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Music Production: Remixes
03/30/2004 Remixes: Red Fiber

A month ago, I was at the Life In Balance CD release party at the Quiet Storm coffeehouse along with Jeff Kowal and Ben Cox, and it was quite a nice evening, although it was also the first night of the Evil Cold which claimed my voice for the following week. At one point, Life in Balance's Steve Sciulli bantered with the audience, and someone made The Ironic Song Request for Skynyrd's "Freebird." People chuckled, and Jeff said to me (ironically), "you know, I'd like to hear you remix the guitar solo from 'Freebird.'" Being the obstinate, perverse type I am, I thought, yeah, that would be interesting. So I did it.

The general approach was to go through the song, find loopable snippets, and then organize them in Ableton Live into different combinations I can flip between as scenes. The original idea was to capture a live performance of it, although the show I first did it at had sub-optimal monitoring, so I stayed up a bit later once I got home and did the canonical version. One variation went one iteration too long, so I edited down the two-track result. It begins ambient, and then gradually adds more signature licks until it's obvious what we're dealing with. Parts of it sound like Glenn Branca guitar-army stuff; others sound like brain-damaged boogie. Mr. Funky points out it's kind of like the guitar afficionado version of what breakbeat folks do. It was fun.

Ironically, when I ran the piece by Jeff, he didn't recognize the source. A month had passed, and he hadn't expected me to do this. An entertainment lawyer's pointed out that I can't sell this, but you can hear "Red Fiber" for nothing. Enjoy. (And if you find it interesting, drop me a line.)

03/29/2004 Maurice Rickard: Live, SubLab at the Lava Lounge

Yet another show (#61) is coming up, courtesy of my man DJ Translator (and Blackfish keyboardist) Greg Galbreth. He's launching the new every-so-often performance series SubLab at the Lava Lounge, and the first night is Monday.

I'll be busting out a couple of the W-related pieces (including the "Bush League" single, available at onezero music), celebrating the return of parallel ring modulation with some ambient droning Guitar Clouds, and just possibly entertaining a request. If you make the right one. (You know what to do.)

We'll also have Greg's new project AlphaBeta (keyboards/turntable and percussionist Matt Montgomery), Yves Jean kicking it acoustic style, and Andrew Nease doing...something. Not sure what it is, but rumor has it that some aspect of it will be big by one or another metric.

I'm not sure what the door charge will be, if any, but things get rolling around 8:30-9:00 or so. Not sure of the running order, either, but I suspect I'll be first or second. So mark this date on your calendar with a Sharpie, glitter lipstick, or Dave's Insanity sauce. See you there.

2204 East Carson Street, South Side. (Just hang a right off the Birmingham Bridge, and look across the street.) 412-431-5282. 21+. 8:30 PM, Monday March 29.

An interesting night in several ways, although I wasn't satisfied with my performance. I got in the house around the same time as the other musicians, but before the sound guy, so I tried to figure something out. Turns out, the subwoofer I'd put my stuff on would be needed, so we set up a couple monitors that wouldn't be used. Gradually some audience filtered in, friends of Yves Jean and Greg, largely, one of whom happened to be an entertainment lawyer, so we had an interesting talk about some of the issues presented by my intended set-closer. I kept an eye out for a friend who was in from out of town. Yves had to get going fairly early, so it was agreed that he'd go first and I'd follow, which was fine by me, as I'd wanted my friend to see the set.

Yves's bag is very radio-friendly singer-songwriter jam-band stuff, and apparently he does a fair amount of touring behind it. I could tell that the audience was significantly composed of fans and friends from the claps of recognition that greeted many of the songs. Toward the end of his set I wandered out to the front of the bar, and there was Rick G, fresh up from the hotel with a work friend in tow, right on time! Excellent!

I began my set with the poem, as I've tended to do with audiences unfamiliar with my stuff. I saw a few people out there laughing, although it wasn't quite the response I usually get. With Yves having left, it seemed that many of his friends weren't into sticking around either. I launched into a somewhat challenged version of "Bush League," in which I was running a few too many VSTs and slowed the Ableton Live interface to a crawl--the processor use percentage was definitely higher than I'd ever seen it before. I also spent a fair amount of time struggling with coming up with interesting guitar lines while varying the samples, and swimming upstream through the molasses interface. In any case, this took another dent out of the population of the bar. Maybe these folks were crypto-administrationists or something. If so, I figured I might as well push it, and did the second W piece I haven't yet performed to a releasable standard. I wasn't fully happy with this one either, although I wasn't helped by the monitoring situation, which...wasn't--I was listening to the echo off the room. I'd thought of doing a guitar cloud for this one, experimenting with G, the successor to the late, lamented Girl program I'd been using, but Greg told me we were running late due to a late start time, and so I thought I'd wrap it up with "Red Fiber".

I introduced it by asking if anyone had any requests, hoping that some indie smartass would say the inevitable. This not being my audience, however, I was glad I'd briefed Rick on this ahead of time, asking him if he'd mind shouting it out for me if no one else did. As there weren't enough indie smartasses in the house, he did in fact have to make the request. So I played it, but it was difficult getting the right timing for the scene changes, with my having to monitor through room reflections. And I was done. There was a smattering of applause, and I hung out with Rick for a while to talk, although he and his co-worker had to head back to the hotel.

Greg's new project with the percussionist was up next, and they were quite good. As ever with Greg's stuff, one feels wittier, more urbane, and more sophisticated when listening to it. Check him out as either DJ Translator or with the percussionist as Alpha Beta. During the set, I was talking with Greg and Sarah's friend the entertainment lawyer, who assured me that I was within my free speech rights with Red Fiber, but woe betide me if I try to make any money off it. A point to remember.

Andrew Nease's set came late, but I was happy to hang out for it. He was doing the acoustic singer/songwriter thing, but with a twist--the over-the-top quality of his songwriting and performance could be chalked up to intense emotion, and to an ironic parody of the same. He obviously knew he was flirting with excess, so one couldn't laugh at him, but he kept the irony from being a cheap laugh by having genuine emotion in the work. I found it quite interesting, uncomfortable, smart, and funny. I dug it. Well done.

And the evening ended, late. As I went around the corner to get the car, one gentleman urinating against a dumpster shouted out to me that he liked the set. Somehow this seems appropriate. When I got home, I decided to do a canonical version of "Red Fiber" which would benefit from good monitoring. And so it was complete.

03/06/2004 The Stem Cell Liberation Front: Live at the Schoolhouse Yoga

The SCLF rides again! While we took 2003 off, we weren't idle--I did a lot of performing; Ryan did a lot of video work, we've done a lot of rehearsing, and we're adding avant-gardist-about-town Steve Pellegrino on keyboards! So we're tanned, rested, and ready to rock, so to speak.

Not only that, we're kicking off a new performance series, Live@ (http://www.pghevents.com/), this one at The Schoolhouse Yoga (http://www.schoolhouseyoga.com/) in Lawrenceville, the beginning of a number of performances in nontraditional spaces. (A map can be found at http://tinyurl.com/2wduf)

We'll be the only act, but there will be a full array of entertainment--recent rehearsals have seen us getting into Godspeed/Mogwai mode, so once we're there we can keep going until we've drained the last drop of norepinephrine from your entertainted brain. We're pretty excited about doing the first one, so there will be a few surprises--including a Certain Cover Tune in honor of a Certain Current Event in the music world.

That's Saturday, March 6. 7PM. All ages. And the promoter wants...$10. Yikes! But wait--for you, we've attached a coupon good for $5 off admission! Just print it out and bring it to the gig, so they'll know you're a fellow Stem Cell Liberator. (If you don't see the attachment, get it from http://mauricerickard.com/sclf_coupon.pdf)

See you there!

141 Foster Way (41st and Foster, next to the 40th St. Bridge!), Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh, PA 15201. (412) 401-4444.

Well, this had some great aspects, and some that were a bit sucktacular. Some of this is traceable back to the cold (lack of energy for promo, insufficient rehearsal), but there are some other factors at work--lack of overall promo, no foot traffic, bad weather, no regular audience infrastructure, a one-act show concept, and a high ticket price.

Ryan and I had been digging having a keyboardist in the house, and my co-conspirator Steve Pellegrino was willing to do it, which was good. We'd done some rehearsals together and worked on some pieces, including a Mogwai-like piece I'd written which we'd rejected for having a weird missing eighth note or something. Ryan and I thought we'd do some extra rehearsal before the show, which usually isn't a good idea for me, but this one felt right. Having a bit of time, we caught some dinner at Whole Foods first, when Steve called me on cell--the Mapquest directions to the venue were deeply wrong, and we ourselves were running late. We headed back down, and got it together. Steve had to run an errand, and was a little later coming into the space, while Ryan ran back and forth from his apartment to take the drum kit over in easily-assembled stages, rather than breaking the whole thing down for longer assembly.

The space itself, the entire third floor gymnasium of a former elementary school, is stunning--visually beautiful, with a long, long reverb tail. I can sit next to the drums in a room like this and have little to no ear fatigue. We set up, and as we got closer to 8, began to wonder if, in fact, we'd be doing anything more than rehearsing. There was no audience--no one had yet showed up for this. The venue's well off a main drag, for one thing. This is a new performance series, for another. We haven't played out in a year. And the promoter was charging $10 for one act. ($5 with the coupon.) Not a promising combination at all, I'd say. And this proved to be the case.

Getting closer to 8, we saw Ryan's friend Amadeo and a friend of his, but they left again to get something to eat, and we figured we'd see them again soon. I hit the restroom, and when I emerged, Steve and Ryan were jamming, so I turned on the MD recorder (with binaurals) and joined in. By this time, someone unknown to us had shown up--it turned out to be a fellow member of the Microsound list, Spider Baby. (Thanks, guy!) So we began, pretty much at 8.

Steve had been working on variations on Howlin' Wolf's "Sittin' on Top of the World," which is what I'd come in on. We hadn't rehearsed it, but I threw on some of my VST tape-delay with simulated flutter as a kind of Frisell-like atmosphere, and the interaction seemed to work well. We went atmospheric with the next piece, as Steve used the pipe organ setting on Ryan's keyboard, doing a long introduction to a tense, loping reflective piece with some fine brush work from Ryan. (The snare really sounded fantastic in this room!) Steve's playing laid out emotionally resonant chords, and I kept up a shimmering atmosphere. It worked pretty well.

Our next tune was one Steve had blocked out in 7, which was an interesting challenge for me--where's one? Ryan picked it up right away, and I stuck to long drones, occasionally messing up my playing with ring modulation and buffer override. It actually had a lot going for it. Our next piece began (again) atmospherically, as we played with the long room decay, and drifted into a dark, Asian-flavored piece. We were in a film soundtracky mood with this one. The next was an electric-piano piece in Steve's complex-harmony mode, which was difficult to get a handle on, but gradually unfolded for us. I think Steve's keyboard expertise leads him to work in dense chords that are difficult for me to unravel and find space in for contribution, but this did grow in an interesting way for me.

Our last piece was a cover I'd wanted to do, as an homage to Brian Wilson's recent performances of Smile. "Fire" is a pretty groovy tune, and we worked on it a bit separately, and thought what the hell, we'd give it a shot. My playing didn't quite hold together, and it would have been much better with some stronger rehearsal, but it was still fun to do.

So in an hour, we were done. Our audient bought a couple CDRs from me, which meant that, with the door, I could pay each of us $5. Not bad for having just one person! We talked a bit, broke down the gear, and headed out. Later we learned that Amadeo, his friend, and some other people came later--they'd thought it was like a club show, and would run late. Another hurdle for this series. Still, the room was gorgeous, and (except for an evil bass hump around 150 Hz and some mic pre overload), the recording has some compelling stretches. Not a bad night, even with the sparse attendance.

02/23/2004 Maurice Rickard: The Dark Night Cabaret

Hot on the heels of Mr. & Mr$ Funky's The Last Supper at the 31st St. Pub last night (music and food provided by members of the Pgh. music community's hipoisie), I'm turning right around and doing another show on Monday, this time as part of the Dark Night Cabaret, which is held at the University of Pittsburgh's Studio Theatre (the one in the basement of the Cathedral of Learning).

I'm not sure who all's playing, or in what order, but I know I'll be continuing my election-year series with the recent single, a new political piece or two, and possibly hauling something or other out of the back catalog. Since my relatively cruelty-free testing on various audiences has shown them to respond best to the fractured IDM beats, expect some more of those. Dance to it, nod your head to it, twitch to it, whatever--it's your nervous system, so bring it on over.

8PM Monday February 23, Studio Theatre, Cathedral of Learning basement level. All ages. I dunno, isn't it like $5 or something? It's a whole evening of entertainment encompassing the whole range of human emotion--comedy, tragedy, drama, the whole bit. See you there.

Again, only at a significant remove am I getting a chance to write this up. I'm a slouch. In retrospect, this set of mine was marked by an unsettled and unfocused quality, the very first wave of an extremely nasty cold which would bring me down for the better part of a week and a half.

I knew I wouldn't be able to do guitar clouds for this one, so I spent some time preparing an expanded second W piece in Live, and some fallback pieces based on the ones I whipped up for the late January Kiva Han show. I also had a lot of paid development work to do, and tried to juggle all this, and my concentration during the set suffered. The beginning signs were during load-in, when I had trouble setting up--not because it was difficult, but because I wasn't sure exactly what sound reinforcement I'd be facing, and some critical parts of my attention were already distracted by the oncoming cold. I wasn't being as flexible or enthusiastic about meeting the uncertainties of the setup as I'd usually be. Still, we worked it out.

I was up first, and got good response from the poem (easy--there's not any variance as such in this, but I did screw up the initial triggering of the piece. "Bush League" was up next (listen to it at onezero music), which I did passably, but I wasn't pleased with how I kept up (or failed to keep up) the guitar end of things. The second, newer Bush piece didn't hold together for me. I liked some of the samples, as did some audients, but it didn't cohere. I was lacking the attention I'd need to bring it off. I shoehorned in an ill-advised piece involving speech samples from other people in the Administration, but by this time the point was beaten into a little greasy spot. As if that wasn't problematic enough, I also went for a kind of honors circle of ill-advisedness and did an Ableton Live version of "The Apparition," during which I tried to let it ring out, but hadn't disabled all the loops. Oops. We faded at the board.

The other acts--a video, a reading, a promising singer/songwriter in the country/folk space (also playing a Kalamazoo! His is acoustic, and from the '30s) were much more succinct than I, but nonetheless I seemed to make a few new well-wishers. I sold a few CDs, got paid for my share of the door, and was able to pay my parking with some left over. I declined the post-show drink, and went home feeling exhausted from the beginnings of the cold's misery, which would dog me for the next week.

02/19/2004 Maurice Rickard: The Last Supper--Live at the 31st St. Pub

After just a few weeks, I'm back in the saddle again, this time for Mr. Funky's latest concept, The Last Supper. Artists will be preparing a small meal onstage for a few audience members, and then playing. (I don't know what I'm doing for that yet; there won't be any heat going on, so I can't do my regular cooking.) Unfinished Symphonies will be there, and Dave Mansueto, too! And as for the other players, we have Amoeba Knievel, the Hope Harvies, and a couple of people I'm forgetting (sorry!). But come on out and have a listen! I'm going to try to prepare a new W piece for the occasion. And while you're at it, head on over to onezero music and listen to the last one.

Thursday, February 19, $5, 21+, probably starting around 10:30 or so, given the way 31st St. Pub shows go.

Well, it's quite a while after the fact that I get around to writing the review, but this was a fun night. The concept was that everyone would put together some kind of dish, and do a short set. I debated what I was going to prepare, and finally settled on hummus--a couple cans of chickpeas, some lemon juice, tahini, cumin, paprika, and Bob's your uncle. Whole Foods has been selling these sheets of flat Middle Eastern bread, which seems more biblical than pitas, so I went with those. I blended most of the ingredients in advance, leaving a few to be stirred in onstage (after all, there would be no heat), packed my gear, and headed down.

Parking karma was good--right outside the stage door, in a MINI-sized space. Other performers were filtering in, and I commandeered my usual bar-height table for the laptop, and lugged it behind the PA speaker near the stage door. After a brief soundcheck, I hung out for a bit to wait for showtime. One of the performers was Gary from the Viragos, who turned up in the Jesus role, helping to serve food, wash feet (dunno offhand if he was washing his own hands between these two services), and provide an appropriate atmosphere.

First up was Mr. & Mr$ Funky and Marty, who turned in a fine set of their witty, erudite rock--including some food-related tunes, one from the point of view of a lascivious hamburger-obsessed petty criminal, and a cover of the "we like the moon" song that's been shilling for Quizno's. During the latter, Mr$ Funky sliced up some subs, which Marty, Gary, and Dave Mansueto took around to serve the hungry audience.

Next up was Tommy Amoeba, who performed several hilarious songs a capella ("I'm going into the laaaand of, XXXXXX's Devilled Haaaaam, I'm...." etc.) while he made (quite tasty) salsa. As ever, well done. As I recall, The Gothees were up next, doing their goth take on various bubblegum hits, as well as some originals and non-bubblegum covers ("Love Will Tear Us Apart"), and a serial blending of Orange Julii. Also notable was the Gothees' singer, a person we've seen around and thought of as Pittsburgh's über-hipster.

Dave Mansueto had his own brief set, during which he introduced me and narrated my mixing of the hummus. Since Mr. Funky had asked me to make it "theatrical," I decided to do it Butoh-style, with slow, deliberate motions while Dave improvised his narration. It may have worked, and people might have gotten a bit out of the hummus, although when I tasted it later I think I could have used a lot more cumin and lemon juice. Some garlic wouldn't have hurt, but I don't think people had intended to play Hummus Roulette.

The Hope Harvies followed my set with their toaster strudel and a set of their peppy, ironic, actually complex tunage. 109 Starchild Avenue brought the Galaxie 500/VU drone thang (Rob suggested I do something with them at one point, which I would if asked), and Styles for Modern Living ended the evening with an astonishingly energetic boy/girl/drum machine take on Joy Division/early New Order--no bad thing at all. Check 'em out if you see they're playing. I dug 'em.

Much to my surprise, even with all this going on, some money was made as well. A fine evening, if late and smoky in that 31st St. Pub kind of way.

01/27/2004 Maurice Rickard: Live at Re:PULSE, Kiva Han

As if the Club Cafe gig isn't enough, the next night I'll be playing a solo set at the revived Re:PULSE series, in the expanded Kiva Han at Forbes and Craig near the museum. This will be a guitar-and-PowerBook exploration, and my first time out solo with Ableton Live as my software, so expect...something different, but you were expecting that anyway. It might be an audio retrospective of 2003. Also on the bill are the tastefully doomy Requiem and the powerful, unpredictable noise and/or ambience of Manherringbone. It looks like I'll be up first, so come by early.

Three sets in two nights! You can follow me around like I'm the Grateful Dead or something, except you can keep your job, bathe regularly, and sleep in your usual bed with full control over your environment. Plus, no patchouli-drenched hallucinating weirdos. (There will, however, most likely be weirdos of other varieties, should you require them.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2004, 8PM. Kiva Han coffeehouse, Forbes & Craig, Oakland. All ages, $2.

This was a fun one. Not all pieces were successful, but the ones that were, really were. As with last night, the weather was rather nasty, and the two other scheduled acts couldn't make it. Instead, we got Jordan Decay (who laid down some interesting literary goth action) and my dawg Kerry Holocaust from the Circuits of Steel tour. Good to see him again.

Steve Pellegrino and I had planned a Surprise for the evening, but the weather being what it was (snowy and icy), he couldn't make it, which was fine. I was more concerned about the pieces I was going to do, since the night before was the last gasp of the Girl software I'd been using. I spent a chunk of the day on trying to compile an OS X VST from open ring modulator source code, but, sadly, no luck. I was having promising, but not definitively successful, results, meaning that guitar clouds were out of the question. So I spent some quality time with Ableton Live working up some new pieces, most notably a new piece with a bunch of recent Bush samples. That wasn't quite enough for a whole set, though, so I also worked up an audio diary of 2003, with the thought that I could use it both for a piece I'd be contributing to Re-Record Romzine, and for an audio installation I'd have at the upcoming Sonic Bridge symposium. We'd see how it would go.

As the drive was a few short blocks and the MINI's great in snow, getting there was no problem. I snagged a bite to eat (a very tasty veggie sandwich on foccacia) and set up. It was great reconnecting with Kerry, who's back in town after several sojourns farther afield. I chatted with Jordan Decay a bit as well, before deciding to get my set rolling.

While attendance was sparse, the weather still being bad, there were more paying audients than had been at Club Cafe the night before. As most of them were new faces, I opted to start with the poem Tell Ya One Thing, which got the appropriate surprise and laughter, and works well as a gesture of non-self-important goodwill. I opted to do the new Bush piece next, which went over very well. I set up some low E volume swells into the Line6, which I had playing into Live while I manipulated it with VSTs and introduced the samples. The more amusing edits elicited the right response--some vocal chuckling, and Manny shaking with laughter--although I sadly succumbed to the temptation to re-play some of the best ones. Still, it worked, as did my occasional guitar accents. The end was something of a revelation for me, as it was much more IDM than I've been doing. I'd tortured some breakbeats into unrecognizability with Live's envelope editing capability, and then applied a buffer override. After swirling the XY controller around for a while, I found a nice tonal stutter, and added some modal guitar and some E minor chords. Nice.

The next piece wasn't so successful, because the environmental samples (a lot of DC and NY subways) devolved into a pool of white noise. For the last piece, I'd wanted to do a guitar cloud, but found that Girl wouldn't launch. Or it would launch, but crap out on me whenever I'd go to adjust the delay feedback. Oh, well. I quickly dropped a bunch of old movie samples into Live, and made a bunch of noise with the Line6 and VSTs. And then I called it a set. While I might have lost some goodwill in the second part of the set, the first part was good enough that I managed to sell a Death Pig CD to fellow ambient noisemaker Ryan Unks, and get some good feedback from other folks as well. Not bad at all.

Jordan and Kerry were both good, and this time Kerry didn't break anything. (I'd made sure to move my gear out from the performance space before he came on.) Another nice thing was finally to see a copy of Greg Gillis's new Girl Talk CD, on which I'm credited with photography. And he did use a lot of the photos from the tour. Anyway, good vibes all around. Afterwards, Manny split the door (hey, more cash!) and I gave him a ride over to his new pad. And I was home at a reasonable hour, too--a good night.

01/26/2004 Death Pig: Live performance at Club Cafe

I myself am keeping the January post-holiday letdown at bay by kicking the distraction level to high. I've already launched onezero music and am working on enhancements.

I'm also working with some new software, Ableton Live. I've given a...rather odd...interview for Re-Record ROMzine that should be coming out soon (my artistic contribution is due this weekend, so I'd better get cracking on that). And after a bit of a break, I'm playing live again, very soon. Next week, in fact:

On Monday, January 26, I'll be returning to Club Cafe, doing a solo set of feedback as Death Pig, *and* an Unindicted Co-Conspirators set with accordionist/melodica player/throat singer/avant-gardeist-about-town Steve Pellegrino.

The schedule is this:
* 7:30 sharp--Death Pig (no-input effects pedal feedback; it's dark ambientlicious)
* 8:15--Sugapablo (super-friendly hypnotic grooves from this MIDI-box master)
* 9:00--The Unindicted Co-Conspirators (a harmonic PowerBook puree of live guitar and accordion)
* 9:45--Xanopticon (Skull-crushing breakcore madness! You will succumb!)

Ideally, we'll have some time to do a quick improv, too--and with Xanopticon in the mix, that ought to be interesting, for sure. So put a big red mark on your calendar for this one. (Why the DP set at 7:30? Since the last DP set was to just two people, I'm keeping this one exclusive also. If you catch this set, you can lord it over your friends who are just late-coming losers compared to your own gleaming royal hipness.)

Monday, January 26, 2004. 7:30 PM sharp. Club Cafe, 56-58 South 12th Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15203. 412-431-4950. 21+, $5.


While everybody talks about the weather, I did something about it--I ignored it. There was an ice storm all day, slated to get worse during the afternoon. Russ (Sugapablo) was concerned that he might have to cancel, but I wasn't going to. The covenant I made as a performer was--if I'd agreed to play--to show up on time and play, whether there was one person there, one hundred, or one thousand. (So far I've had the first two options covered.)

I'd picked up Mr. Funky on the way, and found that in the event, the most dangerous part of the evening was the walk from the car to the club--the cigar shop's sidewalk was an ultra-slick layer of pure ice. I'd talked to Steve Pellegrino and known that he was going to be there; Xanopticon confirmed a day or two ahead, but I wasn't sure with the weather, so I made some calls and emails, and hoped for the best.

What we got...was a bit of an audience, although mostly club staff. Still, there were people unknown to us there. Since Russ wasn't playing, I waited a bit longer than 7:30 before starting, and ultimately we did get some people.

I must have set up in an order different from the last Death Pig show, because the sound was a lot more up-front and compressed--there was less echo and delay, and at first I couldn't hear any effect of manipulating the Ibanez digital modulation delay. I checked some cables, which meant that there was a fair amount of crackle and plugging/unplugging going on early in the set, as I tried to figure out what was going on. Turns out, it was the mix knob on the Digitech sampler, set to delay only, so new stuff wasn't getting through. At least I found out early.

I wasn't terribly satisfied with it at the time; it lacked the atmosphere and depth of the set I've released, and it was more of a struggle to get sounds I liked. Still, there were some stretches in there that I like, and they may yet show up on something. There were some nice beat/repetitive melody sections, some helicoptery drones, and some percussive sounds that I might keep around. Not a resounding success, but certainly a respectable effort, particularly toward the end, with some rapid modulations and an enjoyable consonant drone. And while I was playing, Xanopticon came in, having braved the weather and our spotty bus system to get there. (Much to my surprise, he was toting only the laptop, and not the desktop machine.) For the rest of the evening, see the next review.

01/26/2004 The Unindicted Co-Conspirators: Live performance at Club Cafe

Originally, Sugapablo was scheduled to play the second set, but thought the better of coming out in the ice storm we had, so Steve and I went right into the UCoCo set. We'd soundchecked early on, so we were good to go...although I could have used a bit more of a break to clear my head. We started with "Frequinox," our version of Coltrane's "Equinox," on which Steve played brilliantly. I wasn't quite as happy with my own playing--I was a little too elastic with the beat I was coming in on. Still, I had some sections working, with a Girl-delayed and modulated solo that had some decent glitchy moments. Overall...it wasn't quite working from my end, although I took up more reliable residence in the pocket after the solo, and the resonant drone at the end sounded good.

Next up, we did a version of "Lady of Pain," at which point the communication was really happening. It was a bit denser and more chaotic than the one we've released, but at the same time more assertive and confident, with the addition of guitar percussion and faster playing from Steve. (And a very happy section in which the strings above the nut proved to be in tune with the piece.)

In rehearsal, we'd been experimenting with Ableton Live in addition to Girl for processing. In fact, I'd experimentally hooked the two together with the free Jack program, but during the preceding weekend had a lot of trouble getting that to work, and Girl crashed a lot. It was behaving great this evening, however, up until the middle of the next piece, the one in which I customarily process Steve's throat singing. Just as I leaned over to my bag to get the Ebow, Girl crashed, and when I went to bring it back up, crashed again. When I'd turn on an audio input or adjust a ring modulator, the software just emitted horrible loud clicks. I ended up adjusting the audio input and output--apparently corrupted from the changes I made while using Jack--and limping through a few more minutes, actually quite a few more minutes than I remembered. Eventually Girl just popped or crashed again when I set the delay feedback percentage or the ring modulator frequencies. Well, damn. I'd just have to figure this out later.

So for our next number Steve pulled out the melodica and I pulled out the uke with the thought of doing a dub number. I had massive feedback problems, however, and it took me a while before I figured out that I'd had the amp simulator turned up too high. So it was rough, or it seemed so to me at the time. Listening to it now, it took me quite a while to get the dub delay going on the uke. Steve's playing, of course, was brilliant and evocative throughout.

Ultimately, with some echo, the feedback was kind of interesting, although frustrating--I kept having to set the uke down to go forward and adjust the software. And the rhythm pattern (modulated white noise...except for a couple instances of accidental straight white noise) was kind of interesting...although I departed from it quite a bit. Sadly, a bit too loose, and we lost a few audience members during this stretch. Much more compelling in rehearsal, but that just shows the importance of preparation. Ultimately when I brought in some additional samples from rehearsal (bass melodica, rhythm uke that was the same as what I'd been playing) and started soloing, it became a bit more compelling...still a bit too sparse, though. I think by this point I was kind of fried from all the playing and technical problems...and it needs some harmonic development. Time for a serious revision of this piece.

Xanopticon was up next, and started ambient, but soon brought out the noise I'd been hoping for. It was quite surreal seeing this go down in Club Cafe of all places. ("So wrong, and yet so right," said Rob.) One couple who'd hung in there through most of his set were an interesting mystery--we didn't know them, and I wondered if they were Ryan's parents, but no--they did leave about two-thirds of the way through his set. Ah, well.

I'd asked Ryan where the desktop machine was, and it turns out he doesn't need it anymore, since he got an Echo Audio DJ card with additional outputs. He can run two programs at once, run them to different outputs, and crossfade between them externally. Interesting. We did have a bit of time left, so we did a collective improv--with Xanopticon!--which went interestingly. While it took a while for Peter the soundguy to bring Ryan up in the system, Ryan did respond to the rhythm of what we were doing. At this remove, I can't really remember what we were doing, so I'll have to listen to it. Steve was playing straight accordion, and I did some Frisell-influenced echoy guitar through Ableton, but I don't recall much more than that.

Thanks to the Sprout Fund, we all got paid, although not quite as much as I'd hoped, due to the band-centric allocation (we did re-divide for greater equity, although I ended up giving a bit more to Ryan for being the headliner). Overall, a noble perseverence against adversity. Followed by another gig the next night! Stay tuned for a report.

01/22/2004 My Fifteen Minutes: More press!

My upcoming gig at Club Cafe has received some love from the CityPaper, courtesy of music editor Justin Hopper and writer Julie Wesolowski:

The AMP series at Club Cafe continues with an eclectic electronic theme tonight. Expect feedback, blips, beeps and loops galore when local electronic music outfit Death Pig takes the stage. And, in what is sure to be a "must-see" to be talked [about] around the water cooler for days afterward, [the] Unindicted Co-Conspirators promise to combine guitar and electronics with accordion and overtone singing--all of which is then processed through a PowerBook. Sure it's avant-garde, but at least now Pittsburgh can't be considered "boring." Also with Xanopticon and Sugapablo. 7:30 p.m. Club Cafe, South Side. 412-431-4950.

11/10/2003 Maurice Rickard: Live at CB's 313 Gallery, NY, NY

I'm hauling the PowerBook, submixer, looper, and guitar back to NYC on Monday November 10 for a set at CB's 313 Gallery. Stop on by for a set of dark ambient noise, low-ratio ring modulated guitar drones, delay glitches, at least three different varieties of feedback, and samples ranging from the dystopian to the amusing. Or just go to their site and check out the live stream, apparently. C'mon up and introduce yourself. Buy a cheap cdr (including the new Death Pig no-input set from July!). Lord it over your friends as the next big thing, or just stand in the corner, unfavorably compare me to better-known performers, and wearily sigh to your hipster friends at work the next day that I'm soooo 12 hours ago.

Monday November 10, 9PM, CB's 313 Gallery, 313 Bowery, NYC.

Well, after a string of warm 'n' fuzzy gigs, this was cold 'n' snarky. Despite the vaunted and musician-friendly reputation of the parent club, this room next door is non-happening, offputting, unpopular, and home to a curious policy about recording oneself on one's own gear, delivered in a "by the way" aside when one is packing up.

We left around 10 AM, and surprisingly made great time--we reached the Holland Tunnel at 4PM, and made it to Manhattan shortly thereafter. Unfortunately, I always seem to navigate incorrectly once I get out of the tunnel, and end up pointing downtown, having to find my way back along Church and then Canal. Being somewhat more familiar with lower Manhattan, I figured I'd follow Canal to the Bowery, and head up to the club. Sadly, there's no left turn there, and from the lane I was in, the only option was to cross the Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn. Once there, we made it around the block and back onto the bridge, and...I missed the little connecting street from which it was legal to turn right on the Bowery, so we went up to Elizabeth, followed it to Houston, and then finally turned right.

I parked in front of the club with the thought of leaving some of the gear there while we got dinner. From the noncommittal responses of the staff, I ultimately decided not to leave anything there, and instead just carry the stuff with us. We parked the car in the garage on Elizabeth I'd intended to use last time, and we walked a few blocks down to the hotel, checked in, got dressed for the evening, and hit the street to hail a cab up to Old Devil Moon. This time, we both had the tofu and portobello "ribs," and they were--as expected--excellent. Special mention should be made of the mac 'n' cheese (Swiss in there?) and the cole slaw (apple vinegar? lemongrass?), which were also exquisite.

We caught a cab back down to the club, where I transferred some environmental sounds from the summer off of the MD recorder to free up a disc. We sat in a booth by the bar while I did that, and while I tuned up. During that process, a band by the name of Op Amp set up while Amir, the soundguy, produced howls of microphone feedback. Still, I managed to tune through a combination of a software frequency analyzer and bone conduction (after I'd put in the hearing protectors). Then we moved over to the seating area next to the stage, where I put my rig (mostly) together.

Op Amp proved to be a heavily-Sonic-Youth-influenced band with a PortaMoog and some good grooves. I had a pleasant chat with one of the guitarists/bassists, who said he'd stick around for my set, although he didn't. Same thing with the folk artist up next, who did some singer/songwriter stuff and a slightly muddleheaded version of "Cat's in the Cradle" (in which he flubbed some pronouns such that it seems the dad wants to grow up to be like the son). Meanwhile, I prepared the Girl software setup to process things in G (for something a bit different).

By the time I went on, there were a few walk-ins hanging out in the seating area, with the other performers gone, and a few people up by the bar. I couldn't find my guitar strap, though, which meant I'd have to play seated--distinctly less interesting visually. I started with a drone piece, and it went fairly well as an example of what I'm up to. Sometime during this piece, the walk-ins walked out. I shifted the tuning to A, increased the bpm, and added some guitar percussion. For the third piece, I brought in the speech samples (from the "perversion" and "rubber" sets), threw in some room tones from the mic, some assertive delay glitches, and at the end did a version of "The Apparition" which I rather liked at the time--the difference tones really got the room beating. So...it was a set for the benefit of myself, Patricia, and anyone who might have tuned into the live stream, if their server was working. I broke down my gear, and we were largely ignored...except by Amir the soundguy, who, with the bartender and presumably Michelina, solicited $20 from me for daring to record myself in the club. (He claimed that "the usual fee" is $40, but that he'd "talked [Michelina] down to $20" as I hadn't been informed of this up-front.) Note that I wasn't using any of the club's equipment for recording. If you play CB's 313 Gallery, be warned of this.

If what passed for the club's self-absorbed cliquey scene hadn't killed the vibe, this last bit certainly did. I retrieved the guitar strap (in the booth we'd been in before), finished packing, and we shook CB's cursed dust from our feet. We walked over to the hotel to drop off the gear, and we soon found ourselves at First Street and First Avenue. We had drinks and a late bite to eat at the heartening and impressive Boca Chica on the corner--don't miss the green chile and tomatillo stew.

Later, that night in the hotel, I started these notes and found an open wireless node. To my anonymous benefactor, God bless you. In and among the mail were some well wishes from friends, and regrets from those who couldn't be at the show. I'm actually kind of glad they didn't spend their money there. In the morning, before leaving, I checked my logs for the previous day and saw some evidence that some people were at least trying to listen to the live stream. I see that CB's is planning on charging for the streaming of portions of archival shows (probably not mine, but you never know). I'm inclined to make this show freely available here, if there's any interest. Also on the plus side, on Friday and Saturday I'd received some positive interest from some people on mailing lists I'd sent the notice to, folks in Chicago and Australia. So who knows, there may be some good to come out of this gig, but otherwise the overall experience has taken the place of the Lemp at the bottom of my quality gig list.

11/05/2003 Jandek Night: at Kiva Han

Last year, the mayor of Houston, TX declared November 5 to be Jandek Day, in honor of Houston's original outsider music Man of Mystery. For Pittsburgh's observance of Jandek Day, I've arranged for a Jandek Open Mic Night at Kiva Han coffeehouse, at Forbes & Meyran, in Oakland. (Note that it's Forbes & Meyran, the shop down by the Upstage and Laga.)

Anyone can come and play...as long as you're covering an actual Jandek tune. Our coalition of the Janky currently consists of myself, fellow Jandek list member John Eastridge (doing "Your Condition" and "So Fly, Max" from the early still-learning-to-tune Lightnin' Hopkins/Glenn Branca-esque Later On), Unfinished Symphonies on fake plastic organ (we have a killer, haunted-fugitive version of "Message to the Clerk"!), and accordionist/performance artist Steve Pellegrino. (I've suggested that Steve do "Harmonica," a kind of "Silent Night" in which Jandek screams through the eponymous instrument.)

I'll have some low-power amplification there, but the event will mostly be acoustic. I'll probably have the laptop available for people who need to check lyrics. If you're in the area, come on out, and have a couple tunes in mind. Hey, you can even rehearse ahead of time. Or just watch the show--I'd be surprised if there's a long line of Jandek worshippers around the block.

Wednesday, November 5, 7PM, all ages, free. Kiva Han Coffeehouse at Forbes & Meyran, Oakland, Pittsburgh, PA.

Well, no long line of Jandek worshippers, but there something really special went down this evening. In a way, it started the previous weekend, on November 1, when Mr. Funky had me over to do a Sonic Roulette--his occasional improvisations-with-rules event. Despite the professed interest of a couple folks, I was the only one to show at the Funkies' place (late, as I'd had a number of things going on). But that was OK, because after a few improvs of uke-through-the-PowerBook, we fell into an amazingly disturbing version of Jandek's classic "Message to the Clerk." We also did a number of other interesting things, including a compelling dub tune (uke with short delay, high feedback). But it put us in the frame of mind for Wednesday.

Over the next few days, I developed some nail separation on my left middle finger, so playing was painful, until I'd warmed up. But come Wednesday I figured I'd be able to function. Mr. Funky came by during the late afternoon to drop off his mic, stand, small amp, and some effects we'd use on the vocals. Soon after, I loaded up the car, headed down to Whole Foods for a quick dinner from the salad bar, and cruised down to Kiva Han. I actually scored the best possible parking space, in the nearby florist's loading zone. While I was loading in, Mr. Funky came by, and we got the transport taken care of. Set-up took a while longer, as we had to rearrange some furniture as well as get the gear organized. But we did. It had been raining all day, but had tapered off by this point, for some streets wet and shiny with Jandek-appropriate atmosphere.

Sadly, some of the patrons who were hanging when I entered moved on; I guess they didn't want to get educated about Janky. That's ok. Soon we were joined by CMU student John Eastridge, Steve Pellegrino, and Justin (another local Jandek fan I'd hoped to get performing, but he and his girlfriend came to listen). SCLF drummer Ryan Sigesmumnd also came by, so the vibes were good, and we talked a couple customers into sticking around for the festivities. While we waited for the right moment to start, I put some actual Jandek on in iTunes and played it through the little amp.

I offered that we should perform chronologically by Jandek tune, a regimen we didn't actually stick to, but which worked just fine for figuring out the running order. This put John up first, and I plugged him in to the Kalamazoo amp, along with Funky echo box on the vocal. From his very first notes of "So Fly, Max," we could tell that it was right--he was channeling the Man. Rob, Steve, and I were thrilled, so thrilled that we chuckled with delight. (I hope John didn't think that we were laughing derisively, but that wasn't the case at all; it was actually from the beauty of the thing working out so well.) John did a gorgeous version of "Oh Jenny," as well. I'm deeply regretting not having recorded it.

Rob and I went up next, playing our organ and uke-through-the-PowerBook version of "Message to the Clerk." Very haunting, and I got a great feedback tone resonating off the uke's soundhole. Rob's vocal delivery on this one was perfect, really stretching it out. A true interpretation. He did an about-face for his version of "Time and Space," which got the groovy, rhythmic Unfinished Symphonies treatment. Steve Pellegrino next laid down a mighty version of "Harmonica" on accordion, managing to work in the theme from 2001, and to scream into the accordion, finishing the tune on his back.

This was a hard act to follow, but I was the last performer, so I had to. Over the previous days of rehearsal, I'd felt that I had a better handle on "When the Telephone Melts" as opposed to "Only Lover," so I thought I'd do "Lover" first and finish with the strong one. This also was in keeping with the chronological idea, so it was theoretically structurally justifiable. I took a minute to set the Girl delay on the PowerBook so that it was at least somewhat rhythmically related to the tempo, and, with an adjustment of the vocal mic and of the lyric sheet, off I went on "Only Lover."

For a tune that I felt I had no handle on--as well as my public debut as a singer and ukulele player--I got into the groove pretty quickly. The tune speeds up and slows down, gets denser and sparser, and in the quiet sections I sometimes dropped the uke out entirely and delivered them in an echoey a capella. It was in those moments that I could tell I was building an atmosphere; the place was utterly quiet, and I could feel people's attention having been drawn in. Regrettably, one of the walk-ins ordered a latte, so there's some frothing going on during the tune. (In an aside, I noted that one could hear the river to Madrid.) In a couple places, I manage a nice interaction with the uke delay, although in others I seem to be fighting it. Even the voice worked out, and the tune had that epic feel I was hoping for.

I struggled a bit with the changeover to "Telephone," as I had to tweak the guitar's tuning and we had to adjust the vocal mic volume. After a false start or so, I got into it, and while I had energy, I just don't think it was as good as the version I did for the Janky tribute a while back. Still, it went reasonably well, and people dug it. Justin in particular was appreciative of my effort to bring Jandek to the people (or vice versa), bought a couple CDRs, and expressed interest in seeing whatever it is that I usually do, whenever that next is. Ryan, his date (who unfortunately arrived too late for our proceedings), and Mr. & Mr$ Funky and I reconvened over at Kelly's for drinks, discussion, and debate. A fine evening, from the rehearsals right down to the weather. Feel the love.

10/19/2003 Maurice Rickard: Live at Boogaloo, Brooklyn, NY

It's fall, and the urge to get something going has prompted me to glom onto a show coming up at Boogaloo in Brooklyn NY on Sunday, October 19. I'm playing the opening night of Burg(h), a month-long show of Pittsburgh visual artists.

As ever, I'll be performing a set of guitar processed through the laptop (using Peter Nyboer's Girl, a looping pedal, and a submixer for multiple feedback loops), resulting in sounds ranging from ambient drones to dystopian sample noise, and possibly even some beats for the hip kids. My slot's probably any 45 minute period within the range of 9:00 to 11:00, which at it's worst theoretically isn't too late for people who have to work Monday morning. Come up and say hi, buy some merch, or just stand there with your arms folded and nod slowly and knowingly.

Boogaloo can be found in Willamsburg--the current epicenter of the hipoisie. Bring your too-tight high school athletic T-shirts, emo glasses, John Deere caps, and guzzle some Pabst...or don't, and stare coldly at those who do. See you there.

Sunday, October 19, 8PM to 4AM (my set's probably somewhere between 9:00 and 11:00 range...maybe on the early side? I dunno; I was told 10, but so were other people. It's your typical indie rock chaos.) 21+ (I think), no cover.

Many thanks to Jack Robinson for setting this one up.

Boogaloo, 168 Marcy Ave. between S. 5th and Broadway, South Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY. (718) 599-8900. J-M-Z train to Marcy, or L train to Lorimer. Map here.

Report: Sunday
Wow. Sometimes strange, sometimes not entirely optimal, but ultimately very, very good.

We got a late start (11:00), having a number of things to deal with before we left, including a "spindle failure" error of my PowerBook's Superdrive while attempting to burn a few more CDRs for the car. Yikes! At least I'd burnt all the merch the night before. Anyway, we got on the road, made our calls, and jammed to NYC.

I was a bit tired and in need of good coffee, and to my eternal regret believed the PA Turnpike signs that advertised the presence of *bucks at the Midway Service Plaza. (Not that I'm all that enamored of *bucks--mainly because their coffee's got a lump of Plutonium or something in the bottom that keeps it unreasonably hot for like 50 years after being served, but on the Turnpike and in other middle-of-nowhere places, it's certainly a reasonable minimum coffee standard.) So I believed the sign, but it turns out that there's no *bucks there. The best I could do was Cinnabon, which serves cappuccino from one of those automatic cappuccino machines--no actual human barista input. What they served me (for $3.00, I'll add) wasn't coffee. From the first sip, I could tell that. What was it--leper jizz? Burnt dirt? No idea. So I threw it out, and we continued to the Sideling Hill Service Plaza, which actually did have a *bucks. So I was good to go.

I ended up doing the whole drive, which wasn't unreasonable. Our only snarl was in advance of the Holland Tunnel, where like eight lanes go down to two. That process took us about an extra half hour or 45 minutes, during which we fielded a few more phone calls. Getting out of the tunnel, I made the mistake of turning right instead of left, and sent us downtown. After some Kentucky windage, I navigated us back up toward Houston, made the block, and decided to park in a quasi-legal spot for the moment. I checked in while Patricia hung with the car; I came back and gave her the room key while she ran up and changed. I figured no one would be terribly upset if I changed my shirt in the car; no one seemed to notice. Patricia came back quickly, and our next goal was to put the car in a garage for the duration of our trip. I'd scoped out a very affordable garage nearby on Elizabeth Street, but a) the hotel desk clerk had said that parking was "actually on Mulberry," and b) the street sign at Elizabeth and E. Houston was out, so I failed to turn up that particular street and ended up with the garage on Mulberry. OK, so we were running late, and it was a garage. We went with it.

We weren't sure, but I'd thought there was a possibility of a few people from the Television list and the MINI messageboard showing up at a 'net friend's restaurant in the East Village, Old Devil Moon. I had a bit of Black Halo (that peculiar aura that prevents one from getting a cab), and we walked up as far as Sixth or Seventh Street before we finally got one, and gratefully put down our burdens (all my gear and merch) for the ride over to the restaurant on 12th. Dennis was there, and was the perfect host for the perfect dinner. Old Devil Moon does this New York spin on Southern/Cajun/Soul Food cuisine, with plenty of vegetarian options. The decor is welcoming and entertainingly funky, and the food is flat-out amazing. I had the jerk tofu, while Patricia had the tofu BBQ ribs...and we were knocked out. The entrees were delicious. My side of sweet potatoes was equally tasty, and Patricia's side of mac'n'cheese reached a kind of comfort food apotheosis. It was extremely affordable, exquisitely tasty, served in ample portions...I can't think of a single thing not to like about it. Just go. Drop everything you're doing, and go.

Soon it was time to leave to get to the club, so we reluctantly took our leave and cabbed it over to Brooklyn. (Our driver was a fascinating Hatian drummer; it'd be interesting to hear him sometime, but it's unlikely that we'd have that chance.) The club, Boogaloo, was a few doors up Marcy from the intersection of Marcy and Broadway, so we didn't have to schlep stuff very far. It's in the basement of a brownstone, and is quite the nice space. There's still some finishing work to do, but it's definitely a hip little club. I set my stuff down, and we picked a spot on one of the couches to wait for the people we'd invited. We got into a conversation with an ex-Pittsburgher who was now living in Hoboken, and then connected with our longtime 'net friend Philip Obbard, whom we'd last seen in Chicago for the Television show there. Turns out, he has a familial 'burgh connection, too, so maybe we'll run into him on the home turf sometime.

I wasn't able to talk for very long, though, as my set time was fast approaching. It turned out that my contact from the MINI board was already in the house, but I hadn't got around to him at that point. I'd only figured it out when I overheard him asking the DJ when I'd be going on; happily it worked out that by the time the DJ finished up and I set up, he and his posse would be able to go out and get a bite to eat first.

Set up was a bit of a problem, however--the full PA wasn't set up, so I'd go through the DJ's PA. That was fine, but there weren't very many horizontal surfaces on which to put my stuff. Ultimately, one of the bartenders dug up the covers for the turntables, and I was able to rest the PowerBook on that. And, somewhat late, off I went. There were quite a lot of people in the bar, although many of them were talking rather than listening. Since I was right there at the DJ board, I had a choice of how loud I could make myself--I could turn way up over the conversations and possibly send people outside, or I could, in the spirit of Erik Satie, "mingle with the sound of knives and forks at dinner." I opted to blend in, and occasionally crest over the conversational level to let people know I was there.

It was a bit difficult to hear myself as well as I'd usually like to, but having made my decision, I stuck with it. Since I didn't want to take chances with the timing, I avoided guitar percussion, although I added the use of a mic that was picking up the conversation in the room, and brought that into the piece in several places as well. As it got closer to 10:30, I could see the New Alcindors setting up, so I brought things to a close. Philip had come up to take a look at what I was doing, so I gave a little demo as part of the piece. At the time, I didn't think the improv had much of a shape overall, but listening back to it, it really does have some moments. I chatted with Philip and my MINI messageboard contact, as well as a few other Pittsburghers who were in the show, and I managed to sell a number of discs to people, too. Ironic that one comes all this way to network with other 'burghers, though.

The New Alcindors started up, significantly louder than I was, but they had much more of a groove thing going on, so the audience was receptive. Conversation became difficult, however, and most of our guests left. The set was quite good, though--the last time I'd seen them, they were a trio, and the addition of Jennifer (ex-Ladybug Transistor) on keyboards really helps fill out the sound.

Next up was Phat Mandee, who turned in a set that was impressively torchy, moving, and silly (particularly the 'burgh accent fugue), along with some excellent moments with Tommy Amoeba (multiple layered jumpsuits, and the interjection of "I got cat class and I got cat style" into "16 Tons"). Well done!

We hung out a bit longer talking to the DJ--another Pittsburgher, and Jack asked me if I'd do another set. At this point it was midnight, I was packed up, and I had an appointment early the next morning, so I had to decline. Apparently two of the scheduled acts hadn't shown (Jwan, it seems, couldn't get a ride, and Barrett Black, for unknown reasons, failed to appear).

We called for the car service, and headed back to the hotel. Quite a long couple of days.

Up early, parched, and hungry, so we headed a few doors down to breakfast. Yonah Schimmel's next door didn't open until 10, sadly, so we went to a deli next to the also-closed Katz's, and hit the subway for the trip up to midtown, (the subway much cleaner than we'd expected) where I had an appointment to take a guitar lesson from Richard Lloyd. He's an amazing teacher, as it turns out. I'm the guitar equivalent of Kaspar Hauser in many ways, and he was able to focus right in on the weaknesses and inadequacies in how I use my left hand--and give me exercises to correct them. He also has some very perceptive points about theory I found very enlightening. Quite a lot of information in an hour and a half, and I was glad I'd gone back on caffeine for the session. If you're anywhere convenient to New York and want instruction from a true master, get in touch with him through his site. His exercises will be worth working on for years.

Afterwards, Patricia and I checked out the Garment District and Times Square, but decided that we'd best get lunch back downtown. As I'd had that CD burning issue before we left, I thought to stop in the Apple Store in SoHo to see if they could do a quick Superdrive swap while I waited. After a substantial wait to talk to one of the Geniuses and another wait while they determined whether or not they had the part and could replace it before Tuesday morning, it was decided that no, they couldn't. So we were free, and we wandered around SoHo a bit to connect with some lunch, which we did at an amazingly tasty little Italian place while we debriefed.

A bit more wandering and a break put us on the street with several free hours, so we headed around the corner from our hotel, and stopped by CBGB. They weren't open as such, but Hilly let us have a look around, as I'm sure he's done with countless other music tourists. As expected, the room holds a kind of resonance, but doesn't hold the resonance of the music we've come to know and love. We stopped next door at CB's 313 Gallery, where I talked to Micheline, the booking agent, and gave her a CDR from the tour. Patricia was impressed, but I just noted that I'd consulted my "what would Robert Press do?" wristband, and figured that he'd do that. Around the corner on Houston again, we noticed an amazing open-air shop of...stuff. Ornate windows, old pinball machines, audio gear...quite interesting.

We headed to Union Square, although given the line we were on, we had to walk several blocks East, and then down Broadway a bit to check out The Strand bookstore, indeed an amazing presence, and we scored some good books--a ballet book for Patricia, and for me a monograph of Gordon Matta-Clark, whose work really blew me away some years ago when I encountered it at a retrospective. At the time I didn't pick up the exhibition catalog, and have been kicking myself since. This isn't the catalog, but makes up for it by having a lot of photos--probably more than the catalog, and having nice features like a cut-out binding.

After a couple hours at the Strand, we continued uptown to Times Square north, the neighborhood of "Iridium", where we'd be realizing yet another lifetime goal of mine, seeing Les Paul perform. He's obviously hurting from the arthritis and slowed some by age, but this was a highly enjoyable show. He has a good band behind him, and even with the simple melody lines he's playing, his Tone is still there. A few tunes in the set exist to give the other guys a chance to cut loose, and there are some long breaks during which Les and the guys engage in entertaining banter. Overall, the feeling is one of hanging out with some people who are just having a good time--and what could possibly be wrong with that? (I did the obligatory fanboy thing of meeting him after the 10:00 show was over. Totally nice guy who doesn't have to sit there and meet the long line of people, but does anyway.)

We got up fairly early and headed down to Ground Zero to pay our respects, and walked the perimeter of the WTC site. It's impossible for me to conceive of the scale of what happened here, not having seen the buildings close up while they were standing. Now, of course, it's a construction site, surrounded by offices where many people still work. It's amazing that some buildings nearby sustained as little damage as they did, like St. Paul's Chapel.

We jammed back up to the hotel to check out (a process during which I dropped a CDR with the desk clerk, who's in a post-rock band in the city), and then headed next door to Yonah Schimmel's for knishes. Yonah's happened to be listed in our guidebook, for very good reason--these were the Platonic Ideal of the knish. Truly amazing. The potato knish was significantly lighter than I'd imagine such a thing to be, and the apple and cheese knishes were very tasty as well. We consumed about half of our orders, and got the rest to go. We stopped by the garage to leave the knishes and all the gear in the car (by this time my back and knees were not happy lugging all this gear, and I regretted having chosen the garage that was two blocks farther on.

Still, we managed, and then had to get down to TriBeCa for my appointment at La Monte Young's Dream House. The Dream House isn't open on Tuesday, but I'd negotiated a private session there as a premium for my joining the MELA Foundation as a member. Unfortunately, we were running a bit late for the 11:00 appointment, and I had us get on the V train going the wrong way. I woke up to this fact before we left Manhattan, and we had to wait a bit for one going in the other direction, but we headed back uptown, and took the A train down to Canal St. Finally emerging from underground, we were able to call MELA and explain our lateness; it worked out ok because they had to take some additional time and fix one of the channels delivering the piece. So we cooled out for a bit at a restaurant a block or so away, and then came back up to the Dream House.

The current piece there is called "The Base 9:7:4 Symmetry in Prime Time When Centered above and below The Lowest Term Primes in The Range 288 to 224 with The Addition of 279 and 261 in Which The Half of The Symmetric Division Mapped above and Including 288 Consists of The Powers of 2 Multiplied by The Primes within The Ranges of 144 to 128, 72 to 64 and 36 to 32 Which Are Symmetrical to Those Primes in Lowest Terms in The Half of The Symmetric Division Mapped below and Including 224 within The Ranges 126 to 112, 63 to 56 and 31.5 to 28 with The Addition of 119." Sure, it's a mouthful, but it's also the entire score. That's a description of the frequency ratios of the drones that make up this piece, and there's a more useful description of the piece's structure here.

As we ascended the stairs to the second floor landing, we could begin to hear and feel the piece, mainly through the bass drones, throbbing like generators. Up at the third floor landing, one of the staff met us, asked us to remove our shoes, and gave us the literature packet. And then we were led in. The whole space seems to be painted and carpeted in white, but all of the lighting is in a particular shade of purple/magenta achieved by combining lights of different hues. In the back room is a sculpture of raised surfaces, which cleverly brings out these constituent tones.

Up above the hallway to the front is another sculpture, this one a neon version of Marian Zazeela's writing and saying (as I recall) "The Dream House." In the large front room are the large speaker enclosures in each corner, emitting the drones. Along one wall were the instruments set up for a rehearsal later that day, along the back wall a little memorial to Pandit Pran Nath, at the front, three windows overlooking Church Street (covered in magenta film), and hanging from the ceiling are two curved metal sculptures that slowly turn, revealing different shadows on the wall (cast by lights pointed at them from the center of the ceiling).

Being in this room is quite unlike any other experience, I think--the drones are quite loud, but didn't bother my ears, as there are only 32 (or more likely 35, according to Gann) frequencies in the piece. (Unlike, say, a cymbal crash, which is way more frequency-rich and potentially damaging.) As I walked around, the interference patterns of the piece changed, giving rise to changing tones where the reality was a static set of drones (revealed when one stops moving). As a result, I spent a lot of time turning my head and experimenting with it. At times, just shifting the angle of the information packet I was reading changed the sound, and at one point a yawn caused a major dropout of the higher frequencies. It's participatory in a way that possibly no other compositions are, and the participation takes place solely inside your head. That's not a metaphor for "psychological" or "imaginary"--your head really is the venue of the Dream House.

We spent about an hour inside, although admittedly the drones got to Patricia after a while. Leaving the space, I had a very weird feeling from my temporarily attenuated hearing at those frequencies, not at all like post-concert attenuation. It was like the negative ghosts of those tones were still with me, just as one's eyes were still compensating for the magenta. Quite striking, and worthwhile. (And for people coming on the usual Thursday to Saturday, only $4. How can you lose?)

We headed back up to our neighborhood, got our car from the garage (more expensive than the one I'd planned on), drove quite easily out of the city, and seven hours later, were home.

10/18/2003 The Unindicted Co-Conspirators: Drywall XX: Equinox/Stone

Performance artist/accordionist extraordinaire Steve Pellegrino and I are at it again, this time as part of one of his performance pieces under the umbrella of the Loose Organization of Surreal Ethereal Realists (LOSER). This one's a parable of life, work, the cosmos, and our place in it all, and Steve and I will be working with a drummer for the live soundtrack (an expanded improvisation based on John Coltrane's "Equinox"). Rehearsals have been a lot of fun, so come on out.
PFMI Melwood Screening Room, 477 Melwood Avenue, North Oakland, Pittsburgh. See directions here.

A fun, if cold, evening. Steve and his crew were built the set and props over the last few days, and had some finishing work to do Saturday morning. I had a lot of CD burning to do in anticipation of the next day's New York gig, so I had plenty with which to occupy myself. I also figured I should pick up some hearing protection, extra cables, and extra adapters for that show, and I took a detour to Pianos 'n' 'at, a stop for coffee, and was down at the performance site at 2:00.

Beyond an arc barrier of leaves was an expanse of white sand. Beyond that, a tall wood and metal structure holding some lighting and the winch for the concrete blocks. Beyond that, about 20 feet back, was where we were setting up. Steve was already there, of course, as was Mike the drummer. Frank, who was Steve's partner in working out the staging, was there spreading the sand, and was eager to talk to me--we're apparently living in the same aesthetic neighborhood. Sounds like some good potential collaboration.

I set up by Mike, with the PowerBook up on a stand of his (this had worked well at our rehearsal), next to the submixer. Since I'd be required to switch back and forth between my PowerBook channel and the clean channel (or the Line6 channel, as I'm sending each channel to a different send), I brought the Morely A/B switch. Very useful little device. One problem, however, is that I've been noticing some noise from the mic pres in our little Yamaha submixer from whichever channel I'm not plugged into, so I'd thought to use my M-Audio DMP3 for the pres...but there wasn't enough room on the stand, and I'd have to go noisy.

One disadvantage of the rehearsal was that the sun was a bit too bright to see any of the LEDs properly on my gear, but I'd manage. We ran through the tune a couple times, and it felt pretty good, although I kept feeling like I wasn't following the structure appropriately. At no point did I really build the tonal cloud to the complexity that I do solo, so I was feeling as though I wasn't following the structure closely enough. In reality, this was probably best so that I didn't overpower anyone else.

It took us a while to get the balance right, as there was no PA for us, and we were at least sixty feet from the audience. I heard myself way louder than I heard Steve, but it worked better out at the audience point if he turned down and I turned up. The overtones I was building were getting to me and were certainly affecting Steve, so I pulled out the hearing protectors. (Apparently I'd given him quite the headache after the last rehearsal. It's the extreme high tones that get you.)

We did another couple of run-throughs, and then worked with the actress and actor. She was our timekeeper, making a statement and then dragging a chair through the sand, orbiting the winch structure while the actor dragged concrete blocks painted with planetary symbols back to the winch. The actress would then sit, read another portion of the libretto (during which time we'd get quiet), and then resume dragging the chair. After the fifth speech, I was to do a glitch delay thing, and the actor would drop a screen in front of the winch structure as backlighting came on.

For the initial couple of speeches, I'd just be playing the chords of the tune (Coltrane's "Equinox"), once per measure, on a backbeat. When the actress was speaking, I'd back off on the volume and do pinky swells for that measure. Gradually, though, I'd build the overtone cloud, a process I'd have to take carefully, because with the slow delay, our tones would stick with us for quite some time. It was looking to be about a 20-minute piece, and then we'd play Steve's "Drop Four," which is a piece of constant, diabolical chord changes that all work well with C, so I could just hang out on the white keys, as it were, and could build drones around them. Cool.

We covered some equipment, packed up more valuable stuff, and I took the PowerBook with me. I made it back to the set at 7:00, and got ready. With the relative darkness, it was of course much easier to see all the LEDs and the PowerBook's screen. Setup was fairly easy at this point, so after tuning, there was little to do but hang out. Ryan from the SCLF came by, as did our friend Mary Ellen. We had a large crowd, actually, so the energy was good. Our only problem was that it was getting cold. Well, that, and the fact that at 8:00, the parking lot lights came on, subtracting some of the drama from our lighting setup. Not ideal, but then it turned out to work reasonably well for video, and we'd have to roll with it.

The performance felt right--we got in the pocket and stayed there--but the pace of the overall structure was a lot quicker than we'd anticipated. I think the actress wasn't doing as many orbits as she had at rehearsal, leaving us less time for developing each section, and in ten minutes, it was over. I'd expected to do some delay glitches, but the only ones I'd had a chance to do were at the end; at no point did I have a chance to use the Line6 or do the multiple feedback loops. While my final glitches were fading, I reset the ring modulators to C, and we launched into "Drop Four." This, too, was over quickly, which was probably just as well because all our fingers were losing facility. I think Steve felt it most, because he had to do a chord change every beat. It went well, though, and we got a positive response from the audience.

The next forty minutes were spent breaking down the gear and the set, and soon Tom (a faithful audient of many of my shows) came forth; it turned out that he'd expected the show to be on typical delayed show time, and so missed the proceedings entirely. But hey--there were at least three video cameras, so I suspect there'll be some video format available sooner or later. There was an offer to hang out afterwards, but Patricia and I had to be up early, so we headed home to trip preparations and lots of CD burning.

Thanks to Steve, Frank Ferrarro, and the rest of the crew for making this happen, and to the PFMI for giving us the space to do it. It was great fun, and it looks like Steve, Mike, and I will be dropping into a studio sometime soon to record a longer version with some development.

08/16/2003 Maurice Rickard: Live at Re: PULSE, Kiva Han

I'll be opening for Cotton Casino from Japanese psych-improv-rockers Acid Mothers Temple. Also on the bill will be the last area performance of Holocaust (he's accepted a job with PETA--congratulations, Kerry!), and Entropy Man.

I've become reasonably disenchanted with what I was playing on tour, so I'm planning on doing something a little bit different. Oddly, it looks like my rig will begin expanding again, as I'll be using the submixer and will reintroduce some pedals back into the setup. And maybe I'll mic some stuff, too. It all may have some detectable entertainment value; I dunno. So come out and see for yourself.

Kiva Han Coffeehouse, Forbes Avenue & Craig Street, Oakland, Pittsburgh. All ages, $5, 8PM sharp, baby.

Well this was a hard-to-interpret evening. A few nights before, I had some time to try out a new idea for my setup, and it went quite well. I went with a more Unindicted Co-Conspirators kind of setup--going through the Yamaha submixer instead of the M-Audio DMP3, and putting the PowerBook in as an effects loop, as opposed to being the only option for the signal. I also added the Line6 delay as the other effects loop. And instead of returning the loops in the actual return, I brought them into unused channels. This meant that I could route the return from either loop into the other loop, or feed it back into itself, and in my rehearsal Thursday night, I found that the feedback of PowerBook into itself was quite beautiful. I was excited.

I'd hoped to do a piece using Bidule, as a kind of shout-out to Xanopticon, who introduced the software to me when I was on tour. In my experiments with Bidule, however, I couldn't get it to process live audio--it turned out I was going about it wrongly--until I'd heard from the guy who keeps the FAQ. So I had the method, but hadn't spent enough quality time with it to do exactly what I wanted to do with it. But hey, I figured I could drop it in at the end of some piece and have it contribute.

The afternoon of the show (after spending much of the day on an intractable data problem for work), I set up to rehearse this setup again, and mess with Bidule some more. In the actual event, this rehearsal...just wasn't as good as Thursday night. In fact, it kind of sucked. Something was off, particularly in the feedback realm. I couldn't get the beautiful, complex tones I was getting during the first rehearsal. At this point, there was little I could do about it, so I got ready for the show, loaded up the car, headed over to Whole Foods for some Umi sushi, and then cruised down to Kiva Han.

I was quite surprised to see the glass wall that faces the street covered with newspaper. This was not a good thing. This was true only of the right-hand performance room, however, not the left side with the cappuccino machines and the cash register, so I went in and asked if they were, in fact, having the show. Manny was in the house, and yes, the show was happening. Manny'd gotten tired of people hanging outside, and looking in at the show without paying, so he hung newspaper. All righty, then. Also, for something different, we would be setting up by the now-newspapered glass wall, with the speakers to our right, facing perpendicularly to the direction we were facing. this was to become a problem.

I set up in the far corner, and then Andy (Vorpal) came in. It was good to see him again--he'd done some very enjoyable sets at Club Cafe. I learned a few days before that Andy was added to the bill because Kerry had already left town for PETA. Entropy Man, which was actually a couple of guys, came in and set up a large number of pedals; I moved my rig to the center to give them room. Bill and Cotton showed up, too, and unloaded their vast array of pedals, a Theremin, a guitar, and a bass, along with some other toys. We wouldn't have room to set up fully simultaneously, but it'd work out.

There wasn't much in the way of audience at first, so we just hung out for a while. As I was outside chatting with Andy and his posse, I saw Ben Cox, coming down the street, a pleasant surprise as I hadn't expected him to make it. We hung outside chatting for a little while, and I gave Ben a tutorial for my digital cameral. Then it was time for Andy to get started, and turned in a very nice IDM set for forty or so minutes. In some spots, he got very quiet, almost lowercase; some other pieces ended abruptly in a way that suggested software issues, but the endings worked well nonetheless. It was enjoyable, but I was in a bit of a weird mood--I was eager to get going and not lose my edge before playing.

After Andy was finished, the audience collectively went outside to recover from the heat, so there was a bit of a gap before I could start. Finally I went outside and rounded people up for the set. I found myself dealing with an unusual amount of hum, probably from my orientation in the room, but I began, this time with pick percussion and harmonics for a decidedly lowercase feel. I added a few volume swells, and then planned to add some further clicks by turning on my mic, and inadvertently hit the audience with a blast of feedback. I hadn't soundchecked the mic with the PA--duh. The mic was routed into the PowerBook, so those blasts were around for a while, but at least the ring modulation created a melody, and people thought it was deliberate. I routed the PowerBook's output back to the input, and blurred the feedback a little, which wasn't a bad effect against the drones I brought in. Having reduced the mic's gain, I finally did the switch clicking for percussion against the pick sounds, going between that kind of thing and the volume swells for most of the rest of the piece. I did ultimately play with the delays for some variation before ending with a pile of some short swells. Something of a sadly restricted sonic palette on this 10-minute piece. Nonetheless, there was some applause, although at some point some people walked out. (Some others took their places, however.)

I changed my ring modulator and delay settings for the next one, and started on the long volume swell drone. I'd mistakenly entered a delay value into one of the ring mod settings, and ended up with this high-pitched buzz for the drone, but it did have a nice effect. This one began rather ominous, and I played around with sending the PowerBook to the Line6 for looping and reversal before bringing in some radio interference. When I tried feeding the PowerBook back into itself, I struggled to keep it from howling, but I did have some nice edge-of-feedback tones while I played with the delay times. In anticipation of our trip to DC in a couple days, I brought in a Thonked sample of the Metro for atmosphere, which worked well in this dark drony thing I had going. For variety, I again resorted to some granularity and delay manipulation, and then went into drones and civil defense samples for the delay-manipulated drone and feedback climax. This one went over pretty well.

As I was announcing the last piece, Manny got on the mic to announce the next act, and I had to tell him I wasn't finished. I started this time with pure PowerBook feedback, trying to develop the tones I'd worked with during rehearsal, but instead having to contend with high-pitched slapback feedback due to my having the delay mix at less than 100% delayed. While annoying at the time, in retrospect it has a kind of lowercase charm, especially with the delay manipulation. I gradually brought in some guitar, but then went back to the feedback, which was a mistake, as it cut off any development I had going, and introduced an element of tedium. I started a Bidule patch, which had sounded rather cool on percussion samples, but was kind of lame on guitar. The next problem was that having Bidule and Girl open at the same time brought the PowerBook UI to a complete crawl, so while audio processing was still going on, it took me a while to quit from Bidule...and while I was trying to do that, pretty much all that was happening in the audio domain was fade-out--yet more tedium. Finally I ended it with more feedback and delay manipulation.

Ben bought a Guitar Clouds disc, which was nice of him, and we all moved outside for some air. Entropy Man was up next, although I lingered outside as it was getting quite stuffy in Kiva Han. At one point, though, I heard a crashing sound from the performance room, and rushed in to see what had happened; apparently Entropy Man struck by moving my mic stand, causing the mic to seek a lower energy level by sliding out of the clamp and hitting the floor, denting the ball. Damn. It's a cheap mic, but I've had it for years and always tried to keep it in good shape. I can probably push it out, though. I did hang out to listen to their set of interesting harsh noise made by assorted effects pedals, but I couldn't bring myself to go in. Ben moved on, while I hung outside with the other audience members and with Bill, Cotton, and Manny; it started to rain and we huddled under the awnings. Entropy Man's set was short, and soon we were ready for the main event.

Bill asked if I minded Cotton using my mic, which I didn't, although I mentioned that I'd be happy if there were no mic-eating (after all, I'd just been on tour with Girl Talk), which it turned out there wouldn't be. They set up their vast array of pedals, Bill's guitar and bass, and Cotton's Big Briar Theremin, and asked for volunteers to operate the DV camera. No one seemed to be coming forward, so while I was hoping to get my notes down about my own set, I volunteered and stood near the doorway with the camera. Their set was quite spacy and hypnotic, and it's hard for me to remember how long it was--time did seem to suspend. Cotton played Theremin as though she were dancing with it or swimming toward it, and she contributed some processed vocal drones and screams, while Bill used the guitar and (alternately) bass as noisemakers through the pedals. Most strikingly, he used two walkie-talkies to throw vocal noise through the guitar and bass pickups. As Cotton played, the Theremin tilted on the stand's ball joint until the body was vertical; this seemed to amuse her.

I tried to keep the camera steady and reasonably tight on them, although I did do some slow zooms to move between closeups and tight group shots, as well as compensating for their motions (kind of a rebellion against the usual pomo shakycam method). At one point I realized that I was aching a bit from being in the same position throughout the set, and shifted. It was kind of weird being in the same room with them, but also watching the set on the camera's LCD monitor. Ultimately the battery died, so I took up the slack with my digital camera, and was able to watch more of the show without the intermediation. Quite enjoyable.

We hung out for a bit afterwards, chatting and swapping CDs. Good stuff, great people, and apparently they'll be back in town in October, last I heard. So good connections were made, although my performance was less than ideal. At least I have some clues as to what the actual problems were.

07/27/2003 Circuits of Steel Tour 2003: Live in Cleveland: Circuits of "You might want to have a band meeting about the hat."

I woke up rather early, given how late we all went to sleep. It was to be a hot day in Indiana, that was certain. I was out of Clif bars, and had consumed my dinner the night before, so there was nothing for me to eat. I checked email, got my Flash demo up and working again, burnt a CD of the previous night's performance for Bobby Vomit (at his request the night before) and waited for people to wake up. Eventually they did, and after some discussion, we hit the road. Kerry insisted on driving again, I think out of the perception that I was not the quickest driver among us. That was certainly true, but my primary goal was reaching our destination alive.

So we hauled it across the remainder of Indiana to I-70 and western Ohio, where Manny asked me if I had Mapquest directions to Pat's in the Flats. I told him that while I'd been doling them out day by day, at some point (oh, maybe after Houston?) I'd just pulled all the directions out and given them to him, as he (a nondriver) was functioning as navigator. He said, "I can't believe that you don't have them." I said I didn't believe that I did have them; I'd given them to him. Back and forth we went, with Jason interjecting that he couldn't believe that I didn't believe that I had them. I asked Manny if it was possible that he dumped them--did he throw out old directions? Yes, it turned out. I said, "I don't believe you did that."

We cut through Columbus and headed north. We stopped at the first rest area, and I attempted to find food in the vending machines. I saw a package that boasted of "real fruit!" so I bought it...and it turned out to be this weird largely artificial gelatinous thing. Sort of like gummi bears, but with an ostensible connection to something that might have once grown organically. Only a connection, though. I offered it to Manny, and figured I might as well go hungry until we hit Cleveland.

Somewhere between Columbus and Akron, the rain began in earnest. Significant rain, rain that had others pulling to the side of the road. Rain that had Kerry slowing down a little, on occasion. We pushed on, and Kerry put in his new The Streets CD, which didn't do much for me, but which regrettably stuck in the head after the third or fourth listen or so. This was our soundtrack for the approach into Cleveland. By this time, I was quite cold from the air conditioning and lack of anything to eat. Due to our lack of directions to Pat's (which was difficult to get to, apparently), we were going to meet up with Greg's roommates at his place, and then we'd follow them to the venue. We pulled up at Girl Talk Manor right as the rain began to abate, and we hit the bathrooms and internet connections. (Thanks for the DSL, guys. It strikes me that if I'd been writing this thirty or so years ago, I might say much the same thing, but with the letters rearranged.)

We (Jason, Kerry, Ryan, and I) joined with one of Greg's roommates to get some food, and we headed over to a build-your-own-burrito place in a yuppifying shopping district (apparently once quite the countercultural center) near Case Western. The burrito was quite good (veggie), large, and affordable. We ate, grateful for some nutrition, finally. At one point Kerry went up to get more guacamole, and came back amused--the guy behind the counter asked him, "So you all following Phish around?" Kerry told him no, we were on tour, performing electronic music. The counter guy indicated Jason and said, "Oh, well then you might want to have a band meeting about the hat."

We returned to Girl Talk Manor, checked email, picked up Manny and Greg, and followed his friends down to the venue. Kerry put in his Streets CD again, and we commented on his polysyllabic rapping style. I suggested that he needs to work with a monosyllabic partner for contrast. ("Government funding for further education--HEH!--pales in insignificance--YEAH!" Or "In the afterlife Gladiators--OW!--meet their maker/Thrown through the wind fields and lakes of Bluewater--UH!")

Down we went to the Flats, and...yep, this was an emotionally resonant landscape for me. Great place for a music venue, as there were no neighbors to disturb. We pulled up to Pat's, loaded in and set up. It looked like I'd be going on first, which was fine by me. We pulled a line of tables in front of the stage and set up at floor level. My soundcheck was a bit loud, so I asked the sound guy to keep it lower, although ultimately, I probably should have had it cranked up.

With some time before the audience arrived, we hung out in the bar and wandered around the neighborhood. I managed to get a few photos of the overall industrialness of the place, the tanker trucks pulling out of the pumping stations, the fenced-off facilities with no easily discernable purpose... It was good.

At the time, my set wasn't doing it for me. In the good ones, the decisions one makes have effects that just seem right, and lead to the next right possibility, and I wasn't feeling that here. On listening back to it, however, there's definitely something worthwhile going on, particularly in the first part where the little delayed melodies retain some interest. The dystopian drony part with the W samples doesn't do as much for me, however. After a bit more meandering, I pulled out a granular breakbeat and finally played it straight for a few iterations before reversing it and playing over top. I actually used some chords this time to build up density, then let things fade and put the beat through the granular processing again, and finally messing with the delay time for that IDM flavor to lead into the fade. So ultimately it had its moments, but there was a momentum-losing aporia in the middle. Some people told me they liked it.

I wandered around for a while, checking out others' sets, going outside to get some air. It was quite a nice night after the rain of the day, and I learned that if it hadn't been for the rain, the show would have taken place outside. It's unfortunate; I think I might have had a bit of a boost from an outside show, but it was not to be. Xanopticon turned in a great, intense set which went over well with a death-metal fan whom I met (and who gave me his CD; I'll have to give it a listen), and pretty much with everyone else as well. Greg ended the evening with a joint set of him and his friend Hearts of Darknesses. I'd heard stories of his performances going a bit out of control, so I took my gear down to the van to get it out of the way. In the event, they were indeed entertaining and theatrical, slamming into the audience for involuntary participation, and both he and Greg ending the evening on the floor in their underwear, entwined in the audience's legs and covered in beer, but in no way were they destructive. Good sets by all.

At this point I was ready to get rolling, although I could feel myself start to lose my driving edge, and there would be problems if we were to wait too long. There was a party going on at Greg's, which Manny had suggested we check out, but I pointed out that if we went to the party, we'd be up late and it would be impossible to wake anybody up until noon, at which time the van would be late. So we rolled. I began following Mapquest directions, and at the point that we were to take the highway South in the direction of Akron, Kerry vehemently argued that we should NOT go through Akron; it'd take forever to get home. Instead he thought we should head East on 90. Considering how strongly he felt about it, I thought maybe he knew something I didn't, but it turned out to be wrong. Perhaps he thought we were going through Akron, which wasn't my intent; I was just thinking of heading South to the turnpike. But I went along, and we soon realized that this new route would be a problem. We needed to go South.

An hour or so later, we were on the road to hook up with the turnpike, and I knew I wasn't going to be able to continue driving at this point. We stopped for gas and I chugged an energy drink and a coffee, but still felt exhausted. I suggested that I needed to get a half hour or so of sleep before taking the wheel again, and we could just hang in the parking lot for that time. Kerry, though, thought it would be best to continue driving, and took the wheel, while Jason took the co-pilot seat. I took the middle row, closed my eyes, and waited for the coffee to work.

At some point the CD player was turned off, and the AM radio put on to some late-night talk show, and the coffee and energy drink began to take effect. We were listening to a talk show in which some guy was talking about his out-of-body experiences, and Jason and I were providing sarcastic commentary to help keep Kerry awake. Finally, at the last rest stop on the Ohio Turnpike, Kerry was unable to continue, and we switched. I bought (with much effort--it was around four in the morning and no one was behind the counter) a bottle of water and a candy bar to augment my caffeine peak, and we rolled into Pennsylvania, at last. Jason again provided the very useful service of running commentary/court jester/philosopher, making sure I remained conscious. I generally drove at the speed limit and took 279 into town, the easiest way from the Turnpike.

We dropped Ryan and Jason off at Ryan's place at around 5:00, retrieved the second middle row seat which we'd left there, and tried to put it in (unsuccessfully). Kerry wasn't feeling well, and he asked us to take him home to Point Breeze as soon as we could, so the seat project was abandoned for the time being. We dropped him off, and after he'd left the van, I took a moment to read the instructions on the seat, and was able to get it to latch. I took Manny to his place, and we loaded out his stuff. I could see the first light of the day over the row houses of his street, and called Patricia on the cell. Manny was taking a while to get back to the van; it turned out that there was a problem with his front door and he had to go in through a window. But we soon headed to my place, where Patricia was waiting outside, and it was great to see her again.

I unloaded my stuff and took it up to our apartment, where I could see that she'd been busy all week preparing for the electricians who were rewiring the house. Everything had been either moved into the bedroom or covered with a drop cloth. (We'd seen from the other apartments that this wasn't going to be an easy or neat process.) Now we had to return the van, so we went out to the airport with all the van windows down, and Patricia following in the MINI. We did a loop of the airport to get over to the one gas station on the airport grounds, filled the tank, and on my way out to the loop again, I noticed a local TV van with the satellite boom extended--right, I now remembered that W himself was due in town that day, and I was relieved that we were early enough not to have to go through a massive security snarl.

We'd already cleaned out the van, but I was a bit concerned about some of the worn spots in the plastic trim of the cargo area, some from Jason's boxes, some from the edges of Geoff Cutups's mixer. The rental agent, however, took the van back and charged us the agreed-upon amount, and so Manny and I went looking for Patricia. She'd said just to look for the MINI in short term, and we eventually found her after one false positive (yep, another MINI in short term, 6:30 Monday morning). Heading back onto the highway (Patricia, mercifully, driving), we heard Manny moaning from the back seat. Was he about to be sick? We offered to pull over, but he said he was just worried that he'd lost the Austin check. I can't say I was surprised, as I'd anticipated this back on the 24th. He did, however, find it, and we continued into town with me dropping off to sleep and then jumping awake any time the car changed direction or went over a bump. We dropped Manny off, hit the grocery store (I was hoping to have a caffeinated Clif Bar for breakfast; we were successful), and arrived back home just as the electricians pulled up, at a few minutes to 8, beginning a week in which we had very limited use of our apartment. For now, we would have to go elsewhere for showers and a quiet place for much-needed sleep, so once again, we hit the road.

07/26/2003 Circuits of Steel Tour 2003: Live in Muncie: Circuits of Exotic Pennsylvania Meat

Once again, I was the first to wake up, joined in the shower by one of the many mosquitos that had got into the room. I looked into connecting to the 'net (no dice; the phone jack was of the old, non-modular school), and waited for everyone else to get it together. We ultimately did, and Kerry took the wheel again while I got to work on the tour journal. During load-out, a number of opportunistic mosquitos joined us, and we spent the morning killing them and being sucked dry by the survivors. The tour was taking its toll in exhaustion, blood loss, and overall misery (see photo). We reached the Mississippi; the second time I'd been over it at driving level. On the other side, we could see the pyramid where they've interred Elvis's sarcophagus. (Some people seem to think that this is a sporting arena.) I got a few decent photos of Memphis squalor as we sped on.

We got through Tennessee without getting out of the van, crossed the Ohio River (yay! Home was at the other end of it!), and stopped for gas and water somewhere in Indiana (see the panorama from the parking lot), and got on the road again...only to be pulled over minutes later for speeding. Kerry had been doing his 10-miles-or-more above the limit, and Indiana's finest wanted to have a word with us. "We clocked you going a little fast there, and we wanted to check you out." I dug out the rental agreement, and Kerry was removed from the van while the officer checked out his record (clean), and did the same with Jason (also clean), gave us a talking to, and we were on our way.

Onward we pushed, doing the speed limit this time (much to my relief), and we attempted to find Muncie. For a city that, like, appears on maps and stuff, the connection between it and Indianapolis is very obscure. Our directions were reasonable, but the road itself was so empty that I was sure we weren't going the right way. Eventually we did enter Muncie, and only then got lost from the poor signage, but a bartender set us straight, and we pulled up at the collective house where we'd be playing. Not many people were around, but it was still early yet (8:00 or so). I'd been concerned about our timing, but we lucked out--Indiana doesn't acknowledge Daylight Savings Time, so we didn't lose the hour I'd thought we'd lose. We loaded in, hung out a bit, talked on the back porch. I got a chance to chat with Bobby Vomit, who had played Re:Pulse a few months back, doing an interestingly lowercase turntablism, and also with Bobby's uncle (and father of one of the citizens of the house), who apparently was a picker from a number of years back, and told me some stories about how he raised his sons to be better guitar players than he.

After a while, I headed to the basement and got connected to the 'net for the first time all day on dialup (thanks, guys); meanwhile, Stallio started playing his plunderphonic metacommentary on current (and past) pop. None of us had had anything to eat all day, so we were getting a bit desperate to figure something out, and we ultimately sent Kerry over to a Chinese place for a menu. He returned some time later with his takeout and our menus, and we ordered (Hunan tofu for me; very low price for a pint). I'd been pouring myself glasses of water from the Brita pitcher, and then later saw one of the house citizens swigging directly from the Brita's spout. I switched to the tonic water I'd found in the fridge, which was nice--particularly after having been an hors d'ouvre for the many mosquitos in the van.

Jason and I were the most likely candidates to perform after Stallio, so we decided to set up and see who got finished first. Tables were assembled and cleaned (thanks again to our hosts), and Jason broke the ice. This ended up being good for me, as our food arrived during his set, and I was able to park myself in the kitchen and eat for the first time that day. I'd been looking for a friend who lives in Muncie, and finally made phone contact, but he'd had a number of things to deal with that day and wasn't up to attending. It would have been nice to see him, but I was already very tired by this point, and it was going to be increasingly difficult to be appropriately social. He'd made an offer to put me up, back when he thought he might be coming to the show, but now that we were in the house and I was this tired, the thought of going elsewhere seemed like far too much labor.

Eventually I wandered down to see the end of Jason's set and get ready for my own, starting with the poem, and getting a few giggles from the audience. The subsequent set was more of the same stuff I've been dishing up for the last few nights, starting with drones (this time achieving a melody of some mild interest, making this drone part most similar to my Guitar Clouds disc, although faster), moving to clicky guitar-based percussion, then messing that up a bit and bringing in the Bush samples. I'm actually getting kind of tired of these, in part because if I'm going to fit them in, I have to change the mood to dystopian, which isn't necessarily the mood I want to build. To mitigate this somewhat, I selected some samples I haven't used quite as much lately. I added in some more aggressive E-bow string bends over the movie samples and a breakbeat, which worked nicely; then I granulated the break and messed with the delay for a more Xanopticon-like effect toward the end. I ultimately went out on an ominous string loop that I've lately been inclined to drop into pieces, leading into a drone in which I messed with the delay. Some nice abstract textures came out of that.

The few people who were in the basement seemed to dig it. I'd forgotten to snap photos of my audience, so what you'll see in the photo section was about half of what I had. Also the PA was rather loud for what was, in fact, a house, so any number of people upstairs could hear it as well. Xanopticon said it was his favorite set of the ones I'd done to date, which was nice. At this point, I was pretty well spent, so I headed upstairs to get some air, and sit down for a while. I chatted again with the father of one of our hosts, who approvingly checked out my guitar, and played it a bit (he did indeed have some chops).

Eventually everyone had played, and it was quite late. All of the couches in the living room folded out into beds, and there was an IKEA seat that folded into a single bed, which I claimed. Bobby Vomit came by to chat, but he quickly reached the point of retiring. At about this time, Jason came in to ask if he could borrow the digital camera, to photograph "an interesting crack" in the concrete across the street, on the barrier separating the sidewalk from the river. While I appreciated his taking shots of my sets, and certainly trusted him with it at the shows, there was a disquieting enthusiasm about this request. While I'm sure he wouldn't have intended for something bad to happen, I could foresee a chain of events resulting in the camera coming back damaged or not at all. So I declined, to his disappointment.

So a new idea was suggested, and Greg, Kerry, and Jason went off to skinny-dip in some pond adjoining a municipal park. I drifted off, but was awakened by one of them returning, and telling Manny that the others had been arrested. It turned out not to be true, but at this point I found it believable, until the others came back. Then, finally, all was darkness.

07/25/2003 Circuits of Steel Tour 2003: Travel Day: Circuits of "Dude, where's my video projector?"

I got up somewhat later than I have been on the tour. We had some great quesadillas courtesy of our host Hymie, packed up...and at this point Kerry realized that the video projector was not in the house or the van. It was most likely left at the club, but our expectation was that it probably was long gone. We went over to the party house, where we...just hung out for an hour or so before we finally got rolling...to a record shop. Then another. And at that one, I found Steve Reich's Music for a Large Ensemble, which I'd been looking for for years--Patricia and I used to get it out of the library in our old, broke days, so this was a bright spot.

At this point, it was late afternoon, so we rolled north to Fat Cats, where--much to our amazement--we got the projector back. Manny had to apologize again for Girl Talk's Radio Shack comment, but it seemed as though things were squared away. Now we pointed north again, toward Texarkana. It was about 5:00, and we had a *long* way to go. Kerry pushed the van aggressively onward while I got down to work. Sadly, I had to reboot once due to a weird CD reader issue, which meant that I couldn't relaunch my time-limited demo of Flash MX. So I opted to do some work on the tour journal instead.

At one point we stopped for gas and found a Subway next door; a half-size veggie sub would be dinner. I happened to note a "High speed internet breakfast" sign on the Hampton Inn across the way, and found it mildly amusing. Then it was back on the road. Sometime after dark, we went through foul-smelling Texarkana and on into Arkansas. By this time, whenever we stopped for gas, mosquitos would enter the van and feed off our exotic Pennsylvania meat. Hunting them was one of the things that kept us all awake ("Ryan! It's above your head!"). From the front seat, Manny yelped. Greg asked, "What, is there a wolf up there with you, Manny?" No, merely a wolf-sized mosquito.

At one convenience store I picked up some energy drink which I didn't consume, and a Nutri-Grain thing that was packed with all kinds of hydrogenated polymers despite its pretense of healthiness. While Manny, Kerry, and I were in favor of stopping at a motel somewhere, Greg and Jason were all about making it to Memphis by the time the bars close, with the intent of picking up and staying with women who for whatever reason hadn't been picked up by anyone else. The trick would be to make sure they fed one and took one home, and then one would pretend to be drunk and pass out, thus earning a meal and a place to sleep without any quid pro quo. Happily, Kerry's position as driver meant that this was vetoed, and we went with the motel idea instead.

After midnight, we stopped at a Super-8 in West Memphis. We were still in Arkansas, but theoretically in the greater Memphis area. An elaborate plan was constructed, by which Kerry and Manny would go to the front desk, get a room, and then the rest of us would come up to the room in pairs at five-minute intervals. Manny betrayed some irritation that the room for just the two of them was $62; he'd been hoping for $30. Jason and Ryan took the keys to the van and headed across the road to a convenience store, while Greg and I waited for our five minutes. Mosquitos swarmed over the van, knowing that we'd come out eventually. We got our stuff out, closed the doors as quickly as possible, and still got bit. We made it to the room, which was serviceable, but had a few character-enhancing features, like a blood smear on the wall above the bathroom sink. I chose to assume that this was from a mosquito kill. (The motel actually had a sign warning about leaving doors closed due to the mosquitos.)

The night was strangely empty without a performance. There was nothing giving shape to our day, no real goal other than to drive as far as possible. Ryan and Jason came back, hung out, went back out to smoke, and Greg went across to the convenience store. I just hung out in the room with Manny and Kerry; eventually we collected everyone again, and they put a Bond flick on the TV. Manny and Xanopticon took one bed, while Greg and Kerry went for the floor. That meant I'd be sharing a bed with Jason. We scrupulously kept to the bed's outer edges, and I went to sleep.

07/24/2003 Circuits of Steel Tour 2003: Live in Houston, TX: Circuits of "Who stole my Jesus?"

I awoke abruptly at 8:30 local time, wondering what the hell alarm was going off, and in ten or fifteen seconds realized that it was the automatic coffee grinder. OK, cool. I was pretty awake, so I answered email for a while before getting back to sleep. I woke up again an hour or so later, helped myself to some fruit and coffee (having been invited to), and talked with our hosts, very nice, interesting people. I sent more email, got a shower, and got ready to go. Unfortunately, it looked like we were running too late to hit the artists' brunch, but with any luck I'll be invited back one of these times. Kerry hooked up with his friend again, and the rest of us went in search of food. Happily, our hostess Kim set us up with directions to the Tamale House on Airport Boulevard near 51st (or was it 53rd?)--I had a very, very good soft potato and rice taco for $1.03, including water to drink. Kerry missed out on that one by having bailed, and Manny missed out by staying in the van eating some kind of hydrogenated snack substrate.

Kerry showed up, and we now had some errands to take care of in town: stopping by Waterloo records, and cashing our check from AMODA (which, it turns out, we couldn't do: Manny has no photo ID). Waterloo Records (which Andy had suggested we check out) was really impressive--massive used section with some good stuff in it (I missed Painkiller's Buried Secrets; Jason scored that instead), lots of high-quality new releases, too, and I managed to score some new stuff--Material's Secret Life, ex-Polvo Ash Bowie's solo Libraness CD, the 13th Floor Elevators reissue (we were in Austin, after all), and a couple of early Stereolab CDs, along with a copy of EI magazine.

I rolled us on toward Houston, through a couple of rainstorms, keeping a speed I was comfortable with (usually just a bit above the limit, but significantly below in the rain, but a couple miles below the limit around Bastrop, a speed trap Kim had warned us about. Thanks, Kim!) I put on the Material CD, thankful to hear some guitars again after the nonstop diet of IDM. Without Greg in the van, things got rather quiet and serious, as well as a bit unconscious for the nondrivers. I followed our Mapquest directions right to the venue, although it's so nondescript on the outside (and doesn't say "Fat Cats," but rather "Mary Jane's") we passed it and had to double back.

The venue is pretty much your normal bar, apart from the men's room being out of commission, requiring us to use the men's room across the street at one of the other clubs they own (from the sound of it, a folk club). We loaded in, got set up, and started soundchecks. Greg came in, rejoining the tour after his night away. For a while there I was feeling tired and weird, possibly as the result of not having eaten in a while, or maybe just from lack of sleep. I had a kind of "veteran" feeling by this point, weary but accepting that "this is what we do"--go in, play music, do our best, and move on. I sat down, drank water, worked on tour journals, and tried to make some calls home. Patricia was hanging out with our neighbor Steffi; my parents were hanging out at home. (My mother said, "it would be interesting to see you play sometime." True, it might, but it very well might not, I had to admit.)

Some local guys were going to play first, and eventually some of them came in. The guys from Go Spread Your Wings were interested in our setups, and we talked for a bit. Other locals filtered in, some audience members and a hip-hop duo with (well, maybe with) a DJ. The locals would go first, and then we'd follow in the same order as Denton. I had a few conversations with local artists who seemed very excited to have us here, and who gave me their CDs, as if I was a minor celebrity or something.

While we were waiting for things to happen, the sound guy got on the mic and announced his own personal lack of Jesus. There had been a picture of Jesus inside the door of the club, and it was now missing. He wanted whoever had taken it to 'fess up and return it, which was understandable, but he was definitely being heavy-handed about it. While it wasn't one of our guys, I admit that I did wonder if it had been. (We actually never found out who took it.) After some DJ action (some of which was actually Manny), Go Spread Your Wings played a sort of ambient IDM (as I remember it) which was quite fascinating. They also had some interesting fractal video projections. I dug 'em. The DJ had some good taste as well--starting with a tune from Bowie's "Heroes", he essentially reminded me that I need to reconnect with this album, and then he hauled out some Gary Numan, among other things. The hip-hop guys were on next, but for some reason took about a half hour to get up in there and start their set. They were pretty good once they got going (including a refrain of "Give the picture back!" at one point), and they had a healthy contingent of supporters in the house. There was a really good crowd, in fact, and I was ready to play.

I was up next, and started by thanking the openers and the DJ, which seemed to build some goodwill. I began my actual set with the poem, which people seemed to like. I recall getting some applause, anyway. I followed that up with what's getting to be the standard short set these days, ambient intro, some guitar percussion (which went really well), some dissonant slide stuff to set up the Bush samples, then get out of that and mess with the delays a bit for glitchy effect. During my soundcheck I'd dropped in some beats to check levels, and Jason asked if I was going to do it in my set. Well, why not? So I did, letting it go a bit, stopping it, and then hitting the granular processing to mess it up. I did some further guitar over top of this, and at one point I heard shouting from the audience. I couldn't really make it out, so I kept going and took it as enthusiasm. While the drones were dying out, I took some photos of the audience, and then I was off. Gilbert, one of the hip-hop dudes, shook my hand and told me he dug it. The GSYW guys liked it, too, one of them saying that I was "cinematic--you're making movies, man!" One problem with the set, though, was that it was very, very loud. The sound guy's pretty much deaf, and apparently a few people left with their hands over their ears in that glitchy section near the end.

I stepped outside to call Patricia, and heard Syne Lapse start up, waaaaay louder than I thought was ideal. People started streaming out, and Manny asked him to turn it down, but this was a problem that was going to dog us for the evening. It turned out that I played to the most people, and those who were left were definitely hard-core.

Xanopticon played to even fewer people, but they were enthusiastic. I went up to the stage to try to alleviate the Moat Effect, and indeed a few others joined me. Ryan turned in one of his most physical sets to date, too. For a change, I went around the side of the stage to look back at his screens to see what all he was doing, although I wasn't familiar with the programs, apart from PD and Bidule. I ended up chatting with a guy named Jay about electronica; his contention was that a lot of practitioners, Ryan among them, are trying to copy Aphex Twin, and I found myself disagreeing. Having listened now to Drukqs in the van, I can see his point, but at the same time it's clear to me that our crew's goals are way different than Aphex's, more chaotic and assaultive while his pieces are more crisp, tight, and controlled. Plenty of audio effects are similar, but the goals differ vastly. (I'll also note that the first track of Drukqs is phenomenally beautiful.) It turns out Jay is using Girl, too, so we tried to talk about that as well over the super-cranked system. It was a conversation in which one person shouts, and then the other shouts back "WHAT?"

After my early good set, the evening was taking a bit of a darker turn. This turn got particularly dark for Girl Talk's set. It was a good set, although unusually he slowed it waaaaaay down, like DJ Screw, or so I'm told. His friend's Houston posse was intensely enthusiastic, though, which made things work. Work, that is, until his cover of "Scentless Apprentice," when he crammed the mic in his mouth and took off the ball of the windscreen, as well as causing the XLR connector to separate. He said something to the effect of "What is this, a $20 mic from Radio Shack?" which offended the sound guy to no end, it seemed. He threatened to bill us $120 for the mic, which was outrageous--considering that it was repairable, the worst thing Greg did was insult it.

Kerry's set took us even more toward the dark, particularly when he lost it at the end, threw his Kaos Pad, and broke his Digital Video player. I hadn't followed all the details, but it emerged later that this is what had gone on. I just knew he seemed super-pissed afterward. We loaded up the van again, concerned at what the sound guy might try to do, but we got out of there successfully.

We were supposed to stay with Greg's friend Hymie, so we followed him to some random area of Houston for late-night Vietnamese. We were first led through some of what late-night Houston had to offer. Essentially this meant deserted streets, but we did pass a number of prostitutes parading themselves around a pickup truck, one of whom definitely had masculine legs.

When we pulled up at the restaurant, we ended up parking in their lot a half-block away. While we were walking in, a sports car pulled up sharply and screeched to a halt on the sidewalk behind us. Four long-haired Vietnamese guys got out, the one muttering that he can do whatever the fuck he wants, bitch, because he's a fucking Federal Agent. I doubted his veracity, and wondered how he might try to augment our dining experience. There was a policeman right inside the place, though, which helped the vibe a bit for me. This might have kept Jason outside for a while, however. Our food was good (spicy tofu for me), and we chatted with some of Greg's friend's friends, interesting folks, including the one guy going through his post-collegiate Nietzsche phase.

Time to split. We headed over to the Party House to drop off Jason, Ryan, and Greg, and then to the straightedge house (Hymie's place, a nice little house somewhere south of town) for the rest of us, where I snagged Hymie's room for its proximity to the phone jack. Then, finally, sleep.

07/23/2003 Circuits of Steel Tour 2003: Live in Austin, TX: Circuits of Yeah!

Wow. What a fantastic day, even though I wasn't completely happy with my set. It was generally good, and nothing overall wrong with it, but I know I was coasting in a few places, and I didn't feel that on feeling I like to feel.

The day began early for me, as I had work to do, finishing a bug fix I owed a client. The PowerBook had charged overnight, but the adapter was getting really hot. It was still working, but given the way the last one failed, I wasn't optimistic for this one. I made sure the Apple Store in Dallas had the part I needed in stock, and got a shower. Soon the other guys were up, and we headed back into Dallas, actually quite close to where we were yesterday (damn). First time I'd been in an Apple Store, and I found it to be quite nice. Good layout, helpful people. I got the adapter, and learned that if I blow through the replacement too, I should probably send the 'book in for Apple to check out its internal power supply. That'll take a week or so to do, so if it comes to it, I'll have to schedule that one carefully. They were also going to get me some rubber feet for the laptop as well, but they forgot to bring them out before I left. I did, however, pick up an adapter for use in the car and in the air (combo cigarette lighter format with emPower port), which I'm using now and which is just great. I have so much power now that it's not even funny. It's ridiculous. (Another tour joke, involving Negativland's "Time Zones.")

The traffic around Dallas was pretty brutal, and we took a while to get out on the road South to Waco and Austin. On the way we listened to some rap stuff Greg had burnt to CD, and I burnt one of Naked City. It's kind of cool to be able to do that while jamming down the highway. I worked on resolving some of the evil Flash stuff that was dogging me, as well. During the drive down we made contact with my friend Andy, and it would work out quite well for the tour to drop me at an interchange near their house. The changeover worked out smoothly, giving everyone else some room in the van for the first time since evening in St. Louis. I got to check out Andy's house in Austin, and we got some tasty Chinese dinner (sesame tofu for me) with his wife Andrea and daughter Mychaella, who was excited to see me again, show me absolutely all of her toys, and tell me pretty much everything on her mind. I kind of brain-dumped about the tour so far, decompressing now that I was off the van and away from the tour for the first time.

Soon it was time to head down--showtime was at 9, starting with local AMODA volunteer DJ Oonce Oonce, and it was already 8:00. We made good time, and got in at 8:30 or so. Cirrus (where AMODA was having the event) was actually quite the swanky space, easily the best room on the tour. Wood trim and paneling, high ceilings, expensive-looking bar, the whole bit, although its entrance was in an alley. I figured I'd better change. The guys had already brought my gear in, bless them, so my clothes were already up there, although I had to get down to the van to bring in my big bag. I changed (black jeans and the bowling shirt again--I figured this room deserved the Power of Shandrew)--freshened up a bit, and set up my gear. I was next to Otto von Schirach, who turned out to be a nice guy who'd flown in from Miami for this gig. He apparently has a lot going on in Miami, which meant this was just a one-off for him.

It took a while to get set up, as the sound guys had a lot of us to deal with. They put a monitor up on stage, which really played havoc with the microphone Otto would use (as would Greg). It would be a while before I checked or started, as it turned out, so I hung out drinking water talking to Andy. (He observed that we were quite possibly the only nonsmokers/nondrinkers in the crowd. We weren't the only ones, but we were clearly in the minority.) I ultimately did check, and I got to show Andy where the magic happens with my software. I also showed him the digital camera quickly so that he could get a few shots of the show, and then bring the camera back for me to photograph the audience.

People began to filter in, and they were slated to be entertained by DJ Ooonce Oonce, but she was having software problems, alas. Eventually a decision was made to have Oonce Oonce go last, and I'd go first. That was fine by me--Andy could get going if he needed to, we'd already had dinner, and there was an audience in the house. I was announced, and off I went.

This set wasn't bad. During the whole thing, there were video projections I couldn't see, but one of which was a spotlight on me. I did my now-usual arc of ambient drones, some pick percussion, some noisy dystopian dissonant slides, leading me to the Bush samples. I got ambitious and opened seven modules, tempting fate in this way for the first time since Detroit. After two iterations of Bush's "Uh" track, I ring modulated it for texture and picked up some other Bush samples (like the decontextualized numbers), as well as Ashcroft ("believe me") and some similarly paranoid old movie samples before droning to a finish that I let ring out while I left the stage, "Apparition"-style, but I kind of think that the audience didn't really get it. There was too much going on around them, and only the first row or so of audients could actually see me to know that something changed. Once the tones died out, I said, "That's it!" from the crowd (it was too dense for me to go all the way to the back as I like to do), and got some applause.

One unfortunate side effect of streaming my set to disk is that I can't listen back to gauge the level of applause, or to remind myself of what level of audience interaction I had. But it's so much more convenient in that I don't have to transfer from MD, and theoretically could burn a CD of my set right after I play it. Sadly, no one's taken me up on that yet.

Jason played next while I hung out and talked to Andy. The room was getting crowded, so Andy and I slipped out into the hall to talk while Jason and Xanopticon played. Andy had thought that the "Uh" section went a little long, but it's true that it's a long loop (one minute; two iterations making it two minutes). But he did like parts of the set, and observed that my method is a particularly unforgiving one, in that if I make a mistake with the guitar, that mistake is around for a while instead of just passing.

We continued to talk while Holocaust played, and we chatted with Greg before he went on. The mic problems concerned him, though, and he was afraid that he'd get up there and be completely inaudible. I'd told Andy that Greg's show was hilarious and dynamic and all, but in the event we weren't able to see him due to the number of people, and we weren't able to hear him. Apparently people in the front could hear, but all his vocals were lost for us. I had my first equipment failure at this point, when I went to adjust my satellite bag (an MP3.com freebie) and broke the plastic clasp for the strap. I knotted it and I'll have to look for a metal replacement. It's actually a good bag, apart from the hardware. Andy had to split by this time, but it was great to see him again and hang out.

I myself was pretty tired too, so I tried to find a seat in the crowded space. I sat on the arm of a chair Kerry had been sitting in, and chatted for a bit. He'd been planning on spending the evening with a friend, who for whatever reason had to leave, so Kerry would be hanging with us instead of bailing. He got up, and I just hung on the arm of the chair for a while. While Xanopticon played, one woman came up and sat down; it turned out that she's Mel, the drummer of the band Bahrain, and they're going on tour soon--on a route very similar to ours. They're even playing the Lemp, which I warned her about while sharing a few tour stories. (I mentioned this to Jason who said, "Dude! You have to tell her about the fleas!" so I went back and told her.) I introduced her to Manny, who may set them up with a Pittsburgh show one of these days, and she bought one of the poem CDs, too. Cool.

I wandered around for a while, and Xanopticon finished playing. Then Otto came on and did a good set of his lascivious IDM. His vocals were a little more audible than Greg's, but they still needed to be significantly higher. Then DJ Oonce Oonce took over, and persevered as much as she could before the software problems came back. I tried to take photos of dancers, but the area was too dark and I didn't want to intrude with the flash. One of the writers from Igloo magazine noticed and talked to me about sharing photos with them; she hadn't seen my set, so we discussed that as well, along with my situation in general (touring, married, working, etc.), and we may discuss these things a bit more for an article on the event.

The evening wound down, and we were thanked by the woman who organized it all, who said she'd see us tomorrow at the artists' brunch (an artists' brunch? Cool!), and we loaded out, waiting for the AMODA people to load out all their sound and video equipment, so we could all go get a late dinner at a 24-hour vegetarian place. I traded some CDs with Otto, who said he dug what I was doing, and suggested a collaboration with Xanopticon--interesting suggestion.

Greg bailed from the van to hang with his friend in Houston, and we took on a guide to the restaurant, which turned out to be funky, but quite good. The collective energy seemed to be draining with the lateness. Jason was inert, with his head down on the table, too much smoking and drinking. One of the Austin guys came over and started a multisyllabic philosophical flow that so reminded us of Jason that it was creepy. "Dude," someone said, "Did you suck Jason's soul out?"

I talked a bit to Todd from AMODA, who mentioned that they're planning on a series of sit-down concerts for which he thought my ambient stuff would be ideal. I'd be happy to play such a thing, actually, so with any luck I'll be back in this fine city sometime soon. I really do like the vibe here. The general vibe in Texas is straight-up, friendly, and laid-back, with Austin having a bit more of a Californian flavor.

We took on Mason, another friend of AMODA, who led us to the house where we'd be staying, a neat little house in one of the northern parts of the city, with KIm and Mike (more friends of AMODA; I think Kim had been at the show) who--bless 'em--had WiFi in the house, as well as a huge white puppy who seemed to have a great disposition. I picked a comfortable couch in the kitchen, plugged in my stuff to charge, offloaded images, downloaded mail and logs (man, I'd been up a long time), and went to sleep.

07/22/2003 Circuits of Steel Tour 2003: Live in Denton, TX: Circuits of Texas!

Jason continued to drive us toward Texas. When asked, he said he was all right. Some time after the Oklahoma border--I have no idea where at the moment--is what's billed as the largest McDonald's in the world (in square footage), straddling the highway. We stopped for gas, cigs (Jason and Ryan), water, and a restroom break. I took a few blurry photos, including one from the actual seating area above the highway that doesn't suck. Eventually as we headed West I got fatigued enough to fall asleep for an hour or so, waking up on the outskirts of Tulsa when we slowed down for a traffic jam. We opted to go around Tulsa and take a direct route down, which put us on some local roads instead of limited-access highways, which happily slowed us down occasionally from Jason's usual aggressive pace. I'll admit that I was getting kind of worried about it, especially in the rain which seemed to cover most of Oklahoma.

Even though he'd been driving since two in the morning, he claimed to be ok. He wanted to get us to Denton by noon. Why? He didn't know. It was, apparently, just a personal goal, but this to me is a warning sign. As we approached Texas, I thought he was speeding up out of a need to get there before getting too tired--the van was going at just the right speed to oscillate up and down with the regular bumps of the joins in the road's concrete slabs. Once we reached the border, I could do the math and point out that there was another hour to Denton, at which point he was willing to turn over the wheel. I've been in that position ("OK, I'm going to make it here by this time no matter what") and it's better to give up on those kinds of goals. So he conceded. Good man. And he did a hell of a good job getting us to Texas as quickly as possible.

When we opened the door of the van, the wave of heat told us that we were really in Texas now. We got gas, put on the Esquivel, and headed toward Denton after some brief confusion about how to get back on the highway (my first intuition was correct, but was voted down, so we checked out every 90 degrees of the interchange). I stuck to the speed limit.

We found the venue first, in an industrial district near the railroad tracks and across the street from a concrete plant or something. It was closed for the afternoon, so we went several blocks along the same street to our contact's house. He wasn't there, either, and we couldn't get his cell number--Manny had left his notebook with all the tour's contact information back at the cursed Lemp. So...we decided to head in to Dallas, scope out the hip area (whatever it was; we'd need to find that out), and eat. Kerry took over the wheel, and I dealt with some work-related stuff, although the PowerBook's battery was running low. We put on the radio, and listened to a bunch of current hip hop and Latin stuff I'd never heard of, but which are apparently hits.

After crawling through construction traffic, we navigated to University Park, where Manny thought hip stuff might be. The University in question was Southern Methodist, so the kind of hipness we'd had in mind wasn't part of the neighborhood, but we did find a Barnes & Noble, where we'd look in the local papers for clues. Finally having an AC outlet on hand, I plugged in the PowerBook, and was surprised to see that it wasn't actually charging the battery--I was just getting the green plugged-in light, as opposed to the orange charging light. Unplugging and replugging it, I finally heard a little arcing sound, and the charging light came on. Considering the way my last power adapter died, this wasn't good. I was glad that I'd looked up the various Apple stores around our route, and thought that maybe we could plan a stop tomorrow.

We moved on to Deep Ellum, which was supposed to be the hip area in Dallas. Jason was excited, though, as he spotted a Masonic seal on one of the buildings down there and wanted me to take photos of it (we didn't get back to it, though). Apparently things don't open in Deep Ellum until 8, so the "Manny goes into a record store and doesn't come out" factor was thwarted, and we did hook up with a good lunch in this Brazil place. Some people weren't into going into a place that didn't look cheap, but the prices were actually good. We sat around the table with our thousand-yard stares, unable quite to decide on an order, and Manny asked, "Are you guys just not feeling this, or what?" We were feeling it (as in we did indeed want to be there and eat), but we'd been through a lot in the last 24 hours. We were now veterans. We were tight. The van seriously smells like dude.

We did manage to order, and I had a couple of tasty vegetarian crepes--particularly good with a bit of habanero sauce on them. We revived, and told Manny about the episode with the girl at the Lemp and the wrestling belt, an event which seemed by this time to be weeks in the past. Greg said that it would have been really something to see--some girl just coming up and popping Manny as hard as she could. Manny said, "If she'd've done that, I would have pulled out my knife." St. Louis was a disaster as it was, but imagine--"Oh, yeah, we had to cancel the St. Louis show; Manny stabbed our only audience member." We laughed.

Back in Denton, we left a message for our contact at his home, having gotten the number from Directory Assistance, and we drove over to the main square. It turns out that there's an amazing used book and record store there, the Recycler, where I found a copy of the Raybeats' first EP, Roping Wild Bears, for $4. I'd never seen one in the flesh before. Of course, this now vastly complicates my life, as I'm storing vinyl in a hot van in Texas in July, but I'm keeping it in among Manny's many records in the hopes that this will keep it from warping. And during the hottest parts of the day, we'd be driving with the A/C on, so maybe it'll work out. I also picked up the Dylan/Baez/Baez/Farina bio, Positively 4th Street and Man Ray's Self Portrait, which I always look for in used bookstores. Success! I made a few calls to share the warmth.

Down to the house where we were being put up, where we met Matt (our contact's one housemate), Matt (our contact), and...the other housemate whose name I unfortunately forget. Nice little place, and a very welcome sight after the lack of a bed in St. Louis. We did a quick loop of the University there (UT Denton?) and picked up the weekly student paper, which did an article on the show. They got some details wrong, but were pretty positive about it, so the vibe was good. Sadly, at this point we realized that the chocolate-covered espresso beans had not stood up well to Texas. We had chocolate espresso bean soup in a bag.

Then we pulled up at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios (see photo--it took me a while to get the sign), which is really a funky little bar. On coming in, I heard them playing Townes Van Zandt's "Our Mother the Mountain," which was a great comfort to hear. I thanked the sound guy, and noted that after listening to all this IDM and electronica in the van, I'm looking forward to playing some Big Star, Guided by Voices, etc. to come back down to earth. I recommended Joel Phelps's version of the Van Zandt tune, but I might have to email him to make sure he has a reference. I'm listening to it now as I type this up. (Thank God for iTunes.) We also discovered that the DJ mixer Xanopticon's using keeps digging into the side of his monitor, which isn't so cool. We're trying to work out a solution.

We set up, I took a few photos of the venue and the industrial neighborhood, and we waited for the audience to show up. A local DJ did appear, with the thought that he'd play between sets. Ultimately I got started, playing first, and did a subtle set. There wasn't much in the way of audience for me, so I kept things toned down. I started with my usual tone cloud, some guitar clicks, a few samples, and then for the second half I thought I'd mess with the orchestra samples as they'd worked well in St. Louis. (Maybe the only thing that went well there). In a way I lost control of this part of the set. The general level dropped as the guitar lines died out, and the samples weren't quite behaving the way I'd hoped. I think the problem ended up being related to my selecting a tiny slice of the sample I'd planned on using as a bed. It was kind of a lowercase set there at the end. I'd had Jason take some photos of my set, and then bring the camera up so I could take one of the audience, but there wasn't much of an audience to photograph. Jason's shots were nice, though, if a bit dark due to the room's lighting.

Manny told me afterwards that in Austin I have to keep the volume up and use more Bush samples, rather than going minimal, although Jason thought that it really worked in its difference from the other sets. I did like the lowercaseness of it, so I'll have to listen back to the stream to see exactly what I was doing.

The DJ's set was nice; he really thought about how to follow my act, and he gave all the other intermissions the same level of attention. Jason was up next and did a good set to a gradually increasing audience. Meanwhile, I got charged for water, even though I was comped for water before my set. Weird. Fatigue was kicking in, so I parked myself on a bar stool in the performance room, and talked to a few people who dug the set, although didn't make any sales (apparently one of the old-school Stoic Sex Pro CDs was sold later in the evening, but I didn't see who bought it).

By the time Xanopticon was on, there was a significant and enthusiastic audience, and he turned in his most intense set to date. His performances have become more physical as the tour's gone on, especially with such an engaged set of listeners. It's really something to see--when he flails his arms as he moves the crossfader between his laptop and his desktop machine, it's like he's trying to jump out of his own skin. Weirdly, at one point in his set, I had a missing minute during which I must have fallen asleep on the barstool. I got up and moved around for a while to stay awake.

Greg's set was super-intense with all that audience to feed off of, particularly these two girls who were into dancing to this weird music. As ever, he stripped down to his underwear, ran around, and screamed, got beer poured on him, rolled around on the floor, and got people all excited. It was quite a show. Kerry followed up with his most intense set to date, and it is indeed getting kind of frightening now. He'd warned me in advance to move my stuff and he got up on the table, screamed into the mic, threw his Kaos Pad, and collapsed into one of the PA cabinets. I thought for sure he was taking a dive. During this whole thing, there was this 15-year-old guy, there with his dad. His dad sat through the whole thing, and I wonder what he thought, particularly Girl Talk's often obscene lyrical content and stage patter. Still, he sat through, walking out to the bar only when Kerry's self-mutilation videos came on.

We hung out for a bit afterwards, although I was thoroughly beat. I loaded my stuff in the van, and hung outside listening to the passing train. Again I wished I'd set up the MD recorder. I brought it, but I've not had it set up. In checking over my stuff again, I thought I'd forgotten my toiletry bag in the club, but couldn't find it there. I tore my stuff down, and when I mentioned it to Jason, he offered to set me up with his toothpaste, if necessary. Once again, good man, but I finally found it in a section of my big bag I hadn't investigated. Gradually the others came out and loaded, and after waiting for another train, we headed back to Matt's place where we scared up some food from the fridge (Jason improvising a bean and cheese tortilla kind of thing that gave us vegetarians some dinner). I connnected briefly to the house DSL while the others hung out talking, and then laid out on the floor while Kerry checked his mail on the house iMac. I don't remember him leaving, and that's the last I recall until morning.


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snwv: snwv
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Music for Dance
Maurice Rickard: Music for Dance
Buy online

Tell Ya One Thing And Then Some
Maurice Rickard: Tell Ya One Thing And Then Some
$5.00 US; $7.00 World.

Death Pig (Live, July 2, 2003)
Death Pig: Death Pig (Live, July 2, 2003)
$5.00 US; $7.00 World.

Circuits of Steel Tour 2003: Chicago, St. Louis, Muncie
Maurice Rickard: Circuits of Steel Tour 2003: Chicago, St. Louis, Muncie
$5.00 US; $7.00 World.

Guitar Clouds
Maurice Rickard: Guitar Clouds
$5.00 US; $7.00 World.

Lady of Pain: Live, June 2, 2003
The Unindicted Co-conspirators: Lady of Pain: Live, June 2, 2003
$5.00 US; $7.00 World.

Live at the Quiet Storm, November 2, 2002
The Stem Cell Liberation Front: Live at the Quiet Storm, November 2, 2002
$5.00 US; $7.00 World.

The Stem Cell Liberation Front: Blast
$4.00 US; $6.00 World.

Tell Ya One Thing
Maurice Rickard: Tell Ya One Thing
$3.00 US; $5.00 World.

How to get this music? Head on over to onezero music and get your hands on some downloads.

If you prefer CDRs, multiply the price listed above by the quantity of each CDR you want. You can email the funds to me using PayPal, by clicking on the link below. At the moment, I'm not taking credit cards. Put the following in your email:

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The quantity of each CDR. (Multiply by the prices above for your total.)

Click here to order.