Friday, July 28, 2006

strange things are happening

One of the most weirdly gratifying things to have happened since starting this blog has been how a post I did about Tim Hensley nearly a year ago still gets comments.

That post has become a kind of nerve centre for Tim Hensley/Neil Smythe/Victor Banana/Vic Hazelnut obsessives - strangely enough, there are a few out there.

Through the excellent comments, I've been able to get hold of a copy of the first Victor Banana album, "Split". This features a four-piece VB line-up, so it's a sparser affair than the more ornately orchestrated "Velvet Glove OST" - however, the 21 songs are still totally nuts and original. These are some of my favourites, including a dispatch from the Hensley dictionary corner, some jaunty pirates and the most evil Santa you'll ever hear:

Victor Banana - Strange Things Are Happening
Victor Banana - Here Comes Santa
Victor Banana - Shiver Me Timbers
Victor Banana - Iamatology Walking Through Lineal Theanthropism

Excitingly, the latest comment (received this morning!) mentions that Tim has uploaded a couple of VB videos to YouTube - as I type this post, however, the site is down for maintenance. If I find the videos, I'll stick the links in the comments. Could this possibly herald a return to music?! Let's hope so!

Three more slices of prime Hensley genius for your delectation:

Neil Smythe - Butterscotch Sunday
Neil Smythe - Onions Make Me Weep
April March & Vic Hazelnut - Kooky

Buy - Neil Smythe, 'Refrains' - still the only Tim Hensley CD currently in print
Read - my previous post about this great artist
Visit - April March and get the "Voodoo Doll / Kooky" single!

Hey THANKS for these, really, really.

Seeing VICTOR live, as nutty/great as it is . . . just doesn't seem . . . right. It's is a bit like catching a glimpse of CHARLIE (of CHARLIE'S ANGELS) - in NO WAY can the actual man live up to the image his voice/music has slowly built up in my head over the past 15-odd years.

(P.S.: I don't seem to remember "Iamatology Walking Through Lineal Theanthropism" as being on the SPLIT LP. BUT I'm aging and my memory's going, and I don't have the rec in front of me.)

AND Tim's got a MySpace site:

His most recent blog update vaguely hints (to me, anyway) that he might have SOMETHING NEW to give the world in the coming year. Shiver Me Timbers, indeed! 

Well, I'm vain enough to Google my name sometimes, and I seem to have come across likely
the five or six only fans of my music! Thanks for your interest. I vaguely remember Johnny Domino
from a decade ago. Glad you're still going; I've attempted to add you at MySpace! Here's a much too long
bunch of info--as noted in the comments posted, I might be more satisfying as an enigma...

My musical career, such as it was, was from when I lived with my parents. I used to wake up at two
in the morning for privacy and write and record on my Portastudio. My method was to create songwriting assignments for myself, things like picking a random word from the dictionary as a title. Victor Banana came together as a group to perform this material, the name derived from a schoolmate, Victor, who used to eat extremely ripe brownish-black bananas. We played at clubs and once on public access TV, where the YouTube clips are from. Splatco Records were some guys who came to our shows and just barely put up the money for Split.
I then sent a tape to Daniel Clowes asking him to do the cover, and we ended up becoming friends.

The band broke up, and it seemed less to ask of musicians to just learn parts temporarily, so I switched to saving up money for recording sessions paid for by office temp work. The idea that I then fell into writing stuff for Dan's Velvet Glove story as it was being serialized now seems totally crazy to me, but Eightball was a new thing in the world at the time. I remember that Dan put the character O'Herlihy in simply so I would use one of the songs he liked that I had lying around. At the same time, I was introduced to Elinor Blake through mutual acquaintances and ended up putting her first April March EP together. She paid for the sessions; I think it may have cost around $600? One memory I have is spending hours tracking her vocal on Stay Away from Robert Mitchum and realizing we had put it on the wrong take; we came back another day and redid it. "Acrid Marsh" was a song I wrote about the brief period I was writing songs for her, and I think it got me into huge trouble with her successful later collaborators...

Other things I did--
Two Ernest Noyes Brookings CDs--
"Why I Write Poetry," on Place of General Happiness and "The Wizard of Oz" on Outstandingly Ignited.
The Wizard of Oz is my favorite track of all my work.
Rube Ruben EP--two songs I wrote for my friend. He couldn't really sing, and the mandolin player cried mutiny when I showed him a part I had written for--gasp--his solo. Not that great either way.

Eventually, things reached a crisis for me. It was really time to move out of my parents house and find my own identity. I hadn't really dealt with being the sibling of a learning disabled (the polite term for "borderline mentally retarded"), mentally ill sister. I had the requisite nervous breakdown and went into therapy. At the same time, my grandmother died, and I used the money she left me to record the Neil Smythe album. The material was dark, but it was fun to make. (And luckily during this period I also met my wife! We've been married for six years, together for twelve.) It seemed much easier subsequently to concentrate on other things besides music--recordings of 57 songs sounds like enough to me! So I'm afraid I don't have any future musical plans, but I am having some work published recently as a cartoonist. I'm working on a story that will be serialized in the Fantagraphics' publication Mome; the first installment is due out in a month or two, so if you're interested look for it...

Whew. So there you have some background, for what it's worth.

AMAZING! So Tim Hensley DOES exist. And here, I thought even THAT name might be a pseudonym for something else . . . like an all-powerful military computer hidden underground somewhere in Idaho!

THANKS, kind sir, for your wonderous musical output. We here on this cozy blog-comment page just can't get enough of your tricky melodies and astute lyrical observations. I'll be buying your MOME comic fr sure. 

oh my goodness, i go away to get married and this happens while i'm away...


Thank you for your gracious response to these posts - far more preferable to a 'cease and desist'! For the people that love your work, your candid bio is a great insight. I hope we didn't rake up any bad memories in our enthusiasm and despite any desire I might personally have to hear more and more of your fantastic music, I also appreciate an artist who knows when enough is enough.

Your music will always mean a great deal to me, a completely original approach to songwriting and arranging. I'm glad to have been able to share that with others.

In other news, the two Ernest Noyes Brookings CDs Tim refers to are readily available here - I ordered mine a couple of weeks ago and they turned up almost immediately (with a free copy of volume 3 thrown in for good measure!)

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