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Supernatural Strategies for Making a Rock ‘n’ Roll Group


Washington, DC–based rock ‘n’ roll antihero Ian F. Svenonius provides an unparalleled and exquisitely provocative how-to guide for rock bands.

*While supplies last, books ordered through the website will include a bookplate SIGNED by Ian F. Svenonius!

$14.95 $11.21

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What people are saying…

“Like its author, Supernatural Strategies is part tongue-in-cheek, part deadly serious—a satire of rock’s consumerist origins but also a thoughtful treatise on what it means to devote yourself to a collective . . . Drawing from the wisdom of rock’n’roll’s most famous ghosts, Svenonius’ advice ranges from hilarious to cryptic to surprisingly useful.”

“Svenonius has been interrogating and unpacking the meaning of rock ‘n’ roll for as long as he’s been making it.”
American Songwriter

“Svenonius hasn’t written a basic ‘How to Make It in the Music Business’ book. Rather, the writer, online talk show host and, most important, singer in a series of breathtaking rock ‘n’ roll bands (Nation of Ulysses, the Make-Up, Chain & the Gang), is drawing a line in the sand and doing so with what he hopes will finally define the undefinable.”
Los Angeles Times

“Svenonius has walked the walk. . . Even today—as the frontman of Chain & The Gang and the host of the online talk show Soft Focus—he remains cool, cryptic, and impeccably dressed, a mod magician with a trick always lurking up his tailored sleeve.”
The Onion AV Club

“This one-stop, pocket-sized guide from the Nation of Ulysses frontman has everything you need to get started rocking—including ritualistic spells to assure your success!”
Literary Hub, Recommended by Brazos Bookstore bookseller Keaton Patterson

“Proscriptive how-to advice ranges over a wide number of subjects (e.g., sex, band photos, etc.) and can be seen both as skewering the cultural idolatry associated with rock and as genuine counsel. 
Verdict: Svenonius’s sociopolitical analysis of rock and roll is intellectually interesting, as when he posits that the genre was ‘brought about by the industrial revolution, the harnessing of electricity, and the miscegenation of various poor, exploited, and indentured cultures in the USA.’”
Library Journal

“Because living musicians fear competition too much to share secrets of success, this manual, we’re told, was transcribed during a séance where dead rock stars lectured on profound rock & roll truths. Mary Wells, spelling in spaghetti, and Buddy Holly, scrawling in salt, warned of cruel, social-engineering overlords that both control and fear rock revolutionaries. But the greatest prank the book pulls is camouflaging, beneath astrological and geopolitical inanity, the author’s passionately conveyed truths about integrity, artistry, repression, perseverance and the cruelties and joys of the music industry. It seems that even when utilizing a stone-faced, pummeling, punch line–free tone, truths are still best told in jest. And it also seems rock & roll will never die, or if it does, it will still be accessible through spiritualism.”
Time Out Chicago

“So much of the allure here is in watching Svenonius skirt absurdity. He’s always seemed delighted by the fact that the profound and the preposterous can sound awfully alike, a realization that puts him in line with an avant-garde tradition that stretches back before rock ’n’ roll crystallized this fact . . . Svenonius has the spirit of a long-gone punk past, but his book has more to tell us about rock’s here-and-now than about its hereafter. Neither bourgeois nor prestigious, Supernatural Strategies may be the rare book by a rock musician to retain any power or threat.”
Los Angeles Review of Books

“Throughout its 250 pages, the author demystifies the modern rock group with a mixture of veteran insight and intellectual posturing that can be both hilarious and fascinating. There are long tangents about gang culture, music and capitalism, and chapters based around séances calling on dead music stars as wide-ranging as Brian Jones, Big Mama Thornton and Mary Wells.”
Style Weekly (Richmond)

“Like a smoke bomb in a SXSW showcase, the ambitious project of Supernatural Strategies is to inject a spume of confusion into the staid, success-driven rock narrative of today, while serving as a quasi-mystical handbook for that rare musician still willing to take the long route. Written in a language couched in satire and anchored by years of experience, it is both a rigorous study of an elusive and enduring cultural art and a sobering critique of its many tortured machinations.”
Portland Phoenix (Maine)

“If ‘write what you know’ is one of authorship’s prime dictates, then Ian F. Svenonius seems uniquely qualified to author a book entitled Supernatural Strategies for Making a Rock and Roll Group . . . Svenonius’ contrarian, anti-establishment rhetoric is his greatest gift . . . Strategies plays to these same strengths by allowing him to run roughshod riot over hallowed ground he’s already trod—and sometimes paved—more than a few times.”
Baltimore City Paper

Supernatural Strategies . . . takes a spiritual approach to guiding rock star wannabes to success. The book’s imagined conversations are very funny (it’s clear that Svenonius didn’t actually talk with Paul McCartney and probably never sought out a medium). But beyond being humorous, Supernatural Strategies is also very informative and well researched. While Svenonius shares his endless wealth of musical knowledge, this book also serves as a critique of capitalism, consumerism and American imperialism. ”
Brooklyn Based

“Ian F. Svenonius’ new book, Supernatural Strategies for Making a Rock ‘n’ Roll Group, is laugh-out-loud funny. Svenonius mixes the Vietnam War, Industrial Revolution and other seemingly disconnected events via fictional interviews with several (real) dead rock stars who share their thoughts on topics, such as the all-important band van, communication, the evolution from gang to group, sex, ‘the narcotic effect of pop music’ and discipline. Whether you intend to form a rock group, are interested in history or popular culture, or just want to read essays that are genuinely smart, this is the book.”
Sacramento News & Review

“As its title indicates, prolific DC underground rocker Ian Svenonius’s arch new book, Supernatural Strategies for Making a Rock ’n’ Roll Group, is ‘an indispensable guide for anyone attempting to create a rock ’n’ roll group.’ With help from late rock gods such as Buddy Holly and Jimi Hendrix, who reputedly advised Svenonius from beyond the grave, Supernatural Strategies prescribes the ingredients for rock immortality, in chapters ranging from ‘Group Name’ to ‘Van’ to ‘Drugs.'”
The Washingtonian

“Ian’s theories are hilarious, insightful, intelligent and well-written, both satisfying for rock history enthusiasts and enlightening for newbies . . . Showboating your reading material is unconditionally off-putting, but it’s hard not to feel cool holding a book called ‘Supernatural Strategies for Making a Rock ‘N’ Roll Group‘ sitting in a seat on the bus or an exercise bike at the gym. Its pocket size makes it ideal for reading during long rides in the tour van or sitting on a crate backstage in between loading equipment. And of course like Mao’s Little Red Book, the size makes it easy to keep on hand for quotations, instruction or spiritual guidance.”
Three Thousand (Melbourne)

“Punk rock crooner Ian Svenonius (Nation of Ulysses, The Make-Up) pens a wry ‘how-to’ guide to stardom, via tongue-in-cheek séances with deceased musicians and sincere lessons in swagger.”
Barnes & Noble

“Obviously Svenonius’s discussion of rock music is far from supernatural. If anything, it debunks the notion that musicians are untouchable, mystical beings by showing just how much planning, how much strategy goes into making a successful group. And while there is a cynicism that pervades this book, Svenonius is nevertheless coming to the topic as a rock ‘n’ roll fan, a practitioner, and someone who believes truly in the art form.”

“The phenomenon is explained in Supernatural Strategies for Making a Rock ’n’ Roll Group, a new book by Washington musician, author and general punk provocateur Ian Svenonius. His how-to guide for forming a band is plenty tongue-in-cheek—the advice is presented through the words of dead rock stars contacted via seance—but he hits on some significant truths.”
Washington Post

“Svenonius, a member of the band Chain and the Gang, presents a comical but nonetheless serious guide to starting a rock-band with the aid of the supernatural. The pocket-sized guide reads as a systematic analysis of the choices rock-bands have made in the past, as well as a detail of the practical features of the profession itself, distilled for their insights, into success.”
Book News Inc.

“According to Supernatural Strategies for making a Rock ‘n’ Roll Group, a 250-page treatise by Ian F. Svenonius that arrived at my office the other day, the secrets to a successful rock band are buried in the dead heads of the deceased, former rock ‘n’ roll greats who are ‘no longer contaminated by the stultifying climate of competitive capitalism,’ the author writes.”
Oakland Tribune

“Current and former band members interested in an underground scene stalwart breaking down the inner workings of a group’s success (and inevitable failure)—and then taking those inner workings even further, into satire—will enjoy this book. Those who just have a thing for the political rhetoric and undeniable panache of Ian Svenonius—well, even better.”
Chicago Reader

“Enterprising young groups might do well to pay attention to Svenonius’ book. Steal enough from it and you might find your group reuniting at Coachella in a decade or so.”
Creative Loafing Atlanta

“Svenonius’s latest screed is a ‘bizarrely erudite’ meditation on the hazards and resulting socioeconomic upheaval that occurs with the formation of rock groups (which are really just a natural progression from male street gangs of post-War Western society, he says.) Naturally, it’s smart and meticulously crafted . . . Part cautionary how-to guide and part philosophical meditation on the current state of rock, Strategies exhumes rock’s past to consider its present and help guide its future toward, hopefully, a more astrologically synchronous state.”
Gapers Block

“Svenonius . . . continues to prove himself an unconventional and important thinker when it comes to cultural studies and pop music.”
Pittsburgh City Paper

Supernatural Strategies for Making a Rock ’n’ Roll Group is not an easy book. It’s not technically difficult to read—far from it. What it does do is make you step back and think (maybe for the first time) about what rock-n-roll really is . . . and is not.”
Chattanooga Pulse

“Poseur, provocateur and pontificator, Svenonius’ most recent cultural product comes in the form of a book. Both as satire and as plain truth, Supernatural Strategies for Making a Rock ’n’ Roll Group is a scream – something that could only be produced by the punk rock aesthete who was once named Sassy magazine’s ‘Sassiest Boy in America.'”
Stomp & Stammer Magazine

“Regardless of whether you think you’re in the choir he’s preaching to, or if you just want some pointers on starting a band but can’t be bothered to summon the spirit of Buddy Holly for religious reasons, read this guide for the perplexed and you will not be disappointed.”
Fanzine (interview)

“What a delightfully odd little book this is. Presented as an old manual mixed with a narrator that’s rather Lemony-Snicket-meets-Ted-Wilson, Supernatural Strategies For Making a Rock ‘n’ Roll Group manages to be just as funny as it is strange.”
Glorified Love Letters


Check out Ian Svenonius’s amazing book trailer for Supernatural Strategies, which was featured by Shelf Awareness as their January 31, 2013 Book Trailer of the Day: 

Ian Svenonius’s experience as an iconic underground rock musician—playing in such highly influential and revolutionary outfits as The Make-Up and The Nation of Ulysses—gives him special insight on techniques for not only starting but also surviving a rock ‘n’ roll group. Therefore, he’s written an instructional guide, which doubles as a warning device, a philosophical text, an exercise in terror, an aerobics manual, and a coloring book.

This volume features essays on everything the would-be star should know to get started, such as Sex, Drugs, Sound, Group Photo, The Van, and Manufacturing Nostalgia. The book also has black-and-white illustrations. Supernatural Strategies will serve as an indispensable guide for a new generation just aching to boogie.

Listen to an interview with Ian Svenonius on WYPR Baltimore’s The Signal and on Vish Khanna’s Kreative Kontrol.

Read interviews with Ian Svenonius at The Phoenix, Stereogum, Fanzine, L.A. Record, and The Quietus.

Read an essay by Ian Svenonius at Artform.

Listen to an interview with Ian Svenonius at WUTC (NPR).

Watch an interview with Ian Svenonius on Freak Peak.


Book Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Published: 1/1/13
  • IBSN: 9781617751301
  • e-IBSN: 9781617751493


IAN F. SVENONIUS is the author of the underground best sellers Supernatural Strategies for Making a Rock ‘n’ Roll Group,The Psychic Soviet, and Censorship Now!! He was also the host of VBS.tv’s Soft Focus, where he interviewed Mark E. Smith, Genesis P. Orridge, Chan Marshall, Ian MacKaye, and others. As a musician he has created more than twenty albums and countless singles in various rock and roll combos (Escape-ism, Chain & the Gang, The Make-Up, The Nation of Ulysses, etc.). He lives in Los Angeles, CA. Against the Written Word is his latest work.

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