Here’s some videos I shot and edited over the weekend with Freeport rapper Baby Trill.
if you ain’t listening to Agitator, you a bitch
I like podcasting. I’ve been doing it since 2015. In that time, I recorded 137 episodes of my interview show, 53 episodes of No Country with Kris Saknussemm, and now 6 episodes of Agitator. I like to think of podcasts as projects that have beginnings and ends. For now, I think The JDO Show will pause. But it could come back! I’ll still interview people randomly.
See, people are still discovering episodes of the show that I recorded years ago. Some of them have racked up several hundred downloads. We’re almost at 40,000 downloads for the show! So I’ll keep those old episodes up.
When I was a kid, I would order DVDs from Tartan Asia Extreme. Sometimes I’d even get them from overseas. I was completely obsessed…
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been raining my whole life, seems like. sun’s out today. i’ma break a sweat, pull vines off the house and cut the lawn. nature choking out the crib. yard’s a swamp. after that, i’ll use the kid’s swing set for pull-ups and tension band workouts. the sun is nice. the heat is what it is. i played some ‘grand theft auto.’ stole cars, shot cops, got a haircut. on the game, i mean. ‘warzone’ still got 66 hours to download. internet is slow here. but the sun is nice. and the heat is what it is. time to sweat.
It was an honor and a blast to record the audiobook version of one of my favorite novels. It would mean a lot if you give a listen and pass it around.
Kelby Losack has recorded an audiobook of my novel Black Gum, and it’s available to listen to for free over on my podcast.
Kelby’s voice is soulful yet deadpan. He’s from the Houston area, and he’s a rapper in addition to being a writer, so his voice has that appropriate accent for the book. He’s a remarkably clear reader. I couldn’t be happier with the result.
I have a favor to ask! I’d love it if you could share this around on all the different platforms. Social media, your own blog, wherever. I think this is a great representation of my work, and it’s presented in a format that people can listen to on their way to work (or at work, if you have that kind of job). Seems like a good thing to pass around.
We’ve been having some incredible rains lately. I’ve been playing Dark Souls while the…
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The other day, I wrote a tweet about how self-publishing collectives of homies will be the next wave of underground literature and the post actually caught some traction, so I wanted to peel the scab back a bit more; get to the raw meat of this concept.
The current landscape of independent publishing looks like one or two passionate readers/editors/fellow writers investing a lot of energy into contracting, editing, designing, and putting out books they want to see exist in the world, usually in opposition to the bland paint-by-numbers titles being shat out by the big houses and usually (but not exclusively) through a print-on-demand service. These publishers seem to keep it up solely for the love, because that’s a difficult model to make financially successful. There usually comes a burnout point, which seems to be either now, last year, or coming up quick for a lot of indie presses.
I talk with the homie J. David Osborne all the time about experimenting with the publishing format, the roles of editors, what a book even is, how to fuck the whole system up and do something better – something that feels more like art. Through hundreds of phone calls over the past couple years, we’ve managed to give a little shape to the abstract idea of collectives rather than publishers, the thought being we as independent artists are more like a garage band than a publishing house. Really – to mix metaphors – why play the game by the rules when you’re not even in the league? This is street ball, baby.
What this collective framework looks like in effect doesn’t take much explanation beyond the garage band analogy. You get a group of friends, you swap artistic duties for each other’s projects. Our friend Lucas Mangum completed the trinity of mine and David’s collective idea and put a name to it: Less Than Pulp. The three of us have a Signal group chat in which we frequently make fun of each other or send screenshots of [redacted] but also where we trade roles back and forth in sharing each other’s work. We’re all writing at any given time, but one of us may need help getting out of the mud with a manuscript, or going through the logistics of design and print, or simple encouragement… whatever, really. We may even trade cover art for a full-script edit or interior design from one another. Like I said, whatever.
If you want to crack the face off and peek at all the gears inside, this is how the collective worked with my latest novel, Hurricane Season: I spent the time writing the thing ringing up or texting one of the homies when I was stuck for whatever reason, usually due to self-doubt or mental health bullshit, and we’d work around the issue. When I finished the first draft, I e-mailed it to both of them. Lucas came back with, “It needs another horse,” and he was right, I wrote another scene involving a horse that pops up throughout the story and it added a lot to it, I think. David texted several points on which to expand, and came up with a couple funny scenes to add to the end, which I did. Then I threw some coin David’s way to design the interior and reached out to both the homies for advice on the printing process. I already had a front cover I’d commissioned from the extremely talented Matthew Revert and I did the back cover myself. Slapped a sigil on it as a ‘logo’ (’cause I’m a sorcery-practicing freak) and ordered 200 copies, which I’ll hand-number and sign because I want to keep it limited, rare. I like the idea of art as artifact, something that has a lifespan. After the 200 sell, that’ll be it for the foreseeable future. On to the next one.
If this sounds like a vanity press operation, I mean… yeah? But it’s all about doing it right. Write the truest, rawest version of the story you’re trying to tell. Get it edited by someone who understands your vision. Learn how to use InDesign and pirate that shit because fuck those monthly payments. Put a dope cover on it. Be patient and thorough stumbling through the printing logistics (or maybe that’s the easiest part and I’m just dumb lol) and then you’ve got a book published, with 100% of the royalties going into your pocket. Whatever help you were given by your circle of artist friends, give it back. That’s a collective.
And hey, it’s not for everyone. Some dorks who smell like cat piss and burnt coffee grounds love to play by the rules, or even worse, pretend that indie and mainstream operate exactly the same. Personally, I like the DIY spirit and embrace the hustle and artistic freedom of this method. I also treat each book as an experiment, though. We’ll see how things evolve with the next one.
If you want to get more into logistics, keep your eyes on what King Shot Press is doing. They’re an indie press who has always sought to stand out and offer the artist something more than a co-sign. Also, this thread by Back Patio Press is hella helpful.
It’s been over a couple years, but the next novel is finally dropping. Hurricane Season is a conversation with ghosts, a treatise with the glowing eyes floating in the dark at the edge of the woods, an abstract collage of hoodrat ratchetry. It’s the story of two friends riding out a hurricane in a haunted trailer. There’s a demon-possessed raccoon and a duffel bag full of ecstasy. I went into some weird headspaces with this one and I’m really proud of what it turned into (shouts out J. David Osborne and Lucas Mangum for helping me reach the end of it). You can pre-order it here. Only 200 copies are being printed, all hand-numbered and signed. Dropping May 14, 2021. Here’s an excerpt:
We were still rolling when we saw the horse walking on water. Radiuses of ripples spreading out from his hooves. Belly black with rot. He walked right along the roof’s edge without stopping or paying any mind to us. I thought maybe we could hop on his back, catch a ride out, but Marcel didn’t think so. “Probably shouldn’t ride a dead horse,” he said. “No telling where you’ll end up.”
I’m on my way out the door at the day job, which has had me thinking more than ever about monetizing my skill set. That’s always the goal, right? Or if not the goal, it’s the dream: to do whatever you want, whatever you’re good at and compelled to do, and make a sustainable living doing it.
I’ll have to get another job. Too many responsibilities to just jump ship. When the bank account has a habit of hitting zero between each paycheck, it’s probably not a smart idea to gamble with income, not when there’s mouths to feed besides your own. But something less stressful (which would be anything compared to where I’m at), and less demanding of my time… that’s the move. Because there’s side projects to take care of; foundation to lay.
I’m not going to get into the “selling out” argument. Too many terms to define, too many walls to beat your head against getting into that. Besides, I’ve no reason to switch up my integrity. The skills I possess that could net me a fathomable income don’t require kissing any ass. Good dope sells itself, folks just gotta know you’ve got that product. So let’s talk about the dope on deck.
I have about a decade’s experience in the woodworking trade. I’m in the process of turning our one-car garage into my own personal shop, which will allow these projects I’ve had piling up to get finished faster. If I owe anything to anyone reading this, by the way, I deeply appreciate your patience. This particular hustle consists of taking orders with specific, custom details (abstract ideas are cool, too) and then building by hand whatever set of cabinets or piece of furniture or decor is desired. I’ve made wooden knuckle dusters with engraved knuckles and colored resin inlays, I’ve built countless vanities and kitchen islands, cutting boards, bookends, desks, you name it. A decent sized and steadily growing portfolio can be found on mine and my friend Marcus’s Instagram page: @demboyzcustoms. We’ll get a legitimate website up this year at some point, and we’ll be taking our work on the market circuit soon, too.
My primary passion, though, it’s always been writing. This is how I exorcise the demons. I’d like to help others with similar passions do the same, and have something fully realized to show for it. So I’m also offering editing services, from copyediting to line-by-line, concept and structural, all that. I’ll do this on the low, starting out, to build up the portfolio. Hit me up if you’ve got a manuscript of any size you want to make sing (firstname.lastname@example.org, or find me on the social pages). Shit, if we’re homies, I might just do it for the love.
As for my own books, I’ve got plans – after spending a lot of time workshopping and brainstorming with J. David Osborne and Lucas Mangum – on how to push forward in this stagnating publishing industry. The work will be coming down the pipeline soon, in less than conventional ways that feel more appropriate than trying to ride the dead horse named Print-on-Demand. As a side note, I highly recommend artists find a collective of homies you can bounce ideas off of and swap skills with. The fire stays stoked talking with these two on the regular.
And speaking of the book world in the digital age, there’s no denying people struggle with finding time to read these days (short books are another remedy to that, but that’s its own post). The rise in popularity of audiobooks over the past several years has been impossible to ignore, which is cool. Storytelling in spoken form is an ancient art that can be a captivating experience with the right storyteller. On that note, I’m one of those storytellers. Audiobook narration is a field I’m dying to get into after recently narrating one of my own novels. The feedback I’ve received off of that has me itching to do more work. I’m in the process of narrating a few for other writers and I don’t want to slow down, so I’ll show my hand here. If you have a book you would like narrated and engineered to meet the specs of all the big audio distribution platforms, I’ll read through it to get a feel for the voice and then record individual tracks based on chapter breaks. I’ll then send a zipped file of all of the tracks as well as a full audio track with no breaks in both WAV and MP3 formats, so whatever your plans for distribution are, you’ll be set. Since I’m getting my feet wet and proving myself here, the rate I’m charging right now is a flat $140 for anything between 20k and 40k words. If the work is longer, it’d be an additional $10 for every 10k words. And I’m down to do short stories as well, if you have something unique in mind, we can talk.
And please spread the word!
Time to hustle.
It’s been a tireless couple of years for experimental hip hop artist LUNV D. Since the drop of his debut album KVIZEN in 2018, the Houston-based Lunatic Diviner has been honing his joyfully anarchic voice through one genre-blended project after another. In the midst of the insanity that was 2020, he dropped two collaborative albums—the industrial trillwave masterpiece Leap Year with Lord Bile and the Dante Alighieri-inspired End of the World with Zøtboi and D-Seal—as well as a protest-themed solo EP aptly titled VMERICV that was dropped just as global unrest against police brutality was reaching a boiling point. And the goth punk rapper from the Third Coast is showing no signs of slowing down, kicking the new year off with Diviner—twelve tracks of defiance and existential angst that encapsulate an artist waving both middle fingers at genre norms and industry trends.
Diviner is an entirely self-produced passion project, evident in the prevalence of LUNV’s sword-sharpening sound signature as well as the heavy (and welcome) use of live instruments. The album is as much a showcase for his musical and production talent as it is a representation of his flow and lyrical range. Elements of emocore and pop-punk are seamlessly spliced with vaporwave and industrial beats. Each track is a barrage of FX laced with either acoustic string melodies or underground hardcore club distortion.
It would honestly be fair to consider Diviner a progressive rock album, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t every bit as much a rap album as well. “Cherub,” for instance, sounds like Playboi Carti rode Doc’s DeLorean back to the 1950s to front a rockabilly jam band, which—as much as that shouldn’t make sense—ends up working on every level. “Noir 3” is a jazz rock/rap gem functioning as the perfect closer to a track list full of musical Frankensteins such as the witch house/screamo trap song “Gold” and the hypnotic, mantra-heavy “Spellcasting 2.” In the end, what it amounts to is the work of an artist drawing equal amounts of influence from Mars Volta and Chris Travis, and the result is something truly special.
LUNV is an artist aware that we are the company we keep, and he brings his most trusted hitters into the ring with him on bangers like “DØN’T TVLK BVCK,” the most radio-friendly song in terms of catchiness and upbeat tone but juxtaposed with the meanest, nastiest bars coming from Zøtboi and depressive introspection from D-Seal. Lord Bile provides his morphine-soaked growls to the intro of “Eyez,” signing off with the line “Only thing that makes me smile is a dead cop,” a note which sets the tone and opens the floor for LUNV’s spastic energy to quickly escalate into full-chested screaming aggression. Throwing it back to the Eight Bracket days—a time several years ago in which LUNV D and several other Gulf Coast kids seemed to be on a similar trajectory of collectives such as Odd Future and RVIDXR KLVN—cloudwave singer/rapper BR4N reunites with the mystic pirate on “Down,” one of the more subdued songs on the album that brings the Lil Peep-esque vibes.
Thematically, the album is full of poetic musings regarding class struggle and existentialism, kicking off with “Divine Intervention,” a song that was recorded on the heels of LUNV being robbed by PayPal hackers. “I could care less about bank account, nothing on earth is forever / Music and all of my friends around, shine like diamonds under pressure” is a statement of purpose coming from an artist unconcerned with compromising authenticity and soul to fit into a mold. This is definitely music that will hit hardest with a niche audience rather than appeal to everyone, but that’s a major part of what makes it genuine art. That said, the most infectious hooks LUNV has written yet are also present here, most notably on the pop-punk anthem “Thinline” and on “Globe,” one of the album’s more mellow offerings that remains light-hearted and stoic while dripping dark rain cloud vibes: “Wish that I could spin the globe, eyes closed, pick a place and then just go, find a place to rest with all the lost souls.” The dynamic structure of each song is without a doubt due in part to the unique production, as this is an album that would be interesting to listen to even as an instrumental pack, but the ever-shifting cadence of LUNV’s delivery is what truly elevates the experience. By his own confession, the Lunatic Diviner is “striving for a voice that relates and destroys anything too exclusive,” and with Diviner he has achieved precisely that.
I watched The 400 Blows for the first time at three this morning because the kid is going through growing pains and waking us up a lot. Again. Kids will do that in cycles.
The 400 Blows is a highly regarded French classic that – thanks to a past job at a video store and my grandmother’s enormous pirated VHS collection – I’ve always known existed but had never seen before. The plot is basically Catcher In the Rye but more depressing ’cause it’s French, I guess. There’s not a lot going on, just an unhappy kid trying to ditch school and steal shit to fund his exodus from home. And I kind of loved it. The film never pretends to be more than what it is, it just comes through as genuine. I read somewhere that it’s autobiographical on the director’s part, which makes sense as to how it stays within the realm of the world it presents. It successfully sustains the dream, as the homies Jordan Harper and J. David Osborne have been going on about lately.
Anyway, it got me inspired to write. I’m working on a lot of shit I’ve been feeling in my guts and dreams lately that I’m excited to start sharing soon. Be well.