Joe Cardamone has seen some things and done some things, and the fact that in late 2015 he broke up his band the Icarus Line — for 17 years and seven studio albums, the hardest, most challenging and most uncompromising band in Los Angeles — is but one of them. Today he unveiled the video for “Out of Road,” the first of 30-plus songs he will release as part of his “Holy War” collection. Here, Cardamone has put the guitars away in favor of beat-driven art-punk of the darkest shade. If the Icarus Line was all about Cardamone’s search for the truth (and torching the fakers), his first solo volley doesn’t fall far from that tree. “Too much info too little truth / too many dollars for golden tooth,” he chants amid seizure-inducing rhythms and lights.
How did Cardamone get here? It’s a long story, but the bullet points are: 1) The Icarus Line were on tour with Scott Weiland in late 2015 when the singer died; 2) Not long after, Icarus Line mainstay Alvin DeGuzman was diagnosed with cancer; 3) Cardamone spent time last year helping Annie Hardy, beset by turmoil and tragedy herself, make her album; 4) The passing of David Bowie inspired him to experiment with a different way of making music.
Cardamone has authored a “treatise” on his new project, which we share (edited slightly) below the video.
||| Watch: The video for “Out of Road”
||| Also: Stream the song here
||| Also: Read Cardamone’s treatise
Hello to you, my music listeners. I have never been clear on why certain efforts of mine are collectively picked to be covered in the media and other fly closer to the ground. This one feels like a weighty moment in what is starting to become a longer career than I ever planned on having. Shit, I never planned on living this long but then I survived a lot of the things that were designed to off a person like me. Being from where I’m from — I guess it could be considered inner-city Los Angeles — there were few beacons of success in the arts. Of course, I’m from LA, so we are surrounded by success and wealth and privilege, but my zip code was pretty vacant. We watched it on TV and occasionally saw a movie studio when we would day trip over to Melrose as punk kids. Hollywood seemed like a foreign land in my youth. Guitar shops that were porn for teenage East L.A. window-shoppers. So it has always been somewhat of a mixed emotion being associated with a city that most only people know through film, tabloid and reflections. My hood only ended up on the TV if some poor family made a wrong turn and got chopped in half. It wasn’t all bad, that’s not what I’m trying to say; it just wasn’t what most people think of when they think of Los Angeles. I think that might be slowly changing these days.
This year, I am going to be releasing an unprecedented amount of music and films by my standards. About 40 new songs have been recorded over the course of 2016 and some still evolving in 2017. Let’s be honest, this shit is never done. The collection of songs is titled “Holy War” and is a break from the band format that I have used in the past. Although the some of the same spirit streaks through from the earlier eras, “Holy War” pushes beyond. Every move in the process has been a natural expression and somewhat of a reaction towards my world and the world we are all trying to live in at this moment.
I quietly broke up The Icarus Line this past year due to a grip of fateful circumstances. A big one is that my long time collaborator/band member and best friend, Alvin DeGuzman, was stricken with a very serious form of cancer. This event shook me and the rest of the group to the core. The cancer took his ability to walk on the eve of a tour we were booked to do supporting Scott Weiland. Although it felt like a doomed prospect from jump, I decided to fulfill our commitment to the tour. Before the shows even took place, it was evident that we weren’t right for the tour and that the band wasn’t complete without Alvin. It felt like a sin to do the material without him. I assembled a skeleton crew to get the thing on. On the few shows we performed on that tour, I witnessed a front man killing himself. For a few bucks that were distributed, God knows how. I also saw what the modern mainstream rock community had become to some effect. People came to see a band as much to fail as to succeed. Perhaps even more so. The uglier side of this shit.
It cut a deep impression in me, making it painfully clear that I my art/presence didn’t belong there. This was a hard realization for someone who had already dedicated a good portion of his life to somewhat traditional rock ’n’ roll as a genre reference point. Over those few evenings, I realized that what I was witnessing wasn’t rock ’n’ roll at all, but more so pageantry of convention in trade for a few dollars to keep the tank limping forward. A box that is set up to cage you and sell a couple T-shirts … if you are lucky. As a delinquent, I was drawn towards music because of the immediacy and the ability to freely express while actually attempting to push the needle forward. This was the true romance of the affair. Be it noticed by many or few, it had to be a contemporary true statement. The politics of people and management of personalities slowly invaded as the primary focus and the art started to fade into the backseat. I never feel that I compromised my musical output, but that trajectory, in those circumstances, weighed heavy. Over my personal load-bearing weight. To be blunt, it put me into a moment of personal crisis. Without announcement I disbanded the group. Then I paced around my yard chain-smoking for a month. It was over.
For the last few years I had been compiling beats at home, at night while everyone was asleep. Something to do that had nothing to do with ambition and everything to do with joy. Mr. Obvious figured it out over the course of next month. Perhaps it might be a good idea to try to sing on these little creations? Actually, that idea came right around the moment that I heard Bowie had passed. I brought a beat into the studio and went free on it. Lightbulbs lit up. Incorporating my love for black music was always a tricky prospect in my group. Yeah, we could do Sun Ra and shit like that, but there was no Gucci in the room. There were rules in there, so letting ideas in had to be done with some manipulation. So I walked into this new world, there were no rules. Quickly the one of the objectives was to make music that could be performed by myself. Up until recently I wasn’t sure if I would even care it beyond that hard drives that I keep. The “Holy War” collection of songs doesn’t use the current or past mainstream rock formations/conventions. To my mind it holds more in common with the rock ’n’ roll music that I love. I have been attracted to using elements from modern music, molesting clichés even, to build this new house. Sounds that you might hear on the radio but through the filter of an art-punk writer, whatever. Taking the establishment and then using it to let rock ’n’ roll act again as art. Shit that is exciting to me. Music that I want to hear. I spend a good deal of time working with other artists in my studio; 2016 was a heavy year. I made a record with Annie Hardy, who had life-shattering circumstances tied to the content. In between those other sessions, “Holy War” was becoming a collection. Heavy and beautiful. Noise and melody. Real shit that I conjured in my laundry room with samples, found sounds and software. Conventional instruments mostly collecting dust.
It’s been a bitch to find a new part of myself that had been pressed dormant. It’s been a fucked-up year or two for a lot of us. Distilling that into music that I would be able to share with you hasn’t always been easy, either. My pal Ariel Pink came to the studio one day during the recording sessions. He genuinely seemed to enjoy what he was hearing, but I thought it was really funny when he said it reminded him of Beyoncé. Sure, why the fuck not!?
This collection will be released over the course of the year in various formats and volumes. Film, music and custom lighters.