Other music projects

“raising cain” (2018)

On November 3, 2018, on the occasion of the US midterm elections, Billy shared this acoustic gem. “Just vote,” he wrote. “Sing your song. Say your words. ‘Be the change’ and all that. It ain’t that hard.”

He’s got rocks but no gold, a smile that’s lost its soul
He’s got crops that just won’t grow, he can’t make them
Then he screams at the field for the poison in his yield
They send dusters out there one after another

I’m afraid, son, that you couldn’t raise cain anywhere
It’s a painstaking blood and sweat affair
They’ll spit boulders in your eyes
Cut you down to half your size and leave your blind
So you can’t raise cain anywhere

He grew up in the yard among the violent and the scarred
With a picture of his mother that’s now faded
There’s a sheet in his cell, he can twist if no one tells
He’ll be gone by morning chow if no one’s listening

I’m afraid, son, that you couldn’t raise cain anywhere
It’s a painstaking blood and sweat affair
They’ll spit proverbs in your eyes
And cut you down to half your size and leave you blind
Until you can’t raise cain anywhere

It’s a chain on a fence they all claim is self-defense
Don’t you bring your dirty family onto this land
So she looks to the sky through the glass that shields her eyes
Close her fist up let’s the shards fall where they might

I’m afraid, dear, that you’re going to raise cain anyway
It’s a painstaking love and death affair
They’ll spit promise in your eyes
And cut you down to half your size and leave you blind
But you’re going to raise cain anyway

When they spit boulders and proverbs and promise in your eyes and leave you blind
I hope you raise cain everywhere

popism (1997)

What was POPism? “Well, that’s a bit of a long story,” John Oszajca, one of the band members, wrote on his blog answering those who asked him about the project. “I suppose if ever the phrase ‘you had to be there,’ applied, it would be in regard to POPism.” John goes on:

POPism, (a name inspired of course by the Andy Warhol book/pseudo philosophy by the same name), was a performance art/rock band founded by myself and friend and former roommate Rick Royale. One night out in Hollywood way back in 1997, in what was at the time the newly opened “Goldfingers”, only days after making my move to Los Angeles, Rick, based on the success of his prior band the Rattled Roosters, was asked if he wanted to take on a residency at the new bar. Rick and I, both at a bit of a “funny place in our lives,” jumped on the opportunity at once and, to put it mildly, lied our way into a resident Tuesday night gig at the new Hollywood Hot spot. We told the manager of the bar that we had a Velvet Underground-esque, New York- glam rock inspired new band and that we would be ready to play in two weeks. All of this was of course complete fiction. The whole idea was inspired partially by Ricks love of the Velvet Underground, partially by the fact that there was a piano in the bar (an essential element of that old NY sound), and partially by a recent double date Rick and I had gone on dressed in drag in a failed attempt to shock the girls we were meeting (basically we liked the way we looked in lipstick a little too much).

To make a long story a little less long, within two weeks we had formed a band, hiring our dominatrix neighbor (Vylette) site unheard to front the band, our heroin addicted friend (Mish) to play bass, something that she was about as proficient at as she was at showing up on time (no offense), and a piano player (Billy Burke aka Billy Cool) whom we had met at the bar the night prior to our first rehearsal and who only showed up because we rehearsed and performed right across the street from his house. In that short time we had written an entire set of songs, all focusing around the subject of sex or drugs of course, and literally scripted out a concept for our characters; who they were, how they acted, etc., and we wrote a fictitious back story for our band; and a fictitious description of our weekly club at Goldfingers, which of course didn’t even exist yet. The club quickly became the scene to be seen at. Before long the place was packed every week with boa and glitter clad patrons, people literally dancing and once even fucking on the bar, randomly taking their clothes off on stage, and just plain getting freaky. For a while there Rick and my’s lives (my’s lives? Not quite sure how to say that) became pure pop art. We had wanted to see if we could take a ridiculously awful band and sell it purely on aesthetic, to see if we could convince people we were great simply because we said we were and because we looked the part. It was a little frightening how well it worked. I of course became “Gay Johnny” (the mock heroin addicted, alcoholic, sexually ambiguous drummer), a name that I took from an old canned vegetable label that a friend had given me as a joke and that had hung framed on the wall, and one I will never live down I might add (but it was just too funny not to use). As is often the way of rock bands, it wasn’t long before we had let hour ego’s run crazy with our success and we started taking the whole thing way to seriously. Thus the whole thing inevitably collapsed in upon itself and the days of POPism were over.

The band also had a website (now off line). In its main page you were immediately thrown into their world:

And here’s how they told their story:


In Los Angeles, in the days before Club Makeup, and even before the film Velvet Goldmine was released, there was a Tuesday night club at Goldfingers. Once a week this groovy nightspot was transformed into a fabulous night of decadence and fashion; CLUB SUCK, Hollywood’s most outrageous lounge. In less than two months in early 1997, Tuesdays had gone from being, well… Tuesday night to what BUZZ Weekly dubbed as “the latest scene to be seen at” comparing it to Andy Warhol’s “psychedelic hysteria”. CLUB SUCK, packed to capacity, and pulsating to the sounds of T Rex and early David Bowie, had become a mixed up hangout for the Hollywood nouveau-hip, beautiful women, artists, old school scenesters, celebrities, freaks, fashion designers, photographers, drag queens and hungry A&R. The crowd waited eagerly each night to experience POPism “the greatest fucking band in the world”. Wrapped in feather boas, covered in lipstick and glitter POPism took the stage with the confidence and attitude of natural born rockstars. Their catchy, trashy tunes were reminiscent of the New York Dolls or The Velvet Underground but were distinctly original. With the mesmerizing, intensity of a car crash POPism’s live show was peerless. One never knew if the carnival of chaos will evolve into a naked, fire breathing, burlesque show or explode into a full scale brawl. Vylette, POPism’s sexy lead singer, whipped the audience into a seething mass of rock ‘n’ roll love slaves while Mish, Gay Johnny, and Billy Cool visually and sonicly assaulted the room, leaving Rick Royale’s songs ringing in your head for days.
Poster by John Oszajca

Check below some promo and live pictures (source: popism.net):

Embed from Getty Images

Billy Black’s Outcast Theatre (1991)

Long before Billy Burke ever “stumbled onto a film set” as he puts it, he began writing and performing original music. After his experience with Hand In Hand, his first “real band”, he formed another group around what he called a “caricature of himself” and named it Billy Black’s Outcast Theatre. Doing as their moniker suggested, they soon had a distinctly prominent yet largely underground following in Seattle.
Joseph Malik, one of the band members, once said: “Imagine a dirtier, sexier Squeeze. I’ll always contend that we were in the wrong town at the right time.” In 2017, he also shared a picture of the group and one of their songs — “Dead Summer” where, as he puts it, you can hear “a young Charlie Swan sing some sexy-ass rock and roll.”
Read his very interesting blog HERE on how to break the fiction market and listen to the song. Pretty cool stuff!
// Sources: billyburke.net; Joseph Malik on Twitter
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