For over a decade, the strange rumblings have . . . I won't say shaken the foundations - we will try to avoid hyperbole here as we are about the high purpose of TRUTH - but at least sent an odd tingle or shiver up society's main support post. For all these years, Hue Blanc's Joyless Ones have existed mostly as a persistent rumor, showing up in the oddest places, then falling off the face of the earth; furious bouts of creative output followed by prolonged public silences. And now, after eight years: a new album. Stoning Josephine on Certified PR Records. (HInt: the album title has nothing directly to do with religious extremism but is derived from a story by Franz Kafka http://www.kafka-online.info/josephine-the-songstress-or-the-mouse-folk.html) So, anyway, what to make of this group? What a curious enigma! I decided to go right to the source and see what I could learn.
The Joyless ones, it turns out, are not impossible to find. They play the occasional show in Green Bay, Milwaukee, or Columbus, OH, for some reason; they even have a facebook page. But Hue Blanc himself . . . well he represents the real mystery. Hue holds the key. I had to find him out. It took months of farting around - the Joyless Ones are smart enough boys, but their communication skills seem to be impaired somehow. I think it has something to do with where they came from. Finally, miraculously, after innumerable emails, phone calls and text messages, I secured an agreement that on such and such a day, at such and such a time, at such and such a place, HBJO would be practicing and Hue would make himself available to field questions. After all, there is a new album to promote.
Here, then, are the belchings from the belly of the beast:
It was a hot and steamy August evening in norhtheast Wisconsin. Algoma looked like any small town along the western shore of Lake Michigan, on or approaching the Door Peninsula. There was a crescent-shaped, white sand beach, a busy harbor with a venerable old light house. There were ornate, ancient churches, a winery a brewery and no shortage of taverns and little shops. A nice place to be drunk or catch fish in, it seemed to me. The address I'd been given led me to a big old house in the middle of town, directly accross from a baseball field. It was an idyllic scene alright, if a bit spooky; a canopy of old growth trees, the quiet neighborhood all in shadows; the ball field's light towers, scoreboard and tall, chain-link fence standing like stern, silent sentries of the night. I parked on the street and got out of the car. A muffled din eminating from the nether regions of the house told me I was in the right place. Nothing musical could be made of the noise; just that it was loud and coming from somewhere deep inside. I climbed the cement steps on to a creaking wooden porch. I approached the front door and stopped. Do I just walk in? I could see no lights on inside. I mulled it over for a minute and then reached for the doorknob.
"You the writer?" Came an inhuman croak just a few feet to my left.
"Shit Christ!" I nearly shit my pants and jumped out of my skin. I could make out a dark, corpulant figure slumped in a high-backed chair in the shadows. It took a big swig from a bottle of something and wiped its chin. Here was our man. The interview went as follows:
Me: I am a writer, I guess. Are you . . . are you Hue?
HB: You must be one of these new geniuses . . .
Me: I'm not sure what that means . . .
HB: They're all fucking science-computer geniuses now, all of 'em. (Hue waves his hand vaguely.)
Me: I . . . I'm not sure what that means.
HB: 'Cause you're thick! Never mind it! Now what are you interested in these boys for - the Joyless Ones. (He pronounced the name in an obvious mocking tone.)
Me: Well, I just don't think they've ever been properly introduced. You . . . they've been a band all these years, and so little is known about them.
HB: They're fucking funny boys! Whisky-dicked panty waists! Do you get it?
Me: I'm not sure. Are you talking about their sexuality? Or . . .
HB: (Here he breaks into a high, wheezing giggle. Almost indescribably creepy.) No, no, its all limp poetry and whisky dick. Don't you get it?
Me: (Sensing this thing is going nowhere) Well, what about musically? What is your influence on the music?
HB: (Angrily) Music?! There's no music. Hell, they'd still be trying to whistle through each other's dicks if I hadn't shown them what to play!
Me: So, are you saying you write their songs?
HB: Yes. Yes, I write the songs. Yes. (Here he settled down and seemed to grow serious. He took another sloppy swig off the bottle and even passed it to me. It was blackberry brandy. This fucking weirdo was sitting alone in the dark and swigging blackberry brandy.) You know, I was watching a baseball game earlier - probably 12 or 13-year olds - and this one kid, a big fat slob - they had him in right field - he struck out every time up. Never touched the ball. Never came close. Well, in the ninth inning, it's a tie game. Two outs. A kid on first. Fatty's in right. Well, wouldn't you know it, they hit one down the right field line. Fatty feilds it easily enough; all he's got to do is throw the fucking thing in. Well he's sitting there with his arm cocked, and his team is yelling at him, "throw it, Fatty! Throw it!" And he's like frozen there while these kids are running around the bases. Then, finally, he cuts loose this . . . thing. It's the most effeminate, embarrassing, pitifull excuse for a throw, I've ever seen. The ball like, rolls at the visiting team's dugout - right over there - and the first baseman is chasing after it . . . Both kids score. Fatty is in tears. His coach can't even stand to look at him. After the game, after all the other kids have gone off together or gone off with their parents, Fatty is still sitting there in the dugout. Nobody came to pick him up. Or maybe his parents left him there to wallow in his own shame, I don't know. For an hour he sat there by himself crying and I spent half this bottle watching him. Ha,ha.
(Hue was silent for a while after this, reflective, I guess. Right at that instant, I felt the wind switch and the air take on a sudden chill. Too smart to believe in signs, I took this opportunity to get at my most delicate subject.) Me: There is a persistant rumor, Hue, that why you're never at any of the band's shows, is because you were . . . you spent some time in . . .
Me: That's the rumor.
HB: Well, I'm here now, ain't I?! (Rage, it seemed, was always just a moment away with this guy.) I'll tell you what; your one of these computer geniuses; you know it all, right?
Me: No, I don't know it all; that's the point.
HB: I'm gonna show you something, alright. (Here the big man, with no small effort, hoisted his prodigious bulk out of the chair and stood before me. The sight of him in better light was shocking enough, grotesque to be sure, but the thing that really grabbed me was his odor: it was somehow animal-hot and musty at the same time.) I'm gonna show you something, alright! (With suprising alacrity he undid his belt and dropped his pants) What do you think of that, writer-genius boy?!
Here he broke into a sort of high whine that I never in a million years would have attributed to a human animal. What I saw - and I cursed myself for having seen it, but the slight moonlight seemed to leap to it - what I saw was neither male nor female, but it bore a long, jagged, bright-pink scar. It looked like the product of the crudest surgery. Hue slumped back into his seat, his pants around his ankles, still emitting his horrible lament.
I ran for my car and didn't look back. I took off squealing my tires. As I fled that quaint, little town with the cool breath of Lady Michigan on by neck and the high, unfathomable whine ringing terror in my ears; I understood alright. I got what I came for.
So boys and girls, spin Stoning Josephine. Put it on at parties; crank it up while your doing the dishes; get righteously baked and just groove out. But in the small hours of the night, when you're all alone and your having trouble looking away from the meanest, ugliest truths that you harbour deep down inside . . . maybe put on the Donnas, or the Bay City Rollers, or something.