The visionEar is Jim Konens alter ego. Make that his "holographic prototype
alter ego who seeks convergence with all media into one complete experience"
What the Detroit musician does is mix the aural, in this case guitar-based
electronic music, with the visual effects of video and lighting into something
new. Performance art with a beat.
Begining the guitar as a kid in the 60's. He's picked up a lot of
"musical information" as well a gear. now preforming as the visionEar in his
R.P.M. (realtime preformance module) a cross between an elaborately designed
set and his electronic command console.
"It looks pretty Star Trekkian" he admits.
If that's not enough, he's also created his own instruments: The "motorWand", a
hand held device that interacts with the guitars pickups and, the "Clang", a
solar power /percussion instrument.
While his saucer was docked for repairs we decided to have a little chat:
Q What about you first significant musical/guitar experience?
A The earliest signifcant one I can recall was around the time I was 8 or so.
I had a little buddy named Kevin and he had a record player that played 45's.
We would listen to this one song it was kinda like a jazzy beatnik thing.
I would grab a broom and Kev would play drums and we'd pretend we were
musicians. A few years later the Beatles changed music history and the
broom became a guitar.
Q What about the first guitar/instruments you took a focused interest in ?
A The first guitar I ever had belonged to my Grandfather. It was a Sears "F" hole
style. I could barely play it and it could barley be played. This unfurtunate
experience repeated itself several times until I was able to focus myself on to a
early 50's "Les Paul" Jr. TV Model which I bought used for about $250.00.
It was that pukey yellow color and all finished cracked. single pole pickips
single cutaway and sounded great. My dad went with me and freaked out!
Here I am some dumb little kid handing over all this money to some hippy
sales guy for this beat up guitar. He thought I was nuts! What a sound!
I thought I had it all. I was so happy as a matter of fact that I decided to
paint this old guitar and then it would really look cool. I sanded this thing
down and painted it metallic purple. The neck broke about a week later and
I learned that these things are better left to qualified hands.
Q What about formal training, lessons, significant "tutor/"mentor" experience?
A I began with lessons at the local music store. there were about for or five guitar
instructors at this place. I loved going, never missed a lesson if I could help it.
The guitar just felt right in my hands. After about six months or so My instructor
thought it was time for me to learn how to play "lead" guitar. Whoa, that was
scarry. He showed me a simple blues scale and in no time I was on to that.
After a few years I knew all the instructors and was always hanging around for
new stuff to learn. As an adult I was fortunate to hook up with a jazz guitarist
in the neighborhood who I studied with for a few years. His name was Pete
and I learned a lot about scales/modes/ and harmony in general. It took some
time for that stuff to really sink in but it really expanded my playing and gave
me more options harmonically. It is the basis on which most of what my
present playing style came from. Thanks Pete!
Q Have you taught?
A Why yes I have! I tought on a regular basis when I was younger. Both classes
and private lessons. Teaching is a good thing to do because it also teaches
the teacher how to teach. Begginners are always nervous and you have to put
them at ease. Advanced players want information that easy to understand.
Many are not serious and I thought how lucky I am that this is not a chore.
Q Inital recording-experience memories.
A My first experiences with recording really didn't involve music until later.
Another childhood friend of mine got this really nice Sony reel to reel tape
deck. We spent a lot of time recording ourselves doing skits we made up
or funny stories we made up about our friends at school. Then we discovered
the telephone pickup and all hell broke loose. I was soon the king of prank
phone calls. I was a pre Jerky Boy. Caller ID kinda ruined that.
Q What gear/stuff do you play in a performing context?
A My current device which comprises all of my total sound is the R.P.M.
or Realtime Performance Module. It's a veritable "toybox' of sonic goodies.
For the guitar end of things I have a rocktron preamp/EQ, alessis midi verb,
Roland Dep5, Digitech33B harmonizer, Roland guitar synth, Gibson digital echoplex pro,
and a lot of little things too like an E Bow, electric drill, slides, rocks, things
that effect the strings or pickups in non-mainstream ways.
Iv'e always been a bit of a gear head. I had several of the first fuzz tones,
and echoplexes (tube and non tube). all kinds of amps. I could blather on all
day about all this crap but, I always prefer what it is that I'm currently using.
I'm looking toward a future of massive processing power in light easy to carry
format. For example, you get to the club, download all the software you need.
load your programs use to clubs computer and PA. no muss no fuss.
Of course.....this is the future were talking about!
Q How if at all, does the performance paradigm differ from the zeitgeist during
the documentation/recording process? which do you prefer, and why?
A Well, the short answer is I prefer both for very different reasons. I think it's
very easy for anyone to relate to doing a live preformance of their material.
You feel great when it's happening. You have the audience feedback. it's
easy to get addicted to the process of performing. The bad part is that
you fall into just dealing with that music experience everytime. The recording
experience is a safe place to try out ideas and listen to em' back. You
can do whatever you want to find what it is your trying to create. Now you
don't have an audience and it's YOUR job to generate the excitement.
Being able to balance both into one process is the ultimate.
Q Your five favorite songs/compositions by others?
A I have perhaps five hundred favorites. So PLEASE know the order of these
does not infer any kind of judgement or betterment over the other. With that
said, heres a few to think about:
1. "Wabash" John Scofield Loud JazzCd
2. "Right Off" Miles Davis Jack Johnson CD
3. "Dance of Maya" John McLaughton Inner Mounting Flame
4. "Larks Tounge in Aspic pt ll" King Crimson Larks Tounge in Aspic
5. "Ice Cream Cakes" Jeff Beck Group Orange
Q If you could edit your ten favorite recorded/experienced sonic moments into
a seamless loop, what would they be.
A Once again, it's like asking what's your favorite feather after exploding a
pillow. Same disclaimer. Here goes:
1. Solo - Manic Depression -Jimi Hendrix
2. Solo - 21st Centuary Schzoid Man - King Crimson
3. Solo and Vamp - Kid Charlemagne - Steely Dan
4. Intro - Burning With Optimisms Flame - XTC
5. Clair de Lune - Tomita
6. Intro- American Tango - Weather Report
7. Prelude - Day The Earth Stood Still - Bernard Herrmann
8. Head - Spanish Key - Miles Davis
9. Intro - Since Iv'e Been Lovin' You - Led Zepplin
10. Riff - Army of Me - Bjork
Q What are your feelings about improvisation?
A I think everyone should do it! There are longstanding opinions about all of this.
As for myself, I just seem to gravitate toward it. I like developing something
out of nothing, creating systems within systems and , I just love to watch
something Iv'e composed reel off into it's own organic system...at least
for a little while. It's to me how nature works. Mabey this is what God had
in mind. Anyway, it is very magical but based on math and science.
When I jam with other musicians I like to play the part of anti-guitarist.
Always trying to go for those sounds or notes that most wouldn't think of.
Q What strategies have proven effective to you in terms of successful group
A You had to ask! Shit! I'm ruined!
And the real answer is...... If your talking creative stuff, I'd say being
comfortable with who's there and developing a common area to explore.
Once you become a business or are trying to become one things
change. Now your dealing with the whole person (or persons).
Anything you or they do can change everything for the better or worse.
It's a many headed Medusa that 's always talkin' shit about your group.
Common mindsets among musicians in groups is rare in my experience.
I say test your concept of musicians and don't commit till proven.
That's it, a pretend band with real goals, instead of the other way around.
Q On what projects are you currently involved in?
A My biggest project is me. I started a very tiny Record Co. (Future Records)
to promote my plan for world domination. I have three releases currently out
there. Just finished a sound design gig for this theatre in Detroit called the
Zeitgeist for Eugene Ionesco's anti-play "The Bald Soprano" . I also produce
local pop bands "Charmed Life' and "Kill Switch". both have CD's coming out
Q How can interested readers learn more about your work?
A I have places online that will aquaint you with what I'm doing.
your best bet is CD Baby. www.cdbaby.com. I'm also at mp3.com
and guitar.com. Plenty of info and samples.
My main project is called visionEar. I have two CD's.
digThesis #FR31416 and "Future Sans" #FR41592
A project called Fez Tone "electroautodance" #FR5912
The new CD by DID (Detroit Improv Duo) with keyboardist Dick Metcalf.
All Cd's are $10:00 (plus shipping )
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