by zach phillips / OSR Tapes Dax Bills

by zach phillips / OSR Tapes Dax Bills

Monday, December 5, 2011

Interview with Chris Weisman

for a while you've been working in a kind of para-jazz idiom focused around understanding different kinds of pitch relationships. at the same time you have done work, for example in your book Nonmusical Patterns, exploring how visual shapes on the guitar fretboard can be used to generate pitch collections. my sense is that the exercises in Nonmusical Patterns allow you to suspend pitch's status as music's main thing, only to rediscover pitch as a changed and recharged intelligibility. Thoreau: 1/23/1852: "the finest uses of things are the accidental." is this all a way of tricking yourself into adopting a gracious attitude?

Hypertext 2:38 Chris Weisman Beatleboro
I Awake In Ohio 3:12 Chris Weisman Beatleboro
The Fingers Of Mars 2:29 Chris Weisman Beatleboro
Pine Cone Phone Poem 1:54 Chris Weisman Beatleboro
The Right Off Key 2:16 Chris Weisman Beatleboro
Selfemoliationocity 2:49 Chris Weisman Beatleboro
Welcome To The Sand 2:12 Chris Weisman Beatleboro
Ryan Power 2:25 Chris Weisman Beatleboro
Reichenbach 3:01 Chris Weisman Beatleboro
The Accidental Kind 1:53 Chris Weisman Beatleboro
MacArthur Hark 1:34 Chris Weisman Beatleboro
Slide Trombone 3:53 Chris Weisman Beatleboro
Through The Night 2:53 Chris Weisman Beatleboro
Day Dew 2:04 Chris Weisman Beatleboro
A Certain Painting 2:58 Chris Weisman Beatleboro
Check Out The Sun 2:55 Chris Weisman Beatleboro
God's Map Silk 3:06 Chris Weisman Beatleboro
Maybe Winter's OK 1:53 Chris Weisman Beatleboro
Heart Peach 2:57 Chris Weisman Beatleboro
The Fall Of The Clarinet 1:23 Chris Weisman Beatleboro
Russian Doll 3:32 Chris Weisman Beatleboro
Human Microphone 1:40 Chris Weisman Beatleboro
North Of Suicide 2:48 Chris Weisman Beatleboro
Keyboard Gray 1:49 Chris Weisman Beatleboro


[you should leave that in the interview, my songs seem to be getting shorter, I'm sure I'm copying you] Wow that gracious attitude language is really beautiful and who could deny wanting to try for those things of course... At base I was always looking for new things and funny scales was a way of doing that. And musical jokes like you might find in a Mozart development section, dumb jokes like a major scale but when it gets to the top it goes one half step higher. Let me tell you some things that means to me: 1) a traditional move down to the V Dominant of ii as they say, "V of ii", say the original notes were C D E F G A B C# for ease of picturing, the C# implies an A7 which leads to some kind of Dm, most often as the ii it already is, then leading to the requisite V/G or whatever wacked version required 2) the C# implying the A but this time as a Tonic and now we're in heavy Abbey Road territory (and it doesn't go like B to G# or F to D, this shit is untransposed [transposition awesomely being not a tool for the Beatles, not something they learned to easily think or: "the thing I want to do again has to do w my handshapes just as much as the sound" [[ironically Dylan was a master transposer often trying his songs in many keys on both guitar and piano, probably using stock voicings but just brilliant listening to his voice sit into the music new ways and ultimately never really picking his favorite]] it's like Abbey Road is the battle between these letters for the Beatles, the only 2 competitors for start of the musical alphabet: C and A [book I want to write "The Bs: The Felt and Made Significance of B chords in the Music of the Beatles" [[the fact that B connects C and A will be in there]]] point: the Beatles knew the names of chords and everything was a field of play for them, Yellow Submarine almost throws you off w all those cartoon letter games but John Lennon says himself about half of that movie is his language, his film-people-recorded vocal free-provs Zach). 3) that the music is gonna modulate up a half step, a truck-driver (unprepared) modulation as heard mainly in Country and R&B and my music 4) more likely than "3)": that the music is gonna truck-driver up a whole but the melody lands right square on a major seven: leaps to nonharmonic tones/"upper extensions"/"tensions" across the divide of a weird chord move really excite me, daring jumps onto avant garde set design. Two "major" (I have a very wide sense) scales a whole-step apart: almost a parody of my compositional tools for how much that play appears. What am I trying to say? I love pitch relationships but I also love the note-blind ogre of the hand. Nonmusical Patterns is where this beast shakes hands w digital shred master Coltrane mind. I mean: I came up in Jazz (starting in 95) w all my main respect and study focused on total changes players, let's not ever dis this art unless you are really willing to face this music and reject it: I just deleted a list of Powerful Jazz Names because even that... this music doesn't need any help, it speaks for itself and is very very beautiful, but in recent years I've been opening up to freer players more into feeling shapes than bothering w the notorious "tyranny". But still: the ones I really like can hear harmony really really well (Steve Lacy being the greatest). Do I recommend learning how to play Be-bop? Learning how to hit any changes no matter how insane? Yes. Yes exactly what I tell myself, but I just want to play a C shape in Bentonian and sing funny. As far as "suspending pitch's status as music's main thing": I have heard a lot of music where the notes don't matter, like dogs w no master cowarding and biting at the viewer. Like an upsidedown sewer and no pop music ever playing. But I also am very focused on the emotional intent/vibe I get from the artist, everyone's Confessional, not least of these the Noise Pedal Man. And I'm a phrasing maniac: The phrasing must be absolutely Isis-level good, music w the logic of a magnet set clock locking into triggering power beams: to me they are made of Steel Zach. Phrasing is a kind of physical sculpture for sure. W "phrasing" you don't need "rhythm" or "pitch" even almost. It is all part of one interconnected thing and: everything you notice matters so: why not write like a Beatnik if you think it could change you. Font Speaks. Hand Speaks and: he's a faster talker than you. Right now I am not as into soloing or: I just solo a little and w what might be some gruesome Hipster irony, some can't-shake-Punk distain for dancing notes. But I have no Punk to shake, my jackets were made of paper and flowers Zach, I just am enjoying Singin & Strummin. Pronounce it like David Lynch and you'll get the idea. I believe a kind of Weird Poetry Horror is the order of the moment for my heart and mind Shack. But all the magnets of music are almost even more bold-relief powerful in the arena of slow-moving notes and note masses moving as dumb blocks. I did a lot of practicing and not-writing building up to Beatleboro, Beatleboro was the tension released, much of it remaining in the tension form: this year Brattleboro was Hell for Halloween all year. 2011: a lot of bad things! But I am daily thankful to be alive and living in this magical town of artists for this magical time. Brattleboro: the "Broken Triangle".  But you didn't ask me about The Bs yet. 

what does Beatleboro (your new album 10/11) have to do with Brattleboro? what do you think about the last song's lyrics? they are hard for me to unpack, maybe you want to help 

Before I get on w the new question I had a few thoughts today: 1) It's scary to write like this and have it go on the computer. Will people think my guitar lessons are like this? Are they? :)
2) DO RE MI FA SO LA TI RA is what me and Rob Martin called the "Sharp 15" except it would have the Sharp #4 going up: a Lydian w a flat 9 on top like a dead cherry.  We probably made that up in 97 or 98. That was the beginning of me thinking about octave specific scales which yielded Nonmusical Patterns in 05 and My Alphabet on New Years Eve 07 while me and Carl played chess at his folks house up in Hallowell, Maine (frankly Carl didn't seem that impressed w the idea but he helped me work it out and narrow it down to specific, I think he rightly associated it w me "quitting songs" which I am addicted to and all that weird work was what I did when I wasn't making tapes, that and just like... jam out). The idea was that Lydian Chromatic type people and Jazz Common Practice argued that Lydian was more the home mode than Major because #4 was more consonant than 4 because it could be derived from a super-consonant stack of 5ths, the F# (in C) sitting perfect atop the other beauty note: B as 7 ("there are 7 levels"). And it doesn't matter that that's not true outside that idea and that 4 is just fine and consonant floating above 3 and Wayne Shorter can tell you that and Herbie Hancock and everyone after can tell you that and Joni can tell you that and Don and Walt can tell you that and Sting can tell you that and Kurt Rosenwinkel the 80s can tell you that and the Police can tell you that and Kurt Rosenwinkel's music can Joni can tell you that tell you that my music is blue like Miles Davis. It doesn't matter: it's fun to live in the extra-musical (or nonmusical) caverns of an idea, to know those lamps, to hear those Caribbean tones what have you dreamer, it's fun if you remember: this is just one way, and: let's take it one further, really trust the idea on its own terms and push it. This one goes to 11 but Music not Rock. So just stack one more 5th on top and you have Sharp 15 and everything breaks. And there we were trying to make it work, that was the practice. And that's why I went back to the clarity of songs a few years later: to have more controls for my experiments, Jazz was too mushy and confusing. But sincerely: I want to take everybody's favorite old things and just use them in a slightly new way and see if I can take everybody's ears along w me to a new place w slightly-more-advanced feelings.

Artists are full of poison because we are very sensitive. We are like a quivering brush that wiggles from air as light as vibes. I am riddled w horror as well as a tempered and incredibly sad joy. So here I am just drinking up the insane energy in this strange place through this totally awful stretch, a stretch when I'm not making songs. And then when I do start making songs (my new album is in chronological order) it was just blatantly about Brattleboro, just like: I'm part of Brattleboro now. It ate me like some weird mushroom. I want the cover to be this painting of hell that's on the front of this Penguin Coleridge Complete I was staring at the whole album along w my new Paul Klee poster. You know: there's this particular way it all bounces off itself for me and honestly it's really hard to talk about. I start talking but really I'm just making something new. I'm not sure I want to make something new in the open space around the work. No comment.

Keyboard Gray
playin what the poor people play
don't ask me how i got this way
i never bought anything on Ebay

Keyboard Gray
like a foggy wind of life's bad fuzz
don't ask me why
just because

w a pink-bow bonnet in a season called Winternear
w a yellow coat upon in the corner on the table queer

Keyboard Gray
i don't hardly play
but the madness makes the Music away
so i plug a little Keyboard Gray

suck yr liquor
take yr drugs
listen to the choppy chug
at a houseshow on a dirty rug

w a pink-bow bonnet in a season called Winternear
w a yellow coat upon in the corner on the table queer

Well I'm turning my eye on my own kind of person. That's just the material that popped out. I mean: "houseshow" and what those houses are generally like is definitely part of our experience but has "houseshow" ever been in a song and why not more often? The thing is: it's generally not perceived as polite to comment on social patterns one is a part of. And because of this the song comes off slightly negative. Like: "is he actually bragging about not going on Ebay because he hates computers?" "is he dissing the character that can "hardly play" and seems to hate Music ("the madness makes the Music away")?". I want to own all those possible tones and I think you can hear a certain swagger in the singer's attitude that is happy to be flirting w negativity and sharp eyed for the life-style fashion trends of his own people. But he is also in love w Reality and loves his little gray keyboard for he is also the character. This is all BS. I mean: I can just feel what the thing is doing and it uses a lot more than this language to do it. I wanted a song w you put your keyboard on this rickety table covered in junk just inside the front door when you get to the show and then when you go to get it to do your set there's a coat tossed on top of it. I don't know what the pink-bow bonnet is. This song reminds me of Red Book. I wrote it in no time: I wanted the things the song was as I let it be. 

why should home mode be more consonant? did the jazz guys into nomenclature have great moms? i stack chords, make big long stacks and even secretly, when i switch bass notes to a "wrong" one to complicate the chordal material, i often (especially now) conceptualize it as a large chords stack missing innards (3 5 7 and sometimes 9 gone). usually the "home" i'm trying to get to turns out to be a tritone that i can't find until it's surrounded in a chord. do you know what i mean?
keyboard gray:
verse melodic rhythm very close to the "no relation to paisley park" song from Message from Work, noticed that immediately

"suck yr liquor, take yr drugs, listen to the choppy chug, at a houseshow on a dirty rug"
"so you play your albums, and you smoke your pot, and you meet your girlfriend in the parking lot ... etc"  (Billy Joel: Captain Jack!)

next question

what happens when the frequency range sounded by a certain note gets too wide and the apparent pitch encroaches on the surrounding half-steps, even whole steps? what happens to western tonal functionality? there is this beautiful moment where you can feel your ear scuffing dirt off the cheeks of a sound, whittling it down to the preferred pitch. I know you've said you play standard-tuning chord shapes in different tunings and you can hear both. this isn't "wrong tuning" but "fat tuning." fatter notes. have you tried this? piano notes: already fatter than guitar notes, or this is my experience. 3 strings. anyway, I feel confident in my knowledge on this subject. what I really want to ask is this: (1) tell me about some of the tuning possibilities you've played with on the guitar (2) talk to me about the difference between piano & guitar interfaces (3) what do you think is possible on the piano? how can the piano act more like a guitar and vice versa? the guitar is privileged in music -- music to a lot of people, often me, means guitar and drums and the rest is garnish. do you think this privileged position is blinding, like the 2d "inflexibility" of the piano grid as compared to the 3d guitar grid actually conceals a flexibility we don't know about because our eyes are on the guitar? 

It's not really a battle between consonance and dissonance though: these guys are saying a flat 5 is more home than 4!: They're saying: Jazz makes more sense to us than Classical Music and we are the teachers. And it was true of the population at large and remains true. Americans live firstly in Minor Pentatonic w a flat 5: the Blues Scale comes first and the Major Scale comes second in the majority of cases. Listen to the note: the Lydian Chromatic concept is political. I really want to learn about George Russell and the whole NEC Third Stream thing. The point isn't whether any school is right about anything: it is whether the idea makes for Cool Music and certainly: the existence of the LCC bent my thought and ear from the very early age I heard about it around when I started putting a sharp 11 on every single chord to see what would happen [a natural 9th on iii (a three of a Lydian scale!) remained a favorite into college when Ryan Power told me I played it too much when we were playing jazz]. Jazz made me do it: its beautiful geniuses gave me a very dissonant political note that represented my Freedom to me even as a young New Englander son of Southern Ohio People. Actually my Grandparents totally loved Jazz, it was the rest of The White Album they didn't like despite my enthusiasm.

Zach, I really really love Music.

Keyboard Grey: I'm repeating myself more w like 4/4 Bob Dylan phrasing. I don't mind digging into my elements like an Old Man. I emphasize my age too much (36 in a couple weeks) but it's not because I feel like I have a special knowledge over anyone younger (yourself included) or insecurity about it, it's because Time is my favorite subject and Yogurt is my favorite food. I'll say it again: Time is my favorite subject, I wanted to be an Archeologist before I got into Music, but mostly because of Indiana Jones. My Mom used to sing that theme and drive funny down this one roller-coastery back road in Dover for me and my friend Kurt and my brother Kurt, it was really fun, we loved those movies. I want my songs to get simpler and simpler until each one is the same as the other and they're like two big stripes on a canvas. I want to do the same thing over and over like Josef Albers, I don't care. I believe I am getting better at writing songs and the key is less elements = the elements are more important and: everything must be perfectly shaped, no hiding (that's why Slide Trombone is the song I don't like on Beatleboro but I had to include it as a document of the first song I wrote on a detuned [not retuned] guitar and the whole album is a chronological chain w like only 1 and a half cuts and I didn't want to start getting uptight judging shit, who cares, let it fly. What I was actually hiding on ST wasn't the writing but these humidity tape ticks I used to get in Austin but still it makes me feel like the song isn't willing to stand out so it is weak). Haven't heard that BJ song but I've listened to The Stranger a lot (wow is that album really called that?!). I believe in tonal homes because I have a tonal ear, that's what makes atonal music so awful to listen to (just kidding).

I don't know about that looking for a root thing but it reminds of Bill Evan's rootless voicings (and what that allowed Scott LaFaro to do God Bless him, he died so young in a car). 

Guitars versus Pianos: I thought I preferred Piano but I prefer Guitar. And I think Keyboards are way more popular than Guitar, Guitar's out of style. I hate Indie Guitar: I don't like sloppy guitar w treble. Oh wait I do if it's Sarah Smith, but that's not Indie, that's Brattleboro, and it's not sloppy, it's actually really specific. I like Classical Guitar but w no nails, a lot of mellow thumb brushing of dense harpy mass, groovy Bossa Nova for Pop. Now I'm in Bentonian, I believe I already linked to that a couple days ago [each answer is a different night Reader]. I like rock comping on keys like on a Bowie record or Beatles or Band or Bob, esp. a real Piano. I like whammy bar, I like Graham Brooks Indian string bends. I mean there's out-of-tune Piano but then you sound like Tom Waits or like some NPR Adult Contemporary thing getting "raw". If the future is Microtonal (it is and I will not be left behind!) then Guitar wins. Zach I want to buy you a Guitar. Have you noticed there's never been Guitar on any Bjork/Apple Computers music? I feel like Dirty Projectors is almost too big to be cool now but I like Dave Longstreth's guitar playing (more sloppy treble I like I guess!), it reminds me (and others, I'm not being surprising or ironic) of the acoustic guitars in Led Zeppelin sometimes. I don't like Rock iconography and "turning up" and stuff, but I like the sound. I admit the keyboard is the very image of the musical mind. And I like that pitchfat keys bass you do you were talking about. Dude Stevie Wonder is so awesome too w that kind of material. Actually listening to Van Halen Cradle Will Rock right now: Microtonal Guitar. 

"Facetious perhaps, but I should
like to exorcise the Piano's Ghost
from all synthesizers and computers!
There is no need for them to be
locked into twelve-tone equal temperament,
now that we have superseded
the piano action. Best wishes
for your Microtonal issue!
Interval Foundation and magazine
here in San Diego will collaborate if
you wish. P.O. Box 8072,San Diego,
California 92102 USA, telephone
(619) 295-2093. Jonathan Glasier is
Ivor Darreg
San Diego, California USA"

piano can be microtonal too, just gotta flip that varispeed and take
it as a counterpoint
or 2 small spinet pianos both accessible comfortably by either hand,
tuned 1/4 step apart
a piano is always going to be an interesting instrument to me, i think
its apparent stickler attitude conceals something strange in the
relationship between the interface and the temperament and a lot of
unexplored possibilities of unison-string tuning
physically a piano is very exciting
anyway ivor darreg is right piano is not keyboard even if synthesizer
doesn't escape equal T
guitar and keyboard offer completely different orientations toward
music. I mean, the hands
whatever you say about guitars they still predominate they're moths
the hipness of keyboards is a hipness of intuitive jamming, science
fiction movie soundtracks, vintage/analog signifiers,
ultracontemporary/ultradigital signifiers, keyboard hipness has
nothing to do with the possibilities of keyboard playing which appear
in new forms in front of every keyboard player every time they focus
no one wants to see someone actually play a keyboard they're just decorative
but to penetrate a deeper layer, I think these conceptions of hipness
of yours arise from a consciousness of music politics on the internet,
on only a couple strata of the internet even
and if this is a politics to be surmounted, which it is
then unhipping the keybox is as easy as getting offline
I review my playing all the time on CD-rs in my car and it's total BS,
like a cartoon ape farts out digits, but I do love the notes... this
lameness factor lures me because it's gratifying to take music with
humility, or if not humility at least a trap that forces better

I know they're good. I've always left them to my brother and friends and just done little dashes for color. But then this period mid-last-decade when I played keyboard and piano on other people's albums like Ben Stamper and Kyle. If I owned a piano about half my songs would be on it and the rest would receive it as an overdub. And really Microtonality is more just a nice idea or fun thing to talk about, mostly I'm content w equal temperament slightly out of tune or even in tune. Me and Kurt's old friend Clark restores and makes weirdly tuned keyboard instruments in like Fitchburg, Mass now. He's who turned me on to Joe Maneri, he knew him. I want to go to McDowell and 1) get accepted as a worthy artist by Society 2) write on the piano and have the breakfast and coffee delivered to my cabin. I believe the keyboard/cassettes/80s thing is bigger than the internet, that it's obvious in the world of people and what is sold to people (Urban Outfitters surely must have some tote bag w a keyboard on it). This means nothing: it will pass. Fashion is a bore even when it moves through me myself and I am caught in a current popular, it is a bore but also very addicting to watch. It feels like a kind of ruffling to bring it up. I'm just getting into retro anti-synthesizer slightly early but I don't mean it. I have a DX100 which works and a DX7 I have to get fixed. I don't fetishize those machines but I don't fetishize guitars much either. I fetishize my bass and my writing room. I fetishize my books the most. Have you ever thought of programming a keyboard so the lowest and highest note were reversed and it ran backwards? 

yeah, a good idea. I have done lower octaves = higher than higher
octaves, which is easy on most synths with a split function.
Dummerston resident and player of "miniature" piano pieces who i met at the
river garden playing 2-minute mompou piece with sweet introduction
suddenly get this a lot
"This music has no air or light. It is a weak heart beat, you cannot
ask it to reach more than a few inches into space..." -- Mompou

this is really really nice, oh my god it sounds like keith but it's so much better to say (like satie) "this is air" instead of "i am the deepest conduit". i must obtain this music in paper form! i'm clicking go again

are you here tomorrow?

i've been really into the idea of mantra music since seeing this george harrison movie and writing woman of bidi and playing it so much since summer, pure repetition (that can loosen and break, exactly like a jack o lantern: the face just wizens) and getting all the trance, meditation, change-of-consciousness effects and hopefully writing the next "give peace a chance" but just the chorus

but instead of slogan lyrics (which i'm not against!) like a koan of utter nonsense (delight) opening its eyes to you, winking, tickling at yr center

w students this week: writing literally-12-note songs (each pitch class happens just once whether in the melody or the accompaniment, a teenager's idea of "12 tone") and then just singing them over and over together w eventually free soloing while the other keeps the circle alive, never dropping the vocal (any jazz like this? where a sung head just continues throughout? oh yeah sun rajust the kind of song i'm after)

how bout a brattleboro band the forms are always minimal elements looping until they scatter towards space, always w singing (i.e. commitment), everyone w their fixed little part just spinning in a circle until dizziness and starting to see things collectively, see things like God, Time, Fun 

next question: what do you think about this song? (Thin Lizzy, Fight Or Fall)

People used to be so imaginative. I can list a lot of band names that occur to me but that's just desperate thinking. I'd rather just face the music. This guitar solo has a very beautiful sound and is very well mixed. Music was better when the tracks weren't as wide and [now, "no more can we crawl"! That soul singing at the end is just a miracle.] melted like a sea of glass, like how new movies sound too. This has  some radical mixing which is right on the money for real sound art. These guys are just A1 motherfuckers. Kyle Thomas (who's coming home for 2 weeks on Luke said the14th) played me a lot of this stuff, I remember the record face. [second listen] Another thing [early Steely Dan man, the greatest feeling] he's a couple years ahead on and I'm just about to get down is the earliest REM, like their first album. Man that shit is so good, such sad feeling! Check this man:

I cannot think of a good reason not to just accept these people already. Even this:

He's a better singer later and he is just beautiful.

Really I'm all about Paul Motian since he died on the 22nd, he's been my favorite drummer since like 96. Actually I was already on another Paul Motian streak I guess since I saw Bill Frisell on the street in Brattleboro a few weeks back. Man when Rosenwinkel showed up on Paul's records in those days [back to the 90s], that was the best. I got to hear brand new Kurt Rosenwinkel solos on standards and gobble them right up, I was so bad back then, didn't have a mature thing yet, had to outright copy to walk in the Dad's shoes. Rosey was only 5 years older than me but a lot of the recordings I had were from when he was closer to my age. Knowing I could never go this far -- but go just as far w songs -- is ultimately why I left Jazz. Or: people like Paul Motian and Kurt Rosenwinkel brought out my true self, their hearts just glowed right on the outside and I had to find a way to do the same which meant a return to my roots, my original inspiration: 4-track songwriting. 

I'll tell you what "Fight or Fall" does for me... Phil Lynott from an
interview: "'Fight Or Fall' was definitely to the Brothers, to the
Black Brothers. It's saying that a Black Man should definitely stand
up for his rights, and not take any snidey remarks and insults and bad
living conditions." this is like one half of the song, the other half
being the "after all this time I tell myself that I'm not just wasting
time," and that I'm "just passing through town" (see The North Cave
off Papas Proof for serious redolence). I don't think Thin Lizzy knew
what that song was about. the interplay between this admittedly
uncontextualized/vague but potent sociopolitical consciousness on the
one hand, & this highly specific self-consciousness on the other...
it's exciting to me, it's great poetry, it's revealing and it opens
onto itself, it exceeds itself, it's still open.

I was going to ask you about the 4 track. why do you stubbornly insist
on "home recording" your music? why not demo and work with a studio?
tell me about your methods when you record on tape -- what is it about
the 4 track? do you see your music as "4 track music" in the same way
that "watercolors" are not the same as "acrylic paintings?"

The 4 track is not important, ultimately I am not important, ideally my songs would be sung by others. I wish that was my job, to be a professional songwriter, a lot of those people were just as weird as me. That's what Steely Dan started out doing but then their songs were too hard even for the 70s or like specific to that friendship and they became the reluctant performers, something like that... I like to sing but... I haven't always received positive reinforcement so an insecurity lingers.

I have techniques on the machine I tend to, nothing original but I tend to like to reinforce lines, nearly all my vocals are doubletracked ala the White Album demos, been doubling the guitar parts less lately but that often means they get buried under the voices, bass, keys, electric guitar or percussion more rarely. The songs nearly all begin on nylon string guitar w a single voice, I've always considered it an ideal to record just that (minimalist, no reliance on the candy of overdubs, early Dylan etc.) but it ends up drawing more attention to me as a performer or personality and that is the opposite of what I want to do. Ironically. There's this definite freak show element to my stuff too, the clown/insecurity thing that I share w R. Stevie Moore... 

But yes cassette is like screen printing or something. The idea that recording materials are not a choice and you just have to like get w the times I totally reject. But in a way it's not a choice: I am deeply bad at using computers (and also hate watching what they're doing to us) and have no money beyond life support to speak of to buy some new shit that won't last.

Art, art. I think about Art a lot and call myself an Artist and it helps me feel better about not generating any money from my work. And sometimes I'm like: these tapes should be in a Gallery.

But then I hear that Galleries actually suck.

These frame shifts (Tape Artist, Songwriter, [and then the ones where I quit making songs altogether]) are either the result of feeling materially and sometimes socially like a failure or having an overactive left brain always trying to box everything right or both. Plus the OCD.

I think my next challenge is to make my musical materials more transparent and ordinary and still try to kill it, try to write the saddest, most catchy songs ever. I want to be coverable. I like being in people's i-pods but I'd rather be... I'd rather they were singing the song and checking out the chords and making their changes. That's what a songwriter used to have to do: get inside your life like a story w no electricity at all. Either the olden people were just better at stuff... well they were. They were because they weren't dicking around on the damn internet trying to be cool. Music is Fashion now and the situation is generally draining. I'm not about to start some reenactment (esp. of 70s recording studio aesthetics) but I'm not gonna pretend people aren't getting worse at songwriting (the exceptions are exceptional of course).

I think the 4-track works just fine. Let me put it this way: Demos are fine. Actually: Demos are better. My favorite Bob is the Basement Tapes and my favorite Beatles is Kinfauns. Been actually thinking about just going back to putting "Demos" in my titles again. The only problem w that is it reading like a lack of commitment. 

I don't know what I'll do when the 4-track breaks. Certainly my melodies (like most) are unnotatable. I think I'll keep recording. 

Don't you think we should hook up all these young beautiful bands w some better songs? Man that would just be the greatest if I could catch that break.

OK, i'm going to frame some shit so bear with me. in "What Is Art?"
Tolstoy wrote that "there is nothing older and more hackneyed than
enjoyment, and there is nothing fresher than the feelings springing
from the religious consciousness of each age." his book rails against
art becoming a specialized and socioeconomically bounded "field," its
own object -- meanwhile he recognized a good & clear social
functionality in direct, cheap (free) and community-oriented examples
of art such as a child telling a story about a wolf in a cafe,
agriculture, folksong and dolls. "the art of the future," he wrote,
"will be produced by all the members of the community who feel need of
such activity, but they will occupy themselves with art only when they
feel such need. ... until the dealers are driven out, the temple of
art will not be a temple. but the art of the future will drive them

it sounds like you're saying that the temple is clogged. my trip:
song-music -- "pop music" -- seems to be in danger, inasmuch as it's
being subjected to reification & gentrification processes by a type of
art specialist community that formerly ignored it. the kind of MFA
industry that exists in poetry doesn't seem so far off for
songwriting. well, all this is very iffy, but to me there is no
question that the role of the songwriter is moving away from a local
inhabitant / traveler / professional workman figure... and toward a
specialized tradesman in cultural wares, a figure who generates music
at the meeting point of consumption and critique. or maybe this is
still too fancy... maybe it is enough to say that the social roles
played by song-music have become confused, muted, disarticulated. of
course songs aren't going away. but the "tiny curator" phenomenon is
growing and changing what it means to make music in all kinds of ways,
even for music-makers who don't give a shit about the internet or
what's in vogue with the cultural capitalists. and you know it's not
"democratizing" anything. this kind of macro tension is all over the
place in your music -- I mean, why did I ask you about "Keyboard

when Gerhard Richter asks if "artists ever made objects remotely as
large and as good as a 'lay person's' garden?" it seems at once like a
good question and a terrifying reminder that this distinction between
"artist" and "lay person" is still operable in a world so saturated
with curatorial "choices." wasn't this distinction "imploded" by the
internet? no, and it's not going anywhere. when I hear you say you
want to do some songwriting, commercial or otherwise, I hear you
saying "I want to live outside this distinction" (by the way, write me
an album).

I think the complex of jobs, texts, & behaviors known as "music
criticism" might have a better name in "music production." working in
concert with institutionalized networks of distribution, this complex
produces and maintains the terms by which certain objects and
experiences are realized as "music" / included in "music," while
others aren't. for example, "influence" has taken on a certain
intelligibility that is easily adopted by someone hoping to "make
music" -- "I am influenced by such and such" -- but this easy
articulation of "influence" belies what is often a messy and variable
relationship to the music one admires. a hundred years ago, musicians
weren't being "influenced" -- you learned from your teacher, you
learned from your community, you learned from the sounds around you &
in countless other ways. this "influence" paradigm is an import from
gallery art and I think predates "dicking around on the internet
trying to be cool" but with the similar stakes, similar socioeconomic
connotations. if you're exposed to this kind of insidious conceptual
vocabulary (and a lot of people still aren't, but their music is
subjected to it all the same!) it's hard to wash off -- especially
since it's apparently the only game in town when you love recorded
music to death.

meanwhile, maybe "music production" is getting better at realizing the
goals of criticism as it can't avoid negotiating the crisis situation
of music today. I think more and more people really are getting itchy
and producing music intended to challenge and criticize the
predominant conceptual vocabulary & institutional geography of "music
culture." so it's possible to say under this admittedly weak schematic
that these two fields that have constituted themselves professionally
and socially have switched places in relation to the other. and I see
your music as proceeding from this reversed situation of
production-as-criticism, trying to battle its way out of the art game
of self craft. there is no question that you're imbricated in the game
-- the question is: where are you going to go when you're out? where
can the energy go besides the usual outlets? if these questions speak
to you, go ahead. otherwise or in addition, please tell me about you &
Syd Barrett & that'll conclude the interview! thanks!

Before I read the new question:

I was in a bad mood last night and I said some weird stuff. 

I don't like cassette iconography but today (I did a lot of work today, I recorded 3 complete songs) I really did feel like I was making minimalist art on a tape and I was so psyched to try a bunch of new ideas. I loved just thinking in the dare-to-go-forward ways of the artist, ways that don't pay money the majority of the time. You do it for the adventure of love. You might not quite be begging w a bowl (I'm certainly not, I feel so well to do! w all my guitars and everything) but you might be getting there at the low points. But if you're strong you don't care because you have your work. You're just hoping it was worth blowing it in the bank-account department. Don't even think about retirement, major illness whatever (though Vermont does insure the poor). You're hoping your shit was worth it but all you can do is dare to dream: that's where Magic comes from. Don't expect a bunch a love for doing something noncommercial (you only get to say that if you don't get paid) in the united states of capitalism. Materialist to the Max. Apple Worship. Texting while driving and Crashing.

Today I remembered: Money doesn't smell Art, it just lands like a luck bomb. And sometimes we get lucky: Merrill gets famous. And sometimes I get lucky: I remember I'm lucky not to be.

So yes my blue 4-track reminds me of watercolors (I love you!).

And as for cover songs: Man who do I think I am? I'm more likely to cover a song than get covered and I'm not about to do that. The Beatles are my teachers man.

Ok I'll read the new question.


I have this disease in seeing my initials: "cultural wares"

Wow, really interesting to read this right after writing the pre-asterisk stuff.

I did follow the line of thinking and I think that's a really cool idea and it was really fun to read it. And I think it is true I am doing that stuff, but it comes from my snarl not from my mind. Bent note in a Beatles voice (sung through Lennon's Nose). It comes from digging in to something hard to name. But I do consider myself an irritant, I know I am pressing the wrong buttons, the notes and the feelings dance and together. And I know I am in the game.

Feels weird to move on, that question's the best part of the interview!

Syd Barrett:

Ben Stamper showed me Syd Barrett but he told me some of his lyrics first. This was 1990. I was into Dark Side but Ben brought me back to Piper. I got w it and we formed our band Clov on those ideas. I remember clearly a conversation when we were scheming together to split from the Lemmings (a 4 piece, Ben on defretted electric 3/4 size bass [a Hondo w a Dolphin Safe sticker on it from a can of tuna] and me on steel string acoustic through a small Peavy w a pick-up) in our music teacher Dave Ervin's room at night. We wanted to make music w just like a huge gong ringing for a really long time over feedback. And it was Dave Ervin's 4-track we borrowed to begin our proper work soon thereafter (our first album is actually recorded "tape to tape" as we used to say [Kurt used the technique a lot for his Noise Noise Noise project (5th grade?) which had a rap song about junk food]). Syd was our guiding light (although my Beatles trip was already a few years super deep) and we covered Rats more than once. Syd is the ultimate man, I just understand everything he does better than anyone else. How could he be so good? I was listening to his guitar solos on my Peel Session tape the other night. WOW. He's playing the changes to like Baby Lemonade (that's some heavy non-functional triad motion [all Major] man!) sliding these blues scales around and trying his luck on all these little creepers. It is some Beautiful music. And also on that tape this little reverby voice drift on Terrapin that Syd improvises. There: you feel it is perfectly clear: Syd Barrett invented Pink Floyd Music. And don't deny his just untoppable lyrics. How was John Lennon so stupid as to ignore him. I really want some total badass of academic analysis to check out that music tonally w a deep-dig rake.

Here's a tale: I was practicing during this time, not the most recent time. I was playing things in multiple keys, at least setting out to hit all 12. I was going around the circle of 5ths and I felt the new key was never fresh to my ear always fixed it this tight relation to where I was coming from. So I set out to make a row of roots that would bounce a different distance to the next key everytime, 12 intervals, 12 pitches so it should work out right. I found my circle (I named it the German Wheel after this thing they use at the trapeze school and the serialists) by going up a H-step from middle C then down a W-step from there then up a m3rd etc until I'd carpet bombed the whole map. There are other "Non-repeating Rows" (my friend Bryan Killough told me the name for what I'd been playing w [all rows are non-repeating pitchwise, the serialists mean interval of course which they're very sensitive to, nobody knows intervals as good as a Babbitt guy, that's all they've got!]) but this was the first way I thought of generating one. Anyway after all this nerd action the wheel is on my wall for easy reference and I realize a big chunk of it is the chords to Baby Lemonade untransposed: B D Bb Eb A. He was playing w the same pattern on the neck of the guitar.

So I bet there's a bunch more stuff like that. 

I'm wigged by his violence towards women and I've long outgrown the romanticization of his illness. But I adore the music and the words and his beautiful voice and earthly body, what a shocking beauty. Opel is just the greatest song:

"crisp flax squeeks tall reeds

 make a circle of gray

 in a summer way

 around man."

You think he's done every line.

"the bare winding carcass stark"

See my initials in there?

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