Thursday, October 6, 2011

Digging Through the ugEXPLODE Archives

For the last few weeks, when I have a little free time around the office, I've been trying to compile every last bit of music I've played on which has been legitimately released for a personal multidisc high-quality mp3 archival/reference set. Needless to say this is a somewhat staggering task. It's taking a long time. The archives are reasonably organized, but not down to the sort of detail where I can pull just anything in a matter of seconds. A good amount of reasonably unrelated stuff can tend to be compiled on various discs, so sorting this stuff in a serious manner would basically entail logging the contents of each onto a searchable spreadsheet. For example, I might have some weird XBXRX rough mixes on a CD with a Nitro(!) remix, a Nondor Nevai track, a full Luttenbachers album, some solo demos and who knows what else! The contents of the backup discs reflect whatever was being worked on in a certain period at a certain time and not much else.
There are definitely a few things which have gone awol. For example, I cannot seem to find the final master for the WW/Mick Barr/Sam Hillmer 10". I can find rough mixes, final mixes, multitracks, unreleased outtakes, a complete full-length version which was canned, but I cannot find the mastered, edited master. Hmmm. It's got to be around here some place.

There are things I'm on which people never bothered to give me a copy of. For example, when I first moved to the Bay Area around 2003, I wound up going to an all-electronic jam session with a band called Goof Ice, led by my fellow Skin Graft Records alumni Zeek Sheck and featuring some other weirdos including another Chicago ex-pat Erin Weber (then also a member of the warped electro band Crack: We Are Rock). We did a few funny, performance-heavy gigs here and there and eventually it seemed like the results of the initial jam resulted in a limited CD-R release. So limited, even I didn't get one! It's a bit of a pet peeve when I'm not given a copy of my work (and a much bigger pisser on the rare occasions when I'm not even asked permission for something I'm on to be released! An extremely rare, but maddening situation . . .) It seems weird to have to pay money for something you played on, especially if you weren't paid to do the recording. Every now and then, it happens, but not much.

Part of the reason why I began avidly taping my own gigs on a handy-dandy Sony D-50 recorder in 2007 had to do with the frustration stemming from the overwhelming preponderance of tapers showing up to gigs and refusing to give me copies of my own music. There is virtually no excuse for this. I've had huge arguments with tapers. Some of them seem to think their "taping" is their art and your, uh, music - which they are taping - is really besides the point. Ha ha ha. Ok fucker, well then, pack up your "art" and get the hell out of here. Without my music, you've got a blank tape. I've even run into situations where I knew who taped something and even offered to PAY whatever they asked for a copy of the material and almost always my requests have been completely ignored with radio silence. It's extremely rude and inconsiderate.

Needless to say, I have probably better than 90 percent of all the gigs I've played in the last five years in good-to-excellent quality sitting on shelves on my wall in raw data and mastered audio versions. Some of these recordings have made it onto releases such as "Firestorm", "End Of The Trail", "Particles","American Free","Large Group Performances" and so on.  There's a lot of good music here which will probably never be released or circulated, but that's the breaks. Want to hear my kickass tapes with Evan Parker or John Butcher? Well, don't hold your breath! Ha ha ha.

When I release something, it has to be special. If I was just releasing "good" music, I could crank out 50 releases a year easily.  However, considering that the economy is slow and people don't really spend money like they used to on recorded music, I have to be very discriminating about what the label releases. For example, the Orthrelm CD: this is some of my favorite music of all-time. I wanted it to be done right and I wanted to give the band a good deal out of respect for them both as people and artists. When you buy that disc, Mick and Josh get 100 percent of the wholesale price in their pocket. That's that. If you don't believe me, just ask them. Same with Toy Killers.

One of the good things about digging through all this media is finding little gems one has forgotten about. Like the weird CD-R I made with Talibam! at the end of '09 when we needed something to sell at the gig that night. We literally recorded, mixed, packaged and sold it that night. The music is funny, raw and unapologetic. There are so many bizarre edits (due to malfunctioning computer) and random events, I can't help but to think an artifact like this couldn't have possibly came out so interesting if we had actually taken the time to do it right!

also did a little-known tour-only CD-R in the summer of '07 called "Bad Gratitude Persons". The title is an illusion to the sort of shaky English spewed from the slobbering maw of the shyster promoter who ripped-us off on a chaotic and totally un-fun Mexican tour just prior to this recording being made. The disc features our live set as a bass-less trio, recorded in one take at our practice space on a small multitrack recorder. It is essentially what we sounded like live at that point, under the best possible sonic circumstances. It reveals yet another aspect of a really multifaceted group, caught casually, for the fuck of it on a random afternoon. I wish more people would have heard it. The rough mixes from the last release I did with the group, the mp3-only "Un Usper", showed even more hidden angles. There is a ton of improvising between the actual songs that I had totally forgotten about. A few snippets of these improvs made the album, but were heavily mixed and edited. I'm glad there's still some evidence of the raw material, even if it's not for public consumption.

So, I look at this mountain of output I've created over the past 25 years and I feel glad: glad this shit hasn't burnt up in an apartment fire, or drowned in a flood, or been vandalized by a psycho, or . . . I'm not the kind of guy who believes in "jinxing" myself, luckily. I guess if all this stuff went up in smoke tomorrow, I'd be sad for a while, but then I'd do what I normally do: move on and create more new work . . .

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