From the Press Release: “Hidden Wheel”: Profiting from a system designed to fail.
A new novel by author/rock critic Michael T. Fournier uses the indie art and music scenes as the backdrop for a hard look at the current banking crisis.
Amherst, MA-- 11/21/2011—In Michael T. Fournier’s debut novel “Hidden Wheel, ”an opportunistic trustfunder named Ben Wilfork starts an all-ages art/music space in the Midwestern town of Freedom Springs, intent on profiting on the artists and musicians he promotes, no matter the cost.
Max Caughin, who writes graffiti under the name Faze, gets famous quick with a series of paintings on CD covers. His buddy Bernie Reese donates sperm to raise money for a new drum kit so his two-piece noiserock band Stonecipher can record. Bernie's romantic interest (and former chess prodigy) Rhonda Barrett does dominatrix work by day and paints her life, sixty words at a time, on giant canvases by night to help stave off the Singularity. Their fates intertwine in a story reconstructed by William Molyneux, a 24th Century scholar reconstructing the Hidden Wheel scene after a solar flare erases all digital data in his era.
Hidden Wheel, Michael T. Fournier's debut novel, is an unflinching reflection of the growing complexities of navigating art, commerce, and the internet. Its use of intersecting plotlines illustrates the confusion and potential of the early 21st century and the evolving ways in which its inhabitants try to make a mark in the specter of financial upheaval and shifting technologies. Author Selah Saterstrom says “Don’t be surprised if, upon finishing this book, you remember – and long for – an art, writing, and music you have never even encountered.”
Hidden Wheel is published by New York City’s Three Rooms Press, whose upcoming releases include Mike Watt’s “On And Off Bass.” It is available on all major online retailers and at select stores throughout the U.S. Hidden Wheel retails for $15.
An excerpt from “Hidden Wheel”
By Michael T. Fournier
(Interview with Lara Fox-Turner: “My ArtScene Life.” Time magazine/pulsestream, April 7, 2041. Used with permission.)
Time: What will you do when you retire?
Lara Fox-Turner: I’ll be doing a lot of the same things I have always done: attend art shows, openings, rock shows.
T: Rock shows?
L F-T: Forever young. (laughter) And I’ll have more time to read books. Much more time to spoil my grandchildren rotten.
T: ArtScene started off as a sixteen-page magazine. Did you ever have any inkling that you’d be so successful?
L F-T: The original concept – to travel to different cities, and document their art and music scenes – seemed the best job in the world. When I got the magazine running, with the help of my investors, we traveled and documented art that we loved and thought important. To us, that was success. Everything else was extra. I have been blessed to make a living this way.
T: What would you consider your proudest moment?
L F-T: I’m certainly proud of the way pulsestream technology has revolutionized periodicals and books. To have the chance to work on an efficient, environmentally conscious method of information delivery which has helped alleviate problems of pollution and deforestation is my proudest accomplishment.
My proudest moment, in terms of the magazine, isn’t a moment per se, but a discovery. My dear friend Benjamin Wilfork’s art opening in Freedom Springs was so memorable. It was the first time I met Rhonda Barrett, and the first time I saw Festival of Hamburgers play.
T: That opening is referred to now in the same way as legendary. Did it seem that way at the time?
L F-T: It was exciting. The Freedom Springs scene was vibrant, if only for a small period of time. Everyone who attended the show was happy there was something happening in their town – prior to Hidden Wheel’s inception, there was nowhere to display art, and shows were limited to bars.
T: What was it about Freedom Springs that made the art so interesting?
L F-T: I think that Freedom Springs was far enough away from established art and music scenes so that it developed in its own way, and at its own pace. The art and music from that gallery has been influential since, and that was due in part to ArtScene’s documentation of the happenings there.
T: Certainly, Rhonda Barrett has been an outspoken advocate of the arts. Her recent contributions have been impressive. And Festival of Hamburgers’ anniversary show at Knebworth was watched by millions worldwide.
L F-T: I’d be lying if I said I had any inkling of how important that evening was. I didn’t. I simply thought I’d be covering a small scene, like we did in so many other cities and towns over the years. Rhonda’s contributions to the art world have been a revelation. Her steadfast adherence to a set of values is unprecedented.
T: What were your first impressions of her?
L F-T: That she was brilliant. (laughter) But not for her painting. I confess that her anti-conglomerate stance seemed like a sophisticated shtick to me, one designed solely to attract the press. My impression was that she was grooming herself to be a famous painter who didn’t paint. Over the years, I have come to realize, of course, that there is no schtick involved. She is deeply concerned about the human condition.
T: There were several lesser-known artists there that evening, as well. What happened to them?
L F-T: I’ve lost track of the members of Coxswain, except for Maddie, who played in many bands over the years. She was later in Edison’s Campaign, who did very well.
The other artist that day, Max Caughin, was at the forefront of a small art movement called urban mosaicism. He became famous, then obscure just as quickly. Very little of his work still exists.
T: Why is that?
L F-T: The synthetic paint he used was pulled off the market not long after that show. It begins to disintegrate after about five years. It’s tragic that his artwork no longer exists, and it’s tragic what happened to him.
The band that I thought most interesting that night was Stonecipher. Bernie Reese is largely known as Rhonda Barrett’s onetime lover. People forget that he was an innovative drummer. He is an experimental composer, constructing entire symphonies out of percussion. He is also a foster father. The bass player in the band, Amy Czjdeki, is still in Freedom Springs, managing a restaurant.
Michael Fournier's biography: Michael T. Fournier’s debut novel, “Hidden Wheel,” uses his punk rock background to reflect on the financial crisis, forced obsolescence, and nature of criticism. The nice folks at Three Rooms Press, based in New York City, have just released this debut. He will tour the United States extensively in support of “Hidden Wheel” in 2011 and beyond.
Fournier is also the author of a book-length discussion of the Minutemen’s 1984 album “Double Nickels On The Dime,” the 45th installment of Continuum Press’s “33 1/3” series. He booked multiple do-it-yourself tours to promote the book upon its 2007 release and read in bookstores, clubs, and galleries in Baltimore, Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago, Concord NH, Easthampton MA, New York City, Olympia WA, Philadelphia, Portland ME, Seattle, San Francisco, and Worcester MA. He’s shared stages with Richard Hell, Duncan Wilder Johnson, Zeth Lundy, Amanda Petrusich, Mike Watt and countless bands.
His music criticism has appeared in Boston Magazine, Vice, the Oxford American, the Boston Phoenix, Pitchfork, and Chunklet. He is a weekly reviewer at 365 Albums A Year (www.365aay.com). His fiction has appeared in Barrelhouse, Fluke, Pennsylvania English, Stolen Island Review and Talking River.
His History of Punk Rock class at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts boasted visits from such scene luminaries as Steve Brodsky and Adam McGrath (Cave In), Clint Conley (Mission of Burma), Ian MacKaye (Dischord Records/Fugazi), and Shred (WBCN-FM).
He lives in Western Massachusetts with his wife Rebecca and their cat.
Musician Photo: liftarn, Creative Commons license