That Handsome Devil: Coming of the Next Madman

February 2, 2009 § 1 Comment

“Viva Discordia”
-That Handsome Devil

Anthony & Godforbid at the Laundromat

by Anthony Pilgrim

Part of the mystique of rock and roll is its saturation with truly insane individuals who scream, smoke, and bleed their way into the history of this mad subculture. Every generation tries to out-do the one previous, starting with the jumping wild south piano stylings of Jerry Lee Lewis to the attempted on-stage suicide of GG Allen. As we enter a new age of the strange and wonderful, where shall we turn our attentions? If I were to say that just a year ago I found our Messiah in an overpriced cash bar at the clean and cleansed back room of the Hard Rock Café in Boston, you may claim foul and demand the details. Well, even if you didn’t, here they are.

I spent New Year’s Eve 2007 in the Rock and Roll Café show room with my friend Tim and a group of skinny jean hipsters who I was able to sneak in the back. We were there to see a band called Bang Camero, a tribute to the glam days of rock and roll when songs had no more than five words in a chorus and no less than three guitar solos per song. I had never heard of the opening acts and we were mostly there to enjoy the copious amounts of alcohol and depraved woman that come with this type of atmosphere. I expected the openers to be more or less another set of suit jacket wearing stiffs who would rather look at their shoes than try to impress me.  But as I drank some four dollar Coronas in the corner, I heard the opening lyrics to James Brown’s hit “It’s a man’s world” coming out of a smooth sharp voice that should belong to a bop singer of the Beat generation.  I ran up to the front of the stage and for the first time laid my eyes upon the band That Handsome Devil, and more importantly, a man only known as Godforbid.

After they finished the cover, he walked up to the microphone like he was hitting on it and introduced himself and the band. “ We are That Handsome Devil,” he said “ and my name is Godforbid, which is what my mother said when I first came out.”  From that point on, I became That Handsome Devil’s biggest fan. Their sound is a combination of jazz, hip hop, funk and everything else that would fall under the Miles Davis definition of cool all wrapped up in a smooth and strangely sexy way. The band itself was made up of three men in white tuxedos and a highly attractive long legged Asian woman in a cabaret get up who was there simply to look good and scat.  Though it was hard to ignore the band, Godforbid, dressed up like a pimp in an old blacksploitation movie, stole the show. He spoke to the audience as if he was preaching to the church of weirdness.  “We have one song left,” he said at the end of the set “and then all mighty Zeus will bring down his lightning bolt and smite us for the atrocity that we have committed today on stage.”

After the show I attempted to talk to my newfound hero. I had fallen head over heels for his band and I wanted to ask him all the awkward and boring fan boy questions that I had hated not half an hour before. Where are you playing next? Do you have a CD? Do you have a T-shirt? Do you have any other reason I could give you money? By the end of the first hour I realized that Godforbid’s consciousness was a few miles away from where his physical body was and he was on a sort of auto response system. “No problem.” I thought “I’m going about this all wrong; expecting to get a clear answer from anyone on First Night in Boston is a pointless endeavor.” So, like most times when I want to talk to someone that seems slightly above my hipness range, I handed them a fake press pass for POS and ask as straight as I can for an interview. He agreed to give one at no particular time on no particular day. I had it in my head that when he was off the stage, his name was Brian or Roger and he would tell me anything I wanted to know granted I asked politely. I am no longer so deluded.

Before trying to venture into Boston to find the man himself, I attempted to do some research on him and the band. The band was a big word around Boston and New York and had apparently earned some extra credit for having their song “Elephant Bones” appear in the game “Guitar Hero II”. Other than the local and video game fame, Godforbid himself had earned a reputation made up of one part Jesus and three parts Jesse James. Up and down the eastern seaboard blogs and fanzines lit up with stories of infamy and depraved sin with his antics swirling them through every major east coast city and every unheard of ‘burg. I also discovered while the penname Godforbid most likely wasn’t on his birth certificate, there was no confirmation on his real name. “It’s a well kept secret,” commented Godforbid in one interview with a Rhode Island based newsletter. “A lot of blood had to be spilt to protect it.” Some rumors had popped up through the grapevine that someone who had grown up with him or got him drunk enough to spill the secret knew his true identity. But if the man himself is to be believed, he at one point in his life became Godforbid and will remain under this moniker until he is forced to get a real job.

Armed with the knowledge that he was in a band and had no real name, I set out to find Godforbid in the streets of South Boston. I followed a mailing address that had been printed on the back of one of the CDs I had acquired at the show. The Map Quest directions brought me to a well-painted slum, which screams either “artist loft” or “meth lab”.  I went to the door and buzzed a random room to be let in. “Who is it?” a young man’s voice answered. I told him that I was looking for a band or member of a band that I was searching for. “Buzz 312” he said, as if he’d had to direct far too many people to the same location. I buzzed 312 and after a moment of waiting was answered through the intercom with a simple “Yo.” I explained that I was with Pilgrims of Sound Magazine and that I was here for an interview with That Handsome Devil. Without an answer back I was buzzed in. Half expecting to meet the next Elvis Presley and half expecting to have my Charlie Card stolen and fed to pit bulls I walked up the stairs to 312 and knocked. I was greeted by a man I recognized as guitarist Alex Dubree, a larger fellow who looks like a younger Colonel Sanders. He welcomed me in and offered me a drink. After a few minutes of conversation the offer extended to a platter of additional substances that will remain unnamed. I kept myself mostly straight so I could keep my head about me when I met the man himself, who was apparently out running his errands. After about a half hour of chatting with Dubree, Godforbid glided through the door, looked straight ahead, and said, “Do I detect the sweet smell of stoned journalist?”

The interview went smoothly enough, seeing that I was nervous and my mind was tipping slightly too far right and left. Talking to him was a strange experience, it felt like reenacting a scene from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”. I was a flesh and blood construct and he seemed to be an animated character made of equal parts Iggy Pop, Keith Moon, GG Allen, and any and all incarnations of The Big Bad Wolf. But, I made my way through with the standard form questions while he answered in only a way he could.

Anthony: Who are your influences?
Godforbid: Mostly I enjoy the Muppet Movie soundtrack. Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem are the main source. Everything else is just an add on from that.
A: Where did you get started?
G: In my father actually. Eventually he was starting to cramp my style so I moved to my mother for a while. It was good for a few months, but at one point you got to get out of the womb.
A: How long have you been in music?
G: I sang my first song at the age of three. It was a surrealist poem involving lunar cows and a scandalous relationship where a dish runs away with a spoon.
A: What’re your thoughts on the current state of music?
G: It’s the same as it’s always been. As the man said “Twenty- Two singers, one microphone. Thirty guitar players, one guitar. {Quote from The Clash’s Garageland}
A: Are you God? {That one kind of slipped out}
G: Would God live in a place like this?
A: He might.

Once the interview was over, he insisted I come and let him show me the city. This consisted of many things I can’t disclose due to decency standards and lack of memory. I can comment that it included high speeds, bright colors, and some spilt blood. In the end he and a few of the locals shoved me on the last train to Fitchburg and simply said, “Next time I’ll find you.” I fell asleep on the train and was kicked off at the last stop. From there I made my way to my bed five blocks down the road and slept for the next thirteen hours.

Anthony & Godforbid on the roof

Godforbid and That Handsome Devil have moved out of Boston now, insisting that the new 21+ laws are choking out the youth and they want no part of that. I tried to catch their new address, but as I expected they performed a fantastic disappearing act and I was unable to find anything outside of the fact their next show is in Nevada and their new album was due to drop sometime in July. Since that time, the new album “A City Dressed in Dynamite” hit the shelves. If there has ever been a need in your life for a truly twisted tale of what has become of Horatio Alger’s dream and Jack Kerouac’s highway in these modern times, I can’t stress how much you should buy this album. The group plays rarely, but they pop up in B-town once in a great while, mostly playing Church in Fenway. If you give me any credit, then listen to me when I say spend the ten dollars, drop your calm demeanor at the door (in whatever way necessary), and find yourself worshiping all that is sick, violent, twisted, and good in life at the feet of the next madman.

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