You can knock America all you want – for its imperialistic foreign policy, its rampaging corporations and so on. But they know how to do Halloween out here. Halloween and donuts. Probably doesn’t make up for Agent Orange and Monsanto, but still - credit where credit’s due.
In the States, Halloween is proper dress-up time. Thousands of punters in masks and costumes getting ragged, all the girls looking slutty and the guys on the prowl. There’s Superman barfing in a bin at the end of the night. Marilyn Monroe’s passed out at the bus stop. And LA does it better than anywhere. Because this is dress-up city. Half the town does this shit for a living.
So I thought I’d share a story with you about dressing up. Not a Halloween story exactly, but it feels fitting nonetheless. I heard it from Asa Taccone and Matt Compton of Electric Guest (pictured below), who are definitely worth a listen. They came out to LA from Seattle and Virginia respectively, hooked up with Danger Mouse, aka Brian Burton, and between them they made Mondo which was a highlight of last year. I met Asa and Matt the other day for lunch at Auntie Ems, a sandwich spot in Eagle Rock.
"The first time I got a place of my own, it was this cool standalone house with a white picket fence in Echo Park," said Asa. He’s a little guy with a big voice, sort of Prince-like. "Until then, we just lived together, me and Matt. But I figured we’d made our album, and gone on tour, so you know, it was time to be a ‘grown-up’ I guess."
Echo Park’s out east, a famously bohemian neighborhood that went a bit ghetto in the 80s – it’s where Training Day was shot - but is now making the transition back from hood to hipster, the classic arc of gentrification. People say it’s an up and coming Silverlake - people who probably tried for a place in Silverlake first, but couldn’t find anything. Asa signed a year’s lease on the place, and 11 days in, invited all his friends over for a party. Like 50 people, a barbecue type deal.
Then this guy showed up at the door, a couple of hours in. “He was a black guy, covered in tattoos, with this scar across his face. And he had this little bag with him, and a six pack of beer. He said, ‘hey homie, I was wondering if I could like kick it you know? I seen all these people coming over…’"
Asa had seen him before, down the street. He hung with a posse, all of them drinking 40s at two in the afternoon. But hey, it’s Echo Park – all part of the hood charm.
“So I was like, 'oh no, it's just for my friends...' And immediately he was super bugged. He's like, 'that's a shame yo, because now you're going to have to move.'”
“I know. I was like – ‘oh well come on in!’ But he just walked away. Like really pissed. And I saw him down the street do this fucking gesture that was so not for me. He just stopped and shook his head. It was like, 'now I'm a have to do something…' Gave me the creeps. So I went running after him and persuaded him to come in. I said, 'I thought you meant you and all those dudes, but hey, if it's just you, that's cool…'"
He held out for a while, but eventually agreed to go to the party. And then he stayed until five the following morning, getting wasted and grabbing on the girls and spitting in the sink. Not your average houseguest. As the night wore on, he’d pour out his story to various people at the party - how he sold heroin, how he was in a gang, how he'd just got out of prison and how he'd recently broken into his neighbor's house. A couple of times, he started crying.
But the clincher was the camera.
"He had this bag with him the whole time, with this camera in it. I’m pretty sure he stole it. He might have stolen it from the neighbor’s house he said he broke into. But anyway, he found out one of my friends was into film, and he asked him how to use it. He said, ‘I just took some pictures, but I don't really know how to work it, could you help?’ Then he went into the bathroom for like ten minutes, which he kept doing all night, and my friend flicked through the pictures…”
Asa grimaced and shook his head. “It was all these tatted up Mexican dudes, like fully naked and fucking each other. And they were wearing these hella scary masks.”
What, like wrestling masks?
“Why does everyone ask that? No, I’m talking death masks. Satan and shit. And I’ll never forget when he left, he like pulled me in close and said, ‘that was the best time of my life, man.’ I was just thinking ‘you know what, that's exactly what I get for being yet another fucking hipster trying to penetrate this newly gentrified area.”
Asa called the landlord the next day. Within a week, he’d moved to Silverlake.
Electric Guest’s new single Jerk is out now, as is their album Mondo (Downtown Records).