John S. Hall

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
John S. Hall
Born John Charles Hall
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Occupation Poet, author, singer, lawyer
Genres Performance poetry, spoken word, free verse
Literary movement Avant-garde, absurdist, postmodernist

www.myspace.com/johnshall

John S. Hall (born John Charles Hall September 2) is an American poet, author, singer and lawyer perhaps best known for his work with King Missile, an avant-garde band that he co-founded in 1986 and has since led in various disparate incarnations.

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

John S. Hall was born in Brooklyn,[1] New York and grew up in Manhattan's West Village.[2] He recalls being "very quiet and shy" as a child,[1] and a social outcast as an adolescent.[3] In 1978 he graduated from Stuyvesant High School.[4]

Participation in poetry scene[edit]

In the early 1980s, Hall began participating in the Lower East Side poetry scene.[5] He read his poems at such venues as Speakeasy[2] and ABC No Rio.[6] According to performance poet Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz, Hall "became an easily recognizable figure in the scene: pale, bald, dressed mostly in black and white, with wire-rimmed glasses and a porkpie hat."[5]

Hall has long been a vocal opponent of slam poetry, taking issue with such factors as its inherently competitive nature[7] and what he considers its lack of stylistic diversity.[8] In a 2005 interview by Aptowicz, he recalled seeing his first slam, at the Nuyorican Poets Café:

...I hated it. And it made me really uncomfortable and... it was very much like a sporting event, and I was interested in poetry in large part because it was like the antithesis of sports.... [I]t seemed to me like a very macho, masculine form of poetry and not at all what I was interested in.[6]

Despite his reservations about slam poetry, Hall has performed alongside slam poets on such television programs as PBS's The United States of Poetry,[5] MTV's Spoken Word Unplugged,[5] and HBO's Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry.[9]

Early bands[edit]

Hall performed in at least two musical groups before co-founding King Missile. One was Purple Sunshine, a "hippie band"[10] Hall started because he "was really into hippies and LSD, and tuning in and dropping out, and all that stuff."[10] The other was You Suck, which Hall says was inspired by a band led by punk musician Mykel Board:

[Board]'s band blew my mind. The idea of having someone in the band that didn't sing or play an instrument was a revelation to me. Within a year, I had, with some friends, developed a band called You Suck, where most of the people on stage didn't play an instrument. Like there was a guy who did a Rubik's Cube, or a couple of people playing chess, or a guy with a dead fish on the end of a fishing line which he waved around the audience, or whatever. If you had some visual idea and cared to join us, we would let you. Over the course of a little over a year, over 100 people performed in You Suck. Mykel came to our first show and said that his face hurt from laughing so much. He ended up producing our only single and releasing it on his label: 'The You Suck Chant' [backed with] 'Get the Fuck off the Stage.' It was weird, because those were practically our only original songs: we were a cover band. We would do any bad song we could think of...[11]

Over the objections of the band, Board released the You Suck single with a pornographic cover image.[12] The single was not a commercial success, and the band broke up shortly after its release.[12]

King Missile[edit]

In 1985, Hall began presenting his work at open mic poetry readings. After three shows, he became a "featured" poet at the Backfence, a performance space in Manhattan's East Village.[13] In 1986, feeling that "20 minutes of me reading poetry would be totally boring],"[10] Hall asked his guitarist friend Dogbowl to augment his performances with original music.[10][13] Dogbowl agreed, and with the addition of bassist Alex DeLaszlo, drummer R.B. Korbet, and xylophonist George O'Malley, King Missile (Dog Fly Religion) was born. The band released two albums on the Shimmy Disc label, 1987's Fluting on the Hump and 1988's They, and then dissolved because Dogbowl wanted to pursue a solo career.[10]

After Dogbowl's departure, Hall asked Bongwater guitarist Dave Rick to help him put together a new band.[13] Rick recruited multi-instrumentalist Chris Xefos, and Hall retained They drummer Steve Dansiger.[13] Hall dubbed the new lineup King Missile, dropping the parenthetical "Dog Fly Religion" subtitle "since that was [Dogbowl's] idea."[10] In late 1989 and early 1990, the band recorded the album Mystical Shit, and in 1990 released it on Shimmy Disc.[13] On the strength of the single "Jesus Was Way Cool", the album hit #1 on the CMJ charts, and the band was signed by a major label, Atlantic Records.[13] This series of events led Hall to make a habit of joking, "'Jesus' got me signed to Atlantic Records."[10] Shortly after getting signed, Hall released an album on Shimmy Disc with permission from Atlantic: Real Men, a side project recorded with producer and Shimmy Disc founder Kramer. King Missile was featured in the 1990 documentary CutTime which chronicled the East Village music scene at the time.[14][15]

King Missile recorded three albums for Atlantic: 1991's The Way to Salvation, 1992's Happy Hour, and 1994's King Missile. Happy Hour spawned a modest hit in "Detachable Penis," which reached #25 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart.[16] Nonetheless, after the commercial failure of King Missile, the band was dropped from Atlantic, and broke up shortly thereafter because, according to Hall, "there was no reason to stay together."[1]

In 1996, Hall released a "solo album," The Body Has a Head, on the German label Manifatture Criminali. The album featured considerable input from multi-instrumentalists Sasha Forte, Bradford Reed, and Jane Scarpantoni. With these musicians, as well as They cellist Charles Curtis, Hall formed a new band, King Missile III (pronounced "the third"). In 1998, the new lineup released its "debut" album, Failure, on Shimmy Disc. Curtis and Scarpantoni left the band after the release of Failure, and King Missile III continued as a trio, releasing two more albums, 2003's The Psychopathology of Everyday Life and 2004's Royal Lunch.

Books[edit]

Hall has released two books, both on Soft Skull Press. The first, 1997's Jesus Was Way Cool, is a collection of 40 poems recorded on King Missile and Hall solo albums, plus a never-recorded poem, "Hope."[17]

The second, 2007's Daily Negations, is a dark-humored satire of self-help books. In it, Hall presents a negative thought for each day of the calendar year (including Leap Day). For example, the negation for March 16 reads, "Today, I will try to remember to regret the past. I will think of how many mistakes I have made throughout my life. I will say to myself, 'If only I could go back in time and make different choices, so that my life could be the way it should have been.' Then I will remind myself that I cannot."[18]

Dominant themes of work[edit]

Asked in a 2003 interview to speak about the common themes of his work, Hall replied:

I think these are some of the common themes: a) life is hard, brutal, capricious and unfair, b) sometimes there is a benefit to seeing it clearly, and acknowledging it truthfully..., and c) other times it is best to find something to laugh about, lest despair crush one completely. I find a lot of humor in shocking or so-called taboo things: castration, excrement, violence (usually self-inflicted or inflicted on the narrator, '[Martin] Scorsese' being an exception), sex and sexual perversions... etc.[13]

Other recurring subjects of Hall's work include religion and spirituality (e.g., "The Fish That Played the Ponies,"[19] "Jesus Was Way Cool,"[20] "The God"),[21] nihilism (e.g., "No Point,"[22] "Ed,"[23] "Jim"),[24] and masochism (e.g., "Pickaxe,"[25] "Take Me Home,"[26] "My Lover").[27]

Writing and performance styles[edit]

Hall's writing varies in format from straightforward narrative to abstract, disjointed free verse. The writing frequently contains absurdist imagery (e.g., "A giant testicle rolled over a Waffle House, killing several clowns")[28] and/or adynata (e.g., "P]igeons came along and ate his eyes, and seagulls ripped his stomach out, and pelicans ate his liver, and his spleen popped out all on its own and turned into a harmonica and played a pleasant little tune. Then out came his pancreas, which turned into the dog that bit him last week, and it bit him again and again and again many times").[24]

Hall's performance style is also eclectic, his delivery ranging from a deadpan monotone to melodic tenor singing to overwrought screaming. In a 1998 interview, Hall expressed a preference for his spoken material over his sung: "Most of my work that I prefer is this type, and in most cases, the singing stuff [on albums] is filler, with the exception of songs here and there... [F]or the most part, I'm better at the spoken shit."[29]

Stage name[edit]

In a 2003 missive to his electronic mailing list, Hall explained how he chose his stage name:

[M]y stage name is John S. Hall, my original born name is John Charles Hall, but my friends, enemies, and stalkers call me John Hall. What's the deal with the S? Well, when I was 15, I didn't like the way John C. Hall looked, so I wanted to change it. I was named after my grandfather, Charles Syjefroi Boileau, so I was given the choice of John B. Hall (which looked odd to me when I was 15, but now looks kind of fresh) or John S. Hall, which looked a lot better, so that's what I chose. It was several years before I realized that some people would think it was a deliberate pun on the word 'asshole.' It wasn't.[30]

Legal career[edit]

After the collapse of the second incarnation of King Missile, Hall decided to attend law school.[13] He graduated cum laude from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in Manhattan,[31] and after graduation co-founded Heraty Hall, a firm specializing in entertainment law.[13] Hall later left the firm to go into solo practice[4] until 2006, when he took a position as a corporate analyst at a law firm.

Asked by Aptowicz in the aforementioned 2005 interview if he became a lawyer out of disillusionment with the contemporary poetry scene, Hall laughed and replied, "I became a lawyer to make money."[32]

Political and personal beliefs[edit]

Hall has used his vehement dislike of President George W. Bush and the Bush administration as subject matter for several King Missile III songs, including "The President,"[33] "Suggested Response to the Coming Crises,"[34] and "Another Political Poem."[35] He campaigned for Democratic candidate John Kerry in the United States presidential election of 2004.[36]

Hall considers himself both Buddhist[37] and agnostic.[4] On his MySpace page, he summarizes his faith as follows: "I don't believe in God, but I do believe in something. I'm just not sure what."[4]

Hall is also a vegan.[37]

Family[edit]

Hall is married and has one daughter.

References in popular culture[edit]

American rapper MC Lars acknowledges Hall in his song "My Rhymes Rhyme": "Shout-outs to Wesley Willis, Adam G. and John Hall / Word to MC Paul Barman; hey, return my call!"[38] Lars also praises King Missile in his song "The Dialogue": "Nine Inch Nails, Primus, "Weird Al" and King Missile / Influenced me like a postmodern epistle."[39]

Discography[edit]

With King Missile (Dog Fly Religion)[edit]

Album Record Label Release Year
Fluting on the Hump Shimmy Disc 1987
They Shimmy Disc 1988

With King Missile[edit]

Album Record Label Release Year
Mystical Shit Shimmy Disc 1990
The Way to Salvation Atlantic Records 1991
Happy 14½ (EP) Atlantic 1992
Happy Hour Atlantic 1992
King Missile Atlantic 1994

With King Missile III[edit]

Album Record Label Release Year
Failure Shimmy Disc 1998
The Psychopathology of Everyday Life Instinct Records 2003
Royal Lunch Important Records 2004

With Kramer[edit]

Album Record Label Release Year
Real Men Shimmy Disc 1991

Solo[edit]

Album Record Label Release Year
The Body Has a Head Manifatture Criminali 1996

Bibliography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Interview w/ John". Farmboy's King Missile. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  2. ^ a b Aptowicz, Cristin O'Keefe. (2008). Words in Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam. New York City: Soft Skull Press, 288. ISBN 1-933368-82-9.
  3. ^ "Lyrics: Wuss". Farmboy's King Missile. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  4. ^ a b c d "John S. Hall MySpace Page". MySpace. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  5. ^ a b c d Aptowicz (2008), p. 287.
  6. ^ a b Aptowicz (2008), p. 289.
  7. ^ Aptowicz (2008), p. 290.
  8. ^ Aptowicz (2008), p. 297.
  9. ^ "Video: America Kicks Ass (live on Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry)". YouTube. 2007-01-27. Retrieved 2008-06-14. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Hall, John S. (2004). Album notes. In Mystical Shit & Fluting on the Hump [CD booklet]. New York City: Shimmy Disc.
  11. ^ Hall, John S. (2004-03-15). "John S. Hall/King Missile III Newsletter". LiveJournal. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  12. ^ a b Hall, John S. (2004-04-08). "John S. Hall/King Missile III Newsletter". LiveJournal. Retrieved 2008-06-05. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i Prindle, Mark (2003). "Interview with John S. Hall". Prindle Rock and Roll Record Review Site. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  14. ^ CutTime on DevlinPix
  15. ^ http://www.devlinpix.com/blog/2011-11-06/cuttime-king-missle-life-2-10
  16. ^ "King Missile Singles Peak Chart Positions". Allmusic. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  17. ^ "Amazon Online Reader: Jesus Was Way Cool". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  18. ^ Hall, John S. (2007). Daily Negations. New York City: Soft Skull Press. ISBN 1-933368-45-4.
  19. ^ "Lyrics: The Fish That Played the Ponies". Farmboy's King Missile. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  20. ^ "Lyrics: Jesus Was Way Cool". Farmboy's King Missile. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  21. ^ "Lyrics: The God". SongMeanings. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  22. ^ "Lyrics: No Point". Farmboy's King Missile. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  23. ^ "Lyrics: Ed". SongMeanings. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  24. ^ a b "Lyrics: Jim". SongMeanings. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  25. ^ "Lyrics: Pickaxe". Farmboy's King Missile. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  26. ^ "Lyrics: Take Me Home". Farmboy's King Missile. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  27. ^ "Lyrics: My Lover". SongMeanings. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  28. ^ "Lyrics: Tour Diary: Louisville". SongMeanings. Retrieved 2008-07-09. 
  29. ^ Thompson, Stephen (1998-11-11). "Interview with John S. Hall". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2008-07-09. 
  30. ^ Hall, John S. (2003-12-27). "John S. Hall/King Missile III Newsletter". LiveJournal. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  31. ^ "Bios". Heraty Law. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  32. ^ Aptowicz (2008), p. 302.
  33. ^ "Lyrics: The President". SongMeanings. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  34. ^ "Lyrics: Suggested Response to the Coming Crises". SongMeanings. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  35. ^ "Lyrics: Another Political Poem". SongMeanings. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  36. ^ Hall, John S. (2004-06-18). "John S. Hall/King Missile III Newsletter". LiveJournal. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  37. ^ a b Hall, John S. (October 2005). "Ocean Lotus Farm: Review". Satya. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  38. ^ "Lyrics: My Rhymes Rhyme". SongMeanings. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  39. ^ "Lyrics: The Dialogue". SongMeanings. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 

External links[edit]