Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Memory Excellence 33: 1986

33. 1986

Nothing is real and everything's blurry
A brown landscape moves around me

Everything I knew, I left it behind me
the wilderness closed in

Nothing is real and everything's blurry
A house springs up while I'm sleeping

My mouth is not fit to pronounce these names
of roads that run off like gnarled branches

Nothing is real and everything's blurry
I don't understand it. Let's start again.

This one is from the album Tualatin or the Voice of Shrillness, which mines my years of maximum adolescent awkwardness for song material. In 1986 I hit a certain developmental milestone, moved approximately 2000 miles, and got glasses, big horrible aviator specs no less. A rough year.

The third stanza owes a debt to the first story in Jason's graphic novel Sshhhh!

OK, song descriptions done - time to rebuild my archives!

Thinking about doing Bandqlamp even though I dislike Bandqlamp on principle - while I get the idea that it makes things easy for artists and encourages people to pay for music, I don't like the fact that it has basically domesticated DIY and put everything on the same template, one that revolves around money instead of music. Alternatives exist (e.g. archive.org) but can be clunky. I'll get things sorted out soon.


Memory Excellence 32: Don't Stand So Close to Me '86

32. Don't Stand So Close to Me '86

Make sure your ego is as brassy as your synthesizer
Make sure to visualize the subject of your fantasy

That is how you make it
But get thee behind me
That is how you make it
But don't stand so--

Ultimately I made sure that I'd blend into furniture
My ego was the tarnished nickel of endless broken strings

Every greatest hits album has to have a song called "Don't Stand So Close to Me '86," right? I think it's the law.

This one is from an upcoming album tentatively entitled 99 that is going to have 99 super hits. I have a long way to go. Having a baby and a side hustle really limits one's ability to crank out super hits in the garage. But I'll persevere.

Memory Excellence 31: (You're Never Alone with a) Delay Pedal

31. (You're Never Alone with a) Delay Pedal

I bought a copy of myself
from a box
and took it out - to repeat:

Took myself to the garage
Took a copy
Took myself - to repeat:

Endless copies
Infinite garage
Which one is me? To repeat:

Endless selves inside a box
I'm not alone
beside myself - to repeat:

Put myself inside a box
Waking up
to turn it off.

I got a Boss DD-3 for $5 at the swap meet and my sound changed. Oh the 1990s. I bought swap-meet delay pedal after swap-meet delay pedal and stretched everything out forever, hiss and crunch. Ravenous cavernous. Years of dissipation and navel-gazing while being dead sober. I didn't release an album for like four years during my period of maximum music playing. Endless delay pedal wankery in the garage. Delay pedals. Delay pedals. Delay pedals. I'm not alone beside myself.

Memory Excellence 30: Encyclopedias

30. Encyclopedias

I got a world
A world in the bathroom
I digest the universe
Page by page, letter by letter

There was a champion on Tic Tac Dough back in my formative years when I was watching Tic Tac Dough a lot who claimed that his success was due to a lifelong habit of reading encyclopedias in the W.C.  I have certainly done that to no end.  My current set of mid-80s Britannicas isn't quite as restroom-friendly as my childhood set of early-70s World Books, but still.

I really like the album that this song begins (Scripts) and would have liked to include more of its songs. Oh well. Gotta get that one back up on the internet.

Memory Excellence 29: Hallway Odyssey

29. Hallway Odyssey

I would like to kindly ask your forgiveness for not transcribing these lyrics. They're easy enough. They are directions. Now that I think about it, a debt is owed to Chris P's "Keep Walking," though this is, um, less infinite? And it will actually lead you somewhere very important if you start in the right place, i.e. my desk at my previous job.

Ring modulators. Love them. Thank you to Carlin for a completely unexpected and life-transforming gift of a ring modulator back in 1995. I still have it and still love it.




Friday, October 26, 2018

Memory Excellence 28: Edge Detector

28. Edge Detector

Generate the walls that form the corridors
for I'm the germ that walks along the corridors:
the edge detector, edge detector.

Generate the walls, for I'm the form called from 
the bad ideas of uninformed ham-fisted children:
edge detector, edge detector.

Show me walls and corridors and I'll detect the corridors.

Show me walls and corridors and I will bounce off 
of the former through the latter into ether. 
Edge detector, edge detector.

Generate the walls and make them labyrinths!
I'll make them into corridors that spiral out and sprawl forever,
never exit. I'm hamfisted. Edge detector.
I'm defective. Edge detector.

This is the opening track off Spirit Duplicator's Corridor Forever, in which every song is about some sort of corridor. This time, there are three songs with the same title ("Luscious Green Corridor"). I was feeling a little trapped at work and thought about that time that I tried to enter a "Mouse in the Maze" programming competition. My mouse was a bumbler.

Memory Excellence 27: Exotic Car Repair Across Street from Refugee Center

27. Exotic Car Repair Across Street from Refugee Center

I have seen much more than that bright idea that sold so well 
that bought you that car that's up in the air needing more repairs.
Hungry thirsty dream. I have lived that scene. I have come so far.
Far away from here where I chose to be where I hear we're free.
We're all broken in this broken world.

Cast your eyes to the fever dream! Hoists in traction!
In this dingy place like a broken laser to shine one day.
Shine on all these streets! Rev a turbo bleat! Spend so foolishly!
Live a fever dream and reverse the scene so it's me who pays.
We're all broken in this broken world.

Yeah, this song basically wrote itself. For nearly a decade I biked to my job at the refugee organization which was quite literally across from a shop that repaired Maseratis, Lotuses, Ferraris, all of them. I'd see our clients walking past these hobbled stallions out in the numbers and tell myself that I had to write a song about it. I did. Eventually.

Incidentally, I love guitar solos.

This one comes from the Spirit Duplicator album Eternal Youth and Obscurity, which had several other tracks almost make it. It's a good album, and as a bonus, I printed the covers on my Apple //c from high school. 

Memory Excellence 26: Listening to Aphrodite's Child's '666' in the Parking Lot of the Tigard Babies 'R' Us at Night

26. Listening to Aphrodite's Child's '666' in the Parking Lot of the Tigard Babies 'R' Us at Night

I had thought it would be better than this.
I had thought it would be more profound.
Like a prophet shunned in his hometown.
But it was a drab night, and the neon shone
like the TVs in suburban homes.

I knew that there was something there
but I didn't know what it could mean.
Like the sunrise on a prophet's dream.
It was a dull fire, and its embers shone
like the TVs in suburban homes.

The moment wandered by me, 
transmission shifted out of park,
and a phrase was scrawled down in the dark
to ferment until now, and the moment shone
like the blue lights on the walls
of suburban homes.

Dave K. of the much-missed Sauvie Island Moon Rocket Factory had gotten me into Aphrodite's Child, then I found their 666 album at a garage sale, and then I recorded that onto a minidisc, and then I went out tutoring in the endless western suburbs, and then I parked in the weird reclaimed-swamp lowlands of the Tigard Babies 'R' Us to eat snacks and listen to Greeks declaim the end of the world, and there was a green fog everywhere in the dark, and a Fiero was on fire in the parking lot of the Winco next door.

This is one of two songs with the same title on the Spirit Duplicator album Tonight I'll Forget the English Language. The other one talks about the Fiero if you are interested in hearing about 80s Pontiacs on fire.

Memory Excellence 25: Estacadaward

25. Estacadaward

From atop Kelly Butte I'll survey
the skyline from my plated window
and then dash away. This is your mayor,
reinforced location, calling out to proceed
steadily, predictably,

Estacadaward
in a noble file. Steady preparation
has led us to this moment
where I, your mayor, in good grace proclaim:

Proceed. Steadily. Predictably. Estacadaward.
Proceed. Steadily. Predictably. Estacadaward.

We'll win the race. We'll live our dream.
We'll kick the ass of the other team.
On a day called "X" and "Y" and "Z"
they'll name a freeway after me.
They'll name a freeway after me.
They'll name a freeway after me.

Have you seen "A Day Called 'X'"? If not, well, this is basically the plot in a nutshell.

Fun fact: "Estacadaward" is typed entirely with the left hand!

Memory Excellence 24: I'll Go Quietly

24. I'll Go Quietly

I'll go quietly into the night, ticking softly.
Planetary gears ticking softly into the night.
I'll proceed, softly illuminated, under my own power
Into the soft cool night.

I'll tick and whir like an old typewriter
That was well-maintained by your grandmother.

I'll go quietly. Uncomplainingly.

A fairly well-oiled machine into the night.
Into the night. Into the night. Into the night. Into the night.
Into the night.
Into the night.

The Univega referenced in the previous entry got obliterated by a man making a left turn into a bowling alley as I rode on the bike path's detour on sketchy 92nd, so I had to find a new bike. I found an old Sears 3-speed that ticked like an old clock, roughly the same age as me, whose manufacturer now apparently only makes rifles. It was and is a great bike. "Planetary gears" is one of those delightful bike terms that's basically a giant gift to poets and lyricists.

This one came off the Spirit Duplicator album Cedes, which was [SPOILER ALERT] basically one long expression of pre-grief after learning that my dad had terminal cancer. This was the last song, following two howling epics.

Memory Excellence 23: I'm Sweaty

23. I'm Sweaty

Hello Gresham! Hello Troutdale!
Hello Gresham! Hello Troutdale!
I drag myself through you!
Hello Gresham! Hello Troutdale!
Hello Gresham! Hello Troutdale!
I drag myself through you!
I'm sweaty! I'm sweaty!

I'm sweaty sweaty sweaty sweaty!

One more bottled water song. Back in, hmm, 2007, I was temping at Mt. Hood Community College out in deepest Troutdale, riding 12+ miles each way on my old Univega bike. Sweaty times. I miss them.

Memory Excellence 22: Futility of American Dream

22. Futility of American Dream

Bottled water
Case of 24
In the car
To go home

The suburbs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Memory Excellence 21: Edgy Liquid

21. Edgy Liquid

[instrumental]

I doodled a comic strip of various potential bottled water brands - Edgy Liquid, Futility of American Dream, I'm Sweaty, Williamsburg Loft - and made very short songs about each one on the album Fluid Duplicator. Then I did a 20-minute fever dream improv about bottled water called "You Are There" on Jennifer Robin's radio show, a crazed bit about selling out and turning these childhood peak experiences into fodder for selling overpriced liquids.

In a cheeky move, the Super Duplicator band referenced in the "Winged Ear" entry played "Edgy Liquid" three or four times in a row at a show. At some point I was going to put out a CD single for this song that just had "Edgy Liquid" playing 99 times in a row. It's not too late, I guess.

Memory Excellence 20: I Left the House Today

20. I Left the House Today

I left the house today.
And that is a lie like this song is a lie.
And this song is a lie. I did not leave the house today.
And that is a lie like this song is a lie.
And that is a lie like this song is a lie.
And this song is a lie.

I found a job today.
And that is a lie like this song is a lie.
And this song is a lie. I did not find a job today.
And that is a lie like this song is a lie.
And that is a lie like this song is a lie.
And this song is a lie.

I wrote this song today.
And that is a lie like this song is a lie.
And this song is a lie. I did not write this song today.
And that is a lie like this song is a lie.
And that is a lie like this song is a lie.
And this song is a lie.

Somehow I'm never able to remember the lyrics to this song live, even though there are only like three words total. That said, it's pretty self-explanatory.

Eric M. recorded this one in his Dream Attic. It was a song that had been sitting around for a few years before becoming a real song, so verse #3 is technically correct.

Memory Excellence 19: Does That Banner Yet Wave?

19. Does That Banner Yet Wave?

O say, does that banner yet wave
with 48 stars upon its field of blue?
I knew that there were 50 states even when I was 8.
And I called them on it, called them on it,
at the parade on Veteran's Day.
Don't say, don't say, don't see, 48, don't say, don't see.

Of course this is based on a true story, though it was more likely Memorial Day or July 4th. And I like the fact that my hometown still had 48-star flags kicking around the American Legion 25 years after Alaska and Hawaii entered the Union.

This came from the first album under the Spirit Duplicator name, Duplicate Bridge, which was high-concept in a number of ways:
(1) Both Steve Egan (of luv[sic] "fame") and I made albums called Duplicate Bridge, both using the exact same song titles, albeit in different orders;
(2) Both albums had an "American Suite." Mine was made up of several small songs, each of which was built up from a fragment of the lyrics (and, in a sense, the melody) of "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Not all of them worked, but I liked this one, and I liked how in "The Rockets' Red Glare," I was able to work in a reference to those horrible "Scud Launcher" shirts that were popular during the first Gulf War at Tigard High School. You know, the one that had a camel with a Scud missile in its mouth that was getting hit in the balls with a mallet.

Memory Excellence 18: Samideano Blues

18. Samideano Blues

Ho! Samideano!
Mi estas via najboro Brajano.
Here I should have said something.
Here I should have done something.
Something Esperantic - let la verda stelo
spread out all over the world,
let its light slide down Chester Road.
Ho! Samideano!
I wouldn't talk to you for the rest of the year.

Ho! Samideano!
Mi estas via najboro Jakobo.
I have these pretty books and I've studied them.
Learned them back to front. Read them on the bus.
But when it comes time to using them
I'm silent like a cold green star
shining on Chester Road.

The summer after freshman year in college, I got the worst possible summer job ever in Beaverton doing phone surveys about people's supermarket preferences. Not only was I petrified of talking on the phone, but I didn't drive and the job was an endless bus ride or bike ride away from Tualatin. I endlessly and nervously doodled the whole summer, timidly called folks in Alaska or northwest Washington, and wrecked two or three bikes in the course of a summer. The Huffy's brakes fell off while I was riding (as documented in "Hall Blvd." on Spirit Duplicator).

When my various bikes were not working, I took a bus all the way to Lake Oswego or to PCC-Sylvania to transfer to another bus to Beaverton. It took upwards of two hours each way, so I had a lot of time to read. I bought a copy of Teach Yourself Esperanto at Powell's and set to work learning the universal language. I got decent at it, joined the ELNA for a year (c.f. my membership card in the packaging for Yak &'s Steadfast, Unalterable, Unyielding), wrote "Mesa─Łoj" ("Messages") on the bulletin board on my dorm room door.

My neighbor Brian, unbeknownst to me, was also a follower of the proverbial green star. I had sent out this message and someone responded. What to do. What to do. Answer: awkwardly avoid my next-door neighbor for the entire academic year!

Rock and roll!


Memory Excellence 17: Undated Photograph

17. Undated Photograph

The sun is shining like it did in that undated photograph.
Some day, some summer.
On overgrown plants. On overgrown hair.
On the streets you once knew.

The earth gently
undulates
away from here.

More plumbing the depths of Midwestern memory. The thick air of summer, the animal sounds. Maybe you had to be there.

Here we have ring-modulated guitar, a taishokoto sample run through the Language Master, and a little orange chirping device that had Dennis the Menace on the box.

This song is from Celesteville's Transcriptionists, whose packaging consisted of several mimeographed index cards inside an envelope. One of the index cards was an index of subjects (including "Iowa" and "passive responses to situations requiring action") and another was an index of mistakes (including "vocabulary issues"). I should scan those.






Memory Excellence 16: Groves

16. Groves

Once I drove there - night and orange blossom smell - 
and this is how the smell sounded.
And I don't recall what road, and I don't recall why I was there,
but I drove there.
Bring the night and bring your old car and
bring the promise of sweet smells to come.
We'll smell groves there and recall how we once were young.


Nice way to start out side 2, right? Now we're getting old. I made a little 3" CDR (a format that seems to have vanished) that I split with some guy in, hmm, New Jersey? that I lost contact with immediately after this came out. I think maybe five copies of the CDR exist, and I may not actually own one.

This song is about one weird moment in Southern California when I had the windows open in my Datsun and the anachronistic smell of orange blossoms wafted in. The other two songs on the 3" were also about these weird moments between the cracks in Southern California. I should make that 3" available again. Once I get all these writeups finished, maybe.




Thursday, October 25, 2018

Memory Excellence 15: Winged Ear

15. Winged Ear

Winged ear, winged ear, fly,
plant seeds that we may persevere.

Sprouting infinity, sprouting like wishes,
sprouting like the seeds of our dreams,

the seeds of the winged ear.
Plant seeds that we may persevere.

One of the things about growing up amidst agriculture is that you spend a lot of time in the car with nothing to do but look out at the window, trying to make sense of all the big emptinesses out there. In this case, the titular winged ear is, of course, the DeKalb logo, the sprouting infinity the Pioneer logo. I saw those logos thousands, millions of times and had no idea what they meant until much later, but in the meantime, these excellent logos imprinted themselves on my young mind, these mysterious icons at the end of every row.

This song should not be taken as some sort of paean to these companies by any means, but I do appreciate my thrifted or hand-me-downed green jackets with these logos.

I love this version and its strident Language Masterisms, upright bass, twinned guitars taking up every eighth-inch of space on the cassette 8-track. There's also a great version of this song floating around from the Super Duplicator sessions in Ross B's living room, featuring me playing my most psychedelic guitar possible, Chris and Steve in psychic tandem on bass and drums, and Alison on fire keyboard. I'll try to dig it up and post a link.


Memory Excellence 14: Spirit Duplicator

14. Spirit Duplicator

This equipment is old and it keeps getting older.
It was left on the porch and it's covered in leaves,
and it's out in the elements, out in the wind.
But I'll make it see use again, make it bear fruit again,
chase out the squirrels and brush out the needles,
reclaim all the spirit of the spirit duplicator.

This equipment is old and it keeps getting older.
It was born to be useful, born to be functional,
made to repeat itself blue in the face.
But I'll make it see use again, make it bear fruit again,
chase out the squirrels and brush out the needles,
reclaim all the spirit of the spirit duplicator.

In the Skypad days I was going to a magical place called SCRAP a lot to get the supplies for my homemade CDR packaging. There was an employee there who realized that I was excited about anything with the word "master" in the title, so she'd save things for me like Language Master cards, spirit masters, etc. I forget if I got the titular spirit duplicator (or, if you prefer, fluid duplicator) from her or from mimeograph master Dan H., but in any case, I had a manual ditto machine and several gallons of flammable methanol in my basement. It just needed a little work to make things work right. Unfortunately, I'm just about the least mechanically inclined person ever, so that never happened. I got a good song out of it, though. I was able to spirit-duplicate some covers for a Yuma Nora album using a bit of brute force.

I recorded this album in the basement of the decaying house that I shared with Joanie and Chris. It was small and falling apart and next to the freeway. That basement was the darkest place in the world, and I holed up in there with a Language Master, an amp with snakeskin tolex, a 12-string guitar, and a garage-sale electric piano on which only a few keys worked. The house was too small for three people and a cat, so we took off for our next location not long afterwards. Now that decaying house is a pot dispensary. Of course.

Every track on the album named after this song featured the Language Master in some prominent role. It's one of my favorites. Maximum brittle sound.

Memory Excellence 13: Let's Climb a Mossy Hill

13. Let's Climb a Mossy Hill

Let's climb up a mossy hill. Let's cast our young eyes upward
to the azure filtered soft through spruces, then look down at needles dry
in summer's gentle Western heat beneath our short and racing limbs.
Let's bound out of the family car and race towards summer's blue sky
at the roadside park with water sounds, then pant and smile and yodel
on a cloudless mossy hilltop in our endless youth and sun and now

Let's climb, let's climb, let's climb, let's climb!
Come on, come on, come on, come on!

Let's think about the day when we climbed up the mossy hill
in some unnamed generic roadside park - the shorts that we were wearing,
and the insect bites upon our legs, and how the water smelled and rushed.
Let's think about our memory of the sun and how it shone down,
if in fact it shone through conifers, when we were in deciduous
glacial plains where hills were flat and low and water slow and earthen-smelling.

Let's write a song about the half-remembered shining times
that dart between our tired neurons that are dying every day
and forming new conflated pasts that speak sincerely but in error.
Let's write a song and christen it "Let's Climb a Mossy Hill"
and put our fingers in our ears and stop the water flowing oceanward
and set that day in amber, like insects lost on sunny days.

Whew, a lot of words! This one has been a live staple at the occasional shows I have played, and it's always amazed me that I've been able to remember them all. But they're all so true. I wrote these words up in Skypad after a long and thrilling phone conversation with someone, heart all aflutter.

The lyrics are about something that definitely happened, but I'm not sure where or when or how or why. Were they in Oregon? Iowa? Wyoming? California? My family took a lot of road trips when I was young, and this particular peak experience (ha ha) could have taken place in any number of them. Or all of them. I was young and hyper and looking for any excuse to run around.

Anyway, we recorded this one during a break in the recording of the Minor Thirds' Saskatchewan in the basement of Chris and Charlotte's house in Ladd's Addition (back when regular young rockers could afford to split a house in Portland's tonier neighborhoods). I played guitar and so did Goat-Boy and Chris is obviously on the piano and the other Chris is clearly playing the drums, but who played the bass? I asked everyone who could have been involved, and no-one confessed to playing bass, so I guess I must have overdubbed it myself. So many layers of mystery in this one!

Memory Excellence 12: R.A. Montgomery

12. R.A. Montgomery

Our time is short and our task is large
And we have choices to make.
But we've got to make it to the end without hurting anyone.

We may find sweet peace or we may encounter ruin

For we have choices to make.
But we've got to make it to the end without hurting anyone.

Oh my toil's unsatisfactory. My steps are heavy-laden
As I'm rolling through the mountains. As I'm ripped behind the smog wall.
Still, we've got to make it to the end without hurting anyone.

For our view is clear and our paths defined
And our world resonates like a pure glass bell
And we've got to make it to the end without hurting anyone.

Yes, this song is sort of about the guy who wrote the Choose Your Own Adventure books. I read through a few of them and realized that they had a very simple, very direct morality: If you caused harm to any other creature, you would end up dying or being disappointed. Simple but effective. R.I.P. R.A.

This particular version was recorded on the Bronwyn and Minor Thirds "Silver and Gold" tour, or, as I should have entitled it, "Jake Anderson Spreads Pertussis Multi-State Disease Vector Tour." I enjoyed touring with these two fine bands, but I should probably have stayed home. And if I'd had medical insurance, I probably would have been realize what I had and been able to take something to help me from spreading it to everyone. Sorry.

Anyway, Chris P. tickled the plastic ivories and I gasped for air and played my $10 garage-sale guitar in good old KUCI's main room. Somehow I made it to the end.






Memory Excellence 11: Midnight Harvest

11. Midnight Harvest

I see your plums and I want them
By late moonlight I covet them

Midnight, midnight
I see moon and I see plums
And I will I will harvest them

Do you know how they harvest nutmeg?
They have a long-handled basket

Midnight, midnight
With my long-handled basket
I will harvest moon and plums

I will not covet but I will want
I will not steal but I will have

Midnight, midnight
I see moon and I see plums
And I will have and harvest them

There was a plum tree a block and a half from my duplex whose plums I wanted. I'd walk past the tree and come up with ideas for harvesting them after dark. Then I went to a garage sale at their house and asked them about the plums. "Oh, take as many as you want," they said, "we don't really eat them anyway." I ate lots of their plums. While we were at the garage sale, a car rear-ended another car while looky-looing at the goods. Such is desire.

I stole the title from a Winchester Geese song (a very punk rock 4-track experiment that's another story and another compilation entirely) about the Grim Reaper. The weird stanza about nutmeg and long-handled baskets originated from a Penzey's catalog.

The recording took place in a former church in Malmo, Nebraska, inhabited by the Stoll family, whose hospitality I appreciate greatly. Joanie and I drove across the country in the Geo Metro, its muffler dragging on the ground whenever we hit a bump (I'd been rear-ended a couple times that year). The hatchback was full of my old desktop PC and monitor, a guitar, an amplifier - honestly, I have no idea how we fit all of that in there along with camping equipment. The Geo Metro is magic. Here's a picture of me in that church along with then-Omaha-resident Chris Fischer of Unread, who also provided excellent hospitality and arranged for things. Much appreciated.

Memory Excellence 10: I Have Not Spoken All Day

10. I Have Not Spoken All Day

Beginning here, I'm going to include lyrics where possible. I realize my magnificent diction makes this completely unnecessary.

Clouds float past
Clouds float past
I have not spoken all day
Clouds float past
Gentle grace
I have not spoken all day
Clouds and clouds and clouds and clouds

I got this one directly from luv[sic] HQ and added lyrics and a ton of guitar, including a track or two through something called a "Noise Swash." It felt nice letting someone else do the driving.

The lyrics are pretty self-explanatory. Oh, those heady days of unemployment, when I really could go all day walking around inner Southeast Portland without saying a word or spending a cent. I appropriated the idea from an issue of Christie G.'s Miscellaneous zine and then, much later, I realize this exact phrase appears nearly verbatim in the Raincoats' "In Love." Nothing like stealing from the best!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Memory Excellence 09: I Didn't Think the Oracle Was Talking to Me

09: I Didn't Think the Oracle Was Talking to Me

Sometimes the best songs have to marinate for a while. I wrote this one back in 1998 when I was enmeshed in the stupid situation hinted at in track 07*, but never finished it. I dusted it off in 2001 when the mad geniuses who were luv[sic] invited me to come up to Bellevue, WA to record an album with them.

luv[sic] made about a trillion albums full of highly reverbed guitars and vocals, tumbling drums, and highly charged found-lyrics vocals. Totally overlooked masterworks. Ask me for more information. They were a highly simpatico backing band for my own yelping and strumming. Sing Like Birds is one of those jewels in the Tape Mountain crown, I think.

Bonus points to the narrator (or was it the author?) for getting the lyrics wrong in the nod to "Killing Me Softly." It was probably the author.

* And despite the author's attempts to cover his tracks by including mentions of a bomber jacket and a bitchin' motorboat, this is pretty obviously the author talking about his disregarding wisdom and good advice and getting himself all tangled up in an unwise situation. We've all been there, right? That's why the classics are classics, right?

Memory Excellence 08: Joe Zeal

08: Joe Zeal

I drove out to Beaverton to buy someone's old Sega Dreamcast and it came with a copy of NBA 2K. I used the feature where you could create a player and I made a misshapen huge thing with tiny little legs, the sort of creature that was impossible in reality. I named him Joe Zeal.

When you create something, no matter how misshapen or unlikely, it's something that's yours, something that you need to take care of.

I would end up recording this song on Malmo on my trip out to Nebraska, but that's later. This is the original version, never before released, and it's a little more put together, I guess.

Memory Excellence 07: Asterism (Live at Kelly Haus)

07. Asterism

We are back in Oregon now! After things went seriously south in the Southland, I headed back up to the dreary old Northwest and rented a duplex in southeast Portland with my brother. We called it Skypad and it was good. I had an attic space with no closet and a highly sketchy staircase down to the second floor (even I had to duck my head at the bottom) and an even sketchier fire escape staircase. But there was room for all of my musical instruments, a futon, a thrift-store stereo, my mimeograph equipment, etc.

I got in contact with (T.S.) Sean Brooks of Minmae fame, a talented writer and multi-instrumentalist, and we arranged ourselves into multiple band permutations, played at dives like It's a Beautiful Pizza and the Ash Street Saloon and, somehow, the original Stumptown Coffee. But more importantly, we played this show in Sean's basement at Kelly Haus. My garage-sale Hilgen amp was cranked and myfriends were screaming and my guitar wouldn't stay in tune and it was great. Sean eventually headed out to Berlin and continues to write elusive and beautiful music.

What was the song about? Well, still confusing, but it's mostly about playing Ethiopian Groove: The Golden Seventies in your Geo Metro in dark Southern Californian nights when you are doing something you should not be doing with someone you should not be doing it with, that weird mixture of nostalgia and intense regret, a short sharp transitory sadness. Oof.

Memory Excellence 06: Waverly

06. Waverly

We are still in California and attempting to be comfortable there. Not really succeeding. I develop a snarky persona that isn't really me but that fits well enough in the sarcastic 90s. I keep amassing items and writing bad papers at the last possible moment. This song sounds like it's being sung from the bottom of a well, which isn't so far off, even if that's just the delay pedal talking.

What exactly is this song about? Well, it's complicated - I finally watched Aelita, Queen of Mars and thought about how I'd talked about that movie with L., and how I'd driven across the U.S. with J., and how the night looked on Highway 3 in Iowa en route to the old ancestral homeland, and I'm sure A. figured in there because that's how that moment was happening, and, well, bottom of a well. This song becomes a little clearer when viewed as part of the song cycle that is Celesteville's Kohoutek. Maybe.

The jangly instrument here is my tiple, a 10-stringed instrument in the ukulele family that I found in a Portland music shop one winter break, and which has been a comforting presence in my life on many dark occasions. The bass instrument is an Electro-Harmonix Mini-Synthesizer that I got at the Golden West swap meet for five bucks, battery included. I think I borrowed the drums from someone named Franz? Sorry about my drumming.

Memory Excellence 05: The Tower (Afternoon Delight)

05. The Tower (Afternoon Delight)

We are now in Orange County, California, where I'm attending grad school. Was grad school a good idea? In hindsight, no. But I was able to do a lot of fun activities while postponing actual adulthood for a while, so I guess it's not all bad.

I was lucky enough to meet the weirdest dude in all of Irvine by random dumb luck because he was assigned to be my roommate in grad student housing. The legendary Ned Raggett. Accept no substitutes.

Ned turns me on to the idea of a "swap meet." I drive out to various parking lots in various far-flung SoCal locales and bring home unbelievable treasures most weekends. On this track there's a Rhythm Ace drum machine from Anaheim, some weird guitar from, hmm, Huntington Beach?,  a Commodore 64 from, well, I forget now, but the point is, I found a lot of really cool stuff for really cheap. I amass a garage full of super weird instruments and supplement my meager grad-school stipends by selling things on Usenet and early Internet auction websites.

The song itself? Uh, it references one time in college when I went to visit my then-girlfriend and did not realize that I was supposed to pull the door instead of push (or vice versa). Shades of that Far Side "School for the Gifted" comic, I know. I was also probably wearing shorts in the Pennsylvania snow at the time and being horribly awkward with said love interest. Sorry to everyone. Apologies for making a really unnecessary reference to THAT song.

Brian MacDonald made a fantastically strident dub out of the song using my 4-track and some Yamaha multi-FX unit in KUCI's Studio B. I probably should have included that here, but such are the casualties of trying to fit 29 years of music onto one cassette.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Memory Excellence 04: No. Central Iowa (I'm Sorry)

04 No. Central Iowa (I'm Sorry)

I'm sorry about the title being a pretty blatant R.E.M. ripoff.  I probably did not need to do that.

OK, so a few things to note about this song:

(1) I did, in fact, spend my childhood years not that far from Buddy Holly's flight path from Clear Lake, IA (not Mason City) to Sioux City. Now that I look it up, it's actually about an hour away, but whatever, some of Buddy Holly's atoms must have passed through me at some point.

(2) The crazy drums on this one are courtesy of the great Dave Hanson (RIP), the original drummer in the band I mentioned in the last entry. Among the funniest people I've ever known, and a wild one, and I am sad that I will not be getting any emails in the future with phrases like "buttocks ahoy from some madmen."

(3) This song was the last song on a split tape that I did with the great Charlie McAlister (RIP), another wild Southerner, a true one-of-a-kind spirit who deserves more than just a paragraph. Charlie was one of those people you only meet once in your life, and I was lucky enough to see him at least three times.

(4) Recorded live in Studio B at the college radio station, all live. Let it be said that college radio, much like the four-track, was one of those things that changed everything. So many hours spent trudging up to the odd-smelling fourth floor of that building, listening through headphones to the thousands of records and CDs, taking in everything, blasting it out to a little chunk of the western suburbs of Philadelphia.

Memory Excellence 03: Becoming the Floor

I wish I had more room to devote to my high-school adventures on this tape. There is a lot of recorded material and some of it is really wild. Oh well, off to college.

03. Becoming the Floor

I pack up my bags and head off to the greater Philadelphia area to go to a fancy college. I write songs, join bands, read a lot of books, etc. I'm still averse to social interaction, but at least now I'm a shy wreck in a band. In said band I sing (half the time) and play bass (all the time.) This self-pitying but sorta funny little number is a hit with the undergrad crowd in the indie-rock-centric early 90s. Eventually I rewrite it so it is skitterier and strummier.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Memory Excellence 02: Shudder

02 Shudder

High school was kind of awful and I dreaded social interaction. I'd recorded some stuff on the boombox in my bedroom with fellow nerds with varying amounts of musical ability (mostly low). So my life was completely changed by the gift of a Fostex X-15 four-track by my youth pastor Bob F., who had moved on to an unthinkably luxurious cassette 8-track (!). I commenced to create an endless number of albums on the thing, cranked the input gain up to make fuzz sounds, stuck microphones inside guitars, contact-miked everything, explored, explored, explored. Oh how I loved that thing. I never had a car in high school, but I drove that four-track into the ground.

This song was one of the first things I recorded on it. Two tracks of black pointy-headed Polaris bass, two tracks of the worst guitar ever created. I would get better at everything, I guess, but there's something to be said about taking your first steps.

Memory Excellence 01: Yellow

I'm going to write up a little blurb explaining each of the songs on Memory Excellence. I will probably not finish in time for the release date (Oct. 12, 2018), but let's give it a shot.

NB: I reserve the right to edit, update, or delete any of these entries going forward. I may also add links to other appropriate songs. When I'm done, I will try to put this up on tapemountain.com so you don't have to read through 33 different Blogger entries.

OK, here goes!

01. Yellow

This comes from the first Cruise Missiles Named Bob tape Winter, which was recorded over an Information Society cassingle that I bought from the Tualatin Public Library book sale for a dime. We fit seven songs on the space formerly inhabited by "What's on Your Mind (Pure Energy)" and whatever the flip side was.

Jordan and B. sing backup vocals - thank you. Recorded in my Tualatin bedroom on a Panasonic boombox with my dad's old guitar. This song may seem familiar to connoisseurs of the Raunchy Young Lepers oeuvre, but that's purely a coincidence.

Not sure what prompted this song to be written, though I did have a pair of yellow Chuck Taylors that I'd bought on clearance at G.I. Joe's and that stuck out like the sorest thumb possible at Tigard High School in the late 80s.