Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Parts & Labor

BJ Warshaw and myself have both lived in Brooklyn for some time now. When we were younger we would occasionally get confused for each other, much to our chagrin and/or amusement. I asked him to elaborate:

"There were a lot of mix-ups back then, and my friends and I only knew that there was some other dude walking around Brooklyn with similar haircut, sideburns, and glasses. We called him the Doppelganger.

One time me and my roommates were throwing a party. A couple of friends were on there way over in a taxi. One of them was bringing a girl he'd just started dating (I can't recall her name, let's call her Bridgette). She asked him, 'So who's party is this?' He replied, "My friend, BJ." She was like, 'I hate that guy!' My friend described me, and it fit the bill.  She flipped out, refused to go, and demanded to be let out of the car! When he got to the party, he asked me what I'd done to piss Bridgette off. And I'd never heard of the girl. I chalked it up to the Doppelganger.

For a year in 1998-99 I lived around the corner from this bar, Mona's, in the East Village.  I used to spend a ton of time there shooting pool and drinking cheap Guinness. One time I went in and my name was already on the chalk board for pool matches. I figured my buddy Ray had put my name up, as was the customary thing to do when you saw a pool regular walk in. I got a drink, sat next to Ray, said, 'Thanks for putting my name up.' He replied, 'Uh... you put your name up, I just saw you do it.' It totally fucked with my head, to the point where I was seriously questioning my short term memory.

Another time I remember being at a party, talking to a girl, and introducing myself. She said a guy named BJ once put a cigarette out on her friend's jacket. I had to explain that it wasn't me, but I'm not sure that she believed me.

It was months before we actually met. We frequented the same places, the early Todd P shows, loft parties, etc, but somehow never met for, I think, almost a year. I was friends with other Oakland transplants that had known him on the West Coast. And I remember just missing him over and over again. Friends of mine wanted to plan a showdown in the street, a BJ battle royale.

I DO remember when we finally first came face to face. It was at a Melt Banana at the Knitting Factory. BJ was sitting alone at small table against the wall and I knew, immediately, that he had to be the Doppelganger. I bought a drink and walked over to his table and said, 'Are you BJ?'

He looked up at me and skeptically said, 'Yeah.'

I slammed my beer down on the table and said, 'I'm BJ, too, and this town ain't big enough for the both of us.'

I was trying to be half-funny, but he just looked at me like I was a total fucking dick, kinda shrugged, and kept drinking his beer.

After that, though, I think we became pals, although it took a while and was certainly weird having the same unusual name within a relatively small community."

You want to know something? I did think he was a dick at first because of that, although now I realize it was just his way of being friendly.

One night we were both at the same loft party in Williamsburg, which wasn't unusual for the time. There was a long line for the bathroom, and a note on the door informing us that the toilet was busted and that nothing should be deposited there.

I was not waiting in line to dispose of liquid waste, unfortunately. As this was during an era of heavy drinking (for both myself and Warshaw, I would imagine), I started drunkenly claiming that I was going to relieve myself in the bathtub. When I finally gained access to said facilities, I noticed that the toilet was backed up but still serviceable for my purposes and thus did not utilize the bathtub as I had initially claimed I would.

At some point in the evening, someone actually did.

A few days later, the following appeared on the Troubleman website:


You know how we do. Represent for PAPER magazine's "Beautiful People" list for 2003: ROGERS SISTERS, TOUCHDOWN, and ABCS. Also don't forget our friends FORCEFIELD.

Go here or buy it at the new stands. Also quoted in that issue "The hottest NY label". Fuck you, we are from JERSEY and Buy Our Records is the best Jersey label EVER.

Playlist: BJ taking a shit in Pete's bath tub at the Fat Day show last weekend."

I saw this and emailed Mike Simonetti to clear up the matter. Apparently I wasn't the only one, as he later printed the following retraction:


Ok, BJ told me that he did not shit in anyone's tub this weekend. I also heard that the other BJ in NYC (from Parts & Labor) is getting shit (no pun intended) for it as well. Either way, whether BJ shit in a tub or not, you gotta admit it is a funny story!"

The real culprit was never found. As for the other allegations, I will say that as we both had a habit of drinking excessively and doing stupid shit that any of it could have been either of us. I don't specifically remember putting out a cigarette on anyone's jacket, but I don't specifically remember not doing it either.

BJ wrote me the following note when I informed him that I had tracked down an open copy of the first Parts & Labor tour EP for inclusion:

"Hey BJ,

Attached is my copy's cover of the Oh My God The Van Is On Fire EP. This was our first release, a limited run of CDRs that we sold at our early shows and during our first tour in 2003. Each copy was hand made using torn, colored gaffers' tape wrapped around a cardboard CD case (so the buyer had to cut/tear the tape to get the CDR out). We used one of those crappy label makers to write the band name, and often a little personalized message. I have no clue how many we made, definitely over 100 (but fewer than 500).

I'd spend time in the van or at the merch table wrapping the covers. After that first tour, I quit smoking. The covers became increasingly intricate and labor-intensive as a sort of physical addiction therapy to missing cigarettes. This scan is the one copy that I kept, and I think it probably took me a solid hour or two to make.

I'm psyched Chris had a copy of this, so I didn't have to tear open my nostalgia copy. Also psyched to hear these songs; I haven't listened to this EP in, literally, years!


The Chris he is referring to there is Chris Weingarten, former drummer of Parts & Labor. He had this story to tell about the band, circa 2005:

"One of the oldest journalismo tricks when interviewing a band is to ask, 'Did anything interesting or funny happen when recording the record.' Eighty percent of the time, that question yields a flat-out 'no,' because bands are generally boring, recording records is tedious and, let's be totally honest here, it's kind of a dumb question. However, the other 20 percent usually brings out a story so good that you can build an entire article around it. Stay Afraid was the first full-length record I ever recorded with Parts & Labor and damned if there wasn't  a completely phenomenal recording story to go with it. When we did press for the record, I waited with baited breath for someone to ask me, 'So, did anything interesting or funny happen when recording the record' because, yes, in fact, this time something interesting and funny happened. Alas, in the dozens of interviews we did, no one ever asked. So now I have to spend my Tuesday night typing it out myself.

We recorded Stay Afraid in 2005 at Brooklyn's Headgear Studios. Dave Sitek and TV On The Radio were recording Return To Cookie Mountain exactly one door down in Stay Gold. It was inspiring to walk by that door on the way to the studio and hear all kinds of oboes and weird clangs coming from behind the metal door. Our studio was pretty incredible too. We had producer Scott Norton who was a sweetheart and a badass and had tons of tape--tape!--that we could record on.

Anyway, one thing you should know about Dan and BJ of Parts & Labor is that they are notorious perfectionists. Their attitude towards getting the exact right sound, the exact right melody was at once inspiring and infuriating. I usually stuck around to break ties. Those dudes were total sound nerds who loved to produce and tinker. I spent a lot of that session chilling on the couch while they tweaked. At the time I was reading John Hersey's Hiroshima and the Spin magazine '100 greatest albums of the last 20 years' list, silently wondering to myself what kind of magic we'd have to stir up on this record to be in the next edition.

One day, I was laying down reading my book, with my feet facing out the door. I'm near-sighted and I take my glasses off when I read. So when I saw this blurry figure coming down the hallway, I didn't recognize him at first. I THOUGHT I knew him so I waved anyway. He waved back. I put my glasses on and saw that, yes, I did recognize him--but I've never met him before. I guess you can say he was a notorious figure whose name had gotten around Brooklyn a little bit at the time. BJ, Dan and Scott were hunched over the mixing console intently working out a song that was blaring through the Headgear speakers. Our guest patiently played the wall, chilling next to me, dead silent for the few minutes it took for them to wrap up.

'Excuse me, is David here?' he said, inches from me at the back of the room, asking for David Sitek. Scott turned around, clearly caught off guard by our guest, and immediately stuttered out, 'Yeah, let me take you to him,' and, without hesitation, immediately escorted him down the hall.

This dude was pretty well known around Williamsburg, so I was clearly impressed by this stranger's presence on our humble session. BJ and Dan, however were totally unphased. They were older than me, they had played more shows than me, and they had made more records than me, so I thought they were just over things like gossip and celebrities. I didn't want our strange guest and our producer to hear us talking, so I went up to where my bandmates were and started whispering.

'Oh, you guys are too cool for school, huh?'

They looked at me like I was a jerk. I was kind of being a jerk about it. I couldn't believe these two were so jaded!

'You two don't want to look like dorks in front of Scott? Is that it?' I whispered as low as I could muster.

Again, blank stares.

I continued to whisper: 'It's like the dog humped the couch and everyone's pretending nothing happened.'

BJ picked up the cues and whispered back. 'The dog humped the couch?' he said to me, clearly confused at my line of questioning.

'Guys, I'm talking about the amazing thing that just happened, that you two are pretending didn't happen.'

'Chris,' BJ said to me, very quietly, with what must have been remarkable patience, 'What the fuck are you talking about?'

'That David Bowie was just in our studio!'

The room was dead silent for a few seconds. We stared at each other. The tension was broke when BJ loudly blurted out, 'That wasn't David Bowie!' When Bowie came in, Dan had been too involved in the production to turn around. BJ, hilariously, actually DID turn around, saw him in the corner of his eye, and didn't process that it could actually be Ziggy Stardust back there.

We went back and forth for a few minutes until BJ  hopped off his stool to investigate. He comes back 10 minutes later, and says, 'Well, that was David Bowie.'

Turns out David told the TVOTR dudes that he kind of liked what we were putting down (yay!) and even chopped it up with them a little about his love of Lightning Bolt and a pre-Battles Tyondai Braxton. Shit, most people in Brooklyn weren't even hip to Tyondai at that point, that's how cool that guy is. Anyway, David Bowie, thank you for providing us with an interesting story."

So now you will always know which BJ is which, etc.

Ladies and gentlemen, for your listening pleasure, Parts & Labor.

Oh My God The Van's On Fire EP (Pukekos)
1. RC1
2. Autopilot
3. Groundswell
4. Railgun
5. Broken Man Going To Work
6. RC2
7. The Intervention
8. Parts & Labor

Parts & Labor (JMZ)
1. Parts & Labor
2. Mike Burke For President
3. Japanda

Groundswell (JMZ)
1. It's Not the End of the World
2. Autopilot
3. Mike Burke for President
4. Intervention
5. Parts & Labor
6. Happy New Year
7. Railgun
8. Broken Man Going to Work
9. TB Strut
10. Groundswell

Rise, Rise, Rise (Narnack)
1. Don't Just Fucking Stand There
2. Days In Thirds
3. Jurassic Technology
4. Good Morning Black Eye
5. Voltage
6. Probably Feeling Better Already
7. The Endless Air Show

Confuse Yr Idols: A Tribute To Sonic Youth (Narnack)
1. Sugar Kane

A Great Divide b/w Take Us Back (Plastic)
1. A Great Divide
2. Take Us Back

PAarts & LAabor (Cardboard)
1. Silent Tyrants


Unknown said...

thanks BJ, i really enjoyed this!

Arthur Rambo said...

Great stories & music. Thank you, this truly made my day

Unknown said...

wonderful band, I already had the Tyondai split album but the rest is so so appreciated, thank you!
Am really looking forward to the next album, recievers was such a curveball after the first two albums of hyperactive noise and looking forward to seeing how the two new members integrate into what Dan and BJ do. This will keep me tied over in the meantime though :D

Unknown said...

more evidence