Charles Gocher (1952-2007)
Sun City Girls
Photo by Mark Sullo
Invisible Tempos of the Vanishing AssassinJakarta 8/6/07:
by Alan Bishop
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.
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?
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
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
See Part Two of the Charles Gocher article
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