memories

Memories: Noise Bands

I just posted to Bandcamp the second in a series of unearthed old tape releases of mine from the early 90s (see here for background and details about the first tape).  After a few years of playing guitar in noisy, gothy, thrashy, bluesy, punk bands, I began to meet and jam with a few people I met from the University of Michigan music school, as I got more and more influenced by non-rock musics like Cage, Zorn, Sun Ra, Faust, and The Hafler Trio.  I was exposed to this stuff via the student radio station I was at, WCBN, as well as the music classes I was taking as a kind of reprieve from my engineering coursework that I hated.

I believe it was in the fall of 1991 when I started doing a radio show called The Difficult Listening Hour, which was a late Sunday evening collage of field recordings and media samplings, mixed with a flurried survey of 20th-Century contemporary art music. One week I invited my friend Neil Chastain down to the studio, and we set up tape loops and synths and samplers and jammed live on the radio for an hour. The posters were a collage of commercial promoverbage and one phrase, "Ears Under Siege" jumped out, so afterward we decided to keep working in this mode under that name (at the same time we were playing with 2 sax players in a noise-jazz group called Wax Utensil Guild, and Neil was drumming in a math-metal band in Cleveland called Craw as well as working on his music degree and playing in several other music school ensembles). I invited Jeff Warmouth from an earlier band we were in, The Tao Puppies, to join us on bass and effects, and things clicked for several long recording/improvising sessions and a few scattered gigs (including the infamous Noiseapalooza in the summer of 1993). As we went  we brought in a variety of other instrumentalists, along with Kevin Lee on tapes and electronics.

In early 93 we put together the best distillation of many hours of recordings, boiled down to a 60 minute tape, and I released it on my Viral Communications label.   This is electronic/electric music made before there were laptops and the current craze of high-end retro custom synths and fancy controllers. And yet I still like and am pleased by the sound of these tracks, raw but richly textured, restrained at times but (and sometimes also) unapologetically challenging at others. Abstract, but with a sprinkling of sociopolitical messaging and dada whimsy mixed in too.  I hope you enjoy them now.  Read more>>>

Memories: Viral Communications and the Cassette Underground

I'm delving lately into boxes full of old cassette tapes I've been carefully storing. Some are over 20 years old.  So far they still sound okay.  old cassettes - 4These tapes contain some of my very early forays into making music as a self-identified "composer" and "fine art" or "experimental" musician.  Some of them I released to the public, under the aegis of a cassette label called Viral Communications, which I operated from approximately 1992 to 1996 (the name inspired by William S. Burroughs and his writings that "language is a virus from outer space"). With this label I produced seven albums, which included my work, recordings by some bands I was in, as well as a compilation of music by various fringe Ann Arbor artists and an album by an avant-jazz group some friends were in. With the founding of VirComm, I launched myself into a thriving, pre-internet long-distance community known as the zine and cassette underground.  I published a zine called Synergy (which I will be scanning and re-releasing soon), and sent that and my tapes out to dozens of other zines that reviewed them, and a handful of people ordered stuff and wrote me letters and sent me their stuff.  In this age of digital recording and instant mass distribution, those days seem like a bizarre and clunky primitive world, but there was a certain exciting, rewarding aura to those odd hand-packaged cassettes and booklets that in some ways for me has still never been matched. Read more>>>

Memories: Hube

This is the first in a series of postings about creative pursuits and other activities in my long-ago past.  I recently digitized several old vhs tapes full of various things I've done, including short film, video collage, and various music projects.  Here I'll tell you about a short-lived but very unusual and very fun band I was in almost 20 years ago. 

In the early 90s I was part of an small circle of musicians in Ann Arbor, Michigan that did various experimental or "avant garde" sound projects, including a "band" called Ears Under Siege.  Having its origins in one installment of a collagey, noisy radio show I did at WCBN called The Difficult Listening Hour, the group was basically about creating long, ambient, droney soundscapes, inspired by artists like The Hafler Trio, Nurse With Wound, Phauss, Eno, etc. There was sort of a revolving membership to this band but the core of the group was myself and Neil Chastain.   I was into sampling and Neil had tons of old synthesizers, and we would include various other players of electronic or acoustic instruments, somehow always maintaining a sort of low-key, spacey yet challenging aesthetic. Every session would start with a long period of everyone tweaking their instruments, developing patches and editing samples and setting up elaborate chains of effects processors.  Jeff Warmouth, mostly on bass guitar, and Kevin Lee on electronics, became quite frequent participants and the group was around for a couple of years, playing several gigs and recording lots of material.  

Bu this is about a totally different band.  At one point in the summer of 1993, Jeff, Kevin, and I met for an Ears Under Siege session at my apartment.  I can't remember if we knew beforehand, but Neil did not show because he was out of town, playing drums with another group of his, the math-rock band Craw based in Cleveland.  Anyway, we scheduled the meeting anyway and set up our piles of gear but then as we started fiddling with sounds we decided we wanted to do something different. Perhaps it was Neil's absence or maybe it was some other sense of a need for variety, but we decided to try playing a series of really short songs, instead of the long, 20 to 30 minutes drone pieces that EUS was so partial to creating.  

The challenge to come up with something different that would be interesting in just a minute or two ended up Read more>>>

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