Wayne Bremser, Hustler of Words, 33, San Francisco, CA
Wayne's got a wry sense of humor. Every time we hang, he unveils another part of himself through bold and colorful statements. He is a master of laid-back, highbrow dialog. It’s easy to explore culture with Wayne. Every conversation is engaging, enlightening, and a little absurd. I leave visits feeling happy, having laughed heartily at his sometimes offbeat life perspectives. Every energetic debate shines with congeniality. He rocks the good attitude.
How many careers have you had? What is your current title?
Being a freelancer I don't have a title. Since I graduated from college I've been involved with technology journalism and web design and production. So I haven't had too many "careers," but I've had a few interesting jobs before: a ranger intern at Carlsbad Caverns National Park, on the editorial staff at a Macintosh magazine, a jewelry store in Santa Fe, a census taker in 1990, a lot monkey at a car dealership and of course several dot com start-ups.
What project will you be working on next?
I'm looking to work on something that is not directly related to the web and perhaps would offer the chance for to have new experiences and learn new skills.
Your house is burning down. What one possession (aside from human/animal life) would you grab on the way out?
The Miles Davis “Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel” box set.
When and how did we meet?
On email in 1995, but in person in 1996. Through our mutual friend Richard who started the web "zine" Blair. I remember when you came out to visit and perhaps stayed on the Murphy bed in my apartment. After seeing only a head shot of you, Richard warned me that you might be fat. He turned out to be wrong, you were just cheek-a-licious.
I know you in the order of these mediums: web, music, and words. Even though you've been a writer the whole time, can you tell me which has had the most impact on your life so far?
Words. Especially considering - for me anyway - most of the Internet experience up until now has been words. Web pages, email and chat.
When we initially met, you were already head deep in the Internet subculture. Now that it's full blown mainstream, how have you seen the web change for better or worst?
Even though the formats are more strictly defined, there is so much more content on the web than before. And while a lot of it is crap, there are more people exploring their interests. So it’s better.
How did you end up in San Francisco?
It was either New York or San Francisco and, in 1995, San Francisco seemed more a more interesting place to be. I grew up in Philadelphia; I spent a lot of time in New York. California offered more new things.
You've been in San Francisco for a long time! Is there another place that you'd like to make home base someday?
Paris, Rome. Sicily, Malta. Or somewhere else in the Mediterranean.
You've written for magazines, papers, and online. You've also finished a novel. Please tell me a little about it.
The novel called “Divisadero,” it’s set in 1997, in San Francisco. Two old friends are forced to live together and they ruin each other’s lives. It’s dark, but ultimately it’s about the main character’s last year as a cynical person.
Did you draw from personal experiences to write the novels?
I have written in the first person, so there is my voice in the novel. I find myself using stories about my friends or stories I've heard more rather than my own direct experiences.
Tell me about your short film.
I wanted to make a short, so I had to write something. I'm in the process of editing it. It's silent film about a woman who we meet in a pet cemetery and she's seeking revenge against motorists for running over pets. I was more interested in learning the very basics of how you conceive of a story with images and put it together; I was surprised how it turned out - like a page in an Edward Gorey book, even though I’ve never had interest in gothic stuff or that type of humor.
What were you doing in a pet cemetery?
There is a famous pet cemetery in the Presidio of San Francisco. And I would sometimes pass it on a walk and notice some of the interesting tombstones that people created by hand, so the story was inspired by one of them.
That's the first film that you've shot. Do you plan to realize other screenplays?
I'd probably try some more shorts. With this short, I was able to do it with very few resources and people and it came out better than I expected. I'm not sure if that would scale larger.
Inevitably, when we hang, your passion for jazz comes up.
I played clarinet in grade school - but I was taught classical and that awful band music. I wish I could play jazz, but also dance and speak other languages!
Dance like formal training? Or dance like boogie down?
Any of it. When I see Gene Kelly movies. Or “Les Demoiselles de Rochefort.” I don't really have much desire to go to dance in a club.
Gene Kelly makes you want to dance?
Yeah why not? Who makes you want to dance? Do you see videos on MTV and want to dance like Christina?
Absolutely! I want to dance like Sean Paul’s people.
You know the scene where he is dancing on the newspaper? Or "Good Morning" in “Singin in the Rain”? Those seem like great moments of cinema. I think it just expresses something different than what is expressed in dance on MTV today.
Yeah well MTV is over-sexed.
Every step is "I’m a sexy bitch" or "I’m a bad ass motherfucker.” Which is interesting for a song or two. Whereas with Gene Kelly, it's joy mixed with flourishes of reflection.
He was still saying, "I'm the man."
Sure he was masculine and competitive in the athletic sense. But in "Good Morning" it’s we stayed up all night talking and having fun (not necessarily fucking) and we are tired but lets dance and celebrate friendship. As cheesy as that sounds it’s a complex thing to express with dance.
But dance is very expressive!
Well it’s probably the art form that I have the least exposure to and the only exposure is the one note stuff on MTV. So when I mention Gene Kelly obviously I am as ignorant as can be about dance. "I like jazz when I hear 'It’s a Wonderful World" I know it’s that ignorant. But I recently went to see the Mark Morris dance group in Berkeley.
Did you enjoy the performance?
I went because the jazz group The Bad Plus was playing the score for the dance. And it was a good experience. I not only noticed the expressiveness of the dance but the composition of the dancers on the stage; the larger design of the movement.
Let’s go back and talk about jazz. How’d you discover jazz?
I became interested in jazz in high school, when you could see the very last tours of Dizzy Gillespie or Miles [Davis]. After listening to stuff like Sonic Youth and hardcore for a period, I listened to Jimi Hendrix. That led to funk and some of the more experimental music of the late 60s, which led to the fusion.
At one point I worked at a picture-framing store and this guy had this record collection from his brother who had died in a motorcycle accident. It was a lot of fusion, but also classic stuff. And he sold it to me at a very good price. Suddenly I had a record collection. Also in the late 80s, vinyl was worth shit and there were record stores in Philadelphia with jazz rooms where you could buy stuff for 50 cents a record.
So this guy's private collection somehow also helped you shape your likes and dislikes?
He had written his name on each album, in case he leant the records to a bad friend. Depending on which part of the sleeve and how large he wrote his name, I wondered about which records were his favorites. He had a diverse collection, so when I got into [John] Coltrane I already had ten Coltrane albums to explore, including the less popular ones. But there was also a bunch of Eddie Harris and Mahavishnu Orchestra, which I don’t listen to much anymore.
Having started listening on vinyl, is this still your preference for the music medium?
I have none of the romantic notions about vinyl that my younger friends have. Mainly I listen to high quality digital that I've ripped from my CD collection. It sounds better than old, weathered vinyl and I can listen to more of it. Also I check out Zoe’s streaming radio show, to stay in touch with what the kids are listening to.
You've intimately documented so many jazz musicians. Do you have a favorite?
Impossible to pick a favorite...I've probably spent the most time listening to Miles over the years, but on some level I prefer [Charles] Mingus or Coltrane. Their compositions and playing ultimately have more heart and, in Mingus’ case, wit.
What three albums would you advise jazz newbies to check out?
How about three recorded around the year Art Kane took his jazz portrait, 1958.
1. Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster (1957), "Encounters Ben Webster" - This album is far from the best either sax player performed. And it’s not in anyone’s top ten list – so most new listeners wouldn’t buy it. But it’s pure enjoyment and a good introduction to the way two friends communicate in this language.
2. Charles Mingus, "Live at Antibes" (1960) - With the exception of later Coltrane and Ornette Coleman - this has got to be one of the most intense live jazz records ever recorded, yet it’s very accessible. Rock fans should enjoy it.
3. Miles Davis "Porgy and Bess" (1958) – I’m guessing that everyone already has "Kind of Blue” (1959). “Porgy” is one of the great works of 20th century art, but it’s probably not as popular with new fans. Delicate and perfect, a good antidote to the Mingus CD.