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Hi, How Are You?
March 14, 2006 3:39 PM   Subscribe

A new documentary is about to be released about Daniel Johnston. Johnston is the mind behind Hi, How Are You?, a basement tape which has enjoyed a cult following since not long after he distributed it to strangers in the streets of Austin, TX. Despite a constant battle with mental illness, he has managed to assemble quite a discography as well as creating artwork. More on Johnston here and here. [ (not much) More Inside.]
posted by rollbiz (24 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I know that he has been mentioned many times previously, and that many of you probably know more about him than I, but I felt like this would be a good time to give the man an FPP.
posted by rollbiz at 3:40 PM on March 14, 2006


Many years ago I walked by Sound Exchange, like I always did on the way home, and it was a plain white wall. The next day it looked like this, and it has always tripped me out. Sorta like walking by a lightpole and having it turn off/on, but way more psychedlic.

I always loved it.
posted by ernie at 3:47 PM on March 14, 2006


'delic' :(
posted by ernie at 3:47 PM on March 14, 2006


Wall: Hi, How are you?

Developer: I'm great! We're buliding a new Baja Fresh to increase the generic urban sprawl level around here!

Wall: But I have been here for 18 years and I make people smile.

Developer: You are outta' here! Buh-bye retard graffiti wall! How are you now?

Wall: I'm sad. So very, very sad.

Developer: Bring in the sandblaster!
posted by roguescout at 3:56 PM on March 14, 2006


In some way I can't really explain, the path of the reasoning in destroying that wall makes me wonder who in the scenario is reallly "metally ill".
posted by rollbiz at 3:59 PM on March 14, 2006


Also:

In 1993, Johnston painted a mural of the "Hi, How Are You?" frog, also known as Jeremiah after the Three Dog Night song, on the side of the Austin Sound Exchange music store. The site was converted into a Baja Fresh franchise in 2004. Although initial plans called for the mural to be torn down, public outcry caused restaurant owner John Oudt to let the mural stay, at a price of $50,000 in additional costs and lost revenue.
posted by rollbiz at 4:02 PM on March 14, 2006


That Sound Exchange building used to house a fabulous hideaway bar and music spot (and pizza restaurant) called The Other Side back in the day (c.1981). And now you're telling me it's a Baja Fresh franchise? Oh, God. First Les Amis and now this. Well, at least Daniel Johnston got a hold of it first!
posted by Lockjaw at 4:26 PM on March 14, 2006


I saw the film last fall. It's one of the best documentaries I've ever seen about an artist or musician.
posted by dobbs at 4:29 PM on March 14, 2006


Excellent post. Cheers
posted by ZippityBuddha at 4:39 PM on March 14, 2006


Man loses a wall and gains a documentary.

I can't remember when I have wanted to see a film so badly. And after seeing Half Japanse: The Band that Would Be King [also directed by Jeff Feuerzeig], I am expecting greatness.
posted by rokabiri at 4:42 PM on March 14, 2006


Daniel is in this year's Whitney Biennial.
posted by R. Mutt at 5:01 PM on March 14, 2006


NYT article (PDF) on DJ and the Whitney.
posted by R. Mutt at 5:05 PM on March 14, 2006


Dead Dog's Eyeball by Kathy McCarty is a quite good redndition of many of Daniel's songs.
posted by edgeways at 5:10 PM on March 14, 2006


I've seen him live twice. First at the Knitting Factory with Brown Whörnet backing him up, which was great. Then, a solo show at Intuit a couple of years ago, which didn't go so well. He came out, drank two cans of Coke, played maybe three songs and then went back off stage for about half and hour. He came back, drank more Coke, read a poem and played one more song, and that was it. His demons must have had a pretty strong grip on him that night.

I can't wait to see this movie.
posted by hydrophonic at 6:10 PM on March 14, 2006


The Late, Great Daniel Johnston Discovered, Covered was one of my best music purchases of 2004. I came for the Tom Waits-as-human-beatbox cover of "King Kong" and stayed for everything else.

The biggest fight I had with my wife over the planning of our wedding was over whether or not I could play "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Your Grievience" at the reception. While I won in the end, the power did go out just as that song came on...
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:40 PM on March 14, 2006


By the way, the mural is still there. The Baja Fresh store ended up working around once they learned the significance of it.
posted by jefbla at 9:26 PM on March 14, 2006


Here's a cool blog post by Marie Javins, who knew Daniel Johnson way back when (and whose footage features in part of the movie): http://mariejavins.blogspot.com/2006/03/songs-of-pain.html.

I don't see Daniel a lot anymore. It's a tough situation. I can never make sense of where the exploitation ends and the support begins. Was I supporting a flawed genius? Was I enabling a crazier man to behave even more crazy? I never made sense of the situation morally and it made me uncomfortable to think I was part of the problem. I never made the video I always said I'd make.
posted by Hartster at 2:47 AM on March 15, 2006


Francis E. Dec (esquire) [link to mp3 album] wins the crazylympics. More about him, here.

You know, i kinda draw like Mr. Johnston myself... how long before i can sell my 6 minute boredom scribblings for $600 a pop? Do i need to put it into mural first? Please advise.
posted by phylum sinter at 3:51 AM on March 15, 2006


I can never make sense of where the exploitation ends and the support begins.

That's very much the feeling I got when watching the film - certain people seemed keen to 'help' Johnston perform, even at the expense of his safety and mental health.

That and, 'Oh, come on, most of his music is quite shit really.' (The film basically takes the view that Johnston is the greatest 20th Century songwriter in the world... ever! At a Q&A with the producers after the screening I saw, they quite seriously suggested he is hugely superior to Robert Johnson, and various other canonical types - my guffaws didn't go down very well.)
posted by jack_mo at 7:41 AM on March 15, 2006


I saw the film last fall. It's one of the best documentaries I've ever seen about an artist or musician.

Agreed.

Oh, and, his music is among the best I've ever heard...
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 9:01 AM on March 15, 2006


Is there a site that has an archive of his tapes? My guess is that most of his material isn't commercially available, so here's hoping....
posted by illovich at 10:29 AM on March 15, 2006


Is there a site that has an archive of his tapes? My guess is that most of his material isn't commercially available, so here's hoping....

Well, his stuff has always been commercially available, albeit only some of it -- going all the way back to his first tape in 1980 -- continues to be so. Johnston's combination of cottage-industry tactics and widespread licensing have meant that his material has been fairly easy to come by at the time of its release. Perversely, though, some of the most important stuff's been going in and out of print; there's just enough extant to maintain his legacy until the film (hopefully) inspires more reissues. Keep those fingers crossed.
posted by mykescipark at 10:49 AM on March 15, 2006


eMusic has a pretty large collection of his music for download (subject to their monthly terms, of course).
posted by rollbiz at 12:07 PM on March 15, 2006


Ah! Why didn't I think of eMusic (I'm only a member, for pete's sake). Yes, they seem to have all the important stuff and then some.
posted by mykescipark at 6:44 PM on March 15, 2006


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