By ELI JACE >
Flip through some lives that once were, from a scene long gone.
Past Lives is the first photozine from photographer and former Buddyhead publisher, Travis Keller, now working under the imprint, American Primitive.
In it, Keller unearths one of the final little slivers of true rock and roll glory–in the fart-trail afterstench of Nu-metal, and just before the hollow glitz of global festival rock. The photographs in Past Lives run from roughly 1997-2005.
During this time Keller started one of the first music blogs, the mercurial Buddyhead.
The webzine found easy fame by poking big bear hot-shots like Fred Durst, the Strokes and Courtney Love and holding no decorum when reviewing music. Buddyhead would bruise egos and talk shit without remorse. Their combative style would never be attempted today for fear of losing followers or offending some rabid fanbase.
Buddyhead expanded into a label releasing albums by a pile of musicians, including the first two full-lengths for The Icarus Line. Keller was friends with the Los Angeles punk group and became embedded in their roadshow as they went from playing blacked out basement shows to opening for the mighty Nine Inch Nails.
Keller bared witness to some of rock’s elusive underground heroes.
See America’s most lyrically potent band, At the Drive-In, causing hysteria in small audiences; singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala split-kicking six feet in the air. Tour life. There’s vans, drugs, broken equipment, some hidden A-list celebrities that are now C-list. Geeked out Nine Inch Nails fans; Trent Reznor with a big black dildo. The Icarus Line, At the Drive-in, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Elliot Smith, Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age, Beastie Boy Mike Diamond, Wesley Willis, Ink & Dagger and others make appearances in Past Lives. It’s a flash flipbook of bottom level touring in the final era before the handheld cameraphones.
Many of the photographs take place in Los Angeles, Keller’s chosen paradise. Slipped in here and there are some of his non-music photographs capturing the natural neon of California. The one gripe with Past Lives is the lack of information. Words are kept to a bare minimum, but browsing through @TravisMichaelKeller on Instragram will provide some answers.
On the day my copy of Past Lives arrived in my mailbox from publisher Blurb, I went to a record store and serendipitously found used copies of The Icarus Line’s Mono and Penance Soiree. Their first two albums are in a league of their own, curdling punk, thrash, noise and blues into their own unhealthy mix of energy. Singer Joe Cardamone gives all the chaos a striving force, a howling warcry to the late nights and dilated pupils.
Unfortunately for the fans, The Icarus Line now only represents a moment in time.
Officially dissolving in 2015, the band leaves behind an intense searing stranglehold of a discography, six full-length albums and a pile of EPs. In a time before digital oversharing, it’s great Keller was there in the muck to bring this slice of scene back into the present.
Past Lives is a slick photobook; something to sit back in a comfortable chair with and reminisce on the putrid, sweaty backrooms where punk may have had its final croak. Find Past Lives on American Primitive, as well as other projects from Keller and Cardamone.