On Pop Of The WorldJan 3rd, 2014 | By Charles Wood | Category: Feature
“Do I look like a goddamned ninja?” Eric Moss had inquired whether or not I wanted to join him, and everybody else, on the roof and I responded accordingly. He was scaling the wall like some parkour master as he was asking this. I have the coordination and balance of a drunken polar bear when I’m dead sober, and I was significantly less than sober at that moment. This, in addition to the fact that persistent, but light rain had made the already wet surface of the roof even more slippery, meant there was no way in hell I was about to climb up onto the roof. So, I sat in a wet chair, getting my ass damp in the process, as my friends drunk cheap beer on the roof of On Pop of the World Collective.
That was the first time I’ve ever gone to On Pop of the World. Though I’ve been there a handful of times since, I can never fully remember exactly how to get there, which may or may not be the result of my levels of intoxication during each visit. I know it’s somewhere in the Glenwood area, off of Aycock. This vagueness gives the place an almost magical, mysterious, dream-like quality in my mind.
I, with the aid of tequila and Jack Carter, even scaled the slippery walls and climbed on to the roof during my next visit there. The light from the street lamps reflected off the sprinkling rain, an ephemeral pin-ball.
The building that is now home to On Pop of the World was formerly the headquarters for the Greensboro chapter of the Red Devils, a somewhat notorious biker gang off-shoot of the Hells Angels. In previous lives the building has also housed Grove Street Diner and Sinclair’s Gas Station. Since moving onto the property in 2012, Randy Seals has converted the building into a recording studio, dubbed “Pop of the World Studios”, in order to produce and record albums for some of the most talented and popular Greensboro bands, ranging from Ameriglow and Jack Carter and the Armory to The Leeves and Crystal Bright and the Silver Hands.
To enter the studio, you first have to pass through an imposing wooden gate, which is locked together with large chains. When opened, this gate reveals the back parking lot. The gravel parking lot is filled with lawn furniture, neon yellow plastic baseball bats, dismantled scooters, and a few buckets.
Once inside, you will find three bathrooms. I found out the hard way, on one unfortunate and drunken evening, that only one of said bathrooms will actually contain toilet paper on any given night. When using the main bathroom (the one with the toilet paper) you will be greeted by a large poster with kittens on it facing you as you do your business and a copy of Infinite Jest sitting on a ledge to your right. One of the other bathrooms is covered by the insignia of the Red Devils, a flaming red skull.
Scattered through out the building are over a half dozen pianos, organs, and key boards in various states of repair. Guitars, basses, amps, and headphones are strewn about while an apple computer and recording equipment lounge in the main room. On one wall hangs an absurd array of chords and an illustration from the children’s book “Where The Wild Things Are”. In the corner of one room lies a disembodied torso of a mannequin next to the over-sized bunny head, the remnant of some poor, decapitated bunny mascot outfit.
In the kitchen, a crate full of of spray paint cans can be found next to a sink full of dirty dishes and a box of sketches drawn by Harrison. The sketches are from Harrison Barrow’s on-again/off again stop motion project “Ester Hausen”. The Red Devil’s insignia is spray painted onto one of the walls. It’s a full kitchen and was once used to feed dozens of hungry patrons back when the property was known as Grove Street Diner.
Magically, this kaleidoscopic collection of misfits have managed to create some of the best music ever to come out of Greensboro, despite the occasional outburst of delinquency and degeneracy. The average recording session there, at least among the ones I’ve attended, involves hours of dedication, repetition, and hard work from both the musicians themselves and Randy Seals. These sessions also may or may not involve a brief break in order to grab a drink or two from NYP before last call.
You can tell much about a city from the music that comes from it. Greensboro is The Leeves, that is to say Greensboro is a community of punk enthusiasts who aren’t afraid to put their arms around one another and drunkenly belt out ska-tinged anthems. Greensboro is Ameriglow, a town of disenfranchised youths who are filled with disillusionment at the failed American but who can also make light of their lot with the occasional poppy number. Greensboro is Jack Carter and the Armory, a sometimes jaded, but sincere mix of Americana, rock, and folk that wakes you up like a shotgun blast in the dead of night. Greensboro is all this and more, you can see it all when you stand On Pop of the World.
Editor’s Note: This post was written by the illustrious Charles Wood, a true raconteur.