saar and I have a ton of new merchandise in our American Murder Song online store, including “In All My Dreams I Drown” and “Murder Child” socks, 12” vinyl records and “Murder! Murder!” panties. Everything is at least 20% off. We’re also offering super-exclusive opportunities to play our board game with us over a round of drinks and smack-talking… so there are plenty of goodies to add to your holiday wishlist here: http://www.americanmurdersong.com/store/
Hope to see everyone on the Anti-Recital Hardcore Encore Tour. In the meantime, Happy Holidays, all!