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-
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.
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?”
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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:
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