A Night at the Jazz Riots

Peter Brotzmann and Bill Laswell
Low Life
Celluloid : 1987

PB, bass saxophone; BL, electric bass, loops, etc.

“Yeah, so maybe I was looking for a fight that night. But mainly I was jacked up to see the Twitch City reunion. Even Asshole Chuck was playing drums for them again. My buddies and I swallowed some speed and were grinding our teeth and ready to mosh and scream along to “You sit inside a bottle and pretend you’re in a can.” So imagine our reaction when we get to the club and there’s some jazz band on stage playing some bebop bullshit.

“Maybe this was Twitch City’s new idea of cool or maybe they were trying to wind us up with this shitty music, but it wasn’t ten minutes before the first bottle got thrown. Maybe I did it, I can’t remember. But two seconds later, glass is raining down on the band from all sides. The sax player gets smacked in the nose and collapses on the floor clutching his bloody face. The rest of them scram for the exit, not bothering to grab their instruments. People are chanting for Twitch City but some dipshit must have called the pigs because soon there are wailing sirens and swinging billy clubs and overturning tables and we’re scattering and sprinting into the street to avoid getting cuffed and carted. This was still pretty common in those days.

“So that’s when I run into Marco, who lives nearby, and the two of us scramble up the fire escape to his apartment to avoid the cops. I’m sprawled out on his floor and laughing about how jazz musicians are total pussies, when I notice Marco giving me the evil eye. He says I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about and that jazz is the new hardcore. He says he knows some jazz dudes who’d have jumped into the crowd swinging their saxophones and broken plenty of noses. And I’m like, bullshit. So Marco pulls out this album called Low Life. And I’m like, what is this, New Order? Marco says it’s by some dudes from this band called Last Exit and drops the needle.

“At first, it sounds kind of industrial, like Z’ev or Whitehouse or whatever. And I’m like, there is no way this is jazz. But Marco nods his head and sure enough there’s this sax making noises like an open wound. It’s noisy and menacing and sounds pretty okay. So I tell Marco to let it keep playing. The longer I listen, the more hyped up I start to become, and I realize this is giving me the some of the same cranked-up feelings as Twitch City except this time there are no more bottles left to throw.”

–Ronnie “Mad Dog” Mercer, from My Fist, Your Face: An Oral History of the Los Angeles Hardcore Scene (Rip Rock Press, 1993).

Category Bill Laswell, Peter Brötzmann Tags , , , , , , , , ,