Friday, September 28, 2007

Broken Dishes

This is something I wrote a few years back and didn't find any use for until recently. Its on the more sentimental/autobiographical side of my work, so that might explain why it didn't pop up on any Oddjobs or Kill the Vultures albums. I just recorded a take of it with a local band named Big Trouble, which features Sean McPherson on bass, Steve McPherson on guitar, Peter Leggett on drums, Josh Peterson on guitar. We actually recorded a six song EP earlier this year. I'm not sure what will come of it but I believe it will be called "Crescent Moon is in Big Trouble."

Broken Dishes
Written by Alexei Moon Casselle, October 24th 2004

Look at the autumn leaves fallin’ upon each other
Look at the ground/ it’s on fire from all the color
Look how the Great Lake swallows the sun into its stomach
And reflects the stars that upon up above it

I don’t remember the time or the date/ just finding a place
A million miles away, by firelight/ the shadows drew designs on your face
Hear the great waves crash into the loading dock
We were unfolding thoughts/ sipping on lukewarm Rolling Rock

With beer on my breath I lit my last cigarette
And passed it over/ looked like you were dying to hit
But you was lost in thought/ brought the smoke to your lips
Said "nah, I’d better not, hon, I’m trying to quit"

You passed it casually, asking me if I knew about addiction in our family
I didn’t so I shut up and listened
About when your father used to hide the proof
Lies used to disguise the truth
And when you realized why Mama’s eyes were bruised

Picture-perfect family ties/ suburban 60’s way of life
If your old man beat you day and night/ then you wore more makeup
And stayed inside
You couldn’t leave the house screaming out
Keep your mouth closed/ there’s certain things you didn’t speak about

Broken dishes, tables flipped/ open stitches, same old shit
Family portrait, everyone smile/ husband and wife walking down the aisle
So angelic in her wedding gown/ exchange your rings, say your vows/
Friends and family all around/ throw that bouquet in the crowd

Settle down; have some kids/ Chevrolet, a house to live
Years go by at the job you hate but you make so much you could never quit
The drinks they help your day move quicker/ come home drunk, need more liquor/
Mind all numb, body sore/ that’s your wife on the kitchen floor
Bleeding, moaning, broken jaw/ these are the days when you don’t divorce

Picture-perfect family ties/ suburban 60’s way of life
If your old man beat you day or night/ then you wore more makeup
And stayed inside
You couldn’t leave the house screaming out
Keep your mouth closed/ there’s certain things you didn’t speak about

Look at the autumn leaves fallen’ upon each other/
Look at the ground; it’s on fire from all the color/
Look how the Great Lake swallows the sun into its stomach
And reflects the stars that upon up above it

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

As Bitter As We Wanna Be

This is sort of an unofficial biography of Oddjobs/Kill the Vultures that I was attempting to write from an outside perspective (in the third person, I believe). I wrote most of this in one sitting over a year ago and never finished it. Maybe posting this will inspire me to do so.

As Bitter As We Wanna Be
by Alexei Moon Casselle

Some time around the end of 2004 and the beginning of aught-five, saw the official change of name, location and roster of Twin Cities bastard-child hip-hop group “Oddjobs,” to the new and roughly refined “Kill the Vultures”. Names and cities, however, were the least important or interesting aspect of the changes. The sounds created from Kill the Vultures (Oddjobs minus one DJ) self titled debut in 2005 was anything but linear or predictable, yet somehow completely natural.
Oddjobs, a five-piece identity crisis with an emphasis on eclectic, jazzy, colorful beats by two-man production team DJ’s Deetalx and Anatomy featuring MC’s Advizer, Nomi and Crescent Moon, brought early comparisons to Beastie Boys mixed with De La Soul mixed with Minneapolis; certainly successful by local standards, but always in the “not quite Atmosphere” corner of the scene.
Born in Twin Cities’ high school talent shows, coffee house open-mics, and unadulterated house parties, the five hip-hop hopefuls were united as members of a larger twenty-odd person hip-hop crew CMI (Cases of Mistaken Identity), which released the cassette tape “Case Studies” in 1998. CMI capsized and split in several directions shortly after when too many passengers got on board, mostly just to party, but not before hustling 200 tapes out of backpacks, on street corners, hip-hop shows and graduation open-houses.
The Minnesotan underdogs regrouped and began building a small local following with a string of steadily improving live shows, and releasing completely self-sufficient albums with tip money, borrowing of parent’s cars and a network of friends with a variety of hook ups, skills and trades.
Oddjobs first CD, “Conflict and Compromise,” was a frenzy of mostly one-take longwinded teen-angsty lyrics about not trying to be teen angsty, and a slew of unintentionally funny, misplaced vocal samples over a free-for-all production orgy. The spoken word intro along with numerous six-minute songs dedicated to trash- talking, semi-clever wordplay and pretty much anything that sort of rhymed, was a hint that the group didn’t have much direction or discipline, but plenty of charisma, drive and creativity.
With a tireless do-it-yourself work ethic, and an undeniable effort to self-improve brought about several honorable mentions in local papers as well as steady support from independent radio station DJ’s.
Oddjobs, Heiruspecs, Unknown Prophets and Kanser (the latter of which were already South Minneapolis street legends and the first to record and produce an Oddjobs track) were among the most successful local non-Rhymesayers hip-hop bands in the Twin Cities.
Rhymesayers Entertainment, was the record label and crew by which local underground hip hop was measured, also formed from a larger collective called "Headshots," which boasted an all-star cast including but not limited to Beyond (Musab), Phull Surkle, Atmosphere, the Micranots, Native Ones, and the Abstract Pack. These were artists so wildly talented and diverse that they couldn't help but lay the foundation for up and coming MC's, DJ's and producers. Of course the graffitti and b-boy communities were cutting edge and ground-breaking in their own rights and completely interwoven into the same community, keeping true to the origin of hip hop culture. The soon-to-be Oddjobs members were just faces in the crowd of awed high-school students staying out late on school nights, crammed into coffee houses and makeshift venues, only to have their lives forever changed and their fates determined.

In 2000, DJ Deetalx (Devon Callahan) and Advizer (Adam Waytz) moved to New York City for scholarly conquest, and performed a few times in the Big Apple under the Oddjobs moniker, leaving the other three ‘Jobs to perform without their counterparts in Minneapolis, also as Oddjobs.
The second Oddjobs release entitled “Absorbing Playtime EP” was crafted via telephone, email and school break visits, one thousand miles apart. The tracks produced by Anatomy (Stephen Lewis) were formulated in a U of M dorm room he occupied with roommate Crescent Moon (Alexei Casselle), written mostly between classes and late night drug induced sessions.

Absorbing Playtime, self-released in 2000, received unanimous “rough around the edges but promising” -type praise and strengthened their position as a group to watch for. Nomi and Naimles MC of CMI’s Oddjobs’ counterpart WordSpeak made their debut on the disc’s last track “Fun.”
After moving from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Brooklyn, New York, the twenty-one year-old dreamers found themselves on independent rap label, “Third Earth,” with national distribution and on a roster along side underground heavyweights Jean Grae, Sub Conscious and the Juggaknots. Kimani Rogers, Third Earth co-founder and Master Minds MC met Adam Waytz through Stretch Armstrong & Bobbito’s radio show, of which Adam was an intern.
Their Third Earth debut, “Drums,” failed to sell as many units as they had aimed for, however, two singles from the LP landed on the CMJ (College Music Journal) top 20 chart (Blue Collar Holler #6, Dry Bones #7). The over-produced, over-cooked, and unfocused recordings came out swinging, but yielded mixed reviews and an obvious sense of disappointment among the group.
“Drums,” the ten thousand dollar, yearlong investment, was taught a valuable lesson by an album they would release several months later entitled “Funboy,” which didn’t take itself quite so seriously, and revealed the personalities and spontaneity of the quintet. Outselling Drums, Funboy, easily one of Oddjobs best records, cost a fraction of Drums to make and was written and recorded in about four days in their home studio.


“The Shopkeeper’s Wife EP,” promoted as the “moody” follow up to Drums, signaled a sober and angrier morning after to Drums’ party-all-night vibe. Released in 2002 after Drums and before Funboy, SKW sounded like a direct rebuttle to Drums, even including a rerecorded title track found on the previous album.
“I’m hypnotized, y’all keep switchin’ sides; twistin’ lies up/ you’re mystified; bet you’ve never seen your reflection in your victim’s eyes” certainly spoke a harsher truth then previous Oddjobs lyrics. “Tricked” is a comicly dark reinterpretation of Ghetto Boys’ “My Mind’s Playin’ Tricks On Me;” a refreshingly un-over conceptualized track dedicated to nothing more than nasty lyrics over an even nastier beat. The closing track “Transparent,” is Crescent Moon’s “fuck-off to dead-beat dads” anthem filled with personal heartaches but delivered with a crowdrocking, uplifting quality over a beat as simple, honest and raw as the song's message. With tracks nodding towards their Minnesotan roots, tasteful humor and passionate testaments, the critically acclaimed EP was the final release on Third Earth before the label went belly-up in 2004.

The group toured constantly between 2002 and '04, with the help of booking agent Mike Mori of the Agency Group (who liked the group’s work ethic as much as their sound), landing them gigs alongside hip-hop heroes Lyrics Born, DJ Shadow, Hieroglyphics, Snoop Dogg, Atmosphere and De La Soul. The quintet gained respect as hard-working underdogs from their peers and elders alike, and could often be seen at shows with the sharpie-scribbled sign: “Oddjobs needs a place to sleep tonight,” next to their t-shirts and CD’s, perfectly willing to crash on floors, couches and in their tour van like any seasoned indie rock group.
The band would soon embark on the three month tour opening in support of Atmosphere's "Seven's Travels" album, and it would be this experience that changed the musical direction of the five members that had been as close as brothers since highschool, and would eventually lead to the self-destruciton of Oddjobs in a cozy house in Berkeley, California.

To Be Continued...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Pour Me Another

Wednesday, September 14th, 2005.

√ Turned 25 years old.
√Married the love of my life in Vermillion, SD
√Band made cover of popular Italian magazine
√Spent good portion of young life touring the country and over seas, performing music passionately with overwhelmingly positive responses

Well, I consider the beginning of this tour to be the moment everybody finished saying their farewell’s; Some with handshakes or bear hugs, the lovers rhythm of kiss-hold-whisper promises-kiss, eyes locked intensely as one, foreheads resting on the other’s at exactly the same point- two bodies entwined forming imperfect symmetry, infatuation and longing mirrored. My buddy’s final Autumn evening this year with his six year-old son, Jacob, which was a little hard for all to witness.
I’m not a fan of prolonged goodbyes: wading in a grey pool of in-between, pinning my guilt and frustration to the most sensitive part of my sorrow.
The sun faded down as we all stood in that parking lot in the industrial warehouse hub that is North East Minneapolis. I’ve said “Good bye” many times before, boarded a gasoline-guzzling beast and gone sailing down the paved artery that connects our country from fingertip to fingertip, but this time felt different. I did not feel so na├»ve and hopeless. I did not feel like a pair of tumbling dice, praying that the right numbers would determine the outcome of my travels- I felt that there was a greater plan laid out in front of me. I can feel the love around me, watching over the souls I am traveling with, from my precious wife at home, my parents, friends, and extended family that are scattered across the planet with enough love, wisdom, food and shelter to last for several lifetimes.
In the past, I became lost within the chaotic uncertainty of tour life- holding my breath as we went hurdling through the night as desolate and at the mercy of the elements around me as a rowboat drifting upon an endless midnight ocean.
Searching for identity, purpose and inspiration, I was somehow unfulfilled between the truck-stop diet, the holes in my pockets, no sense of home, direction or direction home, the living room floors, couches and car seats we laid our frail bones upon, with both arms crossed and one eye open.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Placenta

By Alexei Moon Casselle 1/31/06


Born of earth and seeded soil
Return my flesh into the ground
From whence I was created

On a grey September afternoon, 12:03 to be exact, out came a confused 1980 from my mother’s womb. Inside an apartment on First Avenue, my mother expelled me from her belly with the aid of midwives. My useless and frantic father repeating, “I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to cause you this pain,” tears in his eyes, my mother responding
“Would you shut-up! You’re not helping me!” amidst the gathering of curious neighbor friends and some of their children. Blankets were wrapped around the shivering me and I was cleaned of fetal membranes and amniotic fluids, silent and sudden.
My mother, being of the holistic and Eastern medicine philosophy (hence the at-home delivery), decided that she was going to bury my, or, her, no, our placenta into the ground, to which it came. The Minnesota winds, however, were hard that year and the ground was already far too hard to dig up and frost looked into our windows. Mom decided to do what anybody faced with the dilemma of burying a placenta in impenetrable soil would do: she put it in a plastic baggie and stored it in a freezer until the ground was soft again.

Born of earth and seeded soil
Return my flesh into the ground
From whence I was created

Winter passed through Minneapolis and the vegetation unfolded slowly under the pale sun. The birds sang and shook the branches they jumped to and from, the neighborhood dogs sniffed each other in parks and a warm breeze rolled the empty bottles down the gutter sounding like whiskey wind chimes. It was placenta time.
The opaque freezer bag was removed and placed on a windowsill like some twisted version of mama’s home cooked blueberry pie, to thaw in the sun. A spot was picked; a hole was dug. When my mother returned for the afterbirth, it was no longer there. A quick investigation lead to the neighbor’s dog Sophie. Sophie was 50% German shepherd, 50% wolf and 100% gnawing on my placenta.
Sophie made it clear that we could fight her for the meat-patty, but one way or another she was going to have meat in her teeth. After a quick standoff, all attempts to retrieve the amniotic sack were aborted and Sophie trotted off into the sunset to finish her treat.

Born of earth and seeded soil
Return my flesh into the ground
The ground from whence it came

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Wow, my very own blog.

Okay, I figured I could justify wasting time online by starting my own blog and posting lyrics, thoughts and other miscellaneous rants.
Allow me to introduce myself: My name is Alexei Moon Casselle from Minneapolis, Minnesota. I just turned 27 on September 11th, and I am currently painting houses to make those ends meet. I am in two bands.The first one, Roma di Luna is basically me and my lovely wife Channy playing original acoustic ballads, traditional folk and gospel and anything else we are influenced and inspired by. Joined by an assortment of talented friends who drop in and help us out from time to time, we have just released our second CD and hope to tour soon.

The second band (in no particular order) is Kill the Vultures. For those who know/knew me as an MC and not a guitar playing folk singer, you may remember a group I was in several years ago called Oddjobs. That went ahead and died on me, and KTV was formed with four of the five Oddjobs members including Stephen Lewis (Anatomy), Mario DeMira (Nomi), Adam Waytz (Advizer) and myself (Crescent Moon). We still make "rap" music for lack of a better term, but you will understand upon listening why that isn't always the only genre we tread upon, and why I have such a difficult time categorizing our music. I'm not too hung up on titles anyway; music is music.

For more info on those projects check out www.romadiluna.com and myspace.com/killthevultures. The latter of the two sites has been hacked repeatedly and violated, so I apologize in advance for any incoherence.

I am not certain what I want to do with this thing yet, but my original thought was that I'd like to have a place where I can post song lyrics that I have written and other pieces of writing that I am fairly satisfied with.

Take care,

Alexei