MICHAEL LAYNE HEATH
“Loons of a Dogman” (sound library series, volume 48) KSE #150
When Kendra Steiner Editions was closing in on the 150-chapbook mark, I thought about which of the upcoming works I wanted to give this magic number to, and there was only one logical choice: the new Sound Library Volume from Michael Layne Heath, inspired by Kim Fowley’s classic 1978 “Sunset Boulevard” album, LOONS OF A DOGMAN.
I’ve admired Michael’s work since the early 80’s, when I stumbled across some then-a-few-years-old copies of his seminal punkzine, VINTAGE VIOLENCE. His intellect, wit, and cool wordplay were immediately apparent there, and I filed his name in the “keep an eye out for anything by this fellow” section of my brain. In the 80’s and 90’s, I managed to find his work in zines such as TRULY NEEDY and MAXIMUM ROCK & ROLL (MLH relocated from the East Coast to San Francisco in 1992), and as we entered the new century, Michael began writing liner notes for the wonderful SF-based Water/Four Men With Beards labels. When he issued his first two poetry chapbooks in 2006—-PUT IT THIS WAY and COUNT TO FIVE AND TELL THE TRUTH—-I was blown away by the combination of lyricism, perfectly-chosen detail, and detached but hip tone. And of course there was a musical element to the poems, both in their allusions and in their own inherent musicality. Also, he was one of the most on-target writers about sex and relationships I’d ever found in the poetry world, although he does not make that a major theme in his overall body of work. Feeling that his poetry deserved more exposure, I asked him to join the KSE poetry family, and he issued his first KSE chap in 2007, SACRED GROUNDS, which was very well-received and even chosen as one of the best reads of the year in Arthur Magazine. His 2nd KSE chap, GREY RAGE (DYED) appeared in late 2008, and it was equally well-received and brought him many new readers. This was a powerful collection, dealing with the SF music scene, the ghosts of the cultural past, and the poet’s constant struggle to find a happy medium in daily life. The final poem in GREY RAGE, a two page homage to the late great Brian Epstein, was one of the most beautiful and heartfelt pieces in tribute to a cultural hero that I’ve read in recent years. Yes, he’s that good!
With Michael’s background in music, he was a natural for the Sound Library Series, and after I offered him a place in the series, he chose KIM FOWLEY’s much-underrated 1978 opus, SUNSET BOULEVARD as the inspiration for his new poetry chapbook. As with a number of Fowley albums, this one was all over the map with Kim’s brilliant takes on various genres of music, overlaying his amphetamine-paced, Hollywood Babylon-soaked Beat Poetry lyrics and jaded, chameleon-like, post-Dylan vocals on various reggae, power pop, punk, metal, and folk-rock tunes, all of which deconstruct themselves and their respective genres, while being instantly catchy and having a decadent aroma that pulls the listener into Kim’s unique world. Like ML Heath, Fowley has always had the ability to quickly size up a “scene” or a band, distilling it to its essence. Who can forget his legendary appearance on the Tom Snyder show in the late 1970s, explaining Punk and New Wave and Power Pop in about 90 seconds in a way that made any further commentary superfluous, and explaining it with the “why don’t you already see what’s so obvious” tone that a math tutor might give to a student during the fifth explanation of a simple concept. We love you, Kim, and we always have. No wonder MLH chose Fowley’s “new wave” album for this Sound Library Volume!
LOONS OF A DOGMAN takes us on a voyage through the underbelly of the mid-to-late 70’s punk world, rooted primarily on the west coast (with a stopover in the UK)–Rodney’s on the ROQ, as we listen in on cheap portable radios, and Black Flag is still in their pre-Henry Rollins period, meaning they were still good; everyone’s strutting and posing and trying to get laid, or trying to use their sexuality to get somewhere or get something; reggae’s hip, and cute foreign exchange students are desirable; we’re all trying to get high cheaply; and most importantly, we’re all in the middle of something we know is important, but we have no perspective on things, no sense of any big picture, and we can’t even define what we are feeling. THAT is what it was like in the late 70s when MLH and I were teenagers living in the punk-bordering-on-newwave world, and LOONS OF A DOGMAN captures the tastes and smells and rhythms and cheap pot and cheap hard-ons of those days brilliantly. An eleven-page epic, LOONS is probably one of the five best works KSE has ever offered, and we are proud to issue such a major work. Grab it now…before it goes out of print and you have to pay $20 for a used copy in five years.
Ordering information can be found on the “available KSE chapbooks” page to your upper right. We’ll be promoting this book a lot in the coming months, as it’s truly a major work…indeed, it was singled out for praise in the recent piece on KSE in THE WIRE (UK).
Congratulation to Michael on LOONS OF A DOGMAN. He is a key member of the KSE family, and we look forward to featuring more of his work in the future…