"Indie writer/musician Adam Gnade is a lot like Neutral Milk Hotel’s beautific, canonical “Oh Comely;” he makes you feel resilient and centered as life and all its context tries to beat you down. The “Oh Comely” comparison is apt, as Gnade dedicated his Do-It Yourself Guide To Fighting The Big Motherfuckin’ Sad, an indispensable literary antidepressant, to the song. Through projects both literary and otherwise, it’s clear he knows what he does well. And so it goes with Life Is The Meat Grinder That Sucks In All Things, a great new odds-and-sods LP that features one epic narrative/soundscape and a collection of solo, acoustic guitar demos.
Gnade is best when he’s finding threads in his work to connect with others and, in this, I look to his year-defining Run Hide Retreat Surrender, a real gem that was modern-day riffing on an On The Road-style cross-country trip. A song-cycle of sorts, it loosely tied together Gnade’s narratives and thoughts about a trek with friends from the West Coast to the East. But, above all, it chronicled a kind of loss of innocence, a growth, a maturation, a sensing that things change. Almost 12 years later, I still find myself turning to it, searching.
The title song on the new LP, available on Bandcamp, concerns itself (very loosely) with 9/11 and characters like Agnes McCanty whose lives touch its themes of death and rebirth. (There’s also a demo on the second half of the record about Agnes.) And, while Planet B – which provides occasional percussion, found sounds such as mattresses of TV static, and scissor-cuts of white-noise on the title track — could do more to fill the space on the 25-minute-long short-story, Gnade is the real star and holds your attention, fixated, if you give yourself over to him. Again, this sense of transition, this loss of innocence, this repetitive feeling that things change and you need to survive – it all looms large.
'This was before / before we learned to hate America / before we lost grip on the dream / before we saw the holes in the story we grew up with / before it was tough to find work,' Gnade speaks in the talking-song. 'Before it got harder to get through the day / before paranoia / before doubt / before anxiety / before compromise / before we turned on each other / before now / where it’s a new killing every day until we’re blind to it / where we’re all so spread apart / where love is stress / and work is stress / and family is stress / this was before.'
I interviewed Gnade years ago and was surprised he didn’t see himself in the tradition of spoken-word artistry, which his narrations over music echo. (His demos here, it should be noted, are rough drafts for the title piece.) His delivery and presentation are plain – often dryly spoken words, recorded simply, over found sounds or, as on the demos, repeating motifs on acoustic guitar. But the words can be enveloping. The new record is an excellent point of entry that will leave you wanting to find more. Haven’t heard of Gnade? You owe it to yourself to read between the lines and track him down." - Justin Vellucci, PopDose.com
"Life Is The Meatgrinder That Sucks In All Things, a collaboration between prolific author Adam Gnade and Planet B, which consists of Justin Pearson (Struggle, Swing Kids, Crimson Curse, Locust, …) / Gabe Serbian (Cattle Decapitation, Holy Molar, …) / Luke Henshaw (producer extraordinaire), is a prequel to Gnade’s last book, Locust House. It documents a time and place which folks in my age range look back on very fondly; a golden era, pre 9/11, pre internet boom, when life seemed simpler, more primal, more dangerous. Being fed by oil stained hands into the maws of the military industrial complex fueled by late stage capitalism. Adam’s writing exudes a wholesomeness, a lightness of being, a way of cutting through the external bullshit to shed light on who people really are at the core of things.
This tape, in an edition of 100 copies, focuses on Joey from Gnade’s excellent Caveworld book and San Diego at the turn of the century. A time when one could catch The Plot To Blowup The Eiffel Tower playing with Terror at Che Cafe, people watch at Pokez, and go to a house party at the mythic Golden Hill House. He recites the story in a post-apocalyptic tone, reminding me of the best of the beats, while the music backing Adam is skronky, minimal synth jazz, like Delia Derbyshire jamming with Pharoah Sanders. The B side of the tape are songs that Adam recorded on his own with a homemade four string guitar at the Hard Fifty Farm, a small Kansas farm of rescue animals he works along with others at Pioneers Press.
I can’t say enough good things about this tape, how life affirming Adam’s stories are, how they buoy you up during dark times like that 45 you played over and over again during your first major heartbreak. Buy this tape and then go buy everything that Adam Gnade has released. You’ll be thankful that you did." - TabsOut.com
“Locust House is so dense, so angry, and so honest, and so everything that we need today to survive in the world. Adam Gnade is the kind of talent who will remind you how necessary it is to stay human, stay empathetic, stay true, stay punk. For that, I thank him.” – Szilvia Molnar, author of Soft Split
“Locust House is a love letter to a time: San Diego, the early 2000s, the moment in youth right before cynicism slips in. Like any true love letter, it accounts not just beauty and tenderness, but the dirty repercussions of love–the betrayals, the pain, the deaths.” – Juliet Escoria, author of Black Cloud
“Adam Gnade’s Locust House is a vast and eloquent document only he could tell. Full of life, loss, and a one of a kind ‘beyond’ that takes the reader through dimensions of humanity, sound and vision encapsulated in a tiny window of time never to be repeated again. A testament to Southern California’s ‘glory days’ of recklessness, abandon, and blistering underground music, Locust House burned in my hands until the end with fresh, unbridled joy.” – Eric Wood of Bastard Noise
"Locust House reads like James Joyce and E. Annie Proulx had a lovechild and dropped him into the punk scene of early ‘00s San Diego, and then 15 years later he wrote a novella. Adam Gnade has managed to pack more energy, story, and feeling into this novella than you will find in most full-length novels. It’s as though he’s written the literary equivalent of the 45-second songs he mentions in the book. It’ll fuck you up like the best music, and like the best music, it’ll haunt you long after you read the final sentence.” –Jessie Lynn McMains, author of the forthcoming What We Talk About When We Talk About Punk, Poet Laureate of Racine, Wisconsin
“There’s something so totally fucking intimate about a well-written book about incendiary events that the words just blow an IMAX experience away as a meaningless Hollywood effect. You’re not just viewing from a distance–you’re fucking in it, in it, in it. Adam recalls in one part the first time music did it for him, maaan, thanks for reminding me about how words can do it for me. Got lost in it, all of it!” -Martin Atkins of Ministry, Pigface, P.I.L.
“Locust House makes me want to call up all of my teenage punk friends to ask if they ever still listen to those same CDs. Locust House confirms that I already know the answer. I feel nostalgic. I feel hopeful, I felt everything at once when I read the words, ‘I wasn’t cool but I was free.'” – Lucy K. Shaw, author of The Motion, co-editor of the Shabby Dollhouse Reader
“We work so hard at trying to exist, subconsciously looking at each other to find a cool belief to identify with. Survival without a solid foundation is brutal. I envy this particular S.D. crew coming together through the most extreme music/chaos–total excitement, totally identified. I really wish I’d gone to the Locust House with the Blood Brothers, I remember being invited to go. Man … ” - Ross Robinson, music producer of Head Wound City, At the Drive-In, The Cure, Blood Brothers, and others
“Blink and it’s over. Hits like a plauge of locusts. Windmilling unabashedly between the extremes of confidence, spiraling doubt, blood, fire, loneliness, siblinghood, and self-righteousness; grandiose and earnest but too cool to be in the room and desperate to belong to something better at the same time. Wait, was I supposed to be talking about the bands or the book?” - Julia Eff, author of Every Thug is a Lady: Adventures Without Gender
“Locust House eats the heart of Saturday Nite. Then worries that the meat was rancid, if it was meat at all? Forces itself to puke, and always fights for another taste. Adam grinds starry innocence against sinister abuses of trust, the tectonic shifting of once-close friends and other nicks of ordinary life shitty-ness to produce an honest work that shows what it loves and will make you feel, in a rare way, connected.” –John-Vincent Greco author of Torch Ballads and Death in a Rifle Garden
“Locust House could only have been written by someone who lived firsthand the ethos of the San Diego punk movement, someone who sweated and bled in the house party basements. Adam Gnade writes with the kind of passion and empathy that most writers take decades to achieve. His writing is somehow both youthful and wise, funny and sad. He tells stories about San Diego with the kind of love and nuance that only a native could have. His writing will lift you up then punch you in the gut, and you’ll thank him for it.” – Bart Schaneman, author of Someplace Else
"Gnade has been prolifically releasing music and books for about eleven years, and his newest novella, Locust House, is being published by Pioneers Press in collaboration with Three One G, a record label run by Justin Pearson of the brutally spastic hardcore band The Locust (the band is referred-to in the book, the title isn’t a coincidence). Locust House is ostensibly a night-in-the-life story of a concert at a punk flophouse getting broken up by the police (and if it was based on a real-life show, it would have been a pretty fucking epic night), but the plot is only an excuse to take us deep into the inner lives of the characters, something at which Gnade excels. Among other themes, he explores scene members’ changing relationships to music and community as life advances, viscerally nailing that discrete, unrepeatable, life-altering thrill one gets when the right music hits the right young brain at the right time. It’s a feeling I’d love to have again, and reading Gnade’s words persuasively re-immersed me in that experience. (It also made me wonder if he’s read Ageing and Youth Cultures.)" - dangerousminds.net
"Rather than sentimentally recount scenes from a bygone era, Gnade chooses to use varying narrators and formats to paint a vivid portrait of post-9/11 San Diego. Much of the book is told in first-person narrative by characters like Frances and Tyler, who offer almost an oral history. These reflections are often heartbreakingly poignant, but it’s in the other chapters, where Gnade tells the tale of a day in the life of a young punk girl named Agnes McCanty, that he really shines as a writer. There’s also a short story of a young couple living in Golden Hill that is a touching and picturesque snapshot of the neighborhood just as the grit was giving way to gentrification." - San Diego CityBeat
"Locust House deals in sharp, affecting portraits of hopeless kids using spastic noise-punk as a bonding agent. It explains what brought these characters to the same show, and how those radical ideas either stuck with them as they aged or became a distant memory. Gnade doesn’t exalt either side; instead he uses Locust House as a way of exploring the myriad ways people can grow together or grow apart after being steeped in a subculture. In many ways, Locust House ends up functioning like a song by one of the aforementioned bands: short, chaotic, and hyper-resonant. That is, if you’re willing to look for the beauty hidden beneath the racket. " - A-V Club.com
"The decision to explore punk and what it means to the author through a fictional lens of a house show is insightful and smart, primarily because anyone in punk has been there. And when there is a punk house where the residents are throwing one last party before they leave, it makes it all that much bigger. The fact that Gnade focuses on a show in San Diego featuring the Locust, Blood Brothers, De Facto, and Moving Units makes it even greater." - Razorcake
"Honestly, I’m at a complete loss for words. This single book blew me away hardcore. My friend, Rebecca, was the one to first show me the work of Adam Gnade and I was totally shocked. The rawness and the realness of the words I was reading made me squeal at some points while reading, because I don’t think I’ve ever read something quite like this before. I was underlining and tagging this book like crazy and I’m so glad that it exists.
Agnes’s story was a hard thing to read, rough times are always hard to read, but it was so great. Frances, James, and Tyler were all so different but so connected in ways I couldn’t even imagine. This view of America and society and community, it’s like all the things I’ve wanted to try to say right on the page in front of me. Although it’s short, it’s not sweet. It’s a look at the reality of relationships, the past, present, future, and world from the point of view of people living it, told through Gnade. Adam, you rock dude. This book is truly LIFE CHANGING." - Plague of Books
"Locust House is a novella-length rumination on a time, a place, and a culture. It’s an impressionistic love letter to San Diego’s fringe music scene, circa 2002. It is beautiful, unsettling, and immersive.
Gnade presents readers with a handful of misfit characters who orbit San Diego's gritty noise-punk milieu and frequent the Locust House—a home-turned-concert venue, rented and operated by the members of The Locust during the early 2000s. Some of these characters know each other, some don’t. However, they’re all drawn to The Locust's extreme, envelope-pushing music. They are propelled by feelings of alienation, deep political convictions, existential angst, and shitty relationships. They desire something raw and extraordinary in a society brimming with flatlining culture and post-9/11 paranoia. These characters, I should mention, are all secondary to the sights, sounds, smells, and ephemeral feelings that are lyrically detailed in the novella.
Gnade deals heavily in fleeting moods, moments, and atmospheres—not so much in conventional story. Don’t start this book anticipating a plot. Don’t go in expecting traditional character development. The characters of Locust House are more the means than the ends.
And it's worth noting that Gnade’s focus on setting and rich sensory details flies right in the face of current literary conventions. For that reason, Locust House was a breath of fresh air.
When done right, I love a good savory ramble. And Gnade pulls it off deftly. The world of Locust House is made entirely palpable for the reader—the frenetic music, the drugs, the dingy apartments, the steaming elotes locos. All of it." - Neon Grisly
"Adam Gnade calls his new book, Locust House, a novella, and it falls within the page range of that designation, but I think of it as more of a hybrid literary form, as a partly fictionalized, meditative memoir. Were prose of this sort written a hundred years ago, it would likely have found good company beside the modernist novels of John Dos Passos and Virginia Woolf. Told through myriad perspectives from the vantage of current-day 2016 about events that happened one day in March 2002 at the Locust House in the Golden Hill neighborhood of San Diego, its composition often resembles the disordered flow of consciousness that might follow a serious bout of drinking, as one awakens and tries to piece together a narrative of the previous night, struggling to distinguish between memories of real and dreamed events while fighting a killer hangover.
Chapter 1 tells the story of Agnes McCanty, a young woman in crisis whom we meet as she stands at the grave of Michael the Bear, her father’s uncle, the man who basically raised Agnes after her mom died and her dad was sent to prison. He called her Hummingbird, and she remembers him as a man of many sayings, such as “Enjoy life violently but never be violent,” some of which cling to her consciousness as we hear her story. We learn about Agnes’ life in Golden Hill, about her terrible boyfriend Steven (we overhear him suggest to a coworker that a bunch of them should gang rape her), about how she was in a punk band called Pale of Shit, how she got a tattoo above her left breast of a one-winged locust, and how she eventually made her way to Kansas. All of these events are witnessed through a montage of scenes presented in a blur of flashbacks.
Chapter 2 begins as a disorienting fly-on-the-wall narrative whose unnamed narrator functions as a sort of spectral guide, giving us a tour around Golden Hill and eventually introducing us to the remaining cast of characters—James, Frances, and Tyler—who are on their way to a house party on E. Street, where a number of bands are supposed to play later that night. The house itself is known by many names, including the E. Street House and the Avocado Club, but it’s also named after the band The Locust, whose members live in it, and so Frances calls it The Locust House. The house, and the events that happen on the night of March 29, 2002, serve as the nucleus around which every character’s personal narrative circles and collides.
Chapter 3 is a mosaic of perspectives, switching between James, Frankie, and Tyler, each of whom separately recount that last night at Locust House while reminiscing about what happened in the intervening years. While Frances talks about the fear and uncertainty brought on by the events of 9/11, and how it caused a radical shift in the political world-views of those around her, James talks about his discovery of music as an ecstatic experience:
'I still remember the first time music really did it for me. It was at the Ché Café a couple years before the E Street party and the Locust came out of nowhere and imploded my world. Those short, abrupt, sinewy, 45-second songs wiped my brain clean, changed everything, scrambled my senses, showed me that music wasn’t necessarily what everyone had told me it was.'
Music like this opened him up to the possibilities of a life lived outside the dictates of the status quo. Meanwhile, Tyler’s personality serves as a quirky, equilibrating antidote to the worries of Frances and James; his concerns are academic, as he is quietly pursuing a doctorate in chemistry. But for all their differences, each of them sees this final party as an important moment in their lives.
Gnade effectively presents the thoughts of his characters, not as they encounter the party, but as they remember it, and it becomes clear that his focus in this book is more on consciousness than event. Locust House is a series of narratives that dance around events that actually happened, remembered fourteen years after they occurred. While digesting the history and preparing to write this book, Gnade must have found the strongest lure to memories of that time through the trappings of fiction. Beneath the surface, it speaks of a weird liminal zone, a mental space where all the characters share a sweet but tenuous sense of togetherness. While this isn’t a polished work of fiction, I don’t think Gnade intended it to be; the narrative struggles to present an immediacy that can only be grasped through an intense immersion in the book. It truly is a book that wants to be read in a single sitting." - Prick of the Spindle
"I wish I could be at the house that this book centers around. I had glimpses of those kinds of house shows/parties in college, but rarely with a feeling of real solidarity with the other people there. Does anyone feel like our generation (I was born in 1991) is so cold and distant sometimes, even at places where it shouldn't really be that way? Is that how every generation feels, or is there something about right now?" - Future Corridors
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