Introducing: Damaged Bug’s “I Tried”

John Dwyer (Oh Sees) writes about the inspiration he’s taken from Michael Yonkers, and premieres a cover of one of his songs.

Every now and then, you hear an artist that seems to have a direct wire into your core being. That’s how I felt when I heard AC/DC when I was 10. That’s how I felt when I heard Can on my first acid trip at 16 (that was a good day). The list goes on: Adam and the Ants, Crass, The Cramps, Voivod, Ornette Coleman, John Fahey… and on and on and on. 

These are the moments that make life great, when I connect with art on a visceral level — visual, music, performance, whatever. From a very young age, I knew this was where it’s at for me. I want to be an artist. I want to inspire other artists and like minded humans and, in return, I want them to inspire me. That natural dopamine rush, subtle, but very much a reality. I can lose myself writing music for hours without realizing it. I can do the same thing a hundred times and still enjoy it. Listen to the same song over and over. It’s a funny little thing, but it’s true, and sometimes it’s all I require.

And thats where Michael Yonkers enters my life. I had that same smack-in-the-brain rush when I first heard “Microminiature Love.” I thought, I want to be playing music immediately. I want to write like this, I want to perform like this, I want to express like this man. Inspiration poured right into my veins through my earholes. 

Michael Yonkers became a bit of a quest for me. I dug for everything I could get my hands on. He has made a finite collection of music, but I needed it all. I rarely want original pressings of albums — who gives a shit about that, really? As long as it plays and looks and sounds good, I don’t care if it was made yesterday. But with his music, I wanted the very earliest pressings I could get. Don’t know why. So I dug for them and slowly procured everything (I think) in his very broad and very weird catalog.

I think what I hear in his songs and writings is a mild melancholic cloud that hung over the ‘70s in my memories. It was my very young childhood, and I have many fond memories, but there is a gauzy filter in my mind’s eye that lightly hangs there, over everything. A sort of sad beauty. I remember my friends and school, and I remember our neighborhood, but I also remember the adults and the sort of the-summer-of-love-has-ended-let-the-decade-of-drugs-and-real-over-indulgence-kick-in vibe of the East Coast at the time. Sort of a seedling for the beast that was the ‘80s in all its vibrant colors and brash everything. People around me were content and living along, but it was still all a bit strange. 

It’s hard to explain, but thats what Michael Yonkers’s music conjures in me. He reminds me of young love and sadness. He sings about human destructiveness and war mongering governments, of drugs and hope. Of life.

I had come to a roadblock on the new Damaged Bug record I had been working on, so I decided to cover an album’s worth of his tunes, and here we are. I will say this: slump busted! I am ready to get back on the horse and work on my own material, as this was a very cathartic and cleansing experience. I always want to do covers, but sometimes it’s like, why mess with a perfect thing? I’ve tried to do these nine songs justice, I’ve tried to add my own ingredients to them to make them not mere copies, but more like distorted reflections of the original. Either way, I am very much in love with the art that is Michael Yonkers.   

— John Dwyer

The reissue of Dwyer’s photobook, Vinegar Mirror, will be available via Castle Face Records March 27. 

(Photo Credit: left, John Dwyer)

Damaged Bug is the solo project of John Dwyer. The new album Bug On Yonkers will be out April 24 via Castle Face Records.

(Photo Credit: John Dwyer)