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Give notice, give away
Your personal property
Your illusions killing you dead
You deserve peace of mind for yourself
There's room for us all
– Hot Snakes, Plenty For All
Somewhere there's a photo of me sitting in a room with Obits while they were interviewed on WFMU in Jersey City in 2009. It was just the band, the DJ, the engineer, and me for some reason I still don't entirely understand. I was introduced to their singer and guitarist Rick Froberg – who had also been in Hot Snakes and Drive Like Jehu – before the interview and I'm sure we had a polite exchange, but all I remember was focusing on not saying anything in front of him that I'd later regret. I just wanted to be in the room. I wanted to watch them play from the control room and not bother anyone. Watching that set is still a highlight of my young adult life.
I don't remember a lot from that period of time. So much so that I completely forgot that my old band played a basement show with Obits the following year. I can say with certainty that I stood in the back of the room with my bandmate saying "this is crazy, this is crazy, this is crazy."
When I heard about Rick's passing last weekend of natural causes, it also didn't compute. He was only 55. It doesn't make any sense.
I looked to Rick as an example of a punk lifer who made both art and music with equal mastery - a creative force writing and playing and drawing the fiercest, weirdest, most beautiful things. Someone who can create things like that, seemingly without concern for public recognition, is the absolute coolest in my book.
Combining fine art and illustration, making album covers while pursuing his own strange drippy style, he matched his visual work to the slightly off-kilter guitars in all of his bands. Somewhere between traditional pen and ink illustrations and surrealist scribbling, his artwork could sit in a gallery just as easily as on a record cover.
His songs fit perfectly somewhere between the Marked Men and Fugazi, a spectrum that explains a lot about my taste in music. I knew I might never write a song as tough and fierce yet fun as Hot Snakes, but I'll admit that I listened to their album Suicide Invoice about a million times before I sat down to write "They / Them / Theirs."
After too many apartment moves I've resigned myself to no longer being a record collector. But if I'm at a record store I always look for an original pressing of Suicide Invoice. That's always the one. Still haven't found it.
I discovered his music through friends who had already been emphatic fans for years via Drive Like Jehu. I know I don't have much to add to his remembrance beyond being a big fan, but this is my way of suggesting that you go listen to all of his records. Now no one can say I never told you.
RIP Rick Froberg.
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