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Improvijazzation Nation - Issue # 54
INTERVIEW with Weirdsville host Erik!
Zzaj: Wotz' th' diff between
Weirdsville, "Universal Cosmic Groove Archive" & Mandragora (so our weird
Weirdsville! (www.weirdsville.com) is the WebRadio mega-site. I began with sequenced playlists that would change every week, but soon I had too many files (and got too lazy) to structure a several hundred song list. This eventually led to the randomized playlist generator that is in place today. Since I don't have the money or time to stream a live broadcast, the random script is a good simulation, in that you get a different playlist every time
you open the webcast. Up until the recent upgrade of the site, there was one Weirdcast that contained everything, so you'd get harsh Japanoise followed by tiki lounge followed by 60's acid rock. Jarring juxtaposition in the cut-up tradition. The really cool thing that emerged from this is that, though the stylistic
differences could be pretty extreme, everything kind of flowed together and you'd find connections and hidden influences.
We now have six channels of weirdness: the main Weirdcast, Exotica, Moog, Noise, Psych, and Weirdos, which contains only those cool freaks who have sent in their music for broadcast. We also have a Featured Album page that will showcase the strangest of the incredibly strange.
The "Universal Cosmic Groove" was a radio show that several friends and I put together while attending Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. Every Saturday at midnight a group of us would take over the Amherst College radio station and do complete freeform Dada/cut-up radio. We'd usually have five or six things playing at once, a mountain of vinyl to choose from, and vague thematic threads. The online archive showcases the most interesting results from the era. Weirdsville! was originally conceived to be an extension of the UCG, with overlapping mega-mixes, but ended up going in another direction.
Mandragora Records (www.mandragora.com) is our DIY record label, specializing in pure psychedelic noise and the tryptaphonic freaksound. We have 7 CDR releases so far, ranging from the electric gamelan of Rezanate to the totalfuckingnoise of Bull Anus. Most of them come from The Vault of recordings that I have been involved with over the past 12 years, but we'll soon be branching outside of the immediate family. Our first compilation is expected to come out this Summer: a "real" CD featuring intense psych/noise/murk bands from around the World.
Zzaj: What made you decide to go for "Weird" music(s) on your webradio site?
It wasn't really a conscious decision, just the kind of music I like and a reflection of our mammoth record collection. I've been into "weird" music since I first got into punk rock. I grew up in Houston, TX and way back when THE punk radio in town was the Funhouse Show, hosted by Chuck Roast and Austin Caustic. They played all sorts of underground music, lots of industrial and fringe mixed with hardcore punk . For a while it was bookended by the Avant-Garde show before it and Rev. Huey's SubGenius Radio following, exposing me to even more obscure, cool music. So all that really opened up my ears. It wasn't until later when I spent a dollar on Esquivel and followed obscure Three Suns references in the Industrial Culture Handbook that I got into thrift-store "Incredibly Strange" music. The name "Weirdsville!" comes from one of the many mixed-tapes I made - the site is really just a huge random mixed-tape.
Zzaj: Can/will the internet turn the tide & help to move the world away from more mundane music & closer to collective chaos?
It probably won't turn the tide, since there's way too much money involved and corporations will do anything to stop it, but hopefully it will open even more ears and expose people to music they would have never had a chance to listen to.
The whole Napster thing wasn't just about the major labels losing money due to mp3 copying. It was a brand new method of distribution outside of their control, and that scared the RIAA shitless. The corporations force the same mass-marketed crap down our throats through tightly controlled media - commercial radio, TV, corporate retail - and anything outside was doomed to
marginality simply by its exclusion. But with Napster and Internet Radio, suddenly there are millions of consumers getting their music from independent sources and finding out about artists outside the mainstream.
Zzaj: Who are YOUR favorite musical artists? Your PERSONAL ones, I mean?
Well, my favorite album by my favorite artist is pretty pedestrian for being Mr. Weird: Pet Sounds by Brian Wilson (I mean, the Beach Boys). Kind of like saying Citizen Kane is my favorite movie, or Ulysses is my favorite book. But the pure genius and fucking brilliant musicality of Pet Sounds is undeniable - gets better with every listen. Love Smile, too.
That said, Throbbing Gristle is my favorite band of all time. Invented a whole genres out of thin air, subverted the archetypes of rock/pop music, explored the magickal nature of sound, dangerously psychedelic, the list goes on and on.
Other favorites: Black Sabbath, Sonic Youth, Cornelius ("Point" is my current obsession), White Stripes, John Coltrane, Monster Magnet, Jimi Hendrix, Os Mutantes, The Byrds, Sun Ra, Minutemen, Nick Drake, Polvo, Orb, Butthole Surfers, Can, Chet Baker, Bardo Pond, King Crimson, Erik Satie, Neil Young, Bill Laswell, Tom Waits. The exotica masters Martin Denny, Les
Baxter, Arthur Lyman, Esquivel. I love World Music, especially gamelan and Indonesian music. My tastes are extremely varied - I like pretty much everything except bland commercial poop of all genres.
Zzaj: Do YOU play music? If so, what instrument? If NOT, why not?
I've been playing and recording music for pretty much all my life, ever since using Dad's reel-to-reel and banging on the orgain. I've been playing guitar since 7th grade, picked up bass along the way, and recently started learning the sitar (a lifelong dream). Got my first 4-track in high school and graduated to digital recording and sound manipulation a few years ago. Band list over the years: Devil Donkey, Crackhouse, Vomitorium, Powerful Mach V, Son of Yeti, Uncle Daddy, Voodoo Mechanics, Johnny Combat - styles ranging from inept punk to sonic space jams to free indie rock. Current projects are Paradise Camp 23 (cubist freakout) and Bull Anus (totalharshnoise). The extreme psychedelic and experimental stuff is being released on Mandragora.
Zzaj: Based on your last couple of months (or so) of "lettin' all th'
weirdos in" - do we have a GLUT of weird out there, or izzit just NFO (National FallOut) from th' Twin Towers?
Well, there certainly is a lot of weird out there ;) I think Uncle Gibby sums it up in the title track of "Weird Revolution" - we want total weirdification. More novelty, more creativity unleashed. I don't think its necessarily a reaction of the times, (except on those days when I believe in McKenna's Timewave Zero theory). Weird has always been everywhere, but with
the Internet it's much easier to present yr weirdness to "the public". Instead of being trapped in the bedroom, artists can now digitize their work and put it up for all to see and, probably an even more important factor, without having to spend tons of money to reproduce it. The CDR/mp3 wave for music is astounding - to be able to make professional quality product in yr house. Tapes were cool and cheap, but you always REALLY wanted to be able to press vinyl, have a real album of yr stuff just like all yr favorite bands. Now you can. It's amazing that this is only a few years old and has revolutionized underground music. The same thing is going to happen to film/video in the next few years - full-screen DVD quality video over the Net. I can't wait.
So all these home musicians, playing for their own amusement and art, can now easily share it with everyone else. Back in the "old days" before mass media and "professional" entertainment, it was common for families and communities to play instruments and entertain themselves, and I'm sure there was just as many, if not more, weirdos then. Harry Smith's classic Anthology is testament to that - "the Weird Old America". The Residents would be hard-pressed to write something as bizarre as "The CooCoo Bird" or "Mole in the Ground". Its the same "honesty" and uniqueness found in the best World Music and field recordings. People making music for the pure enjoyment and
self-expression, not just to become famous or move product.
We've been thrilled by the response to the Call to Weirdos, lots of amazing and wonderful stuff and all of it weird and different. The Weirdos link page on the site probably has a more diverse a collection of styles and sounds than you'll find anywhere - from the irresistably-psychotic acoustic melodies of Troy Lukkarila to the all-animal-noises techno of Zoolophone to the swingin' surf stylings of Big Kahuna Kawentzmann. They all took a chance
and got in touch, and I welcome whoever's out there to contact us as well. We'd love to hear what yr up to. We listen to everything that comes in and try to add as much stuff as fits our format - as you can see by the playlists we have a pretty broad definition of "weird". It ain't Dr. Demento, folks ;)
Zzaj: Where is "Weirdsville" in relation to th' metroplex? Do you just have "hayseed weirdos" on yer' show, or is there a pretty good mix?
A pretty good mix of hayseed to city folk. Seattle and NYC are the weird meccas so far, but we've received music from all over. In the last batch we got discs from NJ, LA, Italy, WI, and 2 guys in Kansas. Can't say any region is qualitatively weirder than another, though.
Zzaj: Who duz yer' WWW site design? Purely D.I.Y.? Are you a geek, or just usin' thee WWW as yer' (personal) tool to "take over the world"?
The web sites are designed and programmed by me and my wife Aleda. Yep, we' re geeks and web designers by trade. The design of Weirdsville! is pretty simple compared to the super-Flash stuff we get paid for, but I wanted to make sure its accessible to everyone and easy for the search engines to read. The focus is on the music, not to show off my programming skills.
Zzaj: I notice th' color green (a lot) on yer' pages... has th' kryptonite "affected" you?
The green thing goes back to my first computer imprinting back in the TRaSh-80 / Apple II monochrome monitor days - I just like the look of green text on a black green. Green says "weird" better than other colors (lil' green men, green slime, etc) - reminds me of 50's monster-mania. And all the great weird green songs: Voices Green and Purple, The Green Door, Green
Fuzz, Permanent Green Light, I'm So Green, It Ain't Easy Being Green.
Zzaj: In th' tradition of "cart before horse", or "chick-a-dee 'fore
eggz"... what comes first? The psych or the delic?
I think the psych before the delic. You
need a mind before you can expand it, and once you are Experienced you can use the
knowledge gained in yr "straight" life. As Inspector Lee sez, "learn to
make it without any chemical corn". Not that I strictly follow this advice.;)
Zzaj: Is there any chance that "reg'lar" radio stations will (ever) get as weird (or even close) as yours is?
yeah, right, when monkeys fly out of my butt and Captain Beefheart rewrites the National Anthem.
Zzaj: Do you put shrooms on your cheerios, or just dried bananna peel?
Just a healthy combo of tea, sugar cubes and Salvia Divinorum.
Zzaj: Since the focus of my 'zine is on "homemade music", what (if anything) is your advice to "aspiring artists" out there?
First of all, network.that's what the Internet literally is all about. There are tons of "un-aspiring" musicians out there and most are supercool and willing to help a brother out. Find out what's happening, get involved, and if there's nothing for ya, start your own scene. Keep playing, experimenting, and discovering yr own voice.
Zzaj: Provide us with any other "weird words of wisdom" you may have, pleez!
Keep your head in the stars and keep reaching for the underground. Freak Out and Stay Weird!
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