Monday, July 25, 2011

Joi: Amoeba Cleansing Syndrome

Writer's Note: Joi has been one of my favorite artists since she debuted in 1994 with the groundbreaking Pendulum Vibe. Both on stage and in the studio, Joi continuously brings her own special brand of excellence to the rocking soul scene. This piece was written originally last year for Wax Poetics #42 and it's my pleasure to share it with you now.

Amoeba Cleansing Syndrome

In the 1990s, Atlanta was a hothouse of post-new jack swing R&B. Yet, while most producers were content making safe Black pop for the masses, Dallas Austin wanted to be an auteur. While he’d constructed platinum selling singles for ABC, TLC, and Boyz II Men, the wicked keyboardist had grown-up admiring the artistry of Prince’s cyberfunk manifesto 1999, wanted to make a difference.

“You’ve got to do what people want you to do before you can do what you want to do,” Austin said in 1992. Two years later, he introduced the world to glam singer Joi. A lipstick liberator in the age of prefab divas, her 1994 debut The Pendulum Vibe was a wonderful introduction to an arty funk-rock aesthetic.

Still, it was Joi’s sophomore joint Amoeba Cleansing Syndrome that was supposed to set the world on fire. “My vision was simple,” she explained in 1997. “I want to do funky, ground-breaking stuff.” Although Joi, who has sung with OutKast and Curtis Mayfield, had no problem referring to herself as R&B, her style was as influenced by the sci-fi imaginary of Barbarella and P-Funk as she was by midnight wail of Gladys Knight.

Recruiting wild boys Fishbone to serve as backing her band, Joi returned to the studio with Austin (more co-conspirator than Svengali), Organized Noize, Whild Peach and boyfriend Big Gipp, who contributed country-ass adlibs to the upbeat radio single “Ghetto Superstar.”

“We are here to take you on an aural expectation,” Joi says on the introduction “Welcome Amoeba Spirit,” before kick starting the disc with the booming “Move On,” which combines gutbucket soul, rock guitars and Paradise Garage grooves. Later, Joi shows her true colors by segueing into a mighty cover of Betty Davis’s “If I’m Lucky (I Might Get Picked Up).”

“I heard George Clinton talking about Davis’s work, but it was actually Fishbone member JB who played me her songs,” Joi said. In addition, she covered Labelle’s raunchy “You Turn Me On,” a song from their acclaimed Nightbirds. “Labelle was like superheroes to me.”

Writing lyrics for all original material, Joi could be so revealing she sounded naked. On the bluesy “Hurt Sometimes” and the orgasmic “Dirty Mind,” she flaunts her freak flag without shame. Yet, when teaming with sonic architects Organized Noize (Dudgeon Family) on the psychedelic “Dandelion Dust,” she sounds fragile as Liz Fraser from the Cocteau Twins.

Too cutting edge for Joi’s original label EMI, Amoeba Cleansing Syndrome was rejected in 1997. Dallas Austin bought the album back for his Freeworld imprint and scheduled a January 1998 release, but the label soon folded. Fortunately, hundreds of advance copies were distributed to reviewers, journalists and radio; bootlegs are easily obtained.

More information about Amoeba Cleansing Syndrome can be found on Joi’s website

Labels: , ,

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Black Polaroids on Planet Pop

Summer 2011. One More Robot Magazine featuring “Black Polaroids on Planet Pop” written by Michael A. Gonzales; Art by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Fred Brathwaite, Cey Adams, Jackson Brown and Asia Minor. On stands in Dublin, Ireland. Available online at

Labels: , ,

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Erotic Imagination #1

In addition to articles and essays on pop culture, I've also published a good amount of erotic fiction in various collections. Last week, when I received an acceptance for a new short story, I started thinking about my own "erotic imagination" as well as the countless writers, filmmakers, comic book artists and still images that helped shape it.

While I've already written an essay about discovering
Playboy magazine when I was a kid, I've never mentioned the FIRST true loves of my life, the wonderful women who were the "Jet Beauty of the Week." Besides the "Soul Brothers Top 20" music chart in the back of the magazine, the centerfold was my favorite part.

Indeed, how could I forget the time when I was about nine and I asked my grandmother if I could have her back issues of
Jet. "What are you going to do with them?" she asked. Without missing a beat, I blurted, "I want to put the pictures on my wall." Knowing exactly what pictures I was referring to, grandma laughed for ten minutes and gave me the magazines.

A few decades later, whenever I sit down to write an erotica story, the Beauties are still inspiring me. Thank you, ladies...

Before Players
Before King
Before Smooth

Labels: ,

Forgive if I go astary...

but, last night I had a dream about this comic book.

Labels: , ,