Thursday, August 21, 2014
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
How to describe the Lemon-Fresh Pinetones? Garage rock for demented hillbillies? Industrial music for hippies? Improv jazz for nihilists? A Bluegrass-Krautrock hybrid? Acid puppet show soundtrack? Maybe a little of all of that and... well.... less?
This was a fun evening at the Che Café at UCSD, because it was our night completely. The bill included four bands: the three-piece Pinetones plus each member's other band. Everybody there that evening knew what they were getting into, so it was a receptive audience. My part of the night's entertainment was the worst-ever solo performance I ever did, excruciatingly bad and will not be posted publicly. But it was fun!
The Pinetones, however, were good that night! We ranged from the low-tech space music of the first third, to some noisy rock songs, such as our heavy metal parody (it's supposed to sound that way) Heave No Evil, and then the whole thing just collapses into really weird noise, aimless meandering, and occasional bursts of melody as our improvisational power more-or-less vacates the premises before we stop playing. It's all just electric guitar, primitive drums, piano and synthesizers. sound effect tape-loops, and some surprising vocals, plus an unexpected diversion into I Want Candy.
I thought the Lemon-Fresh Pinetones were really good. I still think the first 20 minutes of this show is really good. You can download this live show here (287mb).
Saturday, August 16, 2014
Thursday, August 14, 2014
You've been patient with me. Some of you have downloaded the music I've been posting and, I imagine, been either bored or irritated by the screechy sounds. Now, finally, a fun payoff!
OK, so to refresh: PS Bingo started in 1985 as a noisy rock band in Tucson. When I moved back to San Diego, I retained the band name (for some reason), and proceeded to make hellacious noise music, both live and on tape.
In about 1987, however, just for fun, I started to make a series of strange, kind of sing-songy nursery rhythm-type songs, mostly for my own amusement, on a Tascam 4-track cassette recorder. These were short drum machine and vocal pieces, and they were so strange and retarded that I let few people hear them, although I did perform a couple of them live once in a while. The whole idea was that these were "nice" songs, as opposed to the clamorous noise music I usually made. I'm still proud of these, and can honestly say that they don't sound quite like anything else you've ever heard. I can't think of a single band or musician that influenced these, so maybe they're my most "honest" music?
These were made in 1987-1989. Some song notes:
Watching Cutie Kick: When I started making these songs, I had a really dumb housemate, a spoiled young woman who at one point literally punched me in the face because she thought I intentionally talked about things she didn't understand just to make her feel stupid. I'll call her Vicky. At one point she bought a pet parakeet which she named Brice. "No," I said, "you should name it Cutie!" Within days, she had forgotten the bird's name, so Cutie it became. Cutie was, even by parakeet standards, an exceptionally idiotic bird. It would not fly, preferring to hop around on the floor. One day, Vicky broke the damn thing's leg when pushing her chair back from her desk, and the whole thing became a massive ordeal for all concerned. And Cutie just would not leave its bandage alone, which made the healing process even more agonizing. I was using Vicky's computer to type a research paper, and was constantly distracted by Cutie's constant pecking and scratching at its broken limb. On the other hand, it finally learned to fly ("I guess he needed that extra push") because of his broken leg. This aggravating chain of events inspired this song.
Virginia on Virginia: The most disturbing part-time job I had during this period was helping out an old lady in La Jolla with her cleaning, errands, etc. She had an ancient dog who I had to feed and tend to, and everything was depressing in this house! She talked endlessly of her glory days as a La Jolla socialite, but then one day the Blue Book (the social register) came in the mail and, for the first time, she wasn't listed in it, which was very upsetting to her. One day she looked out the window and admired my car, a cherry-colored 1964 Ford Falcon, and pronounced, "I think it's important for young people to have red cars," a line I'll never forget. This song features kalimba, and an instrumental version is also included.
If I Told Him: This is a more-or-less straight reading of Gertrude Stein's poem about Picasso set to drum machines and cardboard box and water bottle percussion. I muffed a few words, but not bad, considering. This recording helped me earn an A+ from Jerome Rothenberg in my "Dada and Surrealist Poetry" class at UCSD! I also did a version of Byron's "So We'll Go No More a Roving" which I'll try to unearth for Niceties Volume 2.
11Steps 2 Heaven: This has nothing to do with "12 Step" programs. There was this guy who hung around the college radio station who was absolutely ridiculous. He was super "spiritual," and fancied himself to be some kind of philosophical genius or something. He ended up sleeping on our couch for a while (which Vicky HATED). I said to my other housemate, Al, "Why did you invite him to stay here?" Al replied, "Me? I thought YOU invited him!" Bill was obsessed with the number 11, so I wrote this song to make fun of that, and also to say that, really, he should just get a job at Dairy Queen or join the Unarius flying saucer cult in El Cajon. So this song combines my fascination with Unarius with my exasperation with Bill. This song is completely a cappella.
Bubble Butt: The stupidest of the batch. This song is built around a sample from the early Nintendo game Balloon Fight. The lyrics were inspired by people who wear spandex but should not. This is a nursery rhyme for disturbed, weight-conscious children and features xylophone.
Again, I realize that the other music I've posted here is difficult to enjoy, but these tunes are fun, and I think you'll stand a better chance of enjoying them than the others.
The zip file (160mb), which includes a deluxe PDF booklet with lyrics, can be downloaded here.
The rest of the "Niceties" songs will take a while, because they're locked up on the 4-track masters. They include covers of Madonna's "Justify My Love," Wire's "Three Girl Rumba," Steve Miller's "Fly Like an Eagle" set to a Funkadelic sample (!?), and songs about the San Ysidro McDonald's massacre and a frog named Delilah.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
This was the final performance by the four-person "rock band" lineup of PS Bingo, playing live at the Hotel Congress in downtown Tucson in 1986.
The set is wild and rocking, and mostly includes songs we had never played live before. The highlight is an epic free-form attempt at Krautrock oddity Brainticket's Cottonwood Hill, which we mostly knew from Nurse with Wound's Brained by Falling Masonry version released the preceding year.The real star of the set is drummer Dave Perry, absolutely POUNDING the skins. He's so good.
Look, it's obvious that most (all?) readers of this blog don't give a flying fuck about this stuff, which is no different than how audiences felt about it at the time, but if you're so inclined, you can download the zip archive here.
Sunday, August 10, 2014
As you can well imagine, there weren't a lot of experimental musicians in Tucson, Arizona in 1985. There was my band, PS Bingo, and... well, one other person, who went by the name 37 Pink. It was inevitable that we would end up collaborating.
37 Pink was very active in the 80s industrial cassette and 'zine underground until he vanished without a trace (self exile, long story, not mine to tell) in the late 80s. He produced several excellent tapes on his homegrown Greyscale label, some fascinating collage publications, and had mail-art pals all over the world.
37 Pink invited us to collaborate on a cassette release, and it was an interesting project. He gave Joe Humble and me some tapes of "raw" sounds he had produced, and we did the same. The three of us separately worked on each others' material (Joe and I, interestingly, did not work together), and then we handed them all back to him to subsequently mix down into the cassette uploaded here. Here is the original cassette cover:
The result is surprisingly listenable, save for the second track, for which I bear sole responsibility (you may wish to skip over that one). The sounds range from found porno film soundtracks to lovely guitar passages, mysterious voices, mashups of instruments and industrial noise, etc., all in little bite-sized chunks. I like this tape a lot.
The 95mb zip file can be downloaded here.
Saturday, August 09, 2014
The Lemon-Fresh Pinetones were my final band, formed accidentally in 1987.
At this point, PS Bingo (see previous posts) was a two-piece consisting of myself and Joel Nowak. We had done a few shows together, and recorded an epic noise tape called Sludge Mountain (watch this space) for Al Margolis's Sound of Pig Music.
One of our more interesting public activities was when we collaborated with San Diego's fledgling Sledgehammer Theater on a wild street performance on Prospect Avenue in tony La Jolla which involved haranguing passers-by with offers of tiny cups of apple juice while I droned "We Are the World" while dressed in a full sewage worker costume. Ha, performance art!
In 1987, Sledgehammer asked Joel and me if we would compose and perform the sound design for Brain Fever, their first original stage production. We agreed, but warned them that we were, after all, a noise band, and they shouldn't expect "normal" music. They were fine with it! Or so they thought!
Shortly after rehearsals began, the producers/directors panicked. Sure enough, our music was totally chaotic and noisy (go figure). Their solution was, without even asking us, to bring in a third musician, John Gange, a talented pianist and synth player, to "tame" us. At first we were kind of upset, but we quickly grew to love John, so it all worked out. We called ourselves The Pinetones (we added "Lemon-Fresh" later) and performed the sound design live for every showing of Brain Fever. It was hard work, and the folks at Sledgehammer constantly tried to reign in our noisier impulses, eventually saddling us with headsets and directing us on a cue-by-cue basis. They didn't trust us AT ALL. Just imagine how smug we were when the eagerly-awaited Los Angeles Times review of the play came out, and the critic harshly, dismissively panned the play but praised the music and video work:
The best moments are provided by the disturbing, jungle-like sound design by John Gange, Peter Huestis and Joel Nowak and the video portions, directed by Dave Cannon, on which commentators from the Tinsel Town Tattler (Elizabeth Backenstow, Philip Charles Sneed and Paul Eggington) comment on the movie production. There, at least, most of the humor is comprehensible, consistent and pretty much on target.
After Brain Fever finished its run, we played a handful of shows around San Diego. We were largely an impov noise/rock band, using some of the themes we had developed for Brain Fever as a jumping-off point for somewhat Krautrock-style jams.
This recording is of our first public performance, in which we played between sets of a "Psychedelic Night" at UCSD's hippie Che Café. We played behind a curtain in an alcove, so nobody could tell who or what was making the sound. The bands playing that night were the worst kind of "Paisley Revival" imaginable, all of them trying their hardest to sound (and look!) like The Seeds. One of the bands was called Hair Theater, which neatly sums up the aesthetic. We thought we were WAY more psychedelic than any of the other musicians that night.The audience did not agree: "This is giving me a migraine," one hairhopper lamented.
Judge for yourself! This is a short recording, only 20 minutes. You can download the zip file here.
As for Sledgehammer Theater's Brain Fever, they've recently uploaded a highlights reel from the play on the youtubes. You can't hear much of our music, but there's a brief snippet of our heavy metal parody "Heave No Evil" on it, and you can hear how we used, for instance, party favors as sound effects: