Improvijazzation Nation, issue # 35
MANY interesting things happening in the world of home-produced music over these past many months! There are MORE than ever folks out there making their own music!
One thing that’s been particularly noticeable (to us, anyway) is the bonds being established between musicians and poets (or spoken-word artists). That may not seem like a “new” phenomenon, because (as a for instance), Zzaj Productions has put out (at least) 10 collaboration tapes with various poets – Belinda Subraman, Joan Payne Kincaid & John M. Bennett, just to name a few of them. What is DIFFERENT these days, though, is that with the price of CD burners coming down, there are many artists/collaborators who are SELF-RELEASING now… NO label, NO interference, NO “selling out”. It’s really (just) not NECESSARY anymore! In fact, I’ve released two brand-new spoken word tapes (soon to become CD’s), “BLUER THAN BLUE”, with Ernesto Diaz-Infante, and “LUGGAGE”, with John M. Bennett – just in the last month! Quicker, easier & MUCH better quality than the old days!
On that note, let me challenge YOU – MAKE something, run it down to tape (or CD, if you have the equipment) & get it on IN to us for REVIEW! The very best ones – particularly those that are based on a collaboration betwixt spoken-word and music, will be selected to appear on an anthology CD, to be released (sometime) next year (probably about mid-summer, 1999)!
Raw Kinder: RAW KINDER – This EP CD features a 3-piece with guitars, keyboards & some neat vox by Renee Anabel Wilson (there were also some programmed drums furnished by Tony Lewis). It’s only drawback is length… it’s only 23 minutes… we would’ve preferred a full-length product. Waal, mebbe’ next time, eh? Very interesting music, with Charlie Caroll’s guitarz’ as th’ focal point. Renee’s vox take me back a few years, stylistically & in th’ phrasings, reminding me strongly of th’ earliest works of Janis Ian – & that’s a STRONG compliment, ‘coz many have tried to imitate Ian, but been unable to pull it off. Keyboards were played by Ian O’ Brien & have some nice shadings to add to th’ overall psychedelic effects of th’ compositions. This isn’t “Madison Square Garden” level yet – but it COULD be! I think this is a group to watch out for in th’ next coupla’ years… they get a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for any who enjoy swirling vocal psych-rock. Contact at 173 Clinton St., Brooklyn, NY 11201, or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
c/o Moisst Publications, P.O. Box 338
Tempe AZ 85281, or via e-mail to email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
Doc West and the Yard Dogs: FEED THE FIRE – Gourd, 2 “dog” CD’s inna’ row! This one comes to us by way of Creative Service Company – so, as you might imagine, it’s a lil’ less on th’ “raw” side than th’ previous one. Th’ band moniker might make you think of C&W, or good ole’ boy “roadhouse rock”. You wouldn’t be too far off th’ mark, either. It’s a pleasant excursion, with West’s vocals leading th’ way into turf often trod by singers all th’ way from “Willie” to Michael Murphy to locals (here in Olympia) like Charlie Saibel. Sweet twangin’ pedal steel, violin backgrounds, lull ya’ to sleep, or make ya’ get up & cut that RUG! Truth be told, th’ “fire” wasn’t as bright as on some other efforts I’ve heard in this country arena, pace was just a lil’ slow for my liking. Th’ ballad pieces are VERY tasty, though! That shouldn’t detract from you checkin’ it out, however, particularly if yer’ a (truly) hardcore country rock fan; gets a RECOMMENDED from us. Contact at Creative Service Company, 4360 Emerald Dr., Colorado Springs, CO 80918, via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
Rodrigo Sigal: MANIFESTO – Home produced music is not the challenge it once was, & the result is often poorly produced music that has not a bit of enchantment for a listener (like me) who becomes bored if there is no “energy” displayed in th’ composition. Well, that’s NOT the case on Ridrigo’s “MANIFESTO”. Rodrigo paints a (sonic) picture of life/sounds he’s captured in Mexico (his home). Flute and piano stand out, sort of “talking” over sounds of everyday life he’s woven (very tastefully, not some “schlock” answering machine mumbo-jumbo) through the compositions. If you’re thinking traditional Mexican music – forget it! In fact, if you’re thinking tradition at all, you’re on th’ wrong CD. I would have (personally) enjoyed a little more “orchestral” sound integrated into his vision, & there are sections where volume is mixed a little low, but when viewed in the overall, those are minor complaints. Supreme sketches of life, Rodrigo’s compositions will make you feel better about life in general. Improvised compositions that get a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from this reviewer! Contact at Pacifico # 517, D-102, Candelaria, Coyoacan, CP 04380, Mexico, via e-mail to email@example.com or on the website at http://www.geocities.com/Vienna/9303 Rotcod Zzaj
Ethodius: ETHODIUS – A highly experimental CD in from Detroit, this music uses church-based patterns to comp against, with interesting results. It moves in strange ways, from integrated spoken overlays to synth/perc bodies that (often) seem like ghosts. I’m not sure if this was the intended effect, but it works, nonetheless. If you’re expecting “pure” synthworks, you may be (ever so slightly) disappointed, ‘coz when th’ vox are alive, it comes off almost as “electronic goth” – somethin’ along those lines, anyway. If this is th’ new “Motown Sound”, sign me UP! No matter what some critics may say, this holds my interest, because it IS “different”. Hard to categorize, it won’t fit into any “pigeonhole”. For those seeking out strange ambiences, this is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Ethodius NEEDS to hook up with (my friends) Broca’s Area (if they haven’t already), since they’re in th’ same neck o’ thee wood! If you’re lookin’ for “paste-up” new-age “crap-ola”, go elsewhere! Contact at POB 765, Mount Clemens, MI 48046-0765, via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or on their WWW site at http://www.gatecom.com/~ethodius Rotcod Zzaj
Count Basie Orchestra (directed by Grover Mitchell): COUNT PLAYS DUKE – Those in our readership who just HAVE to have a dose of good old “big band sound” every once in a while will be extremely pleased to know that this MAMA Records release has it ALL! Thirteen full-sized tunes for ears that soak every little sound of every instrument in. +, you can dance to it – th’ old-fashioned way, lil’ style & grace! If yer’ lookin’ for wacked-out freestyle – ferget it! OTOH, if you wanna’ get up & BOOGIE, this will be a wonderful musical experience. This kinda’ music makes you feel GOOD! All th’ way from “A Train” to “Mood Indigo” to “It Don’t Mean A Thing If You Ain’t Got That Swing” (editor’s favorite cut), they’ll have you up & OUT o’ yer’ seat. Th’ kids of today could learn a HECKUVVA’ lot from listening to this kind o’ groove! Just WONDERFUL! I loved it, & you will too… gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (our highest rating). Contact through MAMA Records, 12358 Ventura Blvd., Suite 366, Studio City, CA 91604 or to email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
William Kanter Woods: A DOCTOR’S DILLEMA – How interesting, this idea of a physician making music. What BETTER way to heal th’ savage souls that plague our world today? Woods’ CD proves that it can be done, but not without considerable musical skill & talent (which he demonstrates an abundance of – classically trained, too). Piano jazz is th’ descriptor, & th’ piano was excellent, though next time I’d go for live drums, instead of those programmed beats on “Round Two” (first cut). Reggie Washington’s bass guitar on th’ second cut (“Eleanor, as in a Dream”) is a nice laid-back piece that would go well with wine & romance. Many of th’ styles on Woods’ compositions remind me (significantly) of my friend Remus Glaude, here in Olywa; otta’ hook th’ two of ’em up sometime. Very relaxing playing, with strong undercurrents of emotion & healing. Get some o’ this into th’ earz’ of those gang-bangers & thee world WOULD be a better place. Gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from this reviewer, especially for those who want a little SOUL in their music! Contact at the Creative Service Company, 4360 Emerald Dr., Colorado Springs, CO 80918, or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED; in fact, it gets this month’s PICK for “best jazz”! Contact at 2500 H St., Bellingham, WA 98225, via e-mail to email@example.com or on the webpage at http://www.bima.com/nixtrix
The CD is also available through Tower Records, Cadence’s catalog & the Public Radio Music Source at 1-800-75-MUSIC. Rotcod Zzaj
L.E.G. Slurp: FOOLIFINGO – If you’ve ever heard “Godley & Crème”, you’ll have a pretty good idea what (parts of) this sound like. Mr. Slurp performs vocals & plays a keyboard invention (of his) called a Samchillian Tip Tip Tip Cheeepeeeee (basically, a microprocessor controlled MIDI device). Nineteen awfully odd short to medium length pieces based on old-phashioned phunk – less th’ rap. Spots where yer’ might e’en think “Tiny Tim” was trolloping thru th’ tulips. Some shades of “Stephen Bishop” in there, too! I’ve no doubt this is more than just a “passing fad”. As we move into the 21st century, we need (more & more) music that’s based purely on original interpretation and creativity – which comes in SPADES on this CD. Th’ improv purist won’t like this, as it has a foundation of drum machine(s) & funk-likz’, but those with some adventure in their blood (not to mention an active “funnybone”) will find this VERY enjoyable, as did I. Definitely not mainstream, & not (really) in any (recognizeable) category. Gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from this reviewer, ‘specially for those in need of something “new”. Contact at 96 St. Marks Pl., # 2, New York, NY 10009, or via e-mail to
Lucy Bonilla: SOMETHING OUT OF NOTHING – Gourda’ might-ee, Susan White (100% Fret Free Music, 9130 88th Rd., Woodhaven, NY 11421-2628 ) ‘s gonna’
KILL me if I don’t get the review done on this H-O-T & shakin’ lil’ CD from Lucy. All original bloozey-ballad-rawk intended ta’ reach in & rip out yer’ heartstrings… Lucy (definitely) sounds like she’s BEEN down those roads she writes & sings about (but looks jus’ FINE on th’ CD cover, none th’ worse fer’ th’ wear)! It’s th’ short version, only 5 pieces (intended as a sampler, I guess) – well, Lucy, we WANT yer’ first full-length release for review. My favorite was “Nobody’s Man”, though track 5, “That’s My Day” comes in a close second! Bonilla plays some MEAN git-ar leads, too, not jus’ a “strum-star”! If yer’ jus’ luv a woman with a voice that sez’ “I’M HERE, & I KNOW WHAT I’M DOIN'”, you’ll agree with me when I say this is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Hard-focused, high energy R&B that’ll bring a tear to yer’ eye in a minit! Contact at
firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
K.D. Schmitz: PLEASANT VALLEY TEUSDAY – Tape in from our fave home-producer. K.D. calls this a “collection of increasingly ragged songs”… dunno’ ’bout that, Mr. Schmitz, sounded pretty gol-durned good ta’ me! Guitar acoustics and smooth echoed vox that’ll have yer’ lustin’ fer’ ol’ Beatles albums. “James Taylor” makes (suitable) fun of that icon, & illustrates th’ kind o’ tounge-in-cheek humor K.D. is a talented practicioner of. Quite relaxing music, actually, bringing to mind some of th’ sessions I’ve heard Dan Susnara do over the years. 29 toonz’ in all, a fantastic & entertaining flight into K.D.’s version of fantasyland that yer’ bound to thorougly enjoy! Gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those who can dig on
K.D. Schmitz: TEN THOUSAND THINGS #’s 29/30 – This is a little quarter (or is it eighth) size personalzine that K.D.’s been putting out for some time now (obviously, since it’s all th’ way up to # 30 now). It’s basically a repository for whatever strikes his fancy during the period of it’s writing.
# 29 is a journal-style thingie with thoughts about jury-duty, illness, his daughter Kayla & many other interesting lil’ tidbits. # 30 is sort of a “best of”, wherein K.D. uses ideas presented in each issue (yup, alla’ way from 1-29) as a springboard for a page or so of explana about that issue. It would serve as a great intro to the ‘zine. This is always a fun read, & comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those with a taste for something different! Contact at POB 1806, Poughskeepie, NY 12601, or via e-mail to
email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
Ski-Mask: OSTOMY – Tape in from “Ski Mask”, up New York state way (POB 638, Kenmore, NY 14217, or via e-mail to
Johnny Young: SHED YOUR SKIN – Little trio on this CD in from Brooklyn. This is a KEWL rawkin’ thang. Young has been blind since age 17, but he hasn’t let that get in his way at all! This music is FULL of punch & energy, & a sensitivity not often heard these days! Young’s lead guitar/vox are thoroughly complimented by th’ power-driven bass by Christopher Strone & th’ butt-kickin’ drums of Emilio Vicini. If th’ word “alternative” (when used to describe rock music that’s supposed to be “different”) has sorta’ turned you off – think AGAIN! This is th’ REAL thing! Second cut in, “One Call”, is a fave, but none o’ th’ rest are slackerz’, either! Strong lyrical bent, with real style, not jus’ another punker with a case o’ wannabe! Wanna’ get yer’ blood SURGING? GET THIS – it’s MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED & gets th’ PICK of this issue for “best rawker”! If yer’ don’t get another R&R album this year – you jus’ GOTTA’ have this one! Independence with GUTZ’! Contact at 440 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11215, or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
Jaws of The Flying Carpet: TONE DEAF – Our fave “ugly music” playerz from up Canada way are at it again! This particular tape features an 8-piece grouping for a live show “Live At The Whipping Post”, September 12, 1998. Seems to be an annual event that gathers a very appreciative crowd for J.O.T.F.C. at their “wack-ed” best! First side would SURELY make yer’ believe th’ moniker of “tone deaf” – lotz’ o’ disjointed meander-ramble kind of thangs, great guitar/drum interplays & lots of crowd reaction. Snatches of Zalnikor’s hornz’, tho’ not as prevalent as some (other) recent efforts. Whole of side 1 is very space-oriented, except for one bass-riff funk thang (which is a KICKER, btw). MUCH different from (some) previous J.O.T.F.C. we’ve reviewed in these pages… less rock/jazz, more bass walking & orchestral flavorings; shades of druids & tree worshiping creep thru every once in a while as well – just in time fer’ Halloween, eh, boyz’? Another “keeper” from th’ keepers of th’ keys to th’ “ugly music room”! Comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED fer’ those who can’t slake their musical thirsts without a lil’ “strange”. Contact at 6397 Glen Knolls Dr., Orleans, OT K1C 2W9 CANADA Rotcod Zzaj
Bionaut: BIG CAUSEWAY TO GONE – Synth-based electronica madness from Tiny Bubbles Music, in Centerville, MA (1600 Falmouth Rd., Suite 109, 02632, or
email@example.com ), which appears (basically) to be Chris Green & Paul Eggleston. Some cleanly-recorded spoken-word lays tastefully over a near-disco beat on the opener, “Leary’s Second Debut”… lotz’ o’ illusions to az-id, & other trance-inducers, none of it as pshychedelic as when I was first introduced to such in th’ mid-to-late ’60’s, but mebbe’ that’s just coz’ th’ mystery is no longer in it fer’ this reviewer! Th’ title trak is next, & it’s a B-L-A-S-T. Nice synth swells build in layers that don’t sound “just th’ same as all th’ rest” (& that’s ’bout as big a compliment as I can pay yer’, boyz’ – since that seems to be zo hard to do these days fer’ so many of yer’ contemporaries). No drudge at all, very intricate sounds woven into th’ undercurrents, bring on a pleasantly psychotic state without thee normal after-effects – I really LIKE this trak! An EXCELLENT CD, comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for anyone who needs something that stands apart from th’ drone! I predict this one will still be on th’ chartz’ in 2525! You’ve got th’ contact address awready (in th’ body o’ this review) – now, GET this one! Rotcod Zzaj
Lewis & Clark: SOUNDS OF DISCOVERY – One of our favorite labels, Makoche, has released a most interesting CD that documents the travels of these
L-O-N-G way from today’s stress-filled music, sorta’ like a lil’ “listen-in” on our ancestors. I (personally) preferred the flute-based pieces, but maybe that’s because I’ve already been spoiled by previous
recordings in from Makoche. Many will enjoy this music – it gets a RECOMMENDED from us! Contact at 208 N. 4th St., POB 2756, Bismarck, ND 58502-2756, or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
We: STORIES FROM SHALLOW WATER – Will & Emma Hardy are “WE” (wotta’ concept, eh?). An improv duo outta’ Iowa (1951 Delta Avenu, West Branch, IA 52358, or via e-mail to email@example.com ), this is by no means th’ kinda’ improv that a purist would lust after. Basically drums, piano, guitar & bass, played (live throughout, I believe) by Will & Emma, it’s gotta’ “rawk” tinge. Well recorded CD, with high energy in th’ playing (which is it’s saving grace, actually – because some of th’ cutz’ are a little too “poppy”, from our perspective, anyway). Th’ stratz’ on th’ third cut in, “Choosing From The Old World”, are very pleasant & relaxing, nicely mixed with strings. This turned out to be th’ best played piece, I thought, though cut 5, “Dimma”, has a very attractive & haunting flow to it. Very little in th’ way of bio in th’ package; it would have been nice
hearing “WE’s” next efforts! Rotcod Zzaj
Jliat: HILBERT’S HOTEL – Our main man in th’ U.K., e.james, has been at it
(once) again. Electronic drones that just won’t quit. This is TODAY’s meditative medium, & Jliat is a master at it. In fact, I often turn th’ sound down a little bit lower than normal & listen to this with headphones. There’s no doubt that he’s in a trance state when he’s playing (tho’ not
necessarily when recording) this music, & it’s kinda’ infectious! We’d advise very STRONGLY against listening to this whilst driving any sorta’ conveyance, even a golf kart could bring on immediate disaster. If it were just straight-up drone all th’ way through, I couldn’t give this th’ HIGHLY
RECOMMENDED that it merits… but there are nuances in th’ playing that will
invade yer’ down to yer’ genes & test th’ mettle of yer’ zoul! Best yet! Contact at 13 Wells Road, Walshingham, Norfolk NR22, 6DL UK, or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
Larry Kucharz: DARK RED – This CD came in a while back, & I reviewed a
different one then (Metachoral Visions). What a wonderful re-visit to Larry’s intricate & sensitive electronic compositions. Extremely relaxing
Franco Degrassi/Gianni Lenoci: SELF-TITLED – This was a submission for the EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC FESTIVAL, ’99’s, I believe. Unfortunately, it had nothing but th’ CD in the package, so there’s little bio information available on the artists (we’ll probably get that back shortly, just as soon as I send Franco an e-copy of this review). Since th’ status of th’ ’99 festival is kind of in limbo right now, I decided that I’d better go ahead & get this reviewed now. Certainly merits it! Thick, dense and rich piano improvisational compositions that seem to be totally spontaneous. This would be WONDERFUL music for th’ festival, or for those who live, eat & breathe improvisation! I’m sure it would be better live, but th’ CD does a great job of conveying th’ urgency & freneticism that helps you (th’ listener) transcend th’ awful norms! Apparently, these 2 work at this
Davey Williams, Wally Shoup & LaDonna Smith, in th’ early ’80’s. For those
who NEED a little bit o’ freestyle, this comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Contact th’ publishing company, ASC Records Ltd., 146A Chester Rd., Macclesfield, Cheshire, England SK11 8PT or via e-mail (direct) to email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
Desoto Reds: 4/98 – Interesting lil’ 4-piece from San Francisco on this demo tape. Second cut in, “you in mind”, was a SUPREME example of ’90’s psych! Takes a few barz ta’ really “grok” where these strangers are comin’ from – but those phroggin’ git-arz’ in phase (& other effects) bring on one o’ those “contact highs” after it beginz’ ta’ sink in! Almost like a
flashback to some of my finder dreams in th’ mid-to-late ’70’s… mebbe’ these boyz’re sons o’ th’ pioneers (moments when it soundz’ a bit like “Rubber Soul”)? Crisp & precise drumming (Scott Sterling) are a treat! This is (actually) pretty well-recorded for a demo! In th’ overall, I give
it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED – significant, since this is th’ first time –
rawk-erz’ usually score a bit lower on first listen with me! Contact at 760 Market St., Suite 315, San Francisco, CA 94117, or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
Michael J. Bowman: FREE AGENT – Here’s a print copy of an online ‘zine I wasn’t aware of… don’t know HOW I missed it, really, ‘coz MJB has a BUNCH o’ articles in here about veteran home-producers who are making the (often difficult) x-isition from tape to CD. This is issue # 005 (& I believe I saw issue # 006 already, on the WWW site, at http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/mjbowman ) There are some volkz’ who have been in th’ “tape underground” for a L-O-N-G time (Ken Clinger, Dino DiMuro, even Hal McGee) who make appearances with opinions pro/con for going digital. Ian Stewart, of AutoReverse ‘zine, discusses various aspects of ‘zine publishing & th’ WWW. This is a VERY interesting read, &
Signal To Noise: JAZZ ‘ZINE – Here’s a WAY kewl newsprint ‘zine that goes
a long way towards reviving thee spirit of early days in ‘zinedom! Strong
feedback & retrospect on Miles, some GREAT reviews of bands known & not so!
Our friend Ernesto Diaz-Infante gets a nice little write-up… & these reviews aren’t just 4-liners that dash off more opinion than substance. Well written & knowledgeable, th’ kind o’ ‘zine that makes a PERFECT “tub read”! Editor Paul Gershon has a web site, too, but if you want th’ whole ‘zine (in printed form), you’ll have to subscribe. This is a ‘zine that experimental jazz musicians should submit to! Very kewl, gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from this reviewer! Contact at 492 US Route 2, Suite 1, South Hero, VT 05486 or via e-mail to email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
Wendy Luck: THE ANCIENT KEY – In my (many) travels throughout the world, I have encountered places that somehow “felt right” for playing music. Sometimes a building, others a panoramic view of a valley from a majestic hilltop. Wendy Luck’s journey to the temples of ancient Egypt inspired her to record in the Great Pyramid. When you listen, you will immediately connect with the spirits she has established contact with via her magical flute. Luck has (according to her liner notes & bio sheets) played in venues all the way from Carnegie Hall to The Knitting Factory, in as vast a range of (musical) settings as that implies… it’s clear from the first note that she’s fully capable, and totally in touch with that place “where the music comes from”. Simply put, she is a beautiful player. Solid and clear notes flow from her lips and caress your ears with the full range of her emotions! I just LOVED this CD – it’s a KEEPER… gets our MOST HIGHLY
music”! We would hope that ANY of her other works (past, present or future) in need of review will come to US (& that’s a request this ‘zine doesn’t often make). If you need a gift for someone this year, consider this first! Contact at Spobs Music Productions, POB 43158, Upper
Montclair, NJ 07043, or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
Bobby Shew: SALSA CALIENTE – This CD comes our way via B&K Communications, one of our fave promoters (they always send (totally) H-O-T jazz)! Shew turns out some wonderful latin-based jazz that will get yer’ up & movin’ around with energy ya’ didn’t know ya’ had left! This is his first Latin offering, & he does it with th’ kind o’ style that’d make you think he’d been doin’ THIS for over 30 years (he’s well known in be-bop circles, acutally). As you might imagine, th’ horns (Bobby’s trumpet & flugelhorn included) are right out there in front… too many players listed to call off in this review, but th’ percussion players provide th’ rock-solid roots
THE GREAT GOD TAPE
by the Reverend Gregory Purvis
It was in those dim dark days of music history that the Great God Tape first spoke to me like some burning bush. The 1970’s: a dismal decade when American music seemed to sink underneath an ocean of cocaine-fueled studio cock rock and disco. I used to sit in front of my father’s Kenwood stereo and drink in the warm lights and the smell of tube-driven amplification. I was in love with the controls: the balance slider, the bass knob, the filter buttons. It was a religious experience. The first stirrings of a dark addiction.
Fortunately for my generation, the disco backlash seemed to breath a new life into the top-heavy music industry: Punk rock was born, and this bastard child decided not to play by the established rules of conduct. The punk was both the High Priest of nonconformity and an explorer into the uncharted region of the Do It Yourself work ethic. In the few mangled chords and screaming obscenities were mixed the prayers to The Great God Tape, that venerable deity which has allowed music to return to the hands of the musician.
In the 1980’s I heard the basement recordings of a band called Big Black, an experience which would influence how I viewed the creation of music. Before Big Black I assumed making music was as far from my relative station in life as the urban forests of New York and Los Angeles where it all seemed to be happening. It might as well have been on another planet, considering the isolation and mind-numbing boredom of the tiny road-stain where I lived. In particular, the song ‘Kerosene’ seemed to embody everything good and pure in music while whispering about the possibilities of burning my whole wasted little town down. The real validity of the music, however, was the way it was recorded. Steve Albini refused to compromise with the established
In 1986 I began recording with some friends in an old dilapidated farmhouse in Mentone, Alabama. Emulating the abrasiveness of Big Black’s guitar-heavy assemblies, we began to layer keyboards and distortion-box vocals over the slow, heavy music. Our first experiments with recording were decidedly primitive: we bought every adapter Radio Shack sold and learned to record with microphones and tape-loops to achieve a kind of Third World multitracking capability. In the late eighties, recording in a professional studio was a distant and unobtainable dream for most garage bands and home enthusiasts. The most high-tech session we could manage was breaking into a local AM radio station to record on their reel-to-reel machine at three in the morning. Even without adequate equipment, recording became the focus of our creative efforts. Many of those beer-fueled sessions were captured live on Memorex with the help of an eighty-dollar portable “boom box” and about a mile of cheap cables and adapters.
In 1988 the spirit of creative recording introduced me to pawn shop electronica and the mysteries of the digital delay and nine-volt powered “stomp boxes.” Intended to give guitar players a way to cheaply color their sound, I put them to more nefarious uses. Urged on by a steady diet of Butthole Surfers and Ministry, I learned how the human voice could be twisted into an instrument of endless creative capabilities. I began recording experimental music under the name Acid Bathroom, promoting my homemade tapes by scrawling that name on every bathroom stall I came across. While decidedly drug-influenced and sometimes completely unlistenable, I learned to balance the elements I had to work with: to artificially broaden my stereo spectrum with panning, to phatten up the bottom-end with bass eq, and make the windows crack with crystalline treble. And I learned how to lust for equipment I could never afford.
By the time musicians discovered they could control their own destinies and worship at their own altars, the recording industry began to back-peddle away from its previous Fat-Cat image. A&R executives began talking about the next big thing in relation to what someone besides the corporate accountant considered musically important. A new generation of musicians, raised on a steady diet of punk rock and 80’s materialism, began to demand fairer contracts and creative control.
New communication mediums have opened new avenues of expression, and artists have more freedom to express themselves using the latest technology without sacrificing control of their work to the few that can understand it. Computer technology may rile analog purists, but it has allowed us to create works of art previously affordable only to platinum selling mega-stars. Sampling and sequencing have never played a predominant role in my own music, but I can afford to use this technology to combine textures and sound bites into what I call “soundscapes.”
In 1993 a friend and I began playing a dark, repetitive song during a bad hang-over. The song gave birth to The Grislys, a band scraped together from bits of small-town isolation, southern oral tradition storytelling, abrasive guitar, and depression. Allthough it had been brewing for many years, the distillate was something new and scary. Country music had long been the province of toothless rednecks and Nashville producers, and if you wanted to make it in rock music and you were from the south, your name better be Elvis. Al Jourgenson (another Do It Yourself producer) was one of the first to unashamedly combine southern twang with alternative music. There was also the Butthole Surfers, Rev. Horton Heat, and a slew of semi-country twang-punk bands. Decidedly influenced by Jourgenson’s production abilities, I came out of the closet (musically speaking) and began rummaging through my own attic of southern gospel-punk roots. Splicing this with a kind of Faulkneresque spoken-word styling and plenty of B-Movie horror samples, the Grislys came of age.
At no time in the past have artists been able to combine their own passions with the hard grist of technology and create such eclectic music. Of course, creating it is only half the fun. One must think like the record producers and A&R executives which have been altered by this little revolution in the Way It Is: we must create and then disseminate.
I began Low Frequency RPM soon after I recorded my fifth full-length project on cassette. Many people have sworn off cassettes for the digital purity of CD or MiniDisk, but I cling to this analog apparatus like a starving man to a slice of WonderBread. I like tape: I like stringing it from the low ceilings of clubs when I play live, like some kind of spider’s web. I like the compact feel of one in my hand, without fear of smudging or scratching we were taught with the introductuion of the CD. I like the way it feeds itself like a piece of cannibal technology when it is in the recorder. And I like the sound. Low Frequency RPM produced a song for the Realapalooza compilation CD (put out by the “Howard Stern Staion” in Orlando) called “Poison Man.” The band, Wirehead, was a white-trash industrial/techno project I was working with on the side. The song we used was the only song on the CD recorded on cassette. It was also the only song reocrded on a four-track and not in some expensive studio where the last coked out engineers of the 70’s cling desperately to their jobs The most common comment I hear about “Poison Man”: “How did you get it to sound that way without a digital blah-blah brand microdeathray studio subenhancer module?” Low tech is sometimes the best tech if the Great God Tape is with you. I remember reading an interview with Al Jourgenson and Paul Barker of Ministry where they talked about recording “Psalm 69” in a digital studio. “There was no ass-end to the music,” one of them complained. The warm richness of analog still has a place near and dear to my wicked little heart Low Frequency RPM was established intially to produce and market projects my friends and I did in our spare time. It has expanded into a rather unconventional company. Using gueriila marketing methodology and a fine sense of psychodrama we promote a parade of uncoventional experimentalist
music. The recording is admittedly low-tech, and we only put out projects on cassette (to honor the Great God Tape), but the music is free and full of expression.
While I never claim to be running up the road to being a millionaire, I have found the path to salvation… and it is paved with magnetic tape strewn over the Yellow Brick Road winding on into the digital future.
You can contact the Rev’ down in hurricane-land, at LOW FREQUNCY RPM, 1941 Knolton Avenue, Orange City, Florida 32763 or via e-mail to email@example.com We genuinely appreciate these kinds of submissions, though we don’t often get them. Spread the word to others you know who are in to D.I.Y. – we will GIVE you a forum for your experiences & insights about this kind of lifestyle. Without rambling TOO much – it’s what this ‘zine is REALLY all about! Doing whatEVER you do on your OWN, without th’ “helpful hands” of government agencies whittling away at your creative endeavors! Write ON, Greg!!!
Now, th’ conclusion for this issue is on somewhat of a sad note. I had already sent out some notifications to poets who submitted material previously that their piece(s) would be published in issue # 35. For some reason, most of the poets submitting & subscribing to this ‘zine don’t seem to be on the Internet (yet)… th’ result is that (because I don’t have an e-mail for them) I can’t send them a (p)REVIEW copy of what’s going to be published. That’s done as a matter of course for the musicians, because about 95% of the contacts this writer makes (for music) are over the Internet. What that means is that if the computer goes flooey – & what computer DOESN’T do that once in a while – the ONLY saved copy I have of their work(s) are in the one copy of the issue they’re going to be published in. What I’ll be doing in the future to prevent these kinds of unfortunate losses is saving them in 2 locations – but, even THAT won’t necessarily provide a totally safe recovery.
Anyway, the “short” of it is that ALL the poems (except one from John M. Bennett) got lost in a massive hard disk crash – about 2 days before I would have been running the print master. This is the first time (that I can remember, anyway) since I started publishing IMPROVIJAZZATION NATION that ALL the poems have been lost. If I notified you that your poem (or poems) would be published (whether you paid for an issue or not), please send me back a copy of ANY poem I said would be published in # 35, & it will be published in the next issue (# 36, obviously). IF you paid for an issue, though, be sure & let me know that, so I can mark you up in the database. Once again, I truly apologize for this omission, but it’s beyond my control!
Well, that will wrap up this issue – be sure and spread the word – we NEED your submissions, especially home-produced music(s). Genre is an insignificant part – what we are most interested in reviewing is music that YOU produced yourself… th’ prime qualifier for a GREAT review is that your devotion to being the best you can at what you do (even if that’s NOISE) shines through brilliantly! Send all material for review to: Zzaj Productions, 5308 65th Ave SE., Lacey, WA 98513 E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have (other) questions about submitting stuff to the ‘zine!
GAJOOB continues to support D.I.Y. extensively… Bryan recently did some major “catching-up” – if you haven’t been there in a while, GO there and listen to the new D.I.Y. radio shows he’s put up. He’ll be publishing the next PAPER version of GAJOOB (as well as a CD compilation, for which he’s soliciting material) in the spring of 1999 – so be sure & check it out!
‘nother site that’s really relevant for D.I.Y. artists is the D.I.Y. Deterrent Database, at http://deterrent.bc.ca/diy.html They’ve done a great job of listing resources, & in a friendly and easy-to-use format. I use this ALL the time!
If yer’ lookin’ fer’ places to submit yer’ poetry OR yer’ music (online), check out the E-ZINE list, from John Labowitz, at http://www.meer.net/~johnl/e-zine-list/index.html There are LOTS of way-better ‘zines & poetry outlets appearing on the net daily! Surely worth a try!
For those who are strictly poets, there are couple of really neat places I’ve discovered lately on the WWW.
First is the INTERNET POET’S SOCIETY. It’s not really as “stuffy” as it sounds, though they do have a registration, something I don’t much care for. Nicely laid out, though, & will take your submissions online.
The second poetry site is one I’m in love with already…. it’s (simply) called WriteHere! The site is run by Ben – he responded (most personably and quickly) with zeal and enjoyment. This is THE best site I’ve seen for poets since I’ve been on the net(s) (& that’s a LONG time). It’s really E-Z to use and things get revised/put up right AWAY! You can get there by pointing yer’ browser to http://www.worldlynxyork.net/writehere
Well, WE have “done it” again! Zzaj Productions is proud to announce the release of 2 brand-new spoken-word tapes (soon to be CD’s)! Get them NOW – they make great gifts for those friends who demand something DIFFERENT!
Bluer Than Blue – Ernesto Diaz-Infante joins Rotcod Zzaj in a spoken-word sort o’ “glee club” – fer’ th’ 22nd century! Some GREAT music, & a fun time all ’round!
Luggage – Zzaj has been working with Ohio poet John M. Bennett for many years now! This is the latest, & it’s zanier than ever. LOTS of spoken-word – even has some interplay between the two poets! Great tape!
Experiences such as th’ loss of ALL th’ poems from this issue due to a hard drive crash bring home a point that computer nuts often forget, though (unfortunately, that includes ME sometimes, too). The only SAFE record is a PAPER record!!! No matter how fancy th’ back-up media becomes (zip drives, jaz drives & other mass storage capabilities), there are certain documents that NEED to be kept!
I know I’ve been guilty (many times) of preaching that we should live in a “paperless” society – but, it really DOESN’T work that way! There are times when th’ “feel” & th’ “touch” are just as important as the words/music being conveyed. & no matter how fast you can type, or what fancy-dancy procedures we come up with for machine archival & records-keeping – they will NEVER have those sensations. They may simulate such sensory experiences, but there is (also) a danger inherent in THAT – HOW would we distinguish or authenticate the “real feel” from a “dream feel”? The “big brother” scenarios painted in the early-to-mid 1900’s would come to life with a VENGEANCE! In some cases, “virtual reality” would mean “non reality”! Until your computer has a human brain implanted in it (& I suppose THAT could be in the offing, too… start with a sheep, right?), “curling up with a good book” can NOT mean stroking th’ keypad of yer’ notebook computer, or mousing yer’ way to reality!
The potential that computers, the World Wide Web & on-line simulations of reality offer for ABUSE of reality is just too great a risk to take. Some experiences (like a piece of poetry) ARE best experienced th’ “old fashioned” way!
Don’t just “think about it”, though… WRITE a piece of poetry about it & snail-mail it to us! While I enjoy getting e-mail, it tends to get lost in the shuffle! Tell us your thoughts on how computers & poetry/music relate!
Guess that’s about it for this year! I’m lOOking FORWARD to 1999 (&, of course, 2000)! Stay in TOUCH & pass th’ word on to all your poetry & music friends about this lil’ effort (th’ ‘zine, I mean) to provide exposure for those who don’t (necessarily) have it!