Invisible Tempos of the Vanishing Assassin

by Alan Bishop

Perfect Sound Forever - April 2008

Photo by Mark Sullo
Jakarta 8/6/07:
On February 19th of the year 2007, Charles John Gocher Jr. departed this incarnation of himself and vanished into the great beyond. He was 54 years old in this particular lifetime. Along with my brother Rick (Sir Richard Bishop), I witnessed exactly half of that life...the very best half. We basically adopted him in 1982 as a member of our family. His last name is pronounced "Go-Shay" for all of you miscreants who have mispronounced it endlessly in the past and I have and shall continue to refer to him mostly as Gocher. A few times since he passed away, Perfect Sound Forever asked me to write a tribute piece for him to be published on their online website. I kept declining to do so because I couldn't quite wrap myself around the idea that Gocher was really gone, let alone begin reflecting upon his life as though he was a mere mortal who could actually die like the rest of you. Not that I concede that he was mortal, or that he'll ever be truly gone, but I finally got my head straight by the time I arrived here in Jakarta and that's a relief, because otherwise I may have written one of those ridiculous tribute pieces I've seen others write before. Jakarta always reprograms my perspective. I spent a week with Gocher here almost exactly 18 years ago. At that time, Rick and our old pal Manford Cain were on their way from Nias Island off the coast of Sumatra to meet us here. Charles picked up the Jakarta Post in a café and noticed a brief story about a boat from Nias which sank killing over 100 people. An hour later, Gocher and I broke into the U.S. Embassy--it was 8 PM and they had already closed...we saw people still milling around inside so we busted the half-cocked lock off the door and entered, Jakarta Post in hand, demanding some answers about that boat as the two desk clerks stared at us in absolute fear as if we were dropped from a spaceship. It took 30 seconds for the first machine gun to show up back then. If we tried that today, we'd be shot dead before we could get anywhere near the door.

Jakarta 8/7/07:
I've never had anything but love and respect for the man. He was a private and secretive individual and it seems like almost a betrayal of our friendship to reveal who he was to just anyone. I would have preferred that HE tell you of himself but he never got that opportunity because he had become very seriously ill by the time his one and only comprehensive interview was to be done and then died a week later. So you'll never know him as he intended unless someone transcribes his dozens of journals. And even that may not reveal who he truly was. The idea would be for you to understand? Is that it? How the fuck could you ever understand?

Jakarta 8/10/07:
Among other ways he occupied his time, Gocher was referenced by those in the music world as the drummer for Sun City Girls. But he was so much more than a "drummer".

Some have called Gocher the last great beatnik. Others have called him a mad genius. Several still believe he was a serial killer who was never caught. Many people were afraid of him or had no idea what to make of him. Whatever he was, few of you deserve to know of him. But regardless of how it appears to be, the artist always seeks and appreciates recognition of his work. He may not need or desire the money or the fame but he wants the respect. I'm talking about real artists, not the cheap replicas who fool the lot of you most of the time with their poor expressive capabilities and third rate bullshit. Acknowledgement and recognition is a form of respect. The artist may work his entire life at achieving some type of greatness (or as in this case, many forms) and the least of rewards would be some basic respect. But today, even respect or recognition comes with a price. A price of judgment and convenient categorization or being boxed in a culturally organized place for reference and historical context. Gocher had no place to be put. There is no category for him. And I'm not sure I've met anyone qualified to judge him. This deems any type of "historical recognition" abstract. Charles Gocher created for the few--a very few souls out there who could actually appreciate the sectors of his jurisdiction. I would know as I was one of them.

Photo by Charles Gocher

Jakarta 8/11/07:
Outsiders have barely broken ground in any attempt at a true and meaningful excavation of SCG or Gocher. And for Gocher moving beyond SCG, there remains the task of transcribing his stacks of assorted notebooks spanning 40 years...his 200 hours of video and film work, and his many unheard cassette recordings. He may have been the most interesting percussionist of his generation. He listened as he played in real time but he wasn't afraid to abuse with his music. And he was fearless of the concept of "mistake" or "error" and was the master of the invisible tempo. He had dozens of set routines and a million more ideas. He played everything from Cha Cha, Mambo, waltzes, calypso, bossa nova, voudoun, swing, blues, macumba, hard bop, out-bop, to shuffle beats, re-shuffled beats, surf beats, gamelan, illusions, silence and maelstroms of pure noise.....and he played it all HIS way. He played an 'Apache war kit'. He played the 'mystery feedback drum'. He was the Duke of Alcohol. He was 'Weird Jill' and he was 'Anon' AKA 'Lionel Seven'. And he was 'Pint-Sized Spartacus'. He was well beyond almost all of you. He also spent a fair amount of time making preparations to confuse his biographers even as far back as 25 years ago. How did he know there would be biographers in 1982? He admired Stravinsky, Bartok, and Wagner. He was left-handed and sinister. He was a poet, a narrator, a singer/songwriter, and a man of letters. He wrote screenplays, essays, and short stories. He wrote freestyle and he wrote rhymes. He wrote very clever lines. And he wrote very clever rhymes. He took notes. He spent a great amount of time at libraries. He never used a computer. Everything is on paper. He was incredibly charming and a fine gentleman. And he could convert arrogance into an instantaneous virtue. He was the aristocrat of impertinence. He did massive, methodical research on subjects that interested him such as organized crime and extremely random unorganized crime. And yet almost all who will read this haven't a clue what he had accomplished. Someday your children's children might. Maybe someday you'll learn how many of you he would have loved to murder...perhaps some of you he DID murder. "Invisible murders leave no clues". He always came up with great one-liners:

"My Father was one beautiful motherfucker"

"My mother's womb had a window so that I could see exactly what I was coming into"

"Your Bible set off my smoke alarm"

He played oven racks, hub caps, and pizza pans. He played jazz guitar...left-handed...with a right-handed guitar turned upside down of course. He played Miles Davis songs on rhythm guitar but his solo guitar style was like Charlie Parker. He was a scat singer. He listened to Eddie Jefferson and Sarah Vaughn. He sometimes played saxophone and piano. He growled like the devil himself. When he was in attack mode he would stand up behind his war kit and move around on stage...he was doing everything you couldn't see or notice. And when you started to see or notice it, he wasn't doing it.

He wasn't just a smoker, he was a professional smoker. He smoked over a half million cigarettes. He kept all of you at bay. He studied Philly Jo Jones, Jefferson Airplane, and Charles Ives. He was a filmmaker. He did things with cameras I've never seen anyone else do. His personality translates well on film. He liked to drink. He was a professional drinker. He was a madman and a raving lunatic to some but one man's lunatic is another man's shaman. He was a high priest of the outside and there is no one currently breathing who is remotely like him. If there was, he would have been somebody else.

The drum stool says "RESERVED"
Photo by Mark Sullo

Jakarta 8/13/07:
Gocher used to carry around an ant colony in his pants pocket in the form of a salt shaker filled with dirt, sugar, and a large collection of red ants burrowing within. He once brought a lawnmower to a SCG show and during the set, fired it up and ran it over several large trash bags filled with confetti. Afterwards, the confetti was stomped into the beer-soaked concrete floor and it took the manager the entire next day to remove it all with a scraper. At house parties in Arizona, he would hold court in the kitchens, playing oven rack concerts into the night or scat sing and dance till dawn. On tour in 1990, we visited the grave of Edgar Allen Poe in Baltimore and Charlie traded some new flowers he picked himself for the ones already on the grave. He later convinced a whole room of people at a late-night party to smoke those dried flowers from a pipe, claiming they had special powers from the spirit of Poe. There wasn't a soul in the room who refused to smoke them. Regardless of how absurd or impractical he could be, people trusted him and listened to him, hanging on every word. And on the other side of the world, there he was as an aloof be-bop version of Peter Pan in a village in Sumatra 18 years ago playing a wooden flute leading a pack of 50 children all over town with the good citizens watching nervously along the way in disbelief as if an alien had landed from beyond and was taking their children away. And there was the John Coltrane "Live in Seattle" SCG show that Gocher organized, researched, and presented. He also promoted the show with flyers advertising that SCG would play John Coltrane's "Live in Seattle Record" in the exact same location that Coltrane's group had performed 30 years prior. It was the only SCG show that he had ever truly put together from start to finish. He discovered that the exact venue where Coltrane's group had performed in Seattle in the 1960's had become an Indian restaurant in Pioneer square. He convinced the owner to allow him to setup the equipment there in the restaurant for the show. When enough people had arrived that night wondering how SCG would be "playing" John Coltrane's "Live in Seattle" show, Gocher cracked a smile, got up from his seat and dramatically walked over to a hidden turntable and gently placed the needle on the actual Coltrane LP, then sat back down to finish his drink.

But this is all anecdotal. His greatest moments are reserved for those who could perceive them for their full-effect, as he was light years ahead of most of you and your shallow, socially-engineered points of reference, sorry.

Jakarta 8/14/07:
Gocher was a methodical creator. He took his time and worked slowly on his crafts. But he always delivered the goods. Have I mentioned yet that he was one of the great free-playing drummers to ever exist? I could make a case for him as THE greatest ever but who would believe me? I was too close to him so of course I'm biased. In fact, I was so close that I watched him play from a few feet away for a quarter century and what I've seen him do with a kit eclipses what I've seen anyone else do. He also wrote some of the most challenging, fascinating and disturbing song lyrics of all time. Really. I'm not joking. In the history of the English language, you cannot name anyone else who has any greater lyrical chops than Gocher. I'll give you a million dollars if you can name someone else greater. I don't have a million dollars but I won't need it because you cannot provide a name. Songs like "I Protect you from me," "The Brothers Unconnected," "Bird of Prey" and "The Book of Revelations" run circles around whoever's on the tip of your tongue right now. But you wouldn't realize that yet, would you? And why's that? And he could scat sing Charlie Parker solos note for note and create some of the most unique folk cinema ever made which few of you have yet to experience. And so you were saying...who else can you name that is like him-or comes close? That's OK, take all the time you want. Go ahead and think about it for a while and get back to me when you come up with a name. OK, you can sleep on it. Call me in a week....a month...a year. Let me know. Thanks, I appreciate it.

Jakarta 8/17/07 (Merdeka):
Gocher was beyond legend. True folklore (not the phony garbage created by institutions that get paid to create it which many of you are too deeply invested in, unable to recognize you've been duped, and therefore remain our enemies forever as infected bacteria) can only exist today thanks to the few like Charles Gocher. But now the Apache war kit has fallen silent. That kit actually held water-the drum kit belongs under a fluid source operated by the Fawcett master. All the others-a bit rigid, too angular or tasteful, programmed, too tight -the best of which were not quite up to the true standards of the flow and never as omni-dimensional as Gocher who was the only one who could truly play it as water. That's right, amateur-you have no fucking clue. Why are there a billion great ideas out there that people like Gocher could utilize over time with geologic patience at getting to them because he knew you fucking idiots will never ever in a billion years think of them because you're all plugged into the wrong outlets. Why is that? Did he get lucky? Is it arrogant to challenge other artists to crank it up a notch? Of course but remember, arrogance is a virtue. Don't you think he wanted competition or some contemporary inspiration? Where was it? It's lonely at the top of the food chain and by losing Gocher, it got even lonelier.

Yogyakarta 8/22/07:
I've been coming to Indonesia the past few years working on film and music projects and before each trip, Charlie would say he wanted to come along so this time I've been wearing a Gocher ring made by a friend. I've had it on since I left Seattle. The ring's image is of the classic photo of Charles holding up a Polaroid picture of himself. Everyone here is very interested in the ring so I keep telling stories about him whenever someone asks about it. I walked past the Hotel Indonesia off of Malioboro Street in Yogyakarta and it appeared to look the same as it did 18 years ago. We spent 2 weeks at that hotel. I still remember his lone pair of socks hanging by the window stinking up the place. The Kuda Kepang troupe that performed every night out on the main drag in front of the Mutiara hotel has been kicked out of the city because the local tourist council doesn't want possession trance, tall intimidating dukuns with cracking whips, kerosene guzzling fire-breathers, or light bulb swallowers frightening the pansy-ass Americans, Australians, or Europeans who flock here to purchase Batik clothing and other handicrafts and occasionally take in the finer, more civilized cultural events like Wayang Kulit and Javanese Gamelan rehearsals. Gocher and I almost joined that troupe and never came back. I've noticed a fair amount of Becak drivers breaking into spontaneous song. I wonder which ones we may have hung out with, talking music, magic, rebellion, and religion late into the nights back then...some of those guys must still be around here. I can't think of much other than Gocher walking these streets. Too many vivid memories-- as if I had them buried in coffins and shipped to the depths of my skull for almost two decades and by returning here, they have risen back to life.

Photo by Mark Sullo

Yogyakarta 8/23/07:
Gocher pissed me off so many fucking times it was pathetic--yet I managed to ignore it. I let it all go. I'd have done anything for him. He was my brother. And so you want me to write about my brother Charles Gocher? Most of you fucking hipsters and supposed music aficionados didn't even know how to spell or pronounce his fucking name until I mentioned it above here. Assholes. You can't deal with the abstract OR the finer details. What good are you? Why am I writing this fucking piece anyway?

Surakarta 8/25/07:
Gocher was about hating as much as he was about loving. Maybe he hated more than he loved. If Charles liked you, he'd let you know and you would be aware of it. Those who knew him well enough to be a part of his world will always cherish that fact. He had few real friends. He liked it that way. He would rather do something his way and have his peace of mind than to interact with others-he simply didn't want to deal with it and he didn't want to deal with you.

He spoke of death constantly. He spoke of killing YOU. He studied crime and the criminal mind. He imagined scenarios and possibilities of criminal activities of all types and would also predict and analyze law enforcement tactics and investigatory procedures in an attempt to theorize as many perfect crimes as he could imagine. It's safe to say and perhaps an understatement to express that Gocher had a healthy disdain for mankind. It cannot be emphasized enough that disdain for humanity, if channeled effectively and for a period of many years, is the true secret of the most amazing and transcendent artists of our time. Without a fair amount of hatred towards your fellow man, you will be without the most explosive and expressive tool in all of art-you will never attain the heights ascended by those who possess it-and few of them owned it like Gocher. He owned a style, a brand, a patent of hatred that was his own unique contribution to his creative endeavors. And this hatred for all of humanity and its inferior appendages, life experiences, and sad-pathetic universe of irrelevance is not only the key to creating the best art, music, and literature-but it is also a necessity in order to decipher or attempt judgment or critical review or discussion of such art, music, or literature. So if we have this separation between us, how can we proceed here? What's a full-grown Bengal Tiger got to say to a roomful of crickets? I wouldn't park a Rolls Royce next to an AMC Pacer. Gocher would have put the Bengal Tiger in the Rolls Royce and rammed it through the window of your fucking living room.

Surakarta 8/26/07:
Why not set your sights higher and immediately advance to King? That's what Gocher did. Why mull around in a piglet suckling broth of fart juice and bad breath? Just head straight for the top, let the shit spray 360 degrees and spit it all out like there's no yesterday, today, tomorrow, or the morning after you slaughter Maureen McGovern in her nightgown Poseidon suite immediately after bludgeoning the ship captain with a tire iron. I'm sure there are plenty of you right now wishing you could shape-shift into Leon Klinghoffer screaming that you don't deserve this treatment but Gocher would have thrown you overboard too, you fucking mollusks.

So you can plainly observe here that I am brokering between two entirely different types of organisms. Not only is the kingdom ripe for the taking but he took it, fucked it, screwed around on it, destroyed it, rebuilt it, fucked around with it again in its rebuilt form, annihilated it, etc. And you: music fan, journalist, artist, 'musician', aspiring filmmaker, photographer, or whoever else reads articles like these are sitting around ingesting kindergarten essays about whether or not a toothbrush is a gardening instrument on a moth-flickering Wednesday in the lower-colon stench of a Budweiser download. And you, any of your ilk, or your commoner legions of followers are ready to deal with Gocher? Gocher has already slaughtered you when you weren't paying attention. He aborted your fetus with a silk thread-go write about how impossible that is to accomplish with a coat hanger dipped in fresh embryo blood-or better yet, paint it! PLAY IT. Shoot it. Go ahead and write it FUCKSTICK! Prove me wrong. I'm not holding my breath.

Bandung 8/30/07:
I suppose that we really have only one option left. We need to have a filtering process to eliminate all those who are ineligible to find out anything further about the life of one Mister Charles Gocher Jr. And yes, Gocher had his many faults and weaknesses yet he still sits atop a throne because he ignored all you fucking tadpole breeders and the false universe you have invested in to uphold...and he did it by side-stepping the entire clown-drip and phony handshake cockamamie fried prog-electro-art fag PC dance festival you people worship and grabbed his spot in the pantheon of kings. He walked right through you-all of you-he blew straight through your brick wall ideologies, he jumped over your photocopied personalities and erased your imaginary borders and your clique-fuck guest lists---he whistled Dixie and pissed all over the infant wading pool you all wax on and on about as "genius" and he chose his own fucking seat. He shined it up-custom designed the chair real nice-set up shop and never let go. He never backed down from his responsibility as a King.

Meanwhile, all you middle-managers and the mug snouts who sip your swine drip spent a quarter century in expertly crafted meaningless bliss actually believing you sucked all the best music in the world through a noise pedal-beat-box-drone-sampler-indy rock-guitar-looped Roland-toned ass-bubble up a 6-inch straw from a drive-through latte.

Jakarta 9/1/07:
So you wanna learn all about Charles Gocher-Charles John Gocher Jr... You wanna find out what you were missing all along do you? How about the REAL Burning Nerve Ending Magic Trick?-A few Helicopters in a vacuum-or some Metaphors in a Mixmaster under a dim green sun with my old friend the future sitting in Saint Bernard's Observation Booth protecting you from me cuz Mamma's Milk is Too Dry? How about an Old Eyeball in a Quart Jar of Snot because I can't seem to find a pair of pants that rhyme with Horsecock Phepner or Papa Legba--cuz all the knowledge resides at the Rhine Maiden's Palatial Mountain Retreat where the Reflection of a Young Boy Eating Out of a Can of Dog Food on a Shiny Red Christmas Ornament was only a Constructive Illusion and old man Jessup cut Marilyn's plastic lips off in order to be able to drive deep to the lake bologna school of hair drying straight through to the heart of the Lincoln a cholera epidemic. Or maybe you'd rather go to church on Sunday and drink the urine of Jesus Christ? Or get fucked in the ass so hard, you'll need a wheelchair? And if a man is an insect is a flame, maybe he made up this story that ain't so nice but I'm sure it's probably happened once or twice to the boy with the red and white cane. But if you die, don't come to me- I don't think in symbols or play in key because I chewed all the skin off my finger and spit it in a rubber you could take all my troubles and convert them into love...and I don't believe in explanations because explanations only come from liars and they've got a lot of stuffed-shirts down there but nobody's in I wanna go to the moon and take your skull...and crack it off...because that finger, you know the one that got cut-off over at the sheet metal factory a couple of years ago? got found in a well gnawed by rats...and YOU?...I bet you eat two bales a day and lie like a saddle tramp...someday your face will adorn my knife and look like a cancelled postage stamp...but, for now, you can go to Helen Waite.....she'll be happy to keep a record of your fate.

Alan Bishop

(Jakarta/Yogyakarta/Surakarta/Bandung- August 2007)

Photo by Richard Bishop