DECAYCAST Radio #023 – Guest Mix: “Quarantine” by Benjamin Ethan Tinker

DECAYCAST Radio #023 – Guest Mix: “Quarantine” by Benjamin Ethan Tinker

Bay Area artistic stalwart, all around musical maestro  Ben Tinker  (White Pee, That Hideous Strength,  The Heroic Quartet et al ) takes us on nearly three. hour psychedelic quarantine adventure through space, time, and the unknown in perhaps the most guitar heavy episode to boot, sit back (don’t relax) and strap in for a fuzz out, tripped in ride spanning art. rock, krautrock, slow warbly Sunday morning horns, piano presentations and  timeless vocal exhalations, plus so much above, below, and more even betwixt and beyond.

 

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Tracklisting:

1) Phil Manzanera – East Of Echo
2) Phil Manzanera – Largrima
3) Peter Michael Hamel – Organum Part 1
4) Popol Vuh – Im Garten der Gemeinschaft
5) Baden Powell – Marcia Meu Amor
6) Allen Ravenstine & Robert Wheeler –  A Morning Mood
7) Hans-Joachim Roedelius – Das Eis bricht (excerpt)
8) Nino Rota – L’Harem
9) The Durutti Column – Without Mercy 1
10) Vladimir Cosma – Metro Police
11) Tom Verlaine – Dissolve/Reveal (Instrumental)
12) Richard Pinhas – Beautiful May
13) Swanox – Days Like Waves
14) Andy Summers and Robert Fripp – Under Bridges of Silence
15) Yello – Homer Hossa
16) Andrew Chalk & Ralf Wehowsky – Wycha
17) Tom Verlaine – Let Go The Mansion (instrumental)
18) His Name Is Alive – Echo Lake
19) His Name Is Alive – F Choir
20) Anne Clark – Poem Without Words 1 The Third Meeting
21) Marsfield ‎– Three Sunsets Over Marsfield Pt. 2
22) Anne Clark – Silent Prayer
23) Allen Ravenstine & Robert Wheeler – Twilight With Crickets
24) Andrew Chalk – Obscure In The Valley
25) Robert Wheeler & Allen Ravenstine – Sunrise in Milan
26) Nino Rota – Cimitero & Gigoletto & Cadillac
27) Vladimir Cosma – Le curé et l’antillais
28) Hans-Joachim Roedelius – Regentropfen
29) Robert Wheeler & Allen Ravenstine – A Nocturne
30) Andrew Chalk – A World Displaced
31) Popol Vuh – Engel Der Luft

Benjamin Ethan Tinker (New York, 1969) is a multidisciplinary artist and electronic musician who has lived in San Francisco since 1996. He chooses to work primarily with analog synthesizers with which he composes electroacoustic music, and performs regularly with the improv ensemble White Pee, and his own project That Hideous Strength. In addition, he curates and writes about experimental music. He has a BFA in Sculpture from SUNY Purchase and a MFA in Electronic Music from Mills College, between those degrees was a decade of commercial audio engineering.

Noisy Experiment: Rodriguez and Soliday’s PONIIA Series Encourages Real-Time Collaboration Between Artists Trapped In Self Isolation

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Live Video synth Screenshot from PONIIA  (Courtesy. J. Rodriguez)

Like many, the pandemic has all but uprooted underground arts communities, music and activist scenes alike with no clear direction ahead.  Sound Artists, experimental music creators, composers  Bran (…) Pos and J. Soliday have been feeling the effects of quarantine in their own ways, like many,  their lives were rapidly altered by the Covid-19 pandemic. Nobody really knows where this is heading, but the only thing that everyone can seem to agree upon is that the world is drastically different now. Despite shaky, shifting times, and a worsening political climate, music (and collaboration) remain a consistent grounding force,  which, for many,  provides a temporary reprieve from an apocalyptic news cycle with seemingly no end in sight made exponentially worse by Neo Con death cult racist responses. But there is respite, at least briefly. Adventurous, wild, chaotic, sound, maybe, at least for a few hours, can save us from the mental anguish of the unknown engulfing  right outside our  very studio window. What began as simple “online jam session” between friends and  longtime collaborators has now turned into a weekly experimental series, with it’s own twists and turns,  technology. and a dedicated following  The new collaborative online series Principles Of Non Isolation Audio, or PONIIA for short, separates it distinctly from most of the other online concerts and perf-

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Cleav’d Cleaver (L-R: J. Soliday , J. Rodriguez

ormances. PONIIA boasts co founders,  Jake Rodriguez  (SF/Richmond, CA) and Jason Soliday (Chicago, IL) who accepted the challenge of creating a more intimate experience for both their participating artists and audience alike. The series has since blossomed into something bigger and more important than the artists seem to admit with their  casual discussions of it’s origin, however it’s clear that they understand the importance of a more inclusive experience that their series creates, even for folks who maybe couldn’t access live music performances for a number of  different reasons . All these things make  “Principles Of Non Isolation In Audio” special and unique, We’ve tuned in for three of the streaming events so far, and without a doubt this series has captured both the isolation that folks are feeling, as well as the necessity of real-time collaboration, something mere months again, for most, wasn’t such a life or death situation. Although musicians cannot be in the same room due to social distancing, real time audio (and video) collaboration regenerates the feeling of intimacy coupled with the magic of improvisation. complete with all of it’s rewards and risks; magnified through the online performances.  PONIIA has granted something that was once taken for  granted, maybe lost, and now once again, turned streaming into a very familiar feeling for both audience and performers alike. We sat them down from a safe distance over chat, to talk about the origins of their history of collaboration and the series itself.

 

You two have a long history of collaboration, when did this all begin?

JS: Jason Soliday
JR: Jake Rodriguez

JS: When did we meet first?

JS: Not sure if it was in Chicago at Deadtech, and you were on tour or if it was that first tour I took out west, sometime around 2000-01. Either way blame it on Blake Edwards.

JR: I also remember going bowling with you and Blake, and you guys got really competitive about it and then my bandmate Mike Guarino who didn’t want to come ended up slaying all of us.

JS: Ha! Yeah,  did we drag you guys out at like 6AM too?

JR: Real early. I was def not feeling it. We first played together at yr place maybe when i was on tour with Angie?

JS: I’d have to check the archive. My friend Amelia made a zine a few years back listing every show we did at Enemy, or at least all the ones we could document, though probably a few slipped through.

JR: So Jason curated Enemy for a number of years and I have had on and off relationship with running some kind of series as well

JS: Enemy existed from 2005 through 2012-ish (Enemy site/archive: http://www.enemysound.com)

JR: I started doing soundcrack broadcasts around 2007 or at least that’s when i started documenting them, sometimes regular, sometimes in fits and starts. At one point i started up the Crackscape project where I collected long form soundscapes from folks and made some myself and would randomly grab 4 of them and play them up against each other with some kinda realtime visualizer. Crackscape ran on the site 24/7 for several years.

JS: The Institute for Implied Imperfection was an improvisational streaming radio show I produced and performed in every other Sunday afternoon from September 2015 through March 2016, 23 broadcasts. Format was simple, I’d invite a friend or two over to my studio and we’d improvise live to stream for two hours, mostly unplanned, whatever happened happened. Most of the session recordings were also archived on my SoundCloud, but they’ve been down for a while now.

So this  blossomed like many experimental music friendships do, by touring?

JS: Yeah more or less. We’d run into each other every few years. I think mostly Bran(…) Pos (JR)  coming through Chicago, I didn’t make it out west too often.  2012 or so was the first tour I came out west?

JR: I think that was both of us solo till the last show or two? We played at Alice Coltrane Memorial Coliseum in Portland, OR (as Cleved Cleaver)

JR: That was JS on cut-up modular synth and me on microphone (as Cleved Cleaver)

So that was the first official collaboration, Essentially touring together?

JS: No, Jake  came through Chicago on a job maybe 6 months before that and we played our first duo gig at Enemy. Checking the Enemy archive, I’ve got that first Cleav’d Cleaver show happening at Enemy, July 26 2013. After that was the tour with the ACMC show Jake just mentioned, and then in 2015 we did the one and only official Cleaver tour so far. That tour was a trip… we slowly devolved over that tour. The tour started all chill free improv long sets by the end it was 5 minutes of full on noise, and gum.

So it began as more long-form improv and ended in five minute blasts of noise, What  changed on that tour that often leaves the final sets being the shortest but often times, the most intense, or maybe  this isn’t your experience?

JR: I don’t know. I’m not sure i remember it exactly like that but I’m sure you’re right. Was our last show in LA at Human Resources? That was a weird one for sure.

JS: Wasn’t a bad tour or anything that I remember. Yeah with you crooning to the passed out dude, and his phone going off mid show.

JR: That’s right there was maybe 4 people in a giant white reverberant void and one of them was asleep snoring.  I think it was just a process of figuring out what we wanted to be over the course of the tour.

JR:  Ya know i think what we do this kind of improv experiential dirge-digging you get into a deeper sorta groove with the digging as you get more comfortable — also and especially in a duo. my experience. duos go deep.

JS: I definitely started thinking of it as a “band” once Jake went vocals only, I think that sped up our sets too

JR: I had those chunky hydrophones i would shove into each cheek — stereo sucking sounds.

JS:  I was sampling Jake’s voice/mouth sounds in real time, looping & shredding them

JR: If you’ve never seen Jason (Soliday)  play modular synth — he’s amazing — and even more amazing to me — he sets up his patch at the venue every night. On tour we get to the venue and he just goes into the back of the room and starts setting his patch up.

JS: Maybe that’s why it was different every time,  I generally remember my patches, though I’ll switch things around here and there, just to keep myself entertained.

This idea  of thinking about it as a band is an important  distinction, improv is one thing, and it’s great, but i think the notion of a band, even if it’s two people, to me, can be different than just two people improvising, do you find this to be the case?

JS: We were still improvising the whole time, there weren’t songs. I tend to use words like band to focus my thinking about various projects, but that doesn’t meant it followed the rules of “band”

JR: If you play together twice in the same format with some kinda similar intentions, to me that’s a band, and then  that gets deeper in repetition.

JS: True. band is one unit.. as opposed to the improv grouping that exists for a single show, that same route as naming a thing, it’s not just jamming, now there’s a mission or something of the sort

JS: I think me calling anything we did a “song” is more about being concise. Like we’re going to say what we have to say in a small amount of time, and move on to the next statement.

JR: There were lyrics

JS: You learn something new every day. Not sure I knew that..I mean,  I had suspicions.

JR: I think we were basically a hardcore band

JS: I’d agree with that, though I think it’s still loose. I mean  we’re also talking about a band that has existed for a decade and has played 10? 11 shows? Me personally, I have a vaguely idealized “band” in my head that looks sort of like Ohne (the Dave Phillips/Tom Smith/etc. project), and I‘m always  aiming for something in that vein something that falls somewhere in the middle of hardccore/noise/actionist performace art, or at least that influence comes into play as an idealized form rather often when I start thinking of something as a “band”

JR: There’s always a disparity in perception between folks working on something i think. A former band i played in for a decade i found out at the very end that my partner, a drummer would every show take the address of the venue and turn it into a number sequence and thus a riff we would get into during the set

JS: well if we saw it the same way, it would get dull fast

Bringing it back to soundcrack radio show, Jake you mentioned you cued it up to produce these sort of collaborations between artists who may have not even known their  pieces were being played together, over each other etc?

JR: That was the concept, I semi-curated it actually so it wasn’t totally random. I had folks choose a time of day that their piece represented and i think i then interpreted that into a color-descriptor for the track, and then grouped them in smaller groups of similar colors, and then randomly grabbed one from each color group till there were four playing, as one ended a new group would cross fade in. I even had it so the visualizer had the names of the artists fade in when their piece faded in. i know, not rocket science, but I’m no rocket scientist.

I’m actually basing some of the visualizers for this series on those patches i used before.

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So how did the new  series come  about, and do you see this as a continuation of these  early soundcrack experiments?

JR: I moved to Richmond, CA on March 1 after living in SF for almost 30 years. it was sorta in the planning for awhile, but also came together all of a sudden. i had the itch to do some pirate radio when i moved. we moved, got quarantined, all my work went away in an instant. i suddenly had some creative time on my hands. Jason you lost your work before all of us huh?

JS: Yeah, I was already out for a bit before all this got in the way

So, working with JS was just sort of a natural choice for the project?

JS: It was me tweeting about looking for something like Ninjam, right? I think I had seen the first couple of ESS streams and started thinking about how that was cool, but real-time collaboration would be more interesting, to me from a playing standpoint

JR: Exactly. Jason mentioned “would anyone like to set up a Ninjam server?” and i didn’t know what that was and looked it up. a quirky realtime internet audio jamming protocol that works right inside Reaper, a free DAW.

JS: I remembered this program called NINJAM from a decade ago when my old group I<3Presets would use it from time to time

JR: It was not hard to install and set up the server. i texted Jason and said “I think i have a Ninjam server working.  “Wanna try it out sometime?”

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We hadn’t seen each other or played together in 5 years, and within 20 minutes, Jason and I were making noise together and it was super fun and intuitive.

JS: At that point I don’t know if I was thinking about doing a series, or just looking for a way to play and get out of the house without getting out of the house, But the series idea came pretty naturally once we got it rolling and found out  how easy it was, and I’m all for the we’ve got a thing lets share it idea.

I think that’s a key interest of the  series, is that it sort of breaks down the  ego/individuality in a  way that’s really refreshing, opening up this technology for more folks to find out about it and be able to use it, in a  time when and where it’s really needed

JR: there are several “realtime” internet jamming things out there–they are all booming right now. they are all weirdly quirky, but Ninjam is particularly quirky about dealing with latency. instead of trying to make it shorter, it makes it longer and sorta predictable and tries to lock everyone down to a bpm

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JS: I hate that metronome

JR: and then delays everything you hear by a “measure” so everyone is playing “in time” but a measure behind what they are hearing, we just all turn off the metronome. It feels very natural while you are playing, but really nobody is hearing exactly the same thing, but i never think about that while i’m playing. obviously, playing a tight song would be impossible, but for our freeform kinda stuff, it works out more than not.

JS:  Yeah, that’s the first thing I tell people. it’s weird if you start thinking about it, but if you just run with it, that weirdness disappears quickly

JR: if you try and get really syncd up out of time with your partners, it comes off like a call and response, because whoever is delayed (and i have no idea how Ninjam determines who comes “first”) responds after the initial event.

JS: I think like a lot of things though, it’s just figuring out the parameters you can’t control and then rolling with/against it… maybe I don’t notice it because I’m so used to working/playing with patches and systems that somewhat play themselves.. for me it’s just another factor of “oh, so that’s where we’re going now?”

Just another slightly chaotic control parameter. Any thought of releasing  any of the perforamces  as an actual release? do they get  recorded into reaper as well? or can they?

JS: Yeah, each person’s local session can record a version, and it’s all multi-tracked. We haven’t yet, but I’m curious to compare recordings from two different locations to see if they differ.

JR: We’re archiving them and putting them up on soundcrack.net If you feed em water at night they become podcasts.

JS: In general,  Jake and I still are thinking of this as radio, so the podcasts on soundcrack are the definitive versions, if there is such a thing.  Also of note, In the background here between shows, Matt Taggart and I used the server to record our debut duo record last week.  Also, in a way we’re enabling collaboration at a time when that’s more difficult.

Can you talk about when and who of the next few weeks?

JR: We don’t have dates yet for a bunch of folks but Headboggle, Demon Sleeper, Malocculsion, Tom Djll, Canner Mefe, Thomas Day, Anti-Ear,  all on the coming docket

JS:  Sug, Anthony Janas, Carol Genetti, Billie Howard, Neil Jendon… the list is growing

Lets talk about the ways this  series is connecting people in pretty morbid times?

JR: When Jason and I first tried this out, privately, we just had a blast. it really sort of felt like playing together in person, and  this experience was clearly something that each of us were missing–not getting right now. Like a random hookup.
(not that i know what that’s like)

We invited Matt Taggart to join us in another private session and he was obviously feeling the same. and then i played privately with Fletcher Pratt and it was a similar feeling.

JR: And ya know, there’s a bit of a tech hurdle to do this. It’s not super complicated if you have a computer and know your way around any DAW, and that’s not everyone unfortunately, but for folks that can get over learning a new bit of pretty simple kit it can be a remarkable stand-in for playing together in person. It checks off many of the same emotional/intellectual boxes.

With the added kick of us all collectively not getting it any other way.

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Do you see yourselves continuing the series after  quarantine in some capacity?   To me, i think it  has a lot of impact and creative potential even outside of a quarantine type situation.

JS: It has an appeal outside sure. The idea has been mentioned between us, but I think we’re still mostly rolling with it as it goes. Though the last week or so we have really leaned into planning more than a week or two out so.

I do like that although it was the current situation that kicked this off, it still feels like something I’d be doing anyway… just maybe not in this form. There’s always a slight muttering from everyone involved of “next time for real” after these gigs.

JR: Yeah I love the radio thing tho i know when the real world returns there will be different attention challenges and i don’t expect a weekly commitment will last but who knows

JS: Hahaha I think I might have hit that point where I don’t know what the real world is any more! Yeah, not really, but it’s a pretty abstract concept at this point, isn’t it?

It does feel a little different, & that’s nice to hear from someone who’s has just been in the audience role.. since Jake and I also have a view of backstage, I sometimes wonder if that influences my perception of it.. from what you’re saying though perhaps not that much

JR: Truly I’ve been wondering also about folks that can’t come to typical shows for some reason, from social anxiety disorder to brain surgery

Exactly. That’s one of the reasons I think it has a lot of potential for continuation “after” the quarantine.

JS: I think actually physical shows are already not accessible To a certain percentage of people that would def be able to enjoy them or at least enjoy the music / sounds I’d they were able to physically be there for a number of different reasons.

JR: Distance and money too.

JR: We have a show coming with Demonsleeper (Oakland, CA) in duo with her pal Calnepuelco from Miami, FL. Long bullshit distances defeated,  that’s OK by me.

JS: I also recently saw someone mention at another live twitch stream I was at something about how they couldn’t go to loud shows anymore, but now they could because they could control the volume. So there’s definitely a place for this – theres  a lot of good reasons to carry on.

JR: Yeah,  I’d love to write a grant for this,  so we could guarantee funds for the participating artists, by that i mean all the musicians, the DJs, the video artists, maybe even the organizers. And by “love to write a grant” I mean “love it if someone else wrote a grant for me”

Can you remember any sonic moments that really stood out to either of you from the series?

JR: In the PONIIA with Danishta, Jacob, Greg, and Chris (dunno #4?) there’s a point where they all cycle through making the bass throb/riff, like this persistent pulse. and they each do it in their own way. greg on trumpet fart lips, Jacob by rubbing something, not sure between danishta chris who was doing what when. and they even all do the same note. and it cycles weirdly in and out of time because of the Ninjam delay and just works in the weirdest way and very much an interaction i would expect from seeing this group in person live (which i have).

In the last one, there were moments that Zach took it to another level

JS: Todd’s piano coming in at the end of his set with Albert on Sunday.. things were zoning along quietly, I was spacing out a bit here and then that piano hits and it was like yeah now this is serious.. it just got real heavy in here

JR: Ya–that piano was awesome i agree.

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JR: when DJ LUCY first joined us, I gave her one direction which was “maybe pick music that doesn’t sound just like the performers since there’s little visual cues as to what’s happening when” and then Wobbly and pals all got so excited about her choices that they just started playing with her and imitating her sounds and it was exactly the opposite of what i was worried about it became THE THING.

Also getting text-bombed by a blown away Hans Grusel during the Soliday/Pratt duo in the first show was a major highlight

JS: That whole show worked so great.. knew that combo of players was going to be sick, but went way wilder than I expected..

What was the single most impactful sonic event you’ve  ever  experienced?

JR: Hearing the neighborhood cats all gather in mourning the night my cat Jennifer Kitty got hit by a car when i was a kid.

(PAUSE)

Oh I’m just fucking with you MERZBOW SF 1998

JS: Haha there was no way I was gonna top kitty funeral

JR: My babysitter and her friend went out to look if it was her and then they brought me out to see her. It was horrifying, and the cats sang on all night long. And it was beautiful. We lived on this weird block in Burbank “Keystone” that, like, animals were constantly being hit by cars there. It was a complete horror movie. I witnessed some of the most intense animal-related trauma on the street.

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5/17 PONIIA coming up this Sunday

What have y’all seen, heard,watched,read that you’ve been excited about recently in quarantine?

JR: I listened to War of the Worlds maybe for the first time dope
on the same tip–Porest “Abject Mirror”

JS: Watched Born of Fire yesterday on the recommendation of Mr. Matthews, That was a trip, need to go back and watch it again.

JR: Watched Southland Tales a few weeks ago. never even heard of it before.

JS: The new Prants record – Axion Ladder, pretty much my idea of a perfect noise record, covers so much ground, and the transition between tracks 2 & 3…

JR: Aaron Dilloway, Lea Bertucci, Headboggle, Bonnie Baxter all have done livestreams in the past weeks that blew my lid

JS: S: Andrea Pensado  her set on ESS a couple weeks ago was so good. She really took advantage of the fact that it was video. Her performance really made it more theater than the usual concert stream    WATCH HERE:
https://youtu.be/V9k1Vag16Nw

and there’s this great Mukqs ESS set from last Saturday’s virtual VOV:

 

Then there’s this bit from later in that same ESS VOV stream that starts with Jeff Host, but then his set gets uh.. Cock bombed by the Moth boys:

Thanks! Don’t forget the next PONIIA is this Sunday! Tune into: www.soundcrack.net 

 

 

It Was Always Here: An Interview With Musician and Sound Designer David R. Molina

Ahead of his new album, we spoke with artist, musician, and sound designer David R. Molina about his personal process and background and theater and sound design.

Molina at Jazz Jamboree by Jan Bebel
Molina at Jazz Jamboree, Warsaw, Poland, Photo by Jan Bebel

I first saw David Molina perform at LCM years ago and had been entranced by his music ever since. Everything about the sound itself, the presentation of his works, the way his sounds tend to occupy the forgotten and nuanced  corners of the room every time I’ve seen him perform is a sort of transcendental experimental in sound and lineage. Through his upbringing, dedication, and research, Molina is conceptually draped in this web of timeless and historical sound and narrative, a sonic archaeology of time, memory, loss, culture, and change. Molina’s careful and articulate approach seems to radiate sounds  embedded with the DNA of multiple histories, both fact and fictional, futuristic and timeless. Molina’s music is an antithesis to a fast-paced, unfocused, sloppy and rushed world that we live in. It’s a pause for contemplation, a space for exploration, and although often times abstract or instrumental, politically poignant and culturally charged; akin to the kinetic power of a lightning bolt conjured from his ancestors radiating  through skin to string to speaker.

If you’re unfamiliar with the vast scope of Molina’s work, we sat him down and asked some  questions about the  totality of his creative endeavors. Like many, Molina has lost all of his work because of the lock down, be sure to pre order his new record “It Was Always Here” on bandcamp, which comes out June 5.

Like many of my peers you have surrounded yourself with music and art. How did you  find  yourself dedicated into a life of music?

 

 I am a composer, multi-instrumentalist, sound artist, sound designer, music producer, studio/live sound engineer, and every now and then an instrument inventor. I have created music and sound design for theater and dance companies, film, radio, and multimedia installations, played or collaborated with bands locally, nationally and internationally, for the past 24 years. Most of my work and collaborations address social justice issues, especially the Latino/a/x and immigrant experience.

Most of the shows {…} involved community members; such as formerly incarcerated men, folks transitioning from homelessness, former sex workers, survivors of domestic violence, and undocumented immigrants. I continue doing this kind of work with various companies including the amazing NAKA Dance Theater. This kind of work keeps me going.

I’ve loved music since I was a little kid, as it was a big part of my family’s household. My dad had a huge record, tape, and 8 track collection that was very diverse. It ranged from traditional Central American and Salvadoran music, such as cumbia, merengue and salsa; to classical and opera music, 50’s and 60’s rock n roll, 70’s funk, disco, and rock. My dad loved messing with the piano, or the organ. So at an early age my brother and I got into playing them too. I don’t know how we fit one of those in our 2 bedroom apartment, which was always shared with other relatives who were immigrating from El Salvador during the civil war. This could be an entire extra family of 4 or 5 members.

I started learning guitar around age 11, when I was into various forms of rock, and metal. My dad sent me to an after school program for guitar classes, to supposedly keep me out of trouble. There I fell in love with classical guitar. I knew from that moment I wanted to do music for the rest of my life, and it has saved my life countless times.

I studied music and some recording at Sonoma State University in the early 90’s. There I discovered international music, Jazz, experimental, free-Jazz, and electronic music. I had some great teachers who opened my ears and mind, including Will Johnson, Laxmi Ganesh Tewari, and the late Marco Eneidi and Mel Graves. DJing at the campus radio station, KSUN, got me deeper into experimental, free-jazz, ambient, electronic music, shoegaze, old school dub, and noise rock music.

Around the mid 90’s I met one of my long time collaborators, theater director Roberto Gutierrez Varea. He was teaching theater at SSU and needed a composer for his senior class play. He didn’t want a student composer. One of my ex’s said  “listen to David’s music you’ll love it”. I gave him a demo tape, and he hired me instantly and the rest was history. Word spread and I started getting hired by local Bay Area theaters as a composer and sound designer. Many of those scores were done with my dear friend the late Chris Webb, a fantastic composer and guitarist.  We never planned to be in theater, but

realized it was a way to get paid and make music. It’s funny because at SSU there was a division between the theater and music departments. The musicians always thought the theater students were pretentious, annoying nerds!

Most of the shows with Roberto involved community members such as formerly incarcerated men, folks transitioning from homelessness, former sex workers, survivors of domestic violence, and undocumented immigrants. I continue doing this kind of work with various companies including the amazing NAKA Dance Theater. This kind of work keeps me going.

Me Tau, Ravenna Italy
Molina in Ravenna, Italy

What were some of the most recent projects you were working on before  the pandemic?

I recently did Octavio Solis “Retablos” at Z Below in SF. It was a staged adaptation of his autobiographical collection of short stories. The book documents pivotal moments in his childhood and teenage years growing up along the El Paso and Mexico border, during the 1960s and 70s.

Prior to this I was on a 5 month east coast/midwest tour with another production written by Octavio called Quixote Nuevo. It is loosely based on Cervantes’ Don Quixote, but set in modern times along the Texas/Mexico border. It is one of the most beautiful, funniest, and heartbreaking shows I’ve worked on in my life. In our version Quixote is a retired literature professor suffering from Alzheimer’s, who believes he is Quixote. He goes on crazy adventures, just like in the book, but battles border patrol, and liberates immigrants. Throughout his journey, underworld skeleton demons called “Calacas” follow him, in an attempt to get him killed and claim his soul. The show is very dreamy and fantastical.

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“Quixote Nuevo” by Octavio Solis, at Huntington Theater

During the tour, I also did music for two other productions. Mojada by Louis Alfaro at the Repertory Theater of St Louis, and Fade by Tanya Saracho at Trinity Rep in Providence, RI. Mojada was an adaptation of the Greek tragedy Medea, but set in the present day, in Los Angeles. Medea and her family are Mexican indigenous immigrants, fleeing violence in their homeland, only to encounter the harsh cruel reality of the USA. Fade, was also set in present day Los Angeles. It takes place in a Hollywood studio lot office, and is about the class division, racism in the workplace, and the stereotypes Latinos can place upon each other. It is about the differences between an upper class Mexican writer, and a Mexican-American janitor from the hood.

On top of it all, I booked solo shows with my experimental project Transient at every tour stop. People think I’m nuts to pack this many shows in, but I have to take advantage of the paid flights and housing the Theaters provide. It’s the best way to tour as a musician. I shared the stage with many wonderful nice musicians at each show, including: Sandy Ewen, Aaron Russell, Going in with Li, Joann McNeil, Negative Spaces, Retribution Body, Claude and Ola, and Dog Adrift. I also made a pit stop in NYC, to record with former Bay Area trumpet player Darren Johnston, and saxophonist Alex Weiss. I plan on releasing the recordings of both in a month or 2.

My dad loved messing with the piano, or the organ. So at an early age my brother and I got into playing them too. I don’t know how we fit one of those in our 2 bedroom apartment, which was always shared with other relatives who were immigrating from El Salvador during the civil war. This could be an entire extra family of 4 or 5 members.

Can you talk a bit about the process of composing for theater and how that differs from composing and arranging for your own work?

Composing for theater is very different from just music making, or playing in bands. It’s a multiple step process involving lots of people in different departments. It is collaboration in the maximum form. It requires a very open mind, ability to receive constructive criticism, detachment of ego, habits, your preconceived notions of what is right or wrong idea. You have to be willing to take risks and not be butt hurt if they don’t work. You have to work on the show as a whole big picture, and not get stuck on your own individual ideas and department.

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Work with performance artist Violeta Luna: “Virgins and Goddesses”

Step 1. Read the script many times, analyze it and mark the areas you think music, soundscapes, our sound design could go. Throw away any influences of the music you always listen to, or play, and all cliche obvious choices. I start with a blank slate, and instead think about the emotional, and the mental spiritual state of the whole play. I study the characters and what is ticking inside of them. I break down the scenes and think about what is the core mood in the each. What are they feeling about themselves and the other characters? Colleagues, and audience members say that my scores and sound design are the invisible character of the play. The spiritual and psychological layer of the show.

Step 2. Meet with the director and hear what their vision is. Then share what your ideas might be. We go back and forth with ideas and the meeting can often change our initial ideas of the play.

Step 3: Research! Every story is different. Each one takes place in a different time period, country, state, city, culture, race, religion, socio-economic class, and struggle etc. Therefore each show requires different music. If you don’t do your research you are doing a disservice to the people’s story presented on stage. Many of the the shows I do are about social justice and oppressed people. It’s disrespectful to not dive deep into the history, culture and music for each play. The score will be a billion time better and authentic if one does this. A design will feel half baked, disjointed, and be obviously shitty if you don’t do research.

In my 24 years of doing theater I’ve explored nearly every style of music, including genres I never was exposed to, or would think of playing, such as: bluegrass, Tex Mex, Mayan, south East Asian, Eastern European, Taiko, Native African, Cuban, medieval music. Of course I do it all with my own experimental cinematic twist.

4. Gather your notes from your meeting with the director. Read the script again, and this time think about music moods. What is the over all genre style, or core instruments? Then break down the areas you marked into
music characteristics. Is it Major or Minor, fast or slow, dense or sparse, melodic or abstract and atonal, chordal or percusive, or is it a drone or experimental sound scape? Sometimes doing the opposite musically of what happens in scene makes an interesting mood, or effect.

5. I try to find appropriate music examples from my own catalog to share with the director and cast. If I can’t find something, then I’ll share relevant music from other artists as inspiration.

6. Check out the Preliminary design sketches of the other designers! What the set, costumes, and lighting designers do will greatly influence my music, and vice versa. The best pieces of theater have a cohesive design team that flows. It creates magic if done properly.

7. The non fun stuff: Sound plots, theater blue prints, gear inventory, budgets, and lots of administrative paper work. People who don’t know about theater think all I do for work is grab an instrument , a mic, and noodle around all day. As Composer for theater, you are contracted to do the sound design too. This means a lots of un-artistic duties requiring  math, the science of sound, knowledge of complex sound systems and software, good organizational skills and communication, lots of spreadsheets, calendars, and reading and creating complex blue prints, studying and creating complex speaker plots and audio signal chains. All this is required to install massive sound systems.

On a normal day I’ll get about 5 long email chains that are up to 15 people deep, just for one show! I usually juggle 3 different productions a month. You can imagine the hours spent answering emails.

8. My favorite part: Time to write and record basic Ideas. I used to over think this part in the past. But now, my first gut instinct is often correct.

9. Go to rehearsals and see how the actors and director are interpreting the script. This is a game changer. Because seeing a play is very different from reading it and imagining it in your head

10. After seeing the rehearsals, I dive deeper in the music creation. Adding more instruments and arranging, or coming up with new themes. When it feels right I make rough mixes for the cast and crew.

11. Begin experimenting with music in rehearsals. This is my other favorite part of the process. All the hard work starts coming together and the actors start vibing off the music and sound. The work gets deeper.

12. As it gets closer to tech week, I lose lots of sleep, do final mixes and export every single instrument or sound stem, and then program the file in QLAB for multichannel play back. I always try do surround sound. This can be up to 24 channels of speakers, because I like to envelop the audience in the sound world. At the theater I over see the sound system set up and calibration. Then we begin the painstaking process of setting levels for each sound cue. But it’s also fun to explore the capabilities of a great massive sound system. It’s beyond THX when a theater has a dope system.

13. Tech Week: We all shift to the theater to test and synchronize the lights, music, sound, set, costumes, with the actors. It’s a long week of 12 to 14 hours days, with little sleep. There is always work to be done and ready for the next morning. We usually go from 11am to 11pm, with a production meeting and notes until midnight.

14. Preview week. We test out everything with an audience to see what works or doesn’t. An audience can affect a play big time. Things you thought were funny, or instance in rehearsals, might not jive with the audience. Sometimes the audience will find humor, or  be moved in moments that you didn’t notice in rehearsals. An actor or tech mistake may cause magical moments that may end being part of the show. How audience reacts vocally can affect the pace of a show. Laughter is something actors must be aware of, so they have to make sure to pause before the next line, so that line isn’t lost in the laughter. Deep sighs and vocal reactions for heavy moments can make a scene even more intense.

15, open the show and party hard!

 

Molina’s post rock act Impuritan.

Can you talk a little bit about your composition work for the renowned Two Trains  Running, how that came about and about the piece in general?

Two Trains Running, written by the legendary August Wilson, was directed by my long time friend and collaborator Juliette A. Carrillo. I have worked with her since 1997. She has a magical, spiritual, and dreamy way of directing. She also used to be a dancer, so her staging is very choreographic.

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“Two Trains Running” Photo: C. Stanley

We really trust each other, and she allows me to do what I want musically. Two Trains was co-produced by Seattle Rep and the Arena Stage in DC, and was performed in each city. From the Seattle Rep synopsis: “There’s a new president in the White House, and racial tensions are on the rise. No, it’s not 2018, it’s 1969. At a critical moment in the Civil Rights movement Memphis is forced to consider selling his restaurant to the city of Pittsburgh as urban planning eats away at his beloved neighborhood. Featuring a captivating slice-of-life cast of characters, Two Trains Running is celebrated playwright August Wilson’s portrait of a defining moment in American history.” As you can see history repeats itself. The play is also about gentrification, the murders of black leaders, and abandonment of black folks in the inner city.

What was the most surreal moment you’ve ever experienced on stage, be it a live performance of your own or  theater work.

There have been so many trippy moments throughout my stage life. One was performing music for the Soap Stone Theater Company at Grace Cathedral. This company was made of formerly incarcerated men, directed by my other dear friend and longest collaborator Roberto G. Varea. There was this intense moment where one cast member was talking about a loved one who died, and he screamed NOOOOOOOO! His scream echoed, for what seemed like an eternity, in the Cathedrals natural 7 to 8 second reverb decay. The other surreal moment was my first large theater gig at The Mark Taper Forum. This was Octavio Solis’ Lydia, also directed by Juliette, which won a 2009 LA Ovation Award in Music and Sound Design. It was intense is because my old friend and collaborator the late Chris Webb, passed away from cancer in Dec 2008. His last wish was that I finish his music and sound design for Lydia. He was in the middle of it. Both Chris and I worked for many years as a music and sound design duo in the bay area. We built our careers together, and played in bands. Working on Lydia was probably the hardest gig in my life because I had to drop my entire life within 2 weeks, and move to the east coast to complete it. His family lived in NYC. I had to go through all his files, sheet music, and even his journals to figure out what the ideas were for his music.

What was the experience like dropping everything and having to finish his work so quickly? Did you even have time to mourn his passing? how were  you able to  complete it under such trying times?

It was really hard. Chris told me he had cancer a few months before he passed away. We chatted a few times, but it was hard for him to talk due to the Chemo and his degrading health. In our conversations I was gonna be his assistant at the Yale Rep version of Lydia. He thought he had 9 month more to live. He loved the play and was committed to it, despite his health situation. It was our friend and the play’s director Juliette Carillo who told me he passed.

While I was out there, Chris’ family and all his music friends put together a concert celebration of his life. We learned a bunch of his sound track music, and performed it for an attendance of more than 100 people at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. It was beautiful. While I was in NYC I stood alone in his apartment. Completing his work was very emotional and hard, but I got it done in time. Chris’s family also lent me many of his instruments to record the music with. So his spirit was with me guiding me.

Molina at KPFA

What was the most frustrating piece of art you’ve ever created and why?

I love theater when it’s professional and respectful, but I also find it very frustrating when working with people or companies that don’t understand, or respect music or sound design. When I started my career, theater was about 10 to 15 years behind all other collaborative art forms in terms of music, sound, and video art. Things have gotten better, but it is still catching up. Some theater people don’t understand music or sound, and what it takes to make it great. They don’t understand basic music terminology, yet they know the basics of sets, lights and costumes. Some have bad, limited, or outdated taste in music, often listening to old mainstream, or new pop music. Another issue is sound design education programs didn’t get established in most university theater programs until about 15 years ago! Music composition for theater programs have been around even less (I’m not talking about musical theater). Sound departments in theaters often have the smallest crew, budget, and the oldest gear. The hierarchy in theater design is always set first, then lights, costumes, and last sound. This applies to meetings and tech time too. There is no mention of music, which is the problem itself. There is a vast difference between sound and creating music. Long ago I worked at some theaters where there wasn’t even a staff sound person. I had to do everything by myself. There have been times where there is only a 1 or 2 person crew, and they are not qualified to install sound systems, and everything gets fucked up. Many composers, and sound designers will agree they have experienced disrespect, or neglect by a few directors, or theater companies in their career. But things have been changing over the past few years. During the last tour I worked at theaters which had some of the best sound crews, and sound systems I’ve worked with in my entire career. I think theater folks are waking up, and understanding the value of a good score and sound design.

What upcoming projects do you have that  you’re excited about, and or  future plans for your solo work as  Transient?

I just finished mixing a new live recording I did with trumpet player Darren Johnston last year. I plan to release it on Bandcamp soon to help me get some funds through his pandemic. I also plan on releasing as many albums as possible for my soundtracks, Ghosts and Strings, as well as Transient, during this lock down. I have about 25 years of unreleased music on hard drives, DATS, ADATs, and cassettes. I’ll be going backwards through my catalogue as I release them

What was the most intense sound or sonic experience you ever had?

In 2006 I went on tour in Peru. I ended up at an amazing, intense, week long ceremony called the Festival of Virgen del Carmen. It takes place in a deep in the remote small village of Paucartambo, high up in the Andes mountains. It honors the Catholic saint of Carmen, but it’s really an indigenous tradition honoring Mother Earth. It was disguised in Catholicism in the 17th century, to avoid persecution by the Spaniards, just like most old ceremonies in Latin America. I would say the Indigenous presence over powers the Catholic shadow. During the week many different troupes of dancers, and musicians attend from all over the mountain region. They represent all the different native tribes of Peru, with colorful outfits, and insane paper mâché, wire, and wooden masks. Each tribe has there own instrumentation. Some use brass and drums. Others use flutes and drums, or strange portable harps and violins. All instruments and costumes are hand made and rustic. Most of the musicians are not trained, so the music has a raw primal feel.

Adding to the soundscape are constant huge fireworks, which would be illegal in the USA. They create massive beautiful spinning firework sculptures, with no regard for fire safety. They make their own unique fizzing sound. My hair and clothes got burned a couple times by flying embers, and sparks, but it was amazing! The week is loud and surreal, and no one sleeps as the festivities go for 23 hours a day, with one hour of rest around 5 am. You go into a trance with the sound, colors. and lack of sleep. The white event of Burning Man can’t compare to this ceremony, which appropriated and bastardized ancient indigenous traditions. I would hear a troupe’s music coming down one street, and another cross behind me would phase in and out, creating the most experimental soundscape I’ve experienced. My body would rumble with the deep bass drums, and explosions. Most of the language spoken is native Quechua which added to the sound experience. Sometimes I would take a break from the intense cacophony and go up into the hills. From there I heard a swirling soundscape of the action happening below. I made many hours of field recordings, documenting the whole week. I’ve only heard about half of the recordings to this day. I hope to do a surround sound performance with those one day. One day.

Info about the upcoming Transient release “It Was Always Here” at https://davidrmolina.bandcamp.com, which comes out  June  5th and you can PREORDER NOW

DECAYCAST #027 Guest Mix: Diego Aguilar-Canabal “Farm To Tape 9”

 
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Last Friday, Bandcamp dropped their fees and let artists keep 100% of revenues, generating $4.3 million for artists in a single day. Having just cashed my last unemployment check, I joined in the celebration and went on a bit of a shopping spree. Here are some highlights from the occasion, sprinkled with some favorite earworms that have accompanied me on long bike rides through empty Berkeley streets. Enjoy!

Sheik of Araby – Hillboggle


I’m Gonna Stand Still – Rev. Mack McCollum with Combined Choirs


Set That Baggage Down – David Crosby
I Dream Of Sodomy ONO


Play For Today – Frankie Rose


Bouli – Alkibar Junior


Fuck Here – Exit Hippies


All The Way Down  – Couch Slut


Only Climate Change Is Real – Seas Of Winter


Labyrinthine – S H R I E K I N G


2.04052018 (1) – Obozdur


I Love You So Much – Ragk


Triste Pt.1 remake – Oren Ambarchi


I – Monochromacy


Wind/Plastic – Andrew Weathers


Lefebixar – Alejandro Palacios


A Pool Deeply Gouged out by Water – Dylan Henner

DECAYCAST : ESSENTIAL ListEning: Albums to Buy On Bandcamp Today -Part 1

Every #BandcampFriday, we’re here, picking releases for you to buy. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic, and art must survive. See our list for last month here.

Please, dig and do your  own research as well there is so much amazing art, music, and activism just below the surface, we just have to dig a little, feel free to email us with recommendations also or to submit your own list.

Club Chai co founders and  dynamic sonic duo 8ULENTINA and Lara Sarkissian are at it again with another  stellar release from their Club Chai Imprint, this one a split between the two producers, and it does NOT  dissapoint, as it brings together their  complex rhythmic arrangements, dense whirring pads and dynamic and tense programming and masterful production for heavy and danceable electronic offerings.

Dreamcrusher “Panopticon”

Newest release from one of the most innovative contemporary producers working right now. Intense, present, nuanced, like no other. Dreamcrusher  once again surpasses their own legacy with another pinnacle of contemporary heavy electronics from PTP, one of the most innovative labels going right now, solidarity to NYC.

Pu22L3 “Virus In The Sky”

Pu22L3 plays in The Edomites, Secret Sidewalk as well as a slew of other projects and is always  crafting nuanced deep modular synth and  beat textures with soul and tension, and “Virus In The Sky” is no different, pick it up for  name your price today, apparently Puzzle was  given a sound pack from the legendary Mr. Dibbs and they will be donating any money raised from this single.
“mrdibbs.com/product/a-p-s-o-plandemic-pack/

ITS FREE, he’s a cool cat and if you need an introduction to his work, there is this oracle named “google” that could totally help you out with explaining his body of work. So here, DL the pack, WASH YOUR DAMN HANDS and make some cool music with it. Its a really cool sound pack.

Also, if you end up donating money for this album, I’m trying to figure out along with Mr. DIbbs if there is some sort of non profit or organization that helps feed front line workers in Cincinnati because in times like these we gotta take care of each other and his base of operations is in Cincinnati.”

Yatta “Wahala”

Absolute essential listening from one of  NYC’s best  imprints PTP, curated by GENG aka King Vision Ultra.

“/this year, they released their sophomore album, WAHALA, via PTP ++ a theatrical production (An Episode: Ricky’s Room) commissioned by the The Shed.

//YATTA has shared the stage with musicians like Cardi B, William Basinski, and The Sun Ra Arkestra, creating multimedia performances that tour nationally and globally. ”

Moor Mother “CLEPSYDRA”

from the  text from the release on bandcamp”

soundscapes to another other
painting eternity
fractals of breath
unknown
archival genesis

A COLLECTION OF SOUNDS FOR WRITERS ( my intended experimental audience but it may be helpful to other creators ) AND CREATORS EXPERIENCING BLOCKAGES
FOR THOSE TRYING TO BREAKTHROUGH CREATIVE BLOCKS AND FOR THOSE HAVING TROUBLE DREAMING
WHAT DO YOU NEED:

PENCIL AND PAPER ( NO SCREENS )

HEADPHONES

A PLACE TO WRITE IF YOU ARE MOVED TO

GLASS OF WATER
INSTRUCTIONS:

MUST LISTEN WITH HEADPHONES

FIND A QUIET AND SOMEWHAT COMFORTABLE SPACE

ALLOW YOUR MIND TO WANDER

VISIT AS MANY PLACES AS POSSIBLE

THANK YOU FOR EXPERIMENTING
Limited Release for the Month of May
Honor Mothers Every Day”

The Noriegas “Trans Noriega Express”

Bay Area  Startup bleeds avant-noise rock unit and general agitators of splendor and  tech gone  away, wrong side of the ballad  fusion between harsh noise, kraut, with a spoof of a  cover that will wrap the brain in circles, pick this up for  name your price today.

ONO “Red Summer”

ESSENTIAL new album “Red Summer” from Chicago Avant-Gospel , Industrial legends ONO, forty years of politically charged radical Black conceptual art, one of the most important acts alive today and one of the most important albums of the decade period, expect a feature soon here on this album. ONO can do no wrong.

Donald Anderson “Holed In One”

Tripped out and  twisted mellow mood elixer, ambient wash from this Oakland producer. Sprinkled keys and  false start funk intro.

Solarized “Thermo dynamics of Life”

Philly-based psychedelic acid punk like no other, one of my favorite discoveries this year, seems like would be even heavier and more intense live, pick this up today. True outsider cosmic sounds for other worlds, the stunning cover art represents the sound perfectly.

Headboggle “Polyphonic Rehearsals”

Rehearsal extrapolations from Bay Area synth mangler from two recently cancelled bay area performances, similar to Polyphonic Demo, but  expanded with even heavier synth washes, blips of time expand beyond the horizon.  Grab it now, essential artist, mucking trough through the unknown for too long, Mort Garson on acid and  study for  our generation, all praise to Boggle!

Z.O. Voider “Perdendicular Groove”

Classic sounds from another living legend of outsider sounds and art. Z.O. Voider / Turman never lets us down, be it, blown out industrialized rhythms, or deep meditative explorations, the sounds are always powerful and other-worldly. Mechanical, dark, menacing, omnipresent intensity.

Aaron Dilloway “USS Orgo”

Droning locked key synth organ extended from one of the masters of all time. Recently released from his archives for the first time on Bandcamp. Dense, shuttering, thick and panic -stricken amazingness, classic Dilloway deep dive.

Compactor “Temporary State”

NYC’s Compactor returns again with more long-form industrial -based rhythms and soundscapes; textural, heavy, dissonant, pressing, Derek Rush’s projects never fall short on both concept an execution. Temporary insanity for labor left uncertain of a future. Pressing release, pick it up today and check his Social Distancing Shirt Fundraiser on the CS page.

DJ Rashad “Double Cup”

You know  what to do. RIP Always.

Bob Bellerue “Essential Work”

Another deep, leveled work from Bellerue, just released. Haunting, big, and small; wide scope of techniques and sonic worlds.

Moor Jewelry “True Opera”

Heavy/improv madness from Moor Mother x Mental Jewelry channeling psychedelic punk infused sonic walls of  chaos, but it’s so tight and locked and chaotic and just perfect for the moment really, the  record we all need right now to  fight this madness of  isolation, anxiety, fight, and dread.

Otzi “Storm”

New album from Oakland Goth/Post Punk legends Otzi, out mid May, channeling The Cure from the  future and other worlds beyond known lands. Masters of the genre,  hands down.

 

Experimental Housewife “DigitalBeach”

Maddening and beautiful assortment of tone poem electronic madness from this Bay Area project whi8ch has been making waves for a minute now. Deep deep electronic, explorations, beat extractions for every mood, beautiful beautiful discovery.  Now i know why this  project has built up such a cult following in the underground Bay Area experimental  dance  community

Monochromacy “What Has Been Will Be Again, There is Nothing New Under The Sun”

Heavy, dense, thick psychedelic guitar explorations from one of  Southern CA’s most innovative guitar/heavy drone/ experimentalists. Exceptionally beautiful and nuanced take on the style, follow this project without doubt.

J. Soliday “Music For  Speech Synthesis”

New one from one of the harsh.cut up masters, this new one delves into some more  digital crunch with an undeniable human control feedback system, nuanced and complex, fractured yet soulful, outsider sound undeniable.

Chaki “The Water”

Proto Prince inspired funk worship from Bay Area troublemaker Chaki, check a lifestream to see this in “person” – he does it all folks, and with respect and humor to the originators, Chaki blends his  own stew of funk and humor. A+

braingoat/jK/>XTINGUISHER> – “ESSTENTIAL”

Three way split from new  Oakland Label/Collective Every Living Thing Is Weird. harsh, varied, refreshing, pick up for pay what you want. Satisfy that harsh itch of innovative tongue in cheek harshest!

Spellling “Mazy Fly”

Another essential from Oakland’s psychedelic, enchanting, haunting, post-disco king, SPELLLING. Patrick Cowley and Donna Summer haunt the  twisted  airwaves of her  transmissions from another place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DECAYCAST Interviews: Anna Cuevas of Dès Vu “This Will Become A Memory”

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Dès Vu. photo:  Liesa Cole

Even before i met Anna Cuevas, her project Dès Vu was  enshrined with a sort of mythical presence. My partner first turned me onto her work when we were sourcing bands and projects for a benefit show to combat the  racist and xenophobic US border crisis, which has denied safe entry for thousands of asylum seekers to the US, we reached out to several acts and the first one to respond with a resounding yes, almost instantly,  was Dès Vu.  Benefit shows can be tough, as underground music shows usually have a razor thin margin financially for paying artists/performers as it is,  without even taking into consideration money for the space/promoters, never mind extra money to donate to a cause. The financial logistics of running a small to mid sized DIY show and coming out in the black are often next to impossible without a big crowd, sponsors, and a hefty amount of press backing the event.

“Dès Vu means the the awareness that this will become a memory,”

For many micro scenes benefit shows often require the artists and space to donate their time, money and resources to be able to raise enough money to make a big enough financial  impact, with the artists donating their time, talent, and resources for free. Putting together (last minute) or any benefit shows often cuts down the choices of  performers, as many simply cannot donate their labor for free or  discounted artist fees, so the fact that Dès Vu not  only agreed to  play our show, and immediately stated that she didn’t need payment, and we’re excited to participate was just the boost we needed to get the benefit show rolling, only later, and still at the time of this interview am I figuring out that activism is a big part of the work of Des Vu, so it was no surprise that she were our first ally in bringing together a solid lineup. We sat down and spoke with  Anna about her creative process, education, and future creative endeavors.

Welcome to Decaycast Interviews, please  talk a little bit about the origin of your current recording and performance project Dés Vu?

Dès Vu (day voo) quickly manifested early 2018 in Birmingham, AL, my hometown. After a long writer’s block, one day I played one of the synths of my now-producer, and what became the EP’s “cycling affect” flowed out. That breakthrough compelled me to transform sketches I’d been writing on my synth into full songs. Dès Vu means “the awareness that this will become a memory,” and that all feels like a dream now that my musical path pulled me to the Bay.

How is the Bay Area different from Birmingham based on your experience within music artists and activist circles?

I’m really grateful for my Birmingham roots helping me bloom into who I’m becoming, but I see and hear myself far more in the Bay Area creative communities. Here there’s a lot more music in the spirit of what I make, and I don’t get questioned about being racially ambiguous, which has been really refreshing. In many ways I feel more comfortable performing here despite not knowing nearly as many people as where I grew up. Birmingham has a strong DIY community and network of grassroots movements, but those circles were pretty separate. Here there’s much more overlap which really resonates with my music. There’s also more people and resources for more radical organizing and direct actions, but the movement in Birmingham works as hard, just in a different way. They are such different places and I’m still adjusting to what initially felt like culture shock but in a good way for me. One’s preference just depends on what one is seeking and wanting.

Can you talk a little bit more about radical Organizing and the connection to your work if any?

Though not an inherently political project, my music instinctively weaves some radical anthems among more prominent ballads centering mental health. I consider those themes deeply connected; one way being how racism and capitalism shape the climate of modern society.

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photo :  Jaysen Michael

In Alabama I did a lot of grassroots work with workers’ rights, immigrant justice, prison abolition, reproductive and gender equity, and police brutality. Despite no longer having the stamina to continue frontline organizing, solidarity will always be a part of my work as I feel compelled to embrace the movement In my platform. However, while the EP’s “decolonize” and the single “for Rojava” highlight anti-imperialism and anti-fascism, my music primarily strives to create a world beyond this one.

 

So more of a vision of a different future than responding to the current one?

I like how you put that – it does respond to the current one but is also pushing for something more in a healing way.

Also knowing you’re a teacher In Oakland, had this affected your work at all in any way ? Have you ever we shown your students your music?

Actually yes, I recently had a music idea come to me about when public schools close for good and all the dynamics that entails.  It’s not something those outside of education probably hear much about and discuss even less but through music,  I can highlight that disparity that branches beyond schools and seeps into our communities, and yes I have shown my students my music.

 

Do you think social distancing has had an impact on your practice so far? Have you been in the mood to make music / art or not so much?]

Social distancing has had a big impact on my practice so far the first nearly three weeks (at the time of this interview) of quarantine, I really struggled with maintaining a creative focus. At first,  I started feeling imposter syndrome, like why was I not using this extra time to churn out new material. . Then I realized that the change to working remotely in education was not only not allowing as much free time as many who sadly lost their jobs, but was also taking an extra emotional toll with the urgency to prioritize mutual aid for our school’s families. Parent conferences by phone prefaced academic updates with asking what basic needs, if any, the families lacked.  Some weren’t sure how they were even going to get more diapers diving in to a bit of mutual aid outside of my job, looking to social media more to stay connected, and feeling the need to stay updated with news deeply affected my headspace for a while before I noticed how much it had negatively impacted my basic self-care. I felt kind of selfish for wanting to work on my music more than usual during these times, but now i’m reminded how crucial our own healthy wellbeing is before helping others so much embracing that notion now, i’ve started naturally practicing, writing, and recording fluidly again. As a solo artist with a bedroom recording setup.  my imposter syndrome was exaggerated  since i wasn’t even having to adjust to virtual group practices like many I know. Creating feels more like medicine than it ever has as it’s helping me process our new collective reality. My practice feels even more purposed now; though still very much digging inward, i’m projecting outward a lot more, like sending energy instead of staying in my own head so much. This will likely be a permanent shift as it will be impossible to ever completely forget these times we’re currently navigating.

Any future projects you’d like to discuss or general things to let our readers know about anything?

My producer is nearly done mastering the re-release of my EP, though unsure when I’ll be able to tour on it. My music video locations are also currently on pause, but I’ve been working on new songs for about a year and am learning to produce it myself
I do have another music project I’ve started but haven’t announced more details of yet and am not rushing it.
Generally, I encourage those who are financially able to donate to Bay Area mutual aid efforts: some that come to mind are houseless aid through :

East Oakland Collective

The Village,

West Oakland Punks With Lunch;

Bay Area Workers Support (sex workers),

Oakland Food Workers’ Fund, and We Are The Ones Mutual Care Fund — * for the unhoused, East Oakland Collective is taking donations for hand-washing stations ($162 / month) and portable toilets ($142 / month) PayPal:  kandace.e@gmail.com

Follow Des Vu on Instagram : @mind__mirage

DECAYCAST #026 Guest Mix : DJ MICOSE

DECAYCAST #026 Guest Mix : DJ MICOSE

decaycast26-micose

“It was in the vein of my Expatriate Transmissions KUSF days where I just mixed some stuff into others and played excerpts of longer tracks at times. “

Broadcast – The Game’s Up

Anakrid – Exiting The Yealm Of Legitimacy

JASSS – We Solve This By Talking

Borful Tang – Herd and Unheard

Haxan Cloak – Excavation (Part 2)

Grischa Lichtenberger – 0811_09_Re_0211_08

Arca – Entrañas (Excerpt)

Andrew Douglas Rothbard – Theta Cloud

Andrew Liles – Dissolved (Te Whare Ao Aitu)

Demdike Stare – Violetta

Joseph Taylor – Sprig O’Thyme

Potions – Woozy Night

oOoOO – Crossed Wires

Bromp Treb – Self Sacrifice

Muep Etmo – ]__changeable__[

Bruckmann/Diaz-Infante/Shiurba/Stackpole – Nervous Tick

Duplexx – Fios

M83/Anthony Gonzalez/Joseph Trapanese – Temples Of Our Gods

Gesaffelstein – Piece Of Future

Buddhist Monks Of Maitri Vihar Monastery – Three Monks With Bowls And Cymbals

Bromp Treb – Self Sacrifice (Reprise)