Tuesday, October 10,1989
The Michigan Daily
Made in Michigan with a big beat
Local wags make rare local appearance at Pig
BY BRIAN JARVINEN
ARE you bored with the local club
scene yet? You know, endless
groups of eager undergraduates with
more earnestness than skill doggedly
trying to get the masses of beer-
chugging, prowling trendoids to pay
attention to the cool way they
changed the break of "Superman" to
daringly add their own verse that
they have agonized over for weeks,
or more creative "original" bands
that play three times a month, using
their status as tape recording artists
to subject their fans to unfocused,
drunken rehearsals for some really
important out of town gig.
Fortunately, there is one rela-
tively new local band that refuses to
play in such stagnant ways: Big
Chief. This band of all-stars are vet-
erans of a number of mitten-land
outfits including Tom Gemp,
Crossed Wire, the Necros, the
Laughing Hyenas, and Born Without
a Face. They are Mark Dancey and
Phil Durr on guitar, Mike Danner on
drums, lead and only vocalist Barry
Henssler, and Matt O'Brien on bass.
I recently visited their tiny practice
space for a rambling chat.
The band can best explain their
determination to break away from
the rest of the local music scene:
Barry: They're playing us on DET.
We've got kind of a. foothold there.
We don't want to get treated like a
Mark: You have to be recognized by
someone out of town before you
will be recognized in Detroit.
Barry: Just look at the Hyenas.
They had to do well out of town be-
fore people would pay attention to
Mark: And they still don't get
write-ups in the Metro Times.
Prose wri tes of
BY MARK SWARTZ
641F everything happened the way we planned it, we wouldn't recognize
our lives," declares author Francine Prose in reference to "Tibetan Time,"
one of the stories from her recent collection Women and Children First.
It is a theme that pervades all of her work. People, even those closest to
us, surprise us with the things they do. Even more frequently, we surprise
The Francine Prose protagonist is often a middle-aged woman, alone
and barely managing. They have long tired of things not working out in
their lives, so they're trying to turn it around. "They're all looking for
something. God knows what. Some sense of order, something that
doesn't seem chaotic. An explanation for things," says Prose. That's what
drives Ceci in "Tibetan Time" to pay 50 more dollars for just five
minutes with the Lama at a Buddhist retreat outside of New York City. It
makes Janet in the title story make -n appointment with an ESP re-
searcher at the medical school to certify the bond she feels exists between
her son Kevin and herself. Still, "Janet feels strange, as if she's involving
her child in something scandalous, like some Victorian father introducing
his son to the local bordello."
This sense of humor - perhaps despairing, but at least far from de-
tached - weaves its way into the very serious messages of the stories. "I
think the stories are extremely serious. I mean them extremely seriously,
but I have trouble staying interested unless it makes me laugh," says the
By the time we reach the end of her stories, we are sure that she is not
kidding around. Always, they close with a single, powerful visual image
that fill us up with a sense of having read something significant. "I'm
looking for something that will give you the chills. I want something
that makes the end of the story feel like it's opening up. An echoing back
through the story," offers Prose. "Often I just go around looking for
something that will do that. I wait around until something extraordinary
With seven novels published that focus primarily on women's lives,
Francine Prose has dispelled in her own mind any stigma about writing
as a woman. "Women writers who refuse to see themselves as women
writers better be careful because someone else is certainly going to call
them women writers," she warns. "To say 'I don't feel like a woman' is
like - this isn't an exact analogy, but - is like living in Germany be-
fore the war and saying 'I don't feel Jewish.' It's about how you're per-
ceived as much as how you perceive yourself.
"The experience of a woman, regardless of hormones or cell construc-
tion, is different than male experience. I'm not saying that a woman
might not be capable of writing Moby Dick, but it doesn't seem quite as
likely. A man might be capable of writing To the Lighthouse, but it
doesn't seem quite as likely."
Barry: But instead of like getting
bummed out about that we can just
go somewhere else and play. We've
already done well out East and we did
well in Chicago and I'm sure we'll
do even better when we go back east.
We like Ann Arbor. We want to
Mike: We just don't want to be an
"Ann Arbor band."
Barry: We don't want to be back-
ground music for someone to get
drunk to. I think we're worthwhile
enough to go somewhere to see us
Mark: There are so many bands that
you can just see every month.
Phil: It's just a matter of over-expo-
Matt: You can get a ticket for that.
Plus we're fortunate that we have a
lot of connections outside of town
whereas a lot of people have to play
here to play at all. Our goal is to put
out records and that's in progress so
now we want to go to Europe.
Mike: We're gonna go to New York
and show them how to tune their
Barry: And how to comb their hair.
Mike: My idea of an American tour
is between here and JFK.
Barry: And then Germany, Holland,
Phil: Can we avoid France please?
Mike: I want to go to France.
Mark: You do?
Mike: Yeah, we're Americans.
Ok, so they have some major
goals. The records in progress in-
clude a single on Sub Pop:
Barry: I got this call from them last
February. The people in Mudhoney
told us to send them a tape, but I
never did because I figured Sub Pop
gets 8,000 tapes a week from people
saying put us on your label. The
band wasn't even really formed. We
didn't even have a band name. They
just said hey we're doing this singles
club thing do you want to do it and
we said of course cuz they're like
one of our favorite labels. So a year
and a half later it's going to come
out, scheduled for March '90.
They also found someone to fi-
nance a longer record:
Barry: We've got a patron of the
arts. We're sending the tape off to
have it pressed.
Mike: We're probably not gonna
call it anything.
Matt: It won't be on any label or
Barry: Before you know it will be
gone and be worth 20 bucks.
Matt: Then we're gonna stage a
suicide and it will be worth even
Ok, ok, so they are way ahead of
most bands already. But what about
Barry: I think George Clinton is as
important a contributor to music as
like Iggy Pop or any of the early
Detroit things. I think he is very
very underrated and is kind of
glossed-over by like "rock purists"
or whatever. He is definitely as raw
and as wild.
Phil: My dream in life is to play in
Barry: There's lots of people that
are way more popular than him.
Matt: Ike James Brown.
Mark: Seventies soul is totally ig-
nored. Everything is like the
Stooges. Bands all over the world try
to sound like them.
Barry: Our approach is a lot differ-
ent from the Sub Pop bands. There
is the affinity to volume and
Matt: And beer.
Barry: And beer but that's about it.
Phil: I think we kind of exercised
our speed out of us over the last six,
seven years. Right now there is
more of a connection to like no-
wave stuff than hardcore. I'm not
saying we're a no-wave band.
Barry: I would say something like
that would be as big an influence on
us as something like Black Sabbath.
Mike: They're starting to creep in
don't you think?
Mark: After a while you realize that
a one-two thrash beat is not a
Mike: We used to have one song in
We don't know what it is either - you'd have to ask Mark's analyst. What
we do know is that Big Chief are one of the few bands that understand the
words sustain and power. Mmmmmm.
the set to please the "punk element"
but then we said fuck that.
This approach can mystify the
theoretically open-minded under-
ground audience, as it did at a show
in Flint this summer:
Mark: The first two bands played
speed-metal covers and they loved it.
They were all moshing around.
Barry: They all watched us and ap-
plauded but they were really con-
fused. They were like "how do we
dance to this?"
BIG CHIEF will perform with
Austin/NYC's NICE STRONG
ARM tonight at the Blind Pig at 9:30
p.m. Tickets are $4.
Practicing Pharm.D.'s discuss
Doctor of Pharmacy graduates
A U-M College of Pharmacy seminar
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FRANCINE PROSE reads "Potato World," a recent story, in the Rack-
ham Amphitheatre at 4 p.m. today.
hkhh,, OCTOBER 101
have to be cramped up like a sardine anymore.
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Stop by and see a Jostens representative,
Monday, Oct. 9 thru Friday, Oct. 13,
11:00a.m. to 4:00p.m.,
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