His guitar ignites with a lonely chord vamp. A weathered voice confesses, "I brought a knife to the gunfight" and a tale of never being enough unfolds. It's a hard truth told beautifully. Wayne Kramer emerges stronger than ever with Adult World, his first solo studio album in five years.
After five productive years writing, recording and producing (not to mention launching a record company) Wayne Kramer returns with ten new songs of experience. Adult World covers all the major markers. These are songs from a journey traveled well, and not so well at times.
Wayne Kramer founded the MC5 at a time when rock was young and youth rebellion was unmatched. (For the uninitiated, the MC5 are considered to be the prototype for not only punk rock, but also heavy metal music of today.) In 1969, they released the album Kick Out The Jams on Elektra Records -- which included the seminal hit single of the same name -- and then two more records (Back In The USA, produced by Jon Landau, and the critically-hailed High Time) for Atlantic Records. Between world tours in support of those releases, Wayne wrote soundtracks for the Ronan O'Reilly/Caroline Films feature Gold and The Living Theatre's film production of Paradise Now.
The MC5 burned hot, and, by 1972, burned out. For Wayne,
the years between then and now included a high-profile
stint in federal prison, a decades-long war with his
personal demons and a rebirth as a solo artist in the
rock world of today. He has hit higher highs and lower
lows than one man could want or deserve. But, to hear
him tell it, "All my crises have been self-imposed."
In the late 1970s, Wayne was based in New York City, where he produced underground rock bands, co-wrote (with Mick Farren) the R&B musical The Last Words of Dutch Schultz, and founded Gang War with Johnny Thunders. In the early '80s, Wayne teamed up with Don and David Was to found the revolutionary acid funk outfit Was (Not Was). While living and working as a producer in Nashville in 1990, he released his first solo record Death Tongue, with songs produced by Don Was. He also produced singer/songwriters and countless anarchist punk rock bands on the American east coast.
And then ... out West. Wayne moved to Los Angeles in 1994, signed with Epitaph Records under the creative vision of Bad Religion's Brett Gurewitz, and recorded The Hard Stuff in 1995. It was followed by Dangerous Madness in1996 and the David Was produced Citizen Wayne in1997 and a live album LLMF: Live Like A Mutherfucker in 1998. He also co-produced and co-wrote the album Full Circle, with John Sinclair and His Blues Scholars for BOMP!/Alive Records. In 1999, Wayne produced a retrospective collection for Rhino Records entitled The Big Bang: Best of the MC5. In 2000, he conceived and produced the compilation punk rock album Wayne Kramer Presents: Beyond Cyberpunk which included Dee Dee Ramone, Mudhoney, Pere Ubu, Ron Asheton, Stan Ridgway and others for MusicBlitz.
Wayne left Epitaph in 1998, with their blessing and his catalogue in hand, and launched MuscleTone Records in 2001. The first year's releases include re-issues of Wayne's Epitaph titles and a special project called Mad For The Racket (featuring Duff McKagan, Brian James, Clem Burke, Stewart Copeland) as its foundation. The re-issues are bundled with value-added tracks from the vaults and videos all in an enhanced-CD format.
"The irony of having made every mistake possible and now finding myself Head Man In Charge of a record company is a little scary. Not to mention that the same federal government that locked me up has helped finance my company and sent me to school to learn the business of business. Life is truly strange."
"MuscleTone is an artist-advocate organization. We believe there is a new model for the way a label should be run. Our aim is to be of service to our artists, and to do it making records that won't insult your intelligence."
The label's flagship 2002 release is Kramer's own "Adult World." "My new record is a stab at getting under the skin of the cast of characters that inhabit this new world. I'm hunting for the truth, even if I'm not sure where I'm going with it."
Wayne's songs run the gamut from personal experience to imagined scenarios to timely news. "What about Laura" is a spot-on depiction of a real-life Florida runaway. It features a heartbreaking duet with Syd Straw. "Great Big Amp," the CD's single, perfectly captures the false hope that every young guitar player lives by.
Many of the songs talk about people who have crossed Wayne's path and others who have influenced him from afar. The ode to writer Nelson Algren, aptly titled "Nelson Algren Stopped By," is a tour de force of experimental music and verse and it features Chicago's cutting-edge jazz ensemble Mars-X-Mars led by acclaimed saxophonist Mars Williams. "Love, Fidel" is the true story of the secret scandalous love affair of his favorite Cuban dictator. "The Red Arrow" is his homage to mentor and jazz great Red Rodney, who taught a young Kramer music theory while the two were incarcerated together in FCI Lexington, Kentucky.
As Wayne puts it, "These are songs about grown-up people, doing grown-up things. Some admirable; some not." The song "Adult World" is a dark, spoken-word piece that touches on what he calls, "Pulling the sheet off and then ringing the bell." He achieves the same in "Sundays in Saigon."
"Being a songwriter is like being a sportscaster; giving the blow-by-blow account of a fight that's brutal and still beautiful." Wayne does just that in "Talkin' Outta School," which is a riotous dual guitar/vocal with Nicke Royale and his Swedish Grammy-winning Hellacopters and in "Brought A Knife to the Gunfight," one that goes directly to one man's inability to connect with his own inadequacies.
Of course, a good laugh and a good beat are a potent thing. "After all, music has a role to play in our lives, but it can be risky taking this business too seriously." "The Slime That Ate Cleveland" is a playful homage to that city's influence on popular culture.
At a time in life when most folks are planning for a genteel retirement, Wayne Kramer is digging deeper into an adult world. Not bad for a fellow once described as "A nineteen year-old punk on a meth power trip."
"I don't want to repeat myself. If I'm not evolving a little, I'm dying a little. There's no middle ground on that. That would be an insult to both the work and to the audience."
[ Wayne's Official Site ]
[ DKT/MC5 Official Site ]