The Gaslamp Killer: Greetings From Hell
At the top of Mount Washington, where the two-lane road is about one and a half cars wide and the gullies alongside surely glitter with shattered brake-light plastic and skeletal remains, there is a beautiful house with a beautiful view of just about everything in the city — even a few stars. And right now between this beautiful house and its beautiful view is the DJ-turntablist–Low End Theory producer called the Gaslamp Killer, hauling a mattress to the curb a few hours before midnight and cursing because of pain and rage and probably the sheer experience of simply being alive.
"FUCK SHIT GODDAMN SHIT PISS!" (and more), says Gaslamp Killer into the night, hopping angrily on one foot because he had earlier dropped his beard-trimmer on his toe midtrim. That's a sign from above that says, "Don't ever change." And although it'd be so neat to report that a flock of panicked night birds came suddenly flapping out of the weeds, that would never happen. FUCK-SHIT-GODDAMN-SHIT-PISS-and-more is the default Gaslamp Killer condition. Any nearby living thing learns to love it or dies.
"I have no fucking off switch," says GLK, once famously called "the George Carlin of the slam mix" by Low End Theory founder Daddy Kev. ("Such an honor!" responded GLK, "to be compared to such a genius!") In fact, GLK has no switch at all. He is the one thing and the one thing only. He was born Willie Bensussen, a "crazy neurotic Jew Scorpio stoned motherfucker," he says now and often — sometimes adding more adjectives — and so he has remained. He is the youngest son of old-school New York Jews and Mexico City musicians, communists and comedians.
Lucky for him Los Angeles can still make space for people who won't fit into less than half a dozen adjectives, and as the L.A. beat scene grew from that one tiny room at Low End Theory in Lincoln Heights to become the definitive sound of the city in the late 2000s, you could always tell — a killer had been there.
"I'm always Gaslamp Killer, I'm always just Willie," he says. "No matter what. An eccentric loudmouth crazy stoner. That's my character in life, as well as onstage. As soon as you hear me grab the mic, you know — this kid's a total freak! He just happened to practice a lot!"
The first word I ever heard from Gaslamp Killer was SHIT. Then we laughed. Then he did some complex mathematical calculations. This would prove to be the key to his work: id, humor and technique each ready for simultaneous deployment.
"What you will experience at a Gaslamp Killer show is a disc jockey who works strictly in CAPS LOCK mode," wrote The Stranger's Dave Segal — also what you will experience at twitter.com/GASLAMPKILLER — and Segal is correct: Gaslamp Killer the DJ is a maniac unchained, smashing together otherwise discordant selections from Black Sabbath, Aphex Twin, Can, This Heat and just-barely-reissued '70s hellrock no man knew before 2009 with snippets of Chevy Chase ("What a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, lowlife, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey shit he is! Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where's the Tylenol?") and David Lee Roth and pausing not to breathe but to shout into the crowd and then to breathe only when the crowd shouts back. Raw, to use a favorite GLK adjective? OK — raw.
But then there is the music he makes. That's not raw; it's bones and guts from the back of some accidentally cracked-open cave. When GLK is really killing, nobody gets out. "Beelzebub's beat" was the term used in a nice little piece of GLK fan fiction; "Greetings From Hell!" says the GLK T-shirt, and that's why we don't have to talk about influences. You can tell where he's coming from.
With the desert-dwelling singer Gonjasufi, GLK put out one of the three best L.A. records of the year so far in March: A Sufi and a Killer. The Gonjasufi part is the singing; it comes through a top-secret 16-track tape machine and sounds like Lee "Scratch" Perry or Exuma — ancient, ferocious, magical in a powerfully practical and kind of frightening way. The GLK part is the rest: a synthesis and mutation of never-known worldwide psych and subprimitive machine beats. GLK says it took him four years to make.
Only now are songs he referenced finding issue on very expensive collector compilations. Often, the GLK versions are better. A Sufi and a Killer is the beat-scene record that sounds like the band that time forgot: Blue Cheer, Silver Apples, Wicked Witch, Les Rallizes Denudes ... if it made its creator go crazy between 1966 and 1974, GLK dared to drag it back to life. It's beautiful, too. Flying Lotus called it "timeless, incredible filth." Little else can be said. You think — what the hell else is out there I've never been told about?
Now his new EP is out: DEATH GATE, the second of his two happily hostile 10-inches, released just last month on Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder. "When I'm in Awe" is a cheerful reunion between Gonjasufi's nethervocals and GLK's otherbeats.
Forty songs were recorded for A Sufi and a Killer, says GLK; of those, they put only the cuddliest on the album. The songs that terrified even their creators — "the most demented robotic distorted fucked-up industrial post-punk shit" — sit in the vault even yet, awaiting release possibly in 2012, as the Mayan pyramid ships float into place above all major American cities. Either event would annihilate society.
Until then, we have DEATH GATE and "When I'm in Awe" and its might-as-well-be title track "Shattering Inner Journeys": war drums and space bass and digital reinforcement by Computer Jay over music as murky and menacing as Pere Ubu's "30 Seconds Over Tokyo." It is raw and ugly and weird; it sounds like hell because it is exactly designed to.
"The dopest hip-hop shit was the dirtiest Wu-Tang shit with the breaks that made you go fuckin' apeshit! That hard Black Sheep shit, Dilla shit — that neck-snapping shit!" GLK says. "That's what makes you wanna dance, makes you wanna jump up and down, wanna sock somebody, get rowdy in the club. ... It's those beats that are so dirty! Not that glammy glitzy girly shit for girls, that R&B for soft people — it's none of that! It's that hard neck-break shit. That's the whole fucking science behind my shit. That raw shit. You find it any way you can in any genre you can — as long as it's raw."
The Gaslamp Killer with Daedelus, Free the Robots, Samiyam and Teebs, Sat., Nov. 20, at the House of Blues, 8430 W. Sunset Blvd., W. Hlywd., hob.com. $12.50-$20. 18 and over.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.