Thursday, May 29, 2008

My Five-Year-Old Bear

My little baby bear is sprouting into this person. It's uncontrollable. I don't always feel that I'm helping raise Claire as much as standing back and watching the fireworks go off. I'm just proud to be a part of her life. She's funny. Really funny. And oddly smart. And kind. And cool. And, of course, beautiful (though I trying to ration my compliments on her looks to only a few a day).

She turned five Tuesday. We had her birthday party a day early, on Memorial Day. Here are some photos.

This might be her favorite person in the world, her cousin Sepporah the blonde hellion . They will get in more trouble together than I even want to think about. Right now we're all still in denial about all the trouble. But until these two turn into bold, subversive and beautiful young women, they're still safely adorable, like puppies.

Killin' a Cheetoh. With poise.

She loved her cake, as we knew she would when Kirst ordered the one with purple and pink flowers on it. This is her smiling as I prepared to light the candles.

This is her frowning with concern as I failed to pull of keeping all five candles lit in the middle of the windy afternoon.

An impromptu Future Troublemakers of the World meeting with my mom, former president of the club.

Tuesday was the actual birthday so Monday night, after the party, curlers were installed before bedtime so she could have a special birthday 'do.

The curler experiment was a success. And check out the kicks.

She agreed to pose with her slovenly father for a few pictures. She's like a little Princess Di, the way she hangs out with us unwashed commoners.

This is her grabbing the camera when nobody was looking and taking the classic MySpace self-portrait. The lesson: The MySpace self-portrait looks wrong on everybody. Even angels.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Road Trip: How It's Done

Last Thursday we squeezed into Kirsten's car, which was fresh from the body shop where little Jawas had been tinkering with it for the past month. Hoping it was really fixed for good now, we opted to hit the open highway headed for a wedding in South Carolina and hope for the best.

She knitted while I did all the driving (this was only so I would, as guaranteed in the American constitution, have the right to choose our music).

We stopped for Mexican food along the way. Though I am dog-smiling here, the food was an atrocity. What I will now refer to as Mex-atrocious.

She didn't seem to mind.

Later, at the hotel, she tried to entice me to play poolside Scrabble by showing a little leg.

I said no.

This is us at the wedding ceremony, which was held in an outdoor amphitheater type thing. Though we are smiling here, we were actually in the middle of a huge fight about the fact that I wouldn't play poolside Scrabble with her. But you can't tell, right? We've mastered that whole celebrity thing where you grin and fake it.

This is where the reception was held. In a really beautiful, rustic house owned by a friend of the groom's family. There were cottages and trees and horses. It was ridiculous.

This is Brooke the bride standing next to my hot girlfriend. When you want to get beautiful women like this to photograph well, all you have to do is say, "HEY LADIES!" Try it sometime. It really works.

Seriously. This is who I wake up next to every morning. I don't know how it happened either.

And this is who she wakes up to. It's not exactly a fair exchange, but we make it work.

I kind of followed Kirsten around with a camera, because she was smoking hot.

Later, when the sun when down, we went for a walk. The horses trotted alongside us.

I could have shaved for the wedding. But I didn't.

The sad reality was that, after that gorgeous wedding celebration and all the drinking and dancing, the next morning we had to make the 13-hour drive home. Thank the road gods that in the middle of rural Tennessee, between exit after exit of fast food and convenience centers, we stumbled upon this vegetarian-friendly cafe alongside a peaceful brook. It was like a dream, really. I'm still not sure it happened.

Double bonus: later, around dinner time, we lucked out again and found a decent burrito chain. This is me savoring my burrito. Behind me were people in renaissance garb. That's who Kirsten was really trying to photograph, but she captured my burrito-savoring monkey face as well.

(A little sun brings the Mexican in me out.) We honestly never get sick of each other. I don't understand it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The World's Making Music All The Time

This morning a friend sent me a link to an argument happening on somebody's blog, about local music writers and who was good and who was shit, and I wondered if any of it was even about music and what was the point. It seemed like a bunch of snakes that grew out of the soil of true love, forgot where they came from, and then started eating each other.

Then I found something beautiful, an interview with Tom Waits, conducted by Tom Waits, in which he is still, irrevocably smitten with life. The soil of true love is caked underneath that man's fingernails and there to stay.

Compare the racket of bloggers devouring themselves to a list Waits gives of his favorite sounds. There's no contest. The first is a single, ugly sound made from many ugly bleats blending into one. But Waits' list is full of the commonplace and the gorgeous things that we filter out. It's like Haiku; brief and spellbinding. I took a second to picture each one, got a little transported, and came to the same conclusion that Waits did: the world is making music all the time.

From the interview.

Q: What are some sounds you like?
1. An asymmetrical airline carousel created a high pitched haunted voice brought on by the friction of rubbing and it sounded like a big wet finger circling the rim of a gigantic wine glass.
2. Street corner evangelists
3. Pile drivers in Manhattan
4. My wife’s singing voice
5. Horses coming/trains coming
6. Children when school’s out
7. Hungry crows
8. Orchestra tuning up
9. Saloon pianos in old westerns
10. Rollercoaster
11. Headlights hit by a shotgun
12. Ice melting
13. Printing presses
14. Ball game on a transistor radio
15. Piano lessons coming from an apartment window
16. Old cash registers/Ca Ching
17. Muscle cars
18. Tap dancers
19. Soccer crowds in Argentina
20. Beatboxing
21. Fog horns
22. A busy restaurant kitchen
23. Newsrooms in old movies
24. Elephants stampeding
25. Bacon frying
26. Marching bands
27. Clarinet lessons
28. Victrola
29. A fight bell
30. Chinese arguments
31. Pinball machines
32. Children’s orchestras
33. Trolley bell
34. Firecrackers
35. A Zippo lighter
36. Calliopes
37. Bass steel drums
38. Tractors
39. Stroh Violin
40. Muted trumpet
41. Tobacco Auctioneers
42. Musical saw
43. Theremin
44. Pigeons
45. Seagulls
46. Owls
47. Mockingbirds
48. Doves

The world’s making music all the time.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Classic

Transcript from the FBI wiretap of my cell phone.

Me: Hey, where are you? The bathroom?

Nicolle: What do you mean? Oh, the echoes? I'm in a stairwell.

Me: Ahh. I thought you were taking a dump.

Nicolle: I am. I'm taking a dump in a stairwell.

Monday, May 19, 2008


This is a piece by Shepard Fairey, the conceptual artist/graphic designer who created the OBEY anti-campaign in the 90s. If somebody can find me a print of this, I'm currently accepting early birthday gift donations.

Here is the Gothamist interview with Fairey.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Fun With Systems

me: i'm on hold right now, and they're playing this slow, melancholy 40s jazz, like from the movie Chinatown. i don't know how to feel about it.
this is my student loan company, what do they have to be sad about??

they're trying to rub it in


Absurdity is funny. Sometimes. Like that IM exchange. It's funny. But other absurd things are not so funny. Or are funny in small doses, but not when they keep piling up, one on top of the last.

It's been that kind of month. Beyond some plain old bad luck (Kirsten and I had major car accidents within weeks of each other and started this work week out on foot), the really hard part to swallow has been dealing with the system, and the shortsighted, fearful people in it who have been so quick to take advantage of us.

Here's one for-instance: A month ago, I got a speeding ticket pulling into Metro Airport. I was moving with traffic at the time, behind other cars, and doing nothing different from anyone around me besides trying to navigate the labyrinth of lanes and signs for departures, arrivals and airlines. It was frustrating to get nabbed by the fuzz this way, but I wasn't surprised. I know the deal: Pulling me over wasn't done for the protection of the community, or as a lesson to me for my own benefit and safety. These kinds of traffic stops are part of a money-making system for the city; catching people on technicalities to generate revenue. To prove it, the cop didn't even bother talking to me. He just handed me the ticket and mumbled that it needed to be handled in 10 days. I might has well have been buying french fries at the McDonalds drive-through window. Telling me something like "son, you really ought to slow down" was an expired formality, the old song and dance. He took one look at my cynical face and knew not to even bother.

Still, when it came time to pay the ticket I decided to try something new. I checked that third box on the back of it and mailed it in with an admission of guilt and a typed explanation. In the past I've done options a or b: just paid the thing or had my day in court. But just forking over your money for a bullshit ticket sucks, and I learned quickly that the best-case scenario for fighting the citation is where you pay the fine but the court lets you off on the points. (The reason they'll do this is that the points will make your insurance costs go up, which, sadly for them, won't make the city any money, so judges are happy enough to let you slide on this, maintaining the illusion that leniency is possible. It's their little winking concession: "yes, we get our money - that goes without saying - but we'll essentially lie to the insurance companies and help you subvert the system we're supposed to be here to protect.") So this time I thought I'd try this third, mysterious option of writing in, and see if it worked out any better than the road more traveled.

Yeah, no.

I got a reply from the court that offered me, essentially, the following plea bargain: "Mr. Johnson, because we're nice guys, just like you, we're going to knock your speeding ticket down to a double parking ticket. This means that, sure you still need to pay that pesky fine, but there'll be no points on your insurance, thanks to us! Here's the rub. Your speeding ticket was $140. The double parking ticket is $170 (don't ask us why a parking ticket, of any kind, is $170...). So we're actually shaking you down for even more money than if you had just paid the damn thing in the first place. Oops. Oh yeah, you have to take this plea bargain or go to court and fight it. Hope you enjoyed using the write-in option."

That's super frustrating, to be explicitly robbed by the courts like that. They are basically extorting me, forcing me to pay a higher-priced ticket under the threat of a court battle that they control the outcome of. And it's not really the money that gets me down - even though $170 is a lot for me - it's how cynical it is. How aggressive.

But what are you going to do. They're the police. They're going to let you down. In all my years, the police have never served my interests, never assisted me in need. Sure, they've been there to mop up both times my car was totaled by a drunk driver, but there were arrests to be made, money to be had. And when I was standing there on the side of the road Sunday, in the rain and newly carless, and asked for a ride: sorry, the cop couldn't help me. Said he'd call me a cab if I wanted but couldn't drive me a mile down the road. In my experience, cops have only made money off me and shouted me down when necessary. That's how they do. I'm sure there are nice cops, just like I'm sure there were a few amiable Nazis. But in general the profession is shit.

So that's a pretty basic, by-the-book, fuck the police rant. But then there's what happened to Kirsten this week, which takes whatever innocence and faith we had in human beings down a couple more notches.

The dealership she bought her car from - BUFF WHELAN CHEVROLET - rushed in to scoop it up after her crash, assuring her they had an excellent relationship with her insurance company AAA, and even comping her a rental car for a bit while they made the repairs. Great start. But after three and a half weeks had gone by, and BUFF still had Kirsten's car, and had put a stop to the giving of a free rental car, she was starting to get a little bit irritated. We had been sharing my ride until it was totaled Sunday, which meant Monday we started bleeding money on rental car costs. So when Wednesday morning BUFF called Kirsten to say that, not only was the car still not going to be ready today, they'd found something new wrong with the front tire system that they didn't believe was the result of the front-end-collision she had been in, which was going to cost $1,500 to repair, and which they wanted her to pay out of pocket... she wanted to cry.

BUFF insisted the damage had not occurred in the accident. That in the handful of weeks between driving it off the lot and her near head-on collision, she must have snagged a massive pothole, which completely disfigured her steering system and which she either didn't notice or was lying about. BUFF gave us earnest and scientific reasons why this was the case and, even though Kirsten wanted to cry, she believed them because they seemed nice, and honest and why would they lie about that?

The thing is, Kirsten decided to take it somewhere else. And that's how she found out exactly why the body shop guys at BUFF were lying about it. Briefly: the mechanics at BUFF, already approaching the one-month mark and having still not finished Kirsten's repairs, had not bothered to put the car on hoists until making a last-minute alignment, when they noticed the problem with the wheel system. And that new repair, at a cool $1,500, and added on to the $7,000 in fixes already made, would have put the total damage to the car over the actual worth of the vehicle. In other words, the car should have been totaled. They fucked up.

So, rather than own up to their mistake - and with the help of the AAA claims adjuster, who was more than eager to believe the story they were telling her since it would save AAA a few bucks - they decided to lie and put the problem back on Kirsten's shoulders, figuring she'd never know the difference.

Why do I share these aggravating, completely depressing stories? Is is to make you feel my pain, and somehow transfer a little of that poison into your soul? No, it's not. The reason I'm telling you this is because it's actually kind of funny when you think about it. I know I said earlier that it wasn't. That some absurd things were funny, but that we were no longer laughing over here. But I was wrong. Because, these stories are clearly funny, which I now realize, having written them out. Don't you think? Ha. Ha ha.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.


Monday, May 12, 2008


There's only one word to describe this weekend: smashing. Let me explain.

Part 1. My good friend Megan is leaving for Armenia in a few weeks (she's serving in the Peace Corps) and had a going away party Saturday night. There were a lot of people at this party, but what matters most is that Meg and her boyfriend Chris were there. Because whenever Meg and her boyfriend Chris are involved, things just seem to get out of hand. And get out of hand we did, as you can see in these ridiculous photographs. You could say we were smashed.


Part 2. There was a price to pay for all of that fun, and Sunday morning Kirsten and I were both devastated with hangovers. She stayed home to cry on the couch about it while I headed out to buy my three-year-old nephew Cole an appropriate birthday gift. And by appropriate, I mean something he will love shitless and his parents will resent me for. And sure enough, I found the gift, which spoke to me from the toy aisle in an Incredible Hulk roar voice: BUY FOR COLE! MAKE COLE HAPPY! MAKE COLE'S MOMMY AND DADDY.... AAAAANGRY! ROAAAA!

It's like the simplest, most beautiful invention ever. They're called Smash Hands and you put them on and smash things with them and they make smashing sounds. Perfection.

Part 3.
At 7 p.m., still recovering from my bout of TYPE II hangover, I drove into Royal Oak to score some iced crack drink, hoping to get a second wind and maybe make something of the rest of my evening. They say that something like 90% of car accidents occur within a half a mile from where you live and Sunday night they were right. Well, almost. On my way back to The Manor, a little over a mile from the safety of my home and the mucho-tasty Mexican dinner Kirsten was preparing, an SUV coming my way inexplicably swerved directly into my path. I had, like, seconds to react, which consisted of screaming "WHAAAA THE FUUUUUU..." and slamming on my breaks. It was too late. I smashed into the SUV at full force, knocking it off the road, deploying both of my airbags and, the police would later discover, decapitating the straw in my brand-new iced crack drink. The whole thing was very Michael Bay.

Totally confused, I got out of the car to congratulate the other driver on a job well done and maybe get some pointers on how I, too, might best endanger others' lives. He stumbled out of his SUV and tried to speak, but his words were slurred and he could barely keep his eyes open. He said something like, "Slurba burger. Mmmerger slurga slurber," and I said, "Are you drunk or what?" He teetered a bit and replied, "Slerb." I looked at the hood of my car, a total accordion, hissing smoke and dripping coolant.

That's when the drunk guy, who I'll just call Slerbidon Milosovich, tried to get back in his car and drive off. Fortunately for me, a small crowd had already gathered, including the owner of the liquor store we were standing in front of (remarkably, Slerbidon had been going back for more booze when the accident happened) and the sweet couple from Oak Park who had been driving behind me, watched the whole smashing spectacle, and stuck around to get my back when the fuzz arrived. The liquor store owner stopped Slerbo from going anywhere, which wasn't hard because Slerbo was moving at about three miles per year and completely, preposterously smashed.

Needless to say, Slerbidon went to jail and I went home without a car. This is incredibly inconvenient because three weeks ago almost the same thing happened to Kirsten, only the other driver was a septuagenarian, not a drunk, and was driving under the influence of old (I wonder if, in the future, they'll just take old people who cause car accidents away from the accident scene, to a secluded area, and put them down - like they put down race horses when they break their legs.... No, that's a terrible thought. Forget I said it.)

Anyway, they still haven't fixed Kirst's ride, so we're both rideless. This make Dan angry. Make Dan very angry. When Dan get mad, Dan want to SMASH!!!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Friends in Thai Places: Steven Nistor, Drummer

It seemed natural to continue my blazing new segment, Friends in Thai Places, by moving on to Steven Nistor, older brother of Matthew Nistor, the subject of the inaugural post. You might say this is a Nistorical occasion, the featuring of two Nistors in one week. You might even want to call this Black Nistory Week on Wingstroke. Whatever you call it, just make sure there's wordplay involved, as wordplay is the lowest form of humor and therefore also the greatest.

Man, where do I even begin with Steven Nistor. The original Gorilla in the Nist. With Nists of Fury. The man is an institution in my circles. A living legend, famous for his sensational potty mouth, hair, love of Taco Bell and, of course, unforgivably sick drumming skills. I liked Steven the first time we met. He was lanky then, and shy, his fro approaching 2-feet in circumference and glowing red like the flaming shrub through which God spoke to Moses (it was exactly that righteous). He was going through a vegan phase, as well as a reflective, Buddhist phase that he tempered with a steady diet of Chomsky and other angry left-wing literature. The result was that he emitted a beam of calmly loving but anxious energy. It was like being around a nervous Care Bear. Fittingly, he had an American flag patch sewn onto one shoulder of his jean jacket, a pink butterfly on the other. The message: both thick-headed patriotism and effete flower-childlikeness - just to mess with people. That was classic Steve.

Steven played keyboards in my band and I now know that this was preposterous. Not because he couldn't play keys - he could. No, I now know that it was preposterous because unbeknownst to me, the soft-spoken, led-zep lookin' guy singing the high harmonies, shaking the tambourine and pounding out the block chords on my little songs was a world-class drummer. And by world-class, I mean world-class. Which was just ridiculous because we already had Charlie Koltak, who was like the wondrous rock smoothie of my dreams, blending all of my favorite drummers into one. The fact that, in addition to having the next Phil Selway already at the kit, the next Matt Chamberlain was camping out incognito behind the Rhodes is just silly to think about now. Just silly. But I had no idea about Steven's triple black belt in drums and, like a fool, spent those years urging him to work more on his intonation and do something about his hair. If I had only known the truth... if we had changed the ensemble to feature two drums, the way Fugazi and Fela used to....

Sorry. My brain burst and ran out my nose.

As I was saying... I'm not sure how this happened, but during my stint in the trenches of the Detroit band wasteland I played with some seriously good fucking musicians. I like to think I played with the best. Guys like Steven. Charlie. Rodrigo Palma. Dudes dripping with invention, with the the technical chops to do it right, and then show you how to do it wrong. My ass was constantly being handed to me and I loved it. The joy of being able to play with like-minded musicians who wanted to be able to play well, but wrong, was our heavenly reward, I would tell myself, since, at least for a time, our projects seemed to do nothing but run into ceilings. But ultimately we were spinning our wheels and it wasn't long before the migration to better music cities began.

Steven was the first, and left for LA. I was sad to see him go, but happy he had decided to stop slumming it in Detroit and take a chance on something better. Before he left I finally got to make some music with him behind the kit, in the somewhat more experimental project, also featuring Rodrigo, we called DR SAX.

Here's an excerpt from the DR SAX sessions that features both me and Steven on the drums, in separate sections. It's a good illustration of the differences between someone who can make a decent racket on a drum kit (me), and someone who really knows how to make the drums sing (Steven). I'm playing up until the 15 second mark, where we spliced Steven in. If you listen closely, you can hear the scientifically verified sound of The Men Being Separated From The Boys - which occurs rarely in nature and happens at around 200 °F. It's also the sound of me being handed my ass again.

DR SAX - "West Nihl" (Excerpt)

Steven finally left for California in the fall of 2004, but stopped on his way out to cut drums on the last Judah Johnson record, Be Where I Be. This is Steven playing as if he has eight limbs. Like the DR SAX excerpt above, it's a first take:

Judah Johnson - "Tommi" (instrumental version)

When Steven gets to LA, the story turns surreal because the next thing I know he's touring with Daniel Lanois. If this blog had sound effects, this is where I'd drop in the sound of a record player screeching to a halt.


What, you ask, is so remarkable about Steven playing with Daniel Lanois - and who is Daniel Lanois anyway? Daniel Lanois is a producer and musician that has created a lot of classic records which you may have heard of, like U2's Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby and Bob Dylan's Time Out of Mind. He has a sound, a mix of americana and atmosphere. Lots of reverb, lots of pedal steel, lots of scraping and twanging instruments and a black gospel subtext. And when Lanois is not producing canonical rock records for other bands, he makes solo music under his own name that distills his production ideas into concentrate form. And in all my days of obsessively collecting, making and talking about music, I've never met a bigger fan of Lanois than Steven. He had all the Laonis records, used to burn me Lanois mixes, and loved to bitch about everything U2 did post-Lanois. Even more remarkable, Steven's drumming style is basically something Lanois would custom-order if it were possible to select drummers from a menu: it's loose but finessed, earthy, warm and with a pocket so deep and neverending you might as well call it quicksand. In other words the universe conspired to drop in Lanois' lap the single most perfect drummer for his music in all the world – a chance connection here, a phone call there, and suddenly Steven is standing there Weird Science-style, naked and dripping wet in Lanois' shower. So to speak.

Once this tear in the fabric of reality had occurred, I suspended all disbelief. So when, for instance, Steven would call me to tell me that he had eaten Thanksgiving dinner with PJ Harvey, or that he was going to be on Letterman with Brandi Carlile, or that he was playing on the new collaboration between Sparklehorse and Danger Mouse (who he refers to as "Brian") and on retainer for the next Gnarls Barkley album... I nodded and accepted these things as perfectly normal. Right now Steven's on a plane headed for England where he's going to perform a month-long engagement with Sparks, who are performing each of their 21 intricate albums, in their entirety, one night a piece. This, too, is perfectly normal.

Here are a few examples of what my friend has been up to in LA studios the past few years. "April Grove" is off the new Martina Topley Bird album, produced by Danger Mouse. "Where Will I Be" is an unreleased version of a song on the latest Daniel Lanois album.

Martina Topley Bird - "April Grove"

Daniel Lanois - "Where Will I Be"

Steven would never admit to having "made it." That kind of blanket positive sentiment is not how he does. But he's touring the world with successful artists and playing with his heroes. He can pay rent in Los Angeles, by doing something he loves to do. And he even has a girlfriend, which is a terrific boon for Steven, even if she only loves him for his heavy metal thunder. Superficially, Steven is a different man than the one I befriended years ago. In addition to bulking up his career, he started lifting weights and scarfing steak, which, I have to admit, did wonders for his appearance. He's filled out, more confident. And I'm proud to see any way in which he's changing for the better. But to me, he'll always be this guy:


She's praying for a life free of poisonous beliefs.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Real Talk of Love

The setup: Kirsten loved herself some hair metal back in the day and secretly – well, more like not-so-secretly – still does. There was a moment this weekend when she grabbed her jean jacket and gasped, thinking for an instant that her precious Motley Crue pin had fallen off it. "Crue!" was all she could say. Luckily the pin was still attached. That's when I pulled her close...

Me: Man, you love butt rock. You love it. Would you love me more if I could sing like Brett Michaels?

Kirsten: That's not possible.

[A few seconds of gazing into each other's eyes.]

Kirsten: You could never sing like Brett Michaels.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Friends in Thai Places: Matthew Nistor, Photographer

Kirsten is full of the ideas. Most of the time I'm just playing catchup. For instance, last week she wrote a blog about her dear friend Jay Lantrip, who handcrafts her own kick-ass, gorgeous and stylish clothing line, Jennifer Joy Creative, right out of her Lansing home. Kirst didn't do this because Jay needs the advertising - as it is, Jay's got custom orders coming out of her ears - she just did it out of pure admiration.

Naturally, I was jealous. Because I've got a lot of talented friends too, friends who I should be propping out on these web pages if I wasn't so busy wasting time. And so this week I'm going to make a concerted effort to write about some of them. In fact, I'm even going to create a special Wingstroke segment for this occasion, called Friends in Thai Places.

Why "Thai Places," you ask. Because I'm forever in search of the perfect name for a Thai restaurant, and when I've found that name I'm going to open my own joint and become a man of wealth and leisure. So far my top picks are Thai-lenol, Thai's the Limit, Thai One On and Live and Let Thai.

About four years ago my good friend Steven Nistor asked me to look at some photos his younger brother Matthew had taken and posted online. He said that he thought his brother had real talent and that, if I agreed, I should send Matthew a little encouragement. I checked out the photos and Steven was right - I loved what I saw. I'm not articulate about visual art - I can't explain why I like what I like. And of the visual arts, photography generally seems the least expressive to me. But Matt's photos are calm while also being full of energy and feeling and I just truly enjoy looking at them. In that way it's kind of a more pure experience of art, that my reaction to it is only feeling and no internal monologue.

In the beginning, Matt was taking a lot of shots of Detroit and New York architecture like these:

What I like about the way Matt photographs buildings is that he seems fascinated not just with symmetry, but how to destroy it. These shots have a built-in vertigo, a loss of balance.

The same could be said of this recent image of his of people lying on the grass of a New York park. It looks like it was taken from the point of view of an out-of-control kite.

He's great with black and white. He knows how to use it to make things seem stronger, dirtier, more monolithic. But he can do a lot with color as well, even when it's bleached-out and still leaning heavily on its silhouettes.

And of course, because the brother's got chops, full-color, vibrant pictures are also something he does beautifully.

My band ended up basing the artwork for our last record around Matt's pictures and, because of it, for the first time we were actually happy with our CD's packaging. I was proud to have this image spread out across the center of the booklet:

I think that shot of a new york alleyway splattered in graffiti gore is a great representation of one of Matt's strong suits, urban landscapes. So is this shot of soot-soaked Los Angeles, taken over the crest of what looks like a pile of ash...

...and this ground zero view, in glorious blends of brown.

I think that most of all what I appreciate about Matt's photography is its tone. It's classy without being dull; pretty without being Hallmark-ish.
He seems to be always trying to find the most interesting angle to look at something from, and yet he does it without interjecting himself or any pretenses.

These qualities were present in abundance at Matt's wedding, which took place in the historic Guardian Building downtown, and which Kirsten and I were lucky enough to attend. Matt and his wife Amanda planned the whole things themselves, from the flowers to the fabric of the groomsmen's ties, and it was easily the most elegant thing I've ever been a part of as you can see in these wedding photos, brilliantly captured by Jessica Johnston of Jessica Johnston Photography.

Matt himself has taken a stab at the wedding photography business and I know it's going to lead to bigger and better things. He's got an unstoppable eye. And having been photographed by Matt myself for rock'n'roll purposes, I know what the guy is like to work with. A consummate professional and a real agreeable motherfucker. He practically never stops smiling.

Of course, his website and blog are another annoyingly perfect exercise in taste and function. Visit them.