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Improvijazzation Nation - Issue # 56


Zzaj:  I've been riding this "etherspace wave" for some many years now...  how many years since YOU started surfin' that wave?

CRGIII:  Your question has two answers.  In the sense of a generic ethersurf of recording and performing strange and unusual “music”, that probably started when I was about 4 years old in 1963 or so.  My parents got a reel to reel tape recorder that totally fascinated my innocent little brain.  Although I no longer possess any of these ancient documents, I still have a couple of pieces that I recorded when I was about 12: covers of Beatles songs done with Jews harp and kazoo, overdubbed using this same primitive parental recorder and a portable Panasonic.  I learned clarinet in third grade, giving me a bit of experience in the world of traditional instruments and western musical notation.  Bored with the hokey junk I was forced to learn on the clarinet, I gave up my lessons by sixth grade and haven’t had any traditional music instruction since.  Composing and performing continued to be part of my life though—acquiring a guitar at age 15, followed by an ever-growing collection of recording devices and instruments as time progressed.  Recordings that others might consider to be interesting started to flow around 1979.  My residence in Berkeley I’m sure influenced these “ethereal” works.  I got heavily into the distribution and exchange of these recordings in the early/mid 1980’s, founding the Taped Rugs label during that time.

The second “answer” involves a project that I still am a part of, “The Herd Of The ETHER SPACE.”  This is the name given to a vast variety of sonic interactions with several different audio explorers, core members being myself, Killr Kaswan, Robert Silverman, George Gibson, Stu Sands, and Steve Schaer.  I was involved in a number of projects (Temporarily K.Y., -Ing, Disism) during the time that many of the first Herd compositions were created, but the first Herd recordings were never released nor even named until about 1989.  At that point in time the Herd became the project that I was most involved in until I moved to Kansas in 1996.  Killr, Robert, and I just recorded together last summer, so the Herd lives on.  Kansas was the birthplace of my more recent collaborative efforts: Turkey Makes Me Sleepy and Magic Potty Babies.

Zzaj:  When it comes to musical adventure, you seem to have a premium on "out" composition.  Where does that come from?  Is it in your blood, or is it "learned"?

CRGIII:  In addition to the heavy influences of those I’ve collaborated with, I think my work is mostly a reaction to all the various things, audio and otherwise, that my little brain gets exposed to.  Often my works are a reaction to those things in my life over which I have no control, attempting to funnel my frustrations into something other than whining and self pity and my joys into celebrations that others can share.  I also get bored rather easily, so I’m always striving to create something that doesn’t sound like anything else.  Each composition has its own life, a style that fits the purpose, and while there are certainly elements of just about every musical style in my works, I find no need nor desire to follow anyone else’s particular formula unless it seems appropriate. 

A lot of my techniques are bastardized versions of what I hear and see.  A good example is how I learned to create reel to reel tape loops from watching a number of Frippertronics performances.  With –Ing and Disism,  I worked with individuals who co-wrote material that used the tape loop as a compositional tool for pieces that could be recreated for live performance.  Another bastardization is my vocal style, which contains elements of vocal techniques used by Todd Rundgren, Karen Carpenter, Sammy Davis, Homer Flynn, Ray Collins, and Diamanda Galas (now isn’t that a potent cocktail?) 

Zzaj:  Please describe your "studio" setting (no matter how humble or grandiose).

CRGIII:  I’ve got a lot of tape recorders, phonographs, and a computer.  These devices are all used as compositional tools.    I have a large collection of odd records and tapes, which includes a lot of spoken word and musical nonsense to edit materials from.  I snip up bits of internet samples and TV streams.  I also like to make “field recordings” of just about anything, and these come in handy for composing as well.

As for “traditional” instruments: some guitars, a clarinet, an alto sax, a micro moog, a (very warped) bass, a large collection of flutes and whistles, and a whole bunch of percussion goodies fill up the tool box.  I also have a great big bunch of toy instruments, of both the acoustic and electronic variety, and I often find ways of monkeying the electronic ones to do things that they weren’t intended to do.  One of my faves of these is a thing that creates both train and animal sounds which I augmented with a pitch bender.  Of course I enjoy making my own instruments from scratch too, and I have a large collection of wind and percussive types.

Zzaj:  Our readers need to know the whereabouts of your WWW lair... please point them in the write direction... & expound a bit on what your website "means" in the greater scheme.

CRGIII:  Well, the site is Taped Rugs Productions at  As for what’s in there, there’s a whole lot of sounds from various projects, some reviews and interviews, a bunch of visuals, links, and, of course, a catalog.  There’s about 100 recordings in the catalog.  As far as the site’s “meaning”, hmmm….: a place for the exchange of ideas maybe, certainly not a place for making profits.  As is the case for most avant home recorders, I spend a lot more money than I make on my artish endeavors, and my intent is not to capitali$e from my work, but to share it.   My little brain’s definition of what art is:  an expression of human interaction, a  close approximation of something sacred.  I don’t have any first hand memories of what went on in human prehistory, but I get the feeling that musical expression started long before the idea of “profit” was ever  conceived of.  Music for money takes away some of its power, and I want all the musical power I can get. People can buy my recordings, but I try to charge just enough to cover my expenses. Mostly I trade them with other sonic explorers for the sake of expanding mutual experiences.

Zzaj:  There are many players in today's "underground" scene.  The truly great ones (in my opinion) are those no one ever hears of until they happen upon a tape or CD by them.  Who are some of these "unknowns" (in your opinion).

CRGIII:  Well, for me, having been involved in the whole home recording underworld for so long, “unknown” is a very relative term.  I’d rather refer to these individuals as heroes who haven’t entered the consciousness of mainstream society, but who have made a significant mark on the world of audio exploration.  It would be difficult to name them all, and I certainly don’t want to offend anyone I leave out.  Some of the pioneers who immediately come to mind for having stuck with their craft with persistence and ever-progressing creativeness include Hal McGee, Chris Phinney, Don Campau, Al Margolis, Bret Hart, Zan Hoffman, Brian Noring, Amy Denio, Tom Sutter, Michael J. Bowman, and indeed you yourself Rotcod.  I have a collection of home recordings that is so vast, it’s hard for me to find ways to store it all in my house.  Among those tapes, CDs, and records, I have way too many favorites to mention here, including large collections of material that’s all from one person or project.  A couple of the more recent entries into the fray who I believe are producing  a lot of excellent work are Tom Bollinger of Yippee Bean, Tim and Terry of Stone Premonitions, and the one-of-a-kind Buzzsaw. 

Zzaj:  Are you a blood (or by marriage) relative of Sun Ra?

CRGIII:  No, but I did feel very much “at home” watching him perform.  Nice of you to ask though.

Zzaj:  You (like myself) seem to be greatly aware of the necessary junctures of words/music.  Why is this so?  Did you lust for your English teacher, or what?

CRGIII:  I’ve got two writing degrees from UC Berkeley, for whatever that’s worth.  I started writing creatively when I was about 6.  My English teachers were always very supportive of my writing skills, but seldom sexy.  Language is just another art that I’ve practiced extensively, and, as with anything else, practice leads to developing techniques.  Communication seems to come in many forms, and I enjoy dabbling in as many as I can.  I’m not sure why—probably just brain cell arrangement.

Zzaj:  If you were writing the Zzaj-Rant (as guest ranter), what would you rant about first?

CRGIII:  I think I’ve done a bit too much ranting already here, but if you want more, I’ll rant about how the potential for humanity is so great, but those who hold so much of the power to fulfill that potential are so lame.  More of the world’s resources are used to kill, hurt, and control people than for any other purpose, and that’s just plain stupid. 

Zzaj:   What "projects" do you have coming up in the next year (or so)?

CRGIII:  Working right now on a collab with Bret Hart and Hal McGee that I think’s gonna be a winner.  Got a lot of solo stuff going on with computer edited compositions.  Hoping to do some cover songs later this year.  Just recently I started some minimalistic projects with local collabors Mike Adams and Josh Duringer.  I hope to get my old Turkey buddie Eric Matchett involved in these too, and after enough stuff’s collected, issuing it for public scrutiny. 

Zzaj:  Words of wisdom for all those aspiring "ether-junkies" out there in D.I.Y.-land?

CRGIII:  Feel it, express it, share it, and always keep in mind that the sun’s gonna melt the earth some day

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