John S. Hall

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John S. Hall (born John Charles Hall on September 2, 1960) is an American poet, author, singer, and lawyer perhaps best known for his work with King Missile, an avant-garde band that he co-founded in 1986 and has since led in various disparate incarnations.




  • I am a sensitive artist. Nobody understands me because I am so deep. In my work, I make allusions to books that nobody else has read, music that nobody else has heard, and art that nobody else has seen. I can't help it, because I am so much more intelligent and well-rounded than everyone who surrounds me.
    • "Sensitive Artist"
  • I was a teenage wuss. In junior high school, I had oily, stringy hair and lots of pimples. I wore really wussy clothes. Most of the kids called me a faggot. Even some of the other wusses called me a faggot. There was maybe five kids in the whole school who were wussier than I was. I was really wussed out. I was afraid of girls, and guys scared the shit out of me.
    • "Wuss"

They (1988)

  • Whenever the circus would come to town, I would tell Ethan all kinds of kinky clown domination stories involving the leather clown, like the time she forced me to have sex with her in the little car, or the time she kept spraying me with the seltzer bottle until I obeyed her every command. Ethan and I would laugh and laugh at these tall tales, but I could tell deep down, he was wondering whether the leather clown was really real or not. And I would let him wonder.
    • "Leather Clown"
  • Gary and Melissa loved to make love, loved to make love, loved to make love to each other over and over and over again. For the first few weeks of their relationship, they made love four or five times a night. They were really turned on for a while. Then, to heighten their passion, they bought sex books: The Joy of Sex, The Sensuous Couple, The Joy of Sex Part Two, The Kama Sutra, Even Yet Still More Joy of Sex, Popular Mechanics, Betty Crocker, anything.
    • "Gary & Melissa"
  • Jesus was way cool. He told people to eat his body and drink his blood. That's so cool. Jesus was so cool. But then some people got jealous of how cool he was, so they killed him. But then he rose from the dead! He rose from the dead, danced around, and went up to heaven. I mean, that's so cool. Jesus was way cool. No wonder there are so many Christians.

Real Men (1991)

  • If most of us were wind up-toys, could we trust the few of us that weren't to wind us up when necessary? I think not. We would be a separate oppressed minority. Even if we were in the majority, it would still be that way. The ones that weren't wind-up toys would have the upper hand, and we would have to look out for each other, because they wouldn't.
    • "Wind-Up Toys"
  • My heart is a flower, budding, blooming, dripping dew, dropping petals all over the place, making a big hopeless mess, stinking things up, waiting for someone to come flying over and suck the pollen out of me. Suck me dry. 'Til I wilt. 'Til I am nothing. 'Til next spring.
  • I want to be different, like everybody else I want to be like. I want to be just like all the different people. I have no further interest in being the same, because I have seen difference all around, and now I know that that's what I want. I don't want to blend in and be indistinguishable. I want to be part of the different crowd, and assert my individuality along with others who are different like me.
    • "It's Saturday"
  • I woke up this morning with a bad hangover and my penis was missing again. This happens all the time; it's detachable.
  • People sometimes tell me I should get it permanently attached, but I don't know. Even though sometimes it's a pain in the ass, I like having a detachable penis.
  • Ed walked away from the program feeling fortified and stapled. His brain was buzzing, the way it always did just after Jeopardy! He loaded up the microbus with Atlases and poseidons and headed for Pope County. "I've had it," he sang. "I've had it with puns, alliteration, Russian literature, Italian neorealism, meaningless cross-references, and laundry lists of nonsense. I shall drive without a license, without clothing, without direction, and if I make it to Arkansas, fine, and if I'm running late, if I'm running a numbers game, it doesn't matter, I shall keep on running. Yes, this is the answer. This is the ending. I shall keep on running, because a body in motion tends to stay emotional, and it's better to feel. Pain is better than emptiness, emptiness is better than nothing, and nothing is better than this."
    • "Ed"
  • In a way, I suppose you could say my experience is quite limited. For example, I never locked Oliver Cromwell in a broom closet while singing "Waltzing Matilda." I never sawed a television in half, although I once saw Wendy O. Williams saw a guitar. I never played a decent game of jacks. I never played poker with a toothless one-eyed pirate who kept picking his teeth with a Bowie knife to distract me, while his parrot looked over my shoulder and told him what cards I had by using an elaborate code involving vomiting, chirping, and sea chanteys.
    • "I'm Sorry"
  • ...I wanna know about the commercial I saw on TV: An Irish guy walking through a field of green, whistling one of those Irish jigs, and a woman walks up and says, "Manly, yes, but I like it too." Then the guy pulls out a huge knife and cuts off his first two fingers and somehow catches them in what's left of his left hand and hands them to the woman. Did I mention they're both dressed in green? They they both sing this song together: "Are ya icky? Are ya sticky? Are ya hot as anything? Hey! Cut off two of your fingers, and stab yourself in the eye!" Then he stabs himself in the eye and hands her the knife, and she stabs herself in the eye, okay? Okay? So what about that?
    • "The Commercial"
  • I think it's time we so-called "sensitive men" stopped kidding ourselves with all this crap about how guys in the Marines and garage mechanics and just generally, you know, macho guys—about how they're insecure about their masculinity because they have little dicks, because that's crap, and we know it. Guys in the military, construction workers, football players, they all have bigger dicks than you and I, and we might as well just accept it. Because it's stupid and dishonest for us to go around implying that us literary, intellectual, politically aware, feminist-type men are actually more confident than the insensitive, sexist, brute-type men because size doesn't matter, and even if it did, we have the bigger dicks, because this is bullshit. I think it's high time we all took a good hard look at our dicks and faced the music.
    • "A Good Hard Look"

Failure (1998)

  • You are responsible for all of your successes, and the lack thereof. And that is the essential point that failure, your ever-faithful friend, wants to make: that your failure could not exist without you—without your stupidity, without your lies, without your mistakes, your uselessness, your lack of faith, your ineptitude, your unjustifiable confidence in your alleged abilities, you stupid loser—failure is your only friend. Failure is your only lover. Failure is your only hope.
    • "Failure"
  • See, look, uh, I—I know I'm homophobic, but not about gay guys. They don't bother me at all. It's straight guys who don't know they're gay. They fuck my shit right up. Like a guy calls me up and says, "A bunch of us guys are gonna sit around in our underwear and watch the football game and drink beer and eat chips and, you know, maybe wrestle with each other a little—you know, just us guys. You wanna come over?" And I'm like, "No."
    • "Gay/Not Gay"
  • [M]y father was a really great man. I'll never forget the last thing he ever said to me. Nor will I ever repeat it.
    • "My Father"
  • A lot of people have said Giuliani did a great job with the crisis, and I—I don't know, and a lot of people are saying that Bush is doing a good job, and I really don't think so, but in all this discussion, no one has stepped forward to say what a truly remarkable job Jennifer Love Hewitt has been doing. She has shown unbelievable restraint during this entire crisis. I haven't heard her say a single irresponsible word. So many people have rushed to get on the television and say stupid, fucked-up, crazy shit, but not JLH.
    • "JLH"
  • Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, and fuck the Congress for sucking your dick, and fuck everybody who puts up with it—including me. Fuck me for not killing you. Fuck everybody who's come within fifteen fucking feet of you and hasn't fucking tried. But fuck murder, fuck rotting in jail, fuck you and fuck you and fuck—you don't even deserve to be executed. Just die a slow fucking painful fucking death, you illiterate shit scumbag scumbag motherfucking shit-eating scumbag scumbag. You fucking, you fuck, fuck, fuck you.
    • "The President"
  • I've done bad things with relish, and good things with pickles.
    • "Ennui"
  • I'm a vegetarian now, but I'm willing to make an exception in the event I'm presented with people. Because I've always been fairly standoffish; I have this tendency not to get to know people very well. And I don't think there is any better way to get to know humanity than to ingest it.
    • "Eating People"
  • Look. I'd be the first to admit that I don't have an ounce of common sense, but I think people should be fucking in the streets. Assfucking. Especially women fucking men in the ass with dildos. What this country needs is a lot more sodomy. Because there are a lot of crises a-coming: global warming as we rape Alaska for oil, the return of coathanger abortions, downward economic spirals, nuclear terrorism, the reemergence of "Burn the motherfucker down," "Fuck the police," "Blow it all up and let's start all over again"—it will be a dark and frightening time. And our retarded president will offer little solace or hope. If you think things cannot get any worse, you have no imagination and no sense of history.
  • I'm talking about a spiritual sexual revolution, and I don't care if you're a heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual, monogamous, polygamous, polymorphously perverse, fetishistic, submissive, dominant, watersports, madonna-or-whore, old, fat, ugly, handicapped, repressed, frightened, ashamed, or even a proud white American jerkoff fuckface who irresponsibly and thoughtlessly makes matters worse by talking stupid shit and voting like shit-for-brains: We must fuck our way out of this. All of us. We are responsible for our recovery, for our salvation. We must fuck our way out of this.
    • "Suggested Response to the Coming Crises"
  • There's all this possibility out there, and it's gotta make you wonder, what's wrong with you? That time that God spoke to you and showed you the way, clear as day, and you were like "No way; too much work; I'm busy; I'm too tired; I don't even believe in you anyway; what's in it for me?" Well, you fucked up, didn't you? You sell your soul to the devil, you get like four dollars, but if you had come when God called, you would have gotten whatever you want—a nose job, a fifty-inch TV set, a waterbed filled with Calista Flockhart's urine, whatever you want. But you said no to God, and now you'll never get to go out with Christina Ricci. You'll never get a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car that can float and fly. You'll never get to visit Mars, or the future, or Marrakesh.
    • "The Chosen"
  • William Rehnquist—I hope you die a slow and painful death. Sandra Day O'Connor—die a slow and painful death. Clarence Thomas—I hope you die slowly and painfully. Antonin Scalia—die with pain, slowly. Justice Kennedy—I forget your first name—I hope your death is painful and slow. President Bush—I hope you die so slowly, and with pain. Dick Cheney—die painfully slow, with slow pain. John Ashcroft—die slowly, painfully. You are all criminals. You will never go to jail. So just die, as soon as possible, with great pain, slowly. I would die the slowest, most painful death of all of you if it meant that just half of you would die now. Call me liberal, call me twisted and sick, I don't care. I hate you all and I hope you all die.
    • "Another Political Poem"
  • You know what's a good food? Avocados. They fucking rule. Fucking avocados. I'm so there if it's gonna be avocados, I'm there. If I can have that with avocado, I'm gonna order it with avocado. That's my way. I'm like, yes to avocado. Yes. Yes, yes.
    • "Good Things"

Quotes from Daily Negations (2007)

  • When my mind is operating at its peak, it should depress me to think that this is the best I can do, because it's not very good at all. When my mind is operating normally, I should be even more depressed.
    • January 14
  • Today, I should think of something about myself that really annoys me, and I should try to change it. Then, when I fail to change it, I can be annoyed by that as well. Then, I can be annoyed about how easily I get annoyed. Then I can get angry.
    • February 16
  • Perhaps I will achieve a small success today. If so, I must not be taken in. I am not on a roll, I am not in the zone. It was an accident, a happenstance. Such things are bound to happen sometimes. The false feeling of confidence will soon pass.
    • March 13
  • It may seem sometimes that the whole world is against me and the reason I have failed in life is because of fate—that I was destined to fail, and there was nothing I could have done. But that's not true. There was plenty I could have done. Why didn't I do something?
    • March 15
  • Today, I will try to remember to regret the past. I will think of how many mistakes I have made throughout my life. I will say to myself, "If only I could go back in time and make different choices, so that my life could be the way it should have been." Then I will remind myself that I cannot.
    • March 16
  • The fact that many people overindulge, and lose themselves in excess, and make fools of themselves and act like idiots, is no reason for me to do these things. The reason for me to do these things is that I, too, am an idiot.
    • March 17
  • Tonight, I should watch the sun set, and think of the impending darkness as a metaphor for my wasted life: once it was bright, and full of potential, and now it is dark and hopeless and bleak. I should not make the mistake of thinking that the moon and the stars represent slim glimmers of hope, or evidence that there is light on the other side. Even if there is light somewhere I will never walk in it again.
    • March 25
  • Today, for five minutes, I will sit quietly and meditate and think pleasant thoughts and I will recite gentle positive messages to myself. Oh yeah, that really sounds like me. I'm sure I'm going to do that. Right.
    • April 1
  • I am not well suited to the tasks that are set before me today. Most of what I must do is either insulting to my intelligence, or far beyond my capabilities. This explains why I am so frustrated and full of rage most of the time.
    • April 12
  • Today, life will offer me many lessons. I will learn nothing.
    • April 18
  • Today, it may seem as if there are demons attacking me from within. I should remember that demons are illusory, and that when I think that I'm being attacked by unseen forces, it probably just means that I am going insane.
    • May 2
  • It seems, in theory, that I should be able to control at least a few of my bad habits. The problem is that my habits make me depressed, and the depression makes me want to indulge my habits and so I do. There isn't any solution to this.
    • May 23
  • There will always be people who have power over me, who can destroy my spirit and drain my soul. My best defense is to behave as if I have no soul, to act as if my spirit has already been crushed. Perhaps then, I will be left alone or ignored.
    • June 11
  • The task that lies before me is daunting and the rewards are uncertain. I should probably let someone else do it.
    • June 15
  • I have tried very hard to find meaning in what I do, but I have found instead a vast and limitless nothingness. I tried to embrace the nothingness, but it slipped through my grasp, and now there is nothing where the nothingness was. This may sound meaningful, but it isn't.
    • June 16
  • If I work hard and am rewarded, then I haven't really gained anything. It has been a trade: I've put in, and I've gotten back. Only if I am rewarded without having done anything have I actually come out ahead. The best way to gain the most is to do nothing.
    • July 4
  • A tree does not try to be a koala bear. A dog does not try to be a bird. A stone does not pretend it is alive. Why should I pretend I am intelligent, or good-looking, or successful?
    • July 16
  • Life is so much easier today than it was a hundred years ago. People used to have to work on farms from sun-up to sun-down, and still their children would die, and there often wouldn't be enough to eat. I wouldn't have lasted three days under such conditions. I have no right to be alive.
    • July 22
  • Many people talk as if they have all the answers, whereas I know I don't. That's probably why no one listens to me.
    • July 26
  • It's not just that I'm stupid; it's that I'm just smart enough to know how stupid I am. I wish I weren't so stupid. Or that I were stupider.
    • August 19
  • When I am tired, it is easy to believe that my exhaustion is the reason I am depressed and lonely and uninspired. But when I am well-rested [sic], I can realize that these negative feelings are not a result of too little sleep. They are a result of my being a miserable, hopeless, misanthropic wretch.
    • September 3
  • I can read books and news articles about people who have excelled, people who have done extremely well in their chosen field, or made a lot of money, or married well, or what have you. When some people read this stuff, they get inspired, but when I read it, it makes me feel worse. Sometimes I wish I had never learned to read.
    • September 18
  • There is no better feeling than the feeling that I have done something right. That feeling comes so rarely and is so fleeting that I can never really enjoy it. So in a way, it's not a good feeling at all.
    • October 7
  • Why don't I have enough money? The answer is obvious. Money is how people are measured. What you are worth is what you are worth. The reason I am not worth very much is because I am not worth very much. Nothing could be simpler.
    • October 20
  • It is better to curse the darkness than to light a candle, because, first of all, how much light is one candle going to shed anyway? And secondly, what is there to see that is so important? Whereas cursing is always satisfying. The next time I find myself in the dark, I will curse heartily.
    • October 30
  • It is extremely unlikely that I will ever be one of the richest people in the world. Almost all rich people were born rich, and almost all of them marry other rich people, and almost all of them hold onto almost all of their money, to pass on to their kids. Money doesn't appear out of nowhere—the more they have, the less for me. Life is a "zero sum game," and I am the zero.
    • November 1
  • When I'm feeling proud of myself, I should remember to ask myself why I think I am of any value at all. I have done nothing that a hundred thousand other people couldn't do, and most of them would probably do it better, and they probably wouldn't feel so self-important about it. I should always be ashamed of myself.
    • November 8
  • When I accept another person's imperfections, I deprive myself of any opportunity to be right. Today, I should look out for people who might challenge or annoy me. They are wrong, and I am right. The more I attack others, the more important I will become.
    • November 14
  • I am so far away from being the person I want to be. I am a terrible person and I am overwhelmed with guilt. I am paralyzed with shame and fear. If I work hard at improving myself each day, I may get a little tiny bit better, but I won't get much better—I'll never be great. It's too late for me. I've really blown it.
    • November 22
  • If I take things slowly today in order to appreciate life better, and if I take time to listen to the messages that life sends me, then I will have less time to do the things I need to do today. Then tomorrow I will have to do everything that much faster and I will be that much more unable to appreciate life. It is dangerous to stop and smell the roses.
    • November 26
  • I am not successful and I probably never will be. I look around and I see successful people, and I see that they have something I don't—success. Perhaps they were born that way, or perhaps they figured something out that I can never seem to learn. I don't know. That's why I'm not successful.
    • December 12
  • I can't make people change, and I can't change myself. I can't change the political climate, or fix the myriad problems of the world, or make anyone else happy. When I think about these things, I feel impotent and sad. When I don't think about them, I am running away from the truth. Either way I lose.
    • December 17

Quotes from interviews

  • Sometimes I feel I do know what to believe in. Sometimes I believe in working, writing, performing, doing the work. Other times I'm full of despair and I don't even believe in that, but for some reason I will get out of bed and do something anyway, even though I don't believe in it.
  • Sometimes if you go to see a very, very, happy movie, a Hollywood movie, you can walk out of the movie and feel very depressed because it's so false. And other times you see a very depressing movie and it makes you feel good, happy because you've seen something real. You've seen something that talks to you and says that your bad feelings are legitimate. And then you can go further with that and say, "Well, this bad feeling is good, and this good feeling is bad, but is it good to feel bad and is it bad to feel good?" I'm concerned with feelings. And sometimes when I feel good, I'll write something very negative because I have the strength to do it. But when I really, really feel very bad, what I want to do is make myself feel better, so I'll write something happier.
  • ...I don't like to make judgments about what people like sexually. Some people like one sex, or the other, or they like fat people, or they like to be tied up, whatever. That's fine. Whatever people like is fine by me. I think that's important, too, because in this country a lot of people want to make laws about that and I'm very much against that. Making certain kinds of sex illegal... To me that's immoral, to illegalize things that people want to do. Same with religious things. I think people should be able to believe whatever they want to believe. I think that when governments try to get involved with that sort of stuff, you're really destroying people's souls. I don't make statements like that in my songs because that's not what I want. I don't want to make a political statement.
    • Interview by Elein Fleiss and Olivier Zahm, ca. 1992 (link)

  • I think it is considered bad to be clever, because I think people usually assume that a clever person or a clever band doesn't have substance, doesn't really care about anything. People want music that matters, that believes in something, I think, whether it expresses anger or despair or love. People want to believe that their artists are portraying emotions that they really feel. And I think that's true of Patsy Cline, Johnny Rotten, whoever you want to name. If you believe the artist, you're going to go for it.
  • Some of the [band's] work has a genuine feeling behind it. Some of it is probably just being funny for the sake of being funny. Obviously, there are elements to "Detachable [Penis]" about male identity that are there, but not really overtly there. For the person who wants to find it, it's there. I don't know. I don't think... I like to think I'm not obvious about the humor, and I'm not obvious about the feelings, either. There's a certain degree of subtlety to what I'm doing; even in very obvious things, there's something underneath that's interesting. I think [the band is] guilty of being clever at times, to the detriment of conveying something more important, more real, more honest. I'll cop to that. But I will also say that there's also stuff that does have meaning.

  • When the [Mystical Shit] CD first started to take shape, I was very unsure about what was happening—I wasn't sure I liked what these guys were coming up with. I missed Dogbowl's melodies, and I didn't like that it was loud. But other people seemed to like it a lot, and at that time, that was important to me, so I went with it. As time went by, I started to appreciate the oddity of me in a rock band. Unfortunately, I didn't really embrace the idea fully until that band had broken up. Nowadays, I can look back and think it was fun and funny that I was in a rock band, but at the time, it bothered me a lot and I complained about it all the time, but I lacked the moral character to do anything about it.
  • Of all the stuff I write, probably 75% never gets recorded. Sometimes it's because I've read it at shows a few times to lukewarm response. But usually it's because I think it's not right. I will sometimes rewrite the same idea a few times before it feels good. I do this as opposed to taking a piece and tinkering with it in an effort to make it right. The earlier drafts wouldn't (and shouldn't) get recorded, because they're not as good.
  • I think these are some of the common themes [of my work]: a) life is hard, brutal, capricious and unfair, b) sometimes there is a benefit to seeing it clearly, and acknowledging it truthfully..., and c) other times it is best to find something to laugh about, lest despair crush one completely. I find a lot of humor in shocking or so-called taboo things: castration, excrement, violence (usually self-inflicted or inflicted on the narrator, "[Martin] Scorsese" being an exception), sex and sexual perversions... etc.
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