Outsider musicians for weirdos

If I have a relaxed deadline, sometimes I like to have something on in the background but I’m particular about what I listen to. Top 40 won’t do it because it doesn’t inspire anything. Still, it needs to be more interesting than fan noise. So I’ve ended up with an odd collection of music that does that for me. They span a few generations and genres but they’re all made by interesting people who made art they wanted (or were compelled) to make.

I’ll list a few highlights below, but I’ve also shared the entire “Outsider musicians” playlist on Spotify. If you have suggestions for this compilation, please message me.

  • Jandek has independently produced his music in Houston for several decades and is said to be one of the most elusive outsider musicians, preferring his musical “product” to speak for itself. Those products are eerily dissonant tunes dripping with undertones of folk and blues.
  • Wesley Willis If you spent some time in the 90s punk scene, you’ve heard of Willis. He got a lot of play on Rice Radio and beyond for his absurd and quotable lyrics. Willis’ music was a coping mechanism for his schizophrenia and said he wrote songs to “gross-out” the demons he imagined so that they would leave him alone.
  • Bingo Gazingo was an elderly Queens NY musician of tireless self-promotion. He sang and yelled his rhythmic spoken-word songs on the streets and anywhere people would listen. Lyrics were hilarious and based on current events or happenings in his life. (He is the man in the cover photo for the Spotify album.)
  • Jad Fair is a visual artist and musician who started writing and playing lo-fi alternative music in the grunge-influential band Half Japanese in 1975. Since then he’s continued to inspire and work with a wide range of musicians.
  • Erik Satie was a Parisian composer experimenting in the late 1880s. Although he influenced greats like Debussy and Ravel he never gained success for himself. He produced a concert performance with Picaso and other great artists that caused a riot and landed him in jail with charges of “cultural anarchy”. Never considering himself a composer, he insisted he was a “phonometrographer” with science as the dominating factor in his creations.
  • T. Valentine was an R&B amature and playwright in Chicago in the 60s. He wrote the cult classic “Hello Lucille are you a lesbian” and distributed it widely to get back at his wife for leaving him for another man. He also wrote a play called “The Vampire” which he performed in east side clubs for a run of three years until he “ran out of actresses who could really scream”.

Many of these artists are also featured in a great 2003 documentary titled “Outsiders”.

Jandek by Crowcrumbs


Sculpture spotted on Hancock Hill

I got about halfway up Hancock Hill Saturday morning before noticing a strange structure glimmering in the distance. Doubling back for a closer look, I discovered it was a plastic wrap sculpture of six ghostly figures kneeling, their arms flailing in the air. The largest of the life-sized figures is headless and it’s unclear if this is artistic license or the work of ravenous deer.

When I looked closer, I could see that what I at first thought was structural wire, was actually LED lighting. Each figure is wired and has it’s own power supply box with on/off switch. The desert is a rough place, so I didn’t expect the lights to work- but by some miracle they do!

I spent the next two days wondering what the hell it was supposed to mean. I wanted to go back and visit the sculpture again at dark, but wasn’t able to get back up the hill for two days. It was visible as a ghostly speck of light on the mountain each night. When I finally hiked back up tonight, the sculpture had mysteriously disappeared without a trace. Perhaps this is a traveling installment, moving with each gust of wind.

Plastic wrap sculpture on Hancock Hill Alpine Tx 2016
Plastic wrap figures; Hancock Hill.