As conjecture and lore is all there is, I’ll just tell you what I know. Legend has it that the story begins, as most of these sort of mythological tales do, on the road, with a chance conversion with a great and wise woman named The Priest.
After escaping from the rigorous training of the renowned Czech piano/gymnastics academies, Heidi ‘H Reality’ Diehl came to the United States using the frequent flyer miles of an altruistic donut-maker. Barely a teenager, she stayed in a trailer beside a carnival, occasionally picking up odd jobs (and at the carnival, there were only odd jobs) and constructing large-scale Earthworks. Eventually she decided to skip town. Hitchhiking for days, the young runaway rode hundreds of miles with the benevolent Priest, who trained her in guitar playing and ancient spellcasting.
Cosmic coincidence led the pair to a Tavern on the crust of the Hudson River called the G Spot, where Heidi happened to catch a one act show by a man calling himself King Arthur. He had his socks pulled over his shoes and wore a mustache and cape. The audience of drunks and hussies booed and hissed at the young artist, with whom Heidi felt an immediate affinity. After the show, she approached the stranger, who was still wiping blood from his eyes from where bottles had crashed, and introduced herself. The two hit it off immediately. “You wanna ride with me to St Louis? I’m sort of on this tour.” Heidi looked around for The Priest, but she was nowhere in sight. Before she knew it, she was in the stranger’s abominable blue van heading south.
“I’m Steven,” The Stranger spoke, as the newly christened King Arthur Band made their way along the southeast United States. “This is Angel Baby,” he added, waving his hand over the plush expanse of the blue van. Heidi and Steven would open for blues bands, insulating and protecting one another from the usual perils that obfuscate the path of many such wandering truth-tellers. In Brooklyn they met a kindred spirit the moment an opening act called Violenceburg took the stage.
The band was your standard four-bar, two drink ticket blues band, but was led by a thin, bespectacled young man who didn’t seem to fit. The man was Glucose “Nonhorse” Crane and this was to be his last gig with the band. Glucas spent the full, uninterrupted 70 minutes of the band’s set flailing about, changing lyrics to well known standards and replacing them with scientific theories, book recommendations, and off color jokes. It was the most unhinged performance Steven and Heidi had ever seen. They approached the stage door as soon as the band was finished, but were stopped short by the conversation taking place stage left.
“That’s it – you’re out of the fucking band, Nonhorse,” said one of the longhairs in the band, his eyebrows dripping with sweat. Glucas stammered “b-but…” but couldn’t get the words out. “Yeah,” said another, “this was your last chance. Here’s a bus ticket. Have a nice life, asshole.”
Dejected, Glucas turned to begin his long walk toward the bus station when he was met with two smiling faces. “Wanna join our band?” Heidi asked. Glucas, in no position to haggle, asked the name of the band. “That’s a retarded name. It’ll be The Vanishing Voice or it will be nothing.” Heidi and Steven thought for a minute, but it was s short minute. They saw in Lucas’s eyes a sort of wisdom they had never seen before, and, following a brief huddle, decided to add Glucas to the lineup. The Vanishing Voice was born.
Over drinks, Steven and Heidi learned that their new friend Glucas had been a child prodigy, raised beneath wisteria trees in Brooklyn, NY, who had written several books before he was even legal to drink. His writing included a book about socialized topic logisitics, an academic article about evolution, and a New York Times bestseller about linguistic proliferation and erosion. Upon graduating from the Junior College for the Gifted and Talented (JC-GT), Glucas served in the US Army for seventeen months, eventually going AWOL from both a Virginia bootcamp and his first wife, who is a drummer and lives on a houseboat in Los Angeles. The next ten years were spent in France, where he ran the local open turntable night in Dijon. Upon his return to the US, he lost his entire fortune sponsoring an epileptic race car driver.
“Let’s sell your bus ticket and try to find a good dumpster,” suggested Heidi. “I’m craving bagels!”
“Sell the bus ticket? Find a dumpster?” Glucas asked. “Shit, man, we don’t need any of that. We’ve got a van!” His voice lowered as he laid out the plan. “I got a rich friend up in Connecticut—her stepdad’s that actor Brian Dennehy, and she lives in a mansion. She’ll have the servants cook us up something good. I’ll drive. Let’s go.”
Satya Sai Baba sensed her old friend Glucas had arrived even before the doorman had announced his presence. She was getting her daily manicure / pedicure earlier that morning, reading an old Sufism Today magazine, when a strange wave of excitement swept over her, and she just knew that something exciting was about to take place. Finally, she thought, a chance to rid herself of this horrible place, with its’ dollar sign shaped swimming pool, impossibly ostentatious décor, and staircases that reached the moon. Her natural psychic abilities had been discouraged for too long.
“Food?” She asked her three visitors, surprised. “Is that all you want?” She sighed heavily and pointed a jeweled hand towards one of the four dining rooms, where a hot meal was always available just in case someone dropped by.
Satya picked a bit at some mashed potatoes while her three friends ate heartily. Steven wasted no time in asking if the three could hide out in the mansion for a while. After all, Heidi, still only fourteen and wanted by the law, and several concert promoters along the East Coast and many rival scientists and theological scholars were offering large bounties on Glucas’s head.
“Sure,” Satya said, “you can stay on the 6th floor. No one’ll never find you there. I can barely find it myself sometimes.” The three friends exchanged glances, hardly able to believe their luck. “But I’m leaving here tomorrow, and I’ll need your van,” said Satya, pushing away her plate.
Satya had planned to meet up with a lovesick ex-firefighter with the unlikely moniker of John Jehovah, who lived secretly below a radioactive landfill called Fresh Kills with his uncle, Cut Above. Satya had been in touch with John ever since she was saddled with the duty of answering her stepfather’s fan mail. She became obsessed with John’s devotion to her father’s films, and the strange pathos that a quick handwriting analysis made apparent. If she was looking for excitement, she was certain she’d find it with the disgraced ex-civil servant and occasional guitar picker, who was certain to smell of orange rinds and coffee grounds.
It took some convincing, but The Vanishing Voice followed Satya to Fresh Kills to meet the enigmatic John Jehovah, who claimed in his letters to subsist only on strawberries and water. He and Cut Above had been planning to start a heavy metal band, and was hoping his rich penpal would bankroll the project.
As luck would have it, John and his uncle were out on I-278 hitchhiking when a strange blue van passed and then quickly stopped. John quickly rushed to the window and, not immediately recognizing Satya from her pictures in the society pages he often used as a blanket, spoke. “Thank you so much,” he said between breaths. “We’ve been out here for eleven fucking hours.”
“Well, it’s no wonder, John,” said Satya, smiling slyly, “you look like child molesters. Hop in.”
From here the story gets weird. For two years, the group, sans Cut Above who was quickly arrested for public urination in Sweetwater, Texas, has been traveling across the country playing music together. The quintet has somehow hoodooed several reputable record labels into promoting their strange sounds. In rare interviews, they notoriously introduce themselves as one another, perhaps unintentionally, and seem fiercely guarded and loyal to each other at all times. Despite rumored gang affiliations, the group seems, as a unit, almost delicate, if not downright cuddly.
During my one and only personal contact with the group, I immediately realized something was rotten when a tall man, positively identified to me by several privy onlookers as bandmember Glucas “Nonhorse” Crane, extended his hand and introduced himself to me as Heidi Diehl.
When I asked spiritual navigator Satya Sai about the band’s influences, I was given what I assumed to be the run around. “We’re into movies and shit, man, you know?” was the positively bored response. Looking disinterested, the tall, redheaded defector suddenly became animated. “Got a cigarette?” she asked. “I just sold my last one to Nate Young for this Aerosmith T-shirt.”
Lead guitarist Steven the Harvester, who inexplicably insisted I refer to him as ‘Jarvis’ for the duration of our interview, was clearer, if only somewhat. “Nowadays it’s all about labels, man, but I don’t know about this posi-youth, fire music, rosary blues, or whatever they’re saying about us,” he said, “That’s what they call for, but what the people don’t dig is the blood. They think they want it but nobody’s trying to taste some.”
He paused reflectively and then summed it all up thusly: “It’s like…all we got is us, man.”
released 13 September 2005
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