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Poetry From Lower Topanga: Tool’s Snake Pit

From Lower Topanga: Tool's Snake Pit

Tool’s Snake Pit is published by local Topangan Pablo Capra’s outlet, Brass Tacks Press. You know him. He is the publisher who brought us the little green covered poetry book, Idlers Of The Bamboo Grove. You’ve seen it in a bucket at The Reel Inn and all over Topanga, Malibu and Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center. Most of us here know the Snake Pit as part of Lower Topanga near the Rodeo Grounds. Most outside of the area have not even heard of Lower Topanga. They know Topanga as a whole, as a place of Hollywood movie and music star history, past and present. After all Oingo-Boingo’s old place is here, along with a multitude of other icons. There is a part of Topangan history that the outside only knows from some old, crinkled newspaper articles or the take-over of the Rodeo Grounds – that is Lower Topanga.

Tool is an alias for a man who lived in the Snake Pit in a house that did not even have a real roof. It was “just quarter-inch plywood that was warped and never nailed down.” He was in the business of making secret doors. His secret doors were works of art for drug dealers and those who wished to traffic drugs across the border. He got into the idea of manufacturing fake aerosol cans that could traffic drugs across the border. And he could manufacture a spring-loaded gun holster.

But Tool is not all hardcore. He had a heart. He fell for a lady named Holiday. When he could not get in touch with her because she left for Palm Springs with another guy, Tool went on a binge. He was dealing and doing LSD (“L”), at the time of this bad news. He decided to head up his hill, a place we’ve all seen but rarely trek up. He went up there specifically to “forget” about Holiday via a drug-trip. Once there, his walkman ran out of batteries. He had to try and high-tail it to George’s Market for a battery refill before the trip set-in. Unsuccessful, he’d made it back to his sleeping bag on the hill on his hands and knees only to be arrested as a Topanga Sniper. Mistaken for a freeway sniper shooting people in Los Angeles, off to the local pen Tool went.

These are merely excerpts from an ongoing series of beat prose stories about Surfers, drug dealers and artists who lived together in Lower Topanga in the ’70s and ’80s. At once nostalgic and realistic, the prose is moving, revealing and a hippie rhythm of modern times. Panoramic and lacking self-indulgence, the work is true and refreshing vintage prose. There are not many left who can tell the tale of Lower Topanga from a been there, done that perspective. Tool was there, lived it and survived to tell the story.

Along with the beat prose is a series of comix from the underground by Toylit. In true subculture motif, these are original works of art in an authentic and humorous, hippie-inspired comics that deal with social and political subjects like sex, drugs, rock music and various forms of protests. Toylit is the author of the Crap Poetry Manifesto, The Last Nowhere Craplexity, the Children’s Guide To AStral Projection And Prevenge Of The Androgynous Cyborg Pirates From The Future and the Illustrator of Idlers Of The Bamboo Grove, Rat Tales and The Snake Pit, the issue prior to Tool’s Snake Pit. Toylit’s work is part of the re-emergence of a strong California subculture.

Tool’s Snake Pit is available from Brass Tacks Press for $5 here:

Yo Tokyo! Pretty Socery One To Watch From Cal Campbell

Yo Tokyo! CD Album Cover Cal Campbell

MALIBU – The Indie Pop/Rock CD Yo Tokyo! is not a one hit wonder album. There are in fact numerous tracks that show promise for a radio station’s hit list. This is not surprising when you learn the lead vocalist is Cal Campbell, son of local Malibu residents Glen and Kim Campbell. Musical talent certainly runs in the Campbell family. Yo Tokyo! is on the cutting edge of today’s Indie music industry.

“The CD is engineered well,” Jon Griffin, a 20-year veteran as an audio engineer and music producer here in Malibu, said in an interview.

“If you look at it from a producer perspective and listen to the way they write, hear the harmonic dissonance, its more like dark poetry,” Griffin said.

“The tension, the sonic tension, resolves but keeps you hanging on. They used some of the tools and technology to achieve certain things but not in absence of the musical talent,” Griffin said.

“They are a very cohesive rock band,” Griffin added.

Cal Campbell’s voice captures the artful heart. His tone is polished,and style is versatile. On one track you’ll hear a woeful lament of love. Yet on another track, Campbell will rock you down the Los Angeles highways making you care less if the driver in front of you just flipped you off for no reason.

“Cal’s vocals are reminiscent of Jeff Buckley or the band Muse. His dynamic range is like that of Jamie Cullum and a blend of elements of the British rock invasion. Yet, they’re still a true California band,” Griffin said.

Despite the numerous tracks of interest, one song in particular shows great promise to rank high on the Indie art list if not a radio station’s most requested mainstream song: Pretty Sorcery.

The opening lyrics of the “Pretty Sorcery” (track #9) on the Indie CD Yo Tokyo! are just as soothing as Campbell’s voice. The track is a woeful yet dying for love tale to which most who have experienced love on any level could easily relate.

The lyrics elude to what sophisticated songwriters they are,” Griffin said.

Opening Lyrics of Pretty Sorcery:

“Here’s to all the times I had to wonder why/but I know now/we could easily/And here’s to all the love that’s wasted with goodbye/and there’s no doubt/we could easily/we could truly be/your pretty sorcery has me off my seat/ it’s killing me/If tonight would even swallow me on the way down/. . .

The production and instrumentation on Pretty Sorcery is an absolute tapestry of sound,” Griffin said.

“Delicately woven, calming and entrancing. These guys had a lot of fun in the studio,” Griffin said.

“But they didn’t rely on one of the tricks of bells and whistles. They are a Beach Boys-esque swirl of background vocals and use unconventional rhythmic elements. Pretty Sorcery is evidence that they are not writing just to write. The song is definitely what needs to come through them,” Griffin said.

One more track of great interest is She’s Looking Over (track #3).

This track conjured up images of Matchbox 20 grooves combined with original qualities such as, once again, lyrics that keep you listening and guitar riffs that are sometimes late 80’s that melt into late 60’s and early 70’s beach sounds.

Opening lyrics of She’s Looking Over:

I was on the way back home today/caught a drift of you/and everyone was there/and they stopped and stared/’cause I fell into you/and you’re all around me/. . .

“There’s a lot happening in music today. This was an eclectic blend that was refreshing. They are so much of an ensemble band,” Griffin said.

Yo Tokyo is more than worth the listen and beats by far any mainstream music you’ve heard on the radio or otherwise.

PCH Press’ highest rating is 5 out of 5 stars. Yo Tokyo! is off the PCH Press charts.

Yo Tokyo! is a two disc purchase: CD plus a DVD.

Cal Campbell: Lead Vocals; guitar; programming
Phil Adkins: lead guitar; vocals; programming
John Ransom: bass guitar
David Piribauer: drums; percussion
Engineered by: Darrell Thorpe at Ocean Way and Track Record Studios
Produced by: Cal Campbell, Phil Adkins and Darrell Thorpe
Tracks 1,3,4,5,10 mixed by Darrell Thorpe at Scream Studios
Tracks 2,6,7,9 mixed by Cal Campbell and David Piribauer at the space
Track 8 mixed by Phil Adkins and Cal Campbell
Track 7 String Arrangement by Cal Campbell
Tracks 9 & 10 string arrangement by Cal Campbell, Phil Adkins and David Campbell
Masted by Mike Lazer at Paramount Mastering
DVD filmed and edited by Andy Carson
Artwork by Cody Small

Originally published © 2006 PCH Press and Kriss Perras. All rights reserved.

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