Musician and author of Burn Collector Al Burian talks about people’s preoccupation with occupation, a fantastical night of siege, and what happens when punk rock and sports injuries collide.
Occupational title(s), both real and desired-in-another-lifetime: My occupation is that I write and play music. In an ideal world, rather than have more titles and descriptors than that, I’d like to have less. The whole obsession with occupation bothers me. ‘What do you DO?’ is always the first question people ask you when you meet them. I would like to be able to honestly say, ‘I don’t do anything, I just hang around all day wasting time, and I feel great about that.’
Best imaginable night, in any city in the world, in your words: In order to have a truly great night you have to have a horrible morning, for context. So I’d begin by waking up on the street in some exotic metropolis I’ve never been to before, and where I don’t know anyone, destitute, hungry and alone. Over the course of the day I’d be approached by some extremely attractive and interesting locals, who would invite me over to dine on the regional cuisine, which would turn out to be the best food I’ve ever tasted in my life. Towards evening, a little tipsy on the fruity elixir they’d refer to only as ‘the national beverage,’ they’d reveal themselves to be left-wing revolutionaries planning the overthrow of the U.S.-backed puppet regime. Around 11 PM I’d be joining them in storming the presidential palace, thinking to myself, ‘wow, I’m usually contemplating going to the Rainbo around this time.’ By 12:30, news of the people’s glorious victory would be spreading on the AP wires, causing a crisis within the Imperialist power structure that would lead, by 1:48 AM (‘Last call!’ at the Rainbo) to the world-wide collapse of Western hegemony. Around 4:48 AM I’d be crushed to death during the wild celebratory orgy in the Imperial bedchamber, auto-erotically asphyxiating while Van Halen’s 1984 album blasted on the presidential stereo.
Name your single most memorable (hopefully finest) Kinko’s experience ever: I worked for that company only briefly, and it was a demoralizing and demeaning experience on account of those aprons they make you wear. One day outfits like that will be outlawed like the 18-hour work day and employing nine year olds to work in coal mines. We’ll shake our heads and wonder that people ever treated each other so barbarously.
Favorite books: Last three books I read that I liked a lot: John Fante’s Ask the Dust, Bohumil Hrabal’s I Served the King of England, and Flannery O’Connor’s Collected Short Stories.
Heroes: Ingo Ebeling, European tour promoter. He’s one of the only people I’ve ever met who does everything he does because he believes in the principle, without any regard for his own personal gain.
The worst thing that’s ever happened to you while on stage: I dislocated my kneecap once. That was pretty bad. It wasn’t actually the injury itself, though; what was so bad about it was that after it happened there was this tense moment of silence from the crowd, and then I said, ‘Uh I think I just broke my leg.’ And someone yelled out, ‘Punk rock!’ At that moment I realized that, yes, that was pretty punk rock, probably one of the punkest things I’d ever do, and that meant that punk rock = self-destructive stupidity, and that was what I had devoted my life to. I still have a board tape of it to listen to if I ever get too self-satisfied with my accomplishments. Anyway, when it turned out that the leg was not broken but instead was the type of thing classified as a ‘sports injury,’ I realized I could think of myself as an athlete (new occupational title!), and my self-esteem about the incident would improve.
What makes you laugh: Certain portions of Richard Pryor’s Here and Now comedy album will probably always make me laugh, even just thinking of them.
Charity worth giving to: Voices in the Wilderness. They’ve been fighting sanctions on Iraq for the last decade, and more recently were involved in anti-war organizing. Now that Iraq is getting ready to be rebuilt as a U.S. highway off-ramp, getting the voices of dissent out there is more important than ever. (Voices in the Wilderness PMB634, 5315 N. Clark Ave., Chicago, IL 60640)
Five words that sound great: Porous. Pernicious. Panache. Penultimate. Pandemonium.
links of interest:
Excerpts from some issues of Burn Collector
Milemarker home page