dc misc. index
5-08-10 - Making Weird Music (linked to the Weird, Experimental, Industrial, New Wave Department of Defuser Music dot com in the Songs Recorded with Blaise section.
It was Blaise Smith who led me into this experimental, raw, new area of musical madness. Blaise has written a lot of cool music. When you hear the theme song to Sponge Bob Square Pants, you're hearing Blaze's tune. Nicolodian makes most the money from that though cause it was a work for hire. He did it for a friend for $50. He gets the publishing rights but the way they count it it doesn't come to much for some reason. Ouch. But don't cry - he's actually successful in the music biz. See Music Orange studio in SF to see his latest venture.
I met Blaise through Brit Pyland I think, maybe. We had other friends in common. It was early 1981. He'd been around the SF Zen Center some, maybe just visiting Brit. I remember he did some painting for Terry Gragg. They shared other interests as well. I remember he said that he painted himself into a corner once and couldn't get out. I met him just after we'd finished making the tape Fooled by Everything. I was ready for something new. I can remember him coming to visit in Bolinas. He said that he liked my songs but that, well... you know... No I didn't know. Eventually I came to understand that it was all too square - he was tired of the old one, four, five sequence so customary to conventional music. He indicated that and played guitar a bit and something in me snapped.
I started listening to New Wave, Industrial, Punk, and other new sounds like the Talking Heads which took off more from Disco with a sound I loved. We went out and heard the new music that was coming out like Tuxedomoon with sultry lead vocalist Winston Tong. I loved their What's the Use. We heard some interesting bands like the Angry Samoans who I referred to in Music for a Comic Book Video's Screaming Mad ("had to put cotton in my ears. Best god-damn fuck you music I ever heard."). They just totally freaked out and destroyed everything. Actually, MFCBV starts out with a scene based on an experience with Blaise and Terry (and Gregory and Dana) going to a Dead Kennedys concert.
Blaise and I saw an Australian group called SPC (Surgical Penis Clinic is what the initials were rumored to stand for). They were the most industrial of them all. We saw them maybe at the Deaf Club where punk got started (cause the deaf people could feel the music). They took forever to get set up making sure that each mike and piece of equipment had the sound exactly as they wanted - like an orchestra tuning up. And then they came out with the most cacophonous racket I could have imagined. One guy was swinging a small sledge at a large hanging piece of metal and another was making random noises with some sort of oscillator or synthesizer or something and I remember power tools like a large drill and screaming. The audience was maybe pre-Gothic, dressed largely in black. Everyone was pretty serious except for Blaise and me who were laughing our heads off - I remember falling down in convulsions. There were two pedestals placed prominently before the audience with fresh-skinned, bloody sheep heads on them and at one point the guy with the small sledge started smashing them which spread blood, bone, and brains out into the audience. I don't like playing with food but what could I do but stand in amazement. I hear that on their next tour they were kicked out of the country for burning people up front with some sort of flamethrower.
Let's see - we also heard the Residents in one of the only concerts they ever gave - back then anyway. They were the weirdest. Their studio was near the SF Zen Center - on Groove maybe. I knocked on the door once and tried to make friends but they wouldn't let me in. They were on Ralph Records - ralph being slang for vomit. Snake Finger was also on that lable and he was cool. Their early pre-video Super Eight music song films were wonderful.
I heard Laurie Anderson by accident. I'd gone to hear Lou Harrison (who I knew, along with his partner Bill Colvig, [RIP you two] from Tassajara) in his gamelan group at the Kabuki and she was the first act. I'd never heard of her. She was great. I went backstage and talked with her afterwards. She traveled alone and hired people where she went to do the lights and slides and effects. I liked her. Later she posed with Reb Anderson for an interview with them? in - in Interview magazine maybe? Something like that.
Blaise loved Captain Beefheart so we went to see him in North Beach. It was one of his last concerts. I saw Taj Mahal occasionally back then and he said he used to play with Beefheart and told me to go backstage and say hi including from him. So we did. It was great meeting Beefheart. I told him how much I loved his crazy music and that I'd seen James Brown (at the same place) and Stevie Wonder that year too. He preferred Brown. He said that Wonder was still in his training bra. Then I could tell he wished he hadn't said it. A strange thing happened after we left. A guy came up to us on the sidewalk and asked for money to buy a drink. Blaise said to him, "Aren't you Wild Man Fischer?" It was. So we took him into the bar that was right there and spent an hour or so drinking and talking. Check him out.
As soon as I met Blaise I started writing different types of music - even before going to hear anything different. It was all just waiting to come out. I played him the new stuff and he agreed to play with me and said that I needed to get some equipment which I did - a drum machine and basic synthesizer, the type where you create, sculpt the sounds yourself, a lot of knobs - no presets. A little programmable bass which I didn't use much, some sound boxes that added reverb, chorus, and other effects to any output. I got an old Gibson electric-acoustic guitar at the old Guitar Center somewhere near Market and Van Ness. Also got a cheap short Casio keyboard which we had modified with some switches to make weird sounds. I still have that guitar and Casio. I remember we went to a music store to get it all and we gathered all the equipment up - there was a four track cassette tape recorder too, a portastudio. When the salesman would offer me a deal on something I'd pay no attention. I just kept collecting and asked for what it would all cost at full retail. It came to a $4000 as I recall. Blaise and I said we'd talk about it. We took a walk but we didn't talk. I knew exactly what I'd offer - 40% off of the total. I showed the salesman twenty-four 100 dollar bills. He talked to the manager and they accepted.
Blaise showed me how to use the equipment and I took it from there. I did a piece for Katrinka recently based on the first experiments done with that equipment while learning to use it with Blaise - Katrinka, Won't You Be my Valentine. Mainly what we did together however was just play songs on our guitars. I'd play a song and he'd just go along with it - he didn't even need to hear it first. He always knew what to play. We performed once at the Hotel Utah because Hokum Jeebs (see Not Something Else) had signed us up - without asking. It was fun. I remember the lead guitarist for one of my favorite underground bands was there and he came over and made comments most positive. But after a while Blaise wanted to do his own thing and I don't like to perform, just to write and get something down and move on. We continued seeing each other and did some work together after that but mainly just kept in touch.
In this Weird section I'll present the material that I wrote during that period both in the original acoustic versions - where they exist - and in the electronic productions I did with the equipment Blaise encouraged me to buy.
I got to know Winston Tong briefly before going to Japan in 1988 through a dear friend Kay Hamblin. He wouldn't remember it but I'd been such a fan of Tuxedomoon that I do. I remember going to one of his one man shows at the Magic Theater in Fort Mason, one where he emphasized narcissism. He used to be a mime and is theatrical in person and as a singer. I didn't think he was going to live long. I'm pleased to see he's still out and about. The first thing I did when I went to Japan was to hang out with translators, intellectuals, artists in the Tokyo area. I remember playing a tape of one of my weird songs at a an artist friend's villa near Mt. Fuji. One fellow said it reminded him of an obscure underground band he'd heard in San Francisco called Tuxedomoon. I was so pleased.
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