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Kramer

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Not to be confused with the character from 'Seinfeld'. This is a different guy. --Editor

Producer / Recording Artist / Composer / Free-Thinker

Named Rolling Stone's Producer of the Year in 1994, Kramer founded Shimmy-Disc, a notorious record company that discovered and released music by GWAR, WEEN, KING MISSILE, BONGWATER (his band), HALF JAPANESE, Japan's BOREDOMS, and others. He has also produced seminal recordings by WHITE ZOMBIE, ROYAL TRUX, JON SPENSER's PUSSY GALORE, GWAR, DANIEL JOHNSTON, GALAXIE 500, LOW, DANIELSON FAMILIE, EDITH FROST, LINDA DRAPER, ADULT RODEO, URGE OVERKILL and many others.

As a musician, he founded SHOCKABILLY, BONGWATER and B.A.L.L., and played bass guitar for bands as varied as THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS, GONG, THE FUGS (or rather, the 1984 FUGS reunion tour), HALF JAPANESE, WEEN and GG ALLIN, and was a key member of NY's early-80's "downtown improvisers" scene with John Zorn.

As a composer & solo artist, he has released three solo albums - THE GUILT TRIP (a triple LP), THE SECRET OF COMEDY, and SONGS FROM THE PINK DEATH. He has also released two cd's on John Zorn's Modern Composers Tzadik label, with a third on the way, entitled THE BRILL BUILDING.

His interest in theater and film brought him to NY's Actors Studio in 1998 where he studied directing under ARTHUR PENN, and wrote the music for his 2002 Broadway hit FORTUNE's FOOL, starring the late Sir Alan Bates.

As a collaborater, his band THE CAPTAIN HOWDY (with partner PENN JILLETTE of Penn & Teller) released two cd's, with a third cd of Phil Ochs songs on the way.

In late 2003 he left NYC after 25 years of music. He now lives in South Florida and works for the esteemed James Randi at the JREF (www.randi.org) investigating paranormal claims and, keeping the Isaac Asimov library in decent order, and, in his own words, "finally doing something truly meaningful with my life".

At the Editor's insistence, Kramer offers some background on his godlessness...

When I was 12 years old, I was told by my mother, as my father sat by, that although we never went to temple, I would have to be bar-mitzvah'd.

She told me that not a single member of her family would ever speak to her again unless her only son was bar-matvah'd. My father grunted. It wasn't until years later that I discovered the true depth of his contempt for not only judaism and religion in general, but in particular his contempt for everyone in his family "in utter thrall to ancient superstition", as he later put it.

My first real encounter with my father's lack of belief came not long after I began Hebrew lessons in preparation for my bar-mitvah. Having never had ANY kind of religious training before, I was VERY skeptical at first as to how I would react to my first encounters with zealotry, but soon found that the "Hebrew" I was to learn would never be anything more than phonetic. As with most so-called "reform" Judaism, boys are taught to speak or sing in Hebrew but are rarely taught the meaning of the words they were singing. No one EVER offered ANY form of translation. I did well with the phonetics right from the start, and one Saturday afternoon, I came home with a look of accomplishment on my face, proud to show my father what I had "learnt". I sang what I had learned that day - a short section of the Torah. I sang it well.

"That sounds lovely, son", he said sarcastically.

"What do you mean?"...I knew his tone and what it meant. After all, he was my father and I was his son.

"Well, son, let me ask you something. Do you know the meaning of any of those words you just sang?"

"NO, Dad. They didn't even mention it. They just want me to sing it correctly and not mispronounce any of the words."

"Well then, you should be very proud of yourself. They've turned you into an excellent parrot."

I stood there stunned as he turned his back on me and left the room muttering..."You should be VERY proud. My son. The parrot."

If there was one cell in my body that COULD have been jewish, it was wiped out like syphillis that very day, courtesy of the words of a father who loved me enough to say what he knew I needed to hear.

The only bad thing about my life today is that my ex-wife and daughter live in an apartment directly below devout Christians, sorely testing my humanism. I want them outta there. The atheist within me is chipping away at even my most dire character traits - that of being a humanist. I fear that soon my sense of humanism itself will be entirely devoured, and that I will become like some of my friends who won't even TALK to a Christian. And if that is where my lack of belief leads me, I will obediently follow it off a cliff, if need be.

My daughter, Tess, now nearly 8, came home from school about a week before xmas vacation with a look of great joy on her face..."Dad! Guess what?

I have something really great to tell you! I just found out the another girl in my class doesn't believe in god, either! Isn't that GREAT? Now there are TWO of us!"

In 1984 my father died. Two weeks before the end, he wrote a poem. He'd never written one before. I read it at his bedside in the hospital. It spoke of a river through which all life flowed before emptying into the sea and becoming one with the universe. Interpreted benignly, this could be seen as bioligical prose. Interpreted more acutely, it could easily seem the pains of a mind forced to face his own mortality, and even question it.

"Dad, this is beautiful."

"Is it? It's got some bullshit in it, son."

"So does most poetry, Dad."

"Son? Will I ever see you again, after I'm dead? Do you think I'll be watching you, at least, as you have kids, as you raise them, as you get old? What do you really think, son?"

"I think what YOU really think, Dad."

"I don't know what I think. I'm going to die. I'm not sure anymore. Are you sure?"

"I'm sure, Dad. You're dying, but you will live on in my memory and in my life and in my children, and in Mom. We won't meet again, but we are together forever."

"Good son. That's my boy. Now go into my wallet in my coat pocket hanging in the closet, and take out the $10 bill that's there. I want you to go and buy your mother flowers for me. I can't recall the last time I bought her flowers. Do that for me, son."

My atheism is rocklike. Nothing touches it.

Life is random. One wrong turn, one more or one less microbe, and we humans might never have appeared at all.

There is no creator.

There is only the love of a father and a daughter, the lifelong quest to escape the strangling inner loneliness we all suffer, and the march of nature.

KRAMER (1-2-2000, NYC)