Holiday Tidings from the House of Vaux

•December 20, 2016 • Comments Off on Holiday Tidings from the House of Vaux

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Friends, well-wishers and seemingly politically-validated trolls snooping around looking to make sure that we’re up to fire code: The year is over. And what a year it was. Not to imply that it was all bad, but we definitely took our lumps. Of course, there were some high points as well – travel, inspiration, opportunities, etc. but then there was also the last two months to account for. Pauline, the Oakland fire, my grandmother passing all in less than two weeks time. It’s currently 5:30 in the morning and I’m up primarily due to explorations of cat and wiggles of baby – we’re trying to sell the notion that her own bedroom is much cooler than ours, but that of course invites the thought of “if my room is so cool, how about you hang out in it with me? Why would you want to go back to yours?” So Pau and I have been trading shifts hanging out next to Xime’s bed so she at least gets the notion that a parent is still in her cool room with her and eventually, int he long run, we get more privacy and a happy, autonomous bambina.

Let it be known that the news feeds are possibly more disturbing at 5 AM when you’re still in the pre-coffee grog and the chirping bird app still has a sheet over it’s cage. Most disturbing read this morning came from the Washingtonian stating that the creepy alt-right 4chan/reddit freaks who only learned of the various venues and cultural subsets that I spent a good part of the past 15 years inhabiting by way of a fire that killed a couple of our friends have been snooping around the Takoma Park art space where I’ve been teaching workshops, taking pictures and looking for fire hazards. Just a little invasive. Thankfully, according to the article, we supposedly “checked-out,” but even so,  invasive. Having run a space or two in the past, it makes me think about the general notion of openness – as in where do you draw the line when you’re building on the backs of the all-ages scenes of generations-gone-by? Can you restrict openness? Dark times ahead – especially since the seething entities looking to shut this stuff down are traveling the same information highways that we’re using to build and harbor our own communities. Even creepier to think that there might have possibly been one of these dudes hoofing around as I was teaching with Xime napping in the back room and I was completely oblivious. Let’s hope that’s not the case. Though it makes me wonder – if not for art spaces and the like, what do these folks deem as acceptable artistic outlets? Honky-tonks? Amphitheaters? Stadium shows? Demolition derbies? Unfortunately, as Pau pointed out before heading to her Xime shift, it could very well be that the outlet of this particular subset of intolerance may actually just be trolling the web and trying to undermine culture, community and anything else the hive-mind deems inappropriate for the sheer hell of it. Good for them, I guess. Here’s hoping the turn on themselves and self-implode quickly – if only for the sake of me being able to veg out on the web in peace between the cat knocking things off the dresser and shifts spent curled up next to the humidifier, which is of course, totally cool. So much cooler than a nice, comfy pillow-top mattress, fluffy pillows and the few, spare hours where it’s just Pau and I together. Because it’s cool to sleep in your own room? See, mommy and daddy’s room is cold and boring. And so on.

Or something like that – not to be too personal or nihilistic. I’d normally save a statement like that for something a little more social, but fact of the matter is that social media kind of scares me at the moment. Case in point – a mutual friend receiving death threats due to a mural he painted at a pizza place that had since been painted over but was somehow a clue to some sort of torrid baby-trafficking ring. Maybe I’m paranoid, but the thought that all it takes is one errant chirp and you’re suddenly the subject of collective, communal rage doesn’t sit well for one trying to raise a family, make art and build instruments, especially when we’re still going through the whole immigration thing – which of course is another target of the previously-mentioned politically-enabled populism folks. Gotta keep it cool and fancy for the sake of the big picture. But at the same time, it helps to say your piece when you can. Have issue? Request discourse? You know where to find me. A bold statement, but fact of the matter is I’m pretty suburban these days. Good luck with that.

In the meantime, it’s the holidays, with exactly one day standing between me and some highly-needed rest, relaxation and catch-up time on all the projects sent to the back-burner as the crazy commenced. There’s also a few new projects waiting in the wings, but the bench is full again, so space needs to be made first. Also, three new VF Industrial releases drop tomorrow. More on that in about 18 hours, but I figured I’d at least offer what happy tidings I can to you and yours. But in the meantime, it’s now 6:30 – an acceptable time to begin making coffee, so I’m going to do that now. Hang in there, everyone. We’ll make it through this.

The Mancunian Report

•November 23, 2016 • Comments Off on The Mancunian Report

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So hey there. For those who actually read my postings as opposed to just scrolling through the pictures in search of furry guitar pedals and whatnot, you’ve probably gotten the clue that I’ve been a little busy since my last missive since the links are still empty and there’s no nifty pictures. Thankfully, the year is winding down – or at least in some regards. For those that have been under a rock, it appears that the closest thing that my country’s had to a tyrant on the level of the ones that the CIA’s been propping up in other Western countries for over a century now has somehow been elected into the executive office. Somehow, somewhere, I’ve embraced a mantra taken from a Flying Burrito Brothers song, copping my best Gram Parsons accent and crooning “on the 58th floor, a gold-plated door, won’t keep out the Lord’s burning rain.” And this is coming from someone typically against country music, religion and political statements. But that’s a story for another day. In the meantime, I figured I’d at least report that I’m recently returned from the Sines-Squares festal in Manchester, England. Splendid time, truly. Met some new friends, presented the Colorado Adventure as an actual academic paper (I’ll post it up later) and performed before flying home via a circuitous route afforded to me by one airline being so terrible that they simply just transferred me to their competitor to have one less passenger to worry about. I’m still on UK time at the moment and my body thinks it’s somewhere around 3 AM, but I at least figured I’d mention the adventure while it’s still fresh. Thanks to the organizers and everyone else. More in a tick.

-t.

By the way – for anyone interested in how I sounded, here’s a link for you:

VF Industrial. All Hail!

•October 5, 2016 • Comments Off on VF Industrial. All Hail!

So hi there. In case you missed it, there’s a new tab on the top of the site touting the words VF Industrial. Want me to explain what that’s all about? Sure you do. So. A few months back, Pau and I decided to take a trip to Mexico to take advantage of Xime’s waning child-in-lap privileges, as well as meet up with some art-friends, check out a couple galleries and eat ourselves into a coma on our favorite Poblano snacks, of which there are many. And while we were there, two general trains of thought collided, creating the secret sauce that’s lead to this current venture.

Thought the first goes back to January 2013 when I first met Carlos Amorales when Pau and I were showing at the Central American Biennial in Panama City. He was giving a talk on his Nuevos Ricos project and I, being slightly submerged in the worlds of punk rock and absurdity was amused. By the by, since I’ll only screw up on explaining the project, here’s a video of Carlos himself making the pitch.

Thought the second was taken from David Novak’s Japanoise book that I brought with me on the trip, leading to so highly circumspect reading as I tried to take a book about the noise scene in Japan seriously in spite of it’s use of one of my most hated phrases in the lexicon of academia – “ethnographic field study.” Long story. I’ll probably write a book about it one day, possibly a dissertation. Either way, let’s talk about what ties these two thoughts together as opposed to my usual gripes and tandems. For me, said tie was the thought of curation. In one of the later chapters of Novak’s book, he compares the differences between US net labels and Japanese net labels and what archival data can be derived from them. Was there a scene? Did these people know each other and play shows together? Or was this the product of a singular fanatic who offered to release recordings that tickled his particular fancy? My money’s on door number three – which in some ways is also what ties the idea of curation to Amorales’ project where he’s more or less creating the music scene that he would have wanted during his youth in Mexico.

This of course led to one of my infamous thought spirals whee most of the dogmatic rules that provide cohesion to my universe momentarily become unhinged. A quick case study. During my time at Oberlin, I was pretty hard into the IDM, but eventually realized I lacked the skills, patience and community to truly commit to the genre. Not to mention Reason was limited, Ableton was in it’s infancy and I lacked the cash to pick up hardware. Through the usual liberal arts channels – i.e. recreational thought exercises, college radio, the indie media network and the virtue of running a clandestine venue out of my living room, I was introduced to noise music – which appealed to me through the idea that trough noise, you could express limitless possibilities simultaneously. Imagine 9 symphonies playing at once. Now imagine 9000. Now imagine every piece of music ever recorded. Somewhere between the bad and the ugly, the beautiful lie. To rewind back to my thesis, imagine the recording produced 15000 feet above Manhattan – where every individual sound of 9 million individual contributes to the caustic drone of existence.

Or at least those were my ideals coming into California. Before I enrolled at Mills, I began collecting my share of records, centering primarily around Load, Bulb and Skin Graft. Later, by way of the Oberlin Conservatory Library, I was exposed to Asphodel and Tzadik. During my 6 months in Ann Arbor, I inherited a copy of the Merzbox, copied over a series of late-night guest DJ sessions at WCBN. Somehow I actually ended up with a lot of Merzbow records – not sure how. Or where they are. Apparently, they’re worth a lot of money when they’re not on your iPod. Whoops. In California, my first semester allowed me further access to the Tzadik catalog, the experimental bins at Amoeba, Tigerbeat 6, and by way of several unnecessary paragraphs, Ipecac Recordings – a label that somehow featured anything from Japanese noisers to the Locust to the Melvins. Ok, kind of a narrow band there, but from the perspective of my early-20’s addled cranium, the associations were insane – I mean, how can a label have all these disparate elements going on at once? What’s the connection? Obviously, later on I learned the lynchpin to it all was Mike Patton’s general eclecticism (again, curation), but I was still under the influence of the ’80’s hardcore credo that for a movement, all you ever really need is 10 people and a space and it’ll happen. And typically it does about 70 percent of the time. Thanks for that one, Black Flag. I had also recently met Mike Watt shortly before graduating Oberlin, so I was still glowing with the thought that if you stick with your buddies and support them through thick and thin, you’ll all end up famous and guest star on each other’s records. Not to say that this isn’t happening and a slow, yet progressive clip, but in most circumstances, I think I could be described as naive, or at the very least, optimistic.

Back to that curation thing. Years ago I tried to run a label. It didn’t work out so well and it ended with a cease and desist notice. That’s how we ended up here. It also failed for reasons other than that – for instance lack of capital for materials and distribution and largely, simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the late-oughts, there was a swarm of net-labels that propped themselves up during the twilight of the Myspace. They were interesting, for sure, but never quite had the heft of a label that printed a physical disc at the time. A decade later, the physical disc has become a product of ephemera with an enclosed download code. Why even print it – you might as well give away small action figures or those weird all-white Japanese figurines. At least those look more interesting on a shelf than a stack of sealed 180 gram vinyl. So looking to curate a space where I could have all my friends and interests on a single page, with little-to-no overhead and the incentive of designing new gear for my friends’ projects, I decided to launch VF Industrial. It’s a little freeform at the moment though I’m sure rules will eventually impose themselves. The initial one we thought of was to only do releases on solstices and equinoxes. So 3 discs dropped the other week. One from me, one from Dereck Donohue and one from Hey Exit. 3 more will drop in December. And so it will go. Call it a project. Call it a curation. Call it a dated concept and I’m showing my age. Whatever. It’s something. A sobering thought I often return to is that over the course of my musical career, I’d estimate that 90% of the venues I’ve played at and nearly every label I’ve released on is defunct. If anything, I’m just doing what I can for my fellow survivors to fill the void. Either way, go take a listen. If you’re racing this and there’s no links or pictures, just give it a few days. As the last post clearly establishes, I’m a.) doing al that I can here and b.) I’ll get to it. Just give me time.

 

Over/out,

 

t.

Halfway from the Freeway

•September 30, 2016 • Comments Off on Halfway from the Freeway

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Definitive signs of aging: jet lag does weirder things to you for longer. Of course it would help if I set my computer clock back to EST, but considering that I really don’t use my laptop as much as I used to, thank you phone and work computer, so it goes. The gears, they change and I try to head back to the office as if nothing’s happened – if only that were the case – 3 shows, a recording session and a manic burn to San Diego to check out the general environment of the city that may be the next whistle stop for my little family. More on that later. Still adjusting. The last time I tried to do one of these weekend warrior jaunts, the first thing I did on return was accidentally smash the family iPad on one of my road cases owing to the ill effects of sleep deprivation and gravity. At the moment, we’re three days out, so I think we’re in the clear with regard to broken objects, but there’s still the small matter of catching up on everything. Case in point, things need to be built like whoa. And if you’re expecting an email from me, you’ll get it. I arrived back in Baltimore on Tuesday, and had just enough energy to shower and crash. Wednesday was 8 hours at the day gig and a dance party with Xime – because that’s what you do when you’re away from your toddler for a week. Thursday was all about the dentist appointment that was actually on Wednesday and doing sound for a folk music concert. And now it’s Friday, and I feel like I’m channelling a Cure song. You know, the one about the days of the week. So ok – the first shot across the bow of productivity. No emails have been sent, but I did take the initiative of crunching the lave recordings from this jaunt. So here they are, in chronological order. Listen, like and love. More on the way as always. No rest for the wicked, and apparently whatever I am as well. Special thanks to Alex, Noah, Sarah, Matt, Rent, Aram, Moe!, Thomas, Kanoko and everyone else who contributed to a charming weekend of jams in Fog City.

f.org, 09.22.2016, The Luggage Store Gallery, San Francisco, Ca.

f.org, 09.23.2016, Pro Arts Gallery, Oakland, Ca.

Catona/Johns/Phillips, 09.24.2016, Studio Grand, Oakland, Ca.

 

Thing Two, Revisited

•September 21, 2016 • Comments Off on Thing Two, Revisited

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Hey look – it’s me! Well, was. This photo’s from 2015, taken at a show I played in Costa Rica sometime around when Baltimore decide to go all neoclassical and revisit the whole race riot thing. Xime was about 9 months old then and this was probably our first major trip outside of the occasional expedition to the county line for a Trader Joe’s run and one burn up to New York for a long weekend to check out the massive failure otherwise known as the Björk retrospective at the Moma. Not to knock the artistic merits of said Icelandic songstress, but a.) being a fringe member of popular society ors not make you a contemporary artist by default and b.) Biesenbach should be downgraded to window dressings ad Macy’s and the occasional show in Vegas. It really was that bad. Case in point, over a year afterwards, the mere thought of the show boils the blood, much like a certain presidential candidate from New York – you know, the corrupt, racist misogynist one. I’m sure it’s probably already happened, but for those in the know about the whole X-Men franchise, several parallels can be drawn to the various Mojoverse story arcs.

That was all a tangent. It was May 2015. I hadn’t played a show since August 2014. I was rusty and I was still hauling the rig I used at Battery Townsley for the Soundwave Biennial as my live rig. Having spent a good portion of our week in San José, working on paperwork, we had just done the proper Tico thing of taking the weekend off and heading to Puerto Viejo for surf and sun. José Duarte had me booked at Amon Solar, opening for his latest band with Arce and Ortuno and we hit construction. Then, after construction, we encountered a fatality on on the road as a Norwegian footballer collided with a banana truck. Then there was a storm in the pass and the car was down to one headlight. We arrived back to the house just in time for me to change, grab my gear and hoof it to the venue, fortunately only 5 blocks away. Checking in, I was in for a bit of a surprise as José only then mentioned that I was playing with Alex.

Enter Alex Catona. Good guy. Cellist. Not from Costa Rica, but I met him the first day I arrived in 2011. Has some similarities other than an involvement with the Costa Rican art scene via marriage to a Costa Rican artist, as discovered over several beer sessions at Bar Buenos Aires. We’d talked about playing as a duo several times but our schedules never allowed it to happen and trying to get the local crew to go along with our non-idiomatic training just wasn’t happening. In certain parts of the world, explaining the merits of Derek Bailey and free improvisation outside of any particular idiom is still a thing. I will neither confirm or deny if it is or isn’t down south.

So anyways. The gig was ok. We’re improvisers. We roll with it. Of course, I was performing on an instrument designed for printmaking, but such is the case. After the gig, we discussed the prospects of a couple real shows, some recording and a tour. And as of tomorrow, that’s a thing. The only issue is that it’s September, and the non-profit that holds the monopoly on new music shows in Charm City just had their “curated” festival that also involved a moratorium on just abut any other gig in the city for a month before and a month after so the east coast was out. So we’re going west by way of a long weekend in the Bay.

Show 1 = Thursday, 9/22 at the Luggage Store in SF.

Show 2 = Friday, 9/23 at Pro Arts in Oakland.

Then some recording and social visits and the like. Then a burn to San diego for me to look at a school. then a burn back to Balt to get my GRE on. Life – it is better when you have deadlines as opposed to vague plans such as “work up until a certain point, plan to quit and then push it back another few months as something comes up. Either way, we’ll be in the Bay this weekend – drop a line if you want to hang.

Also, a quick re-touch on thing one: I’ll be doing a small, limited run of Mosswaves for those looking for a fancy box for autumn. For the holidays, we’ll probably be rolling out a Mosswave kit for those DIY folks out there. More coming. Have the fly gig bags packed – just need to finish laundry, work, send out a bunch of emails, pack, sleep, check in and get on a plane.

To Some Good Things

•September 15, 2016 • Comments Off on To Some Good Things

Yowzka – kind of an ominous title, but all said, not really. More like I’ve realized that it’s been a good minute since I’ve updated this here page and for the sake of currency, I should let you know what’s up, in order of ascending things.

Thing one: Mosswaves. They’re a thing. Rhizome DC hosted a workshop that was so popular that we’ve booked another for the folks on the waiting list. The circuits still in workshop stage – meaning that it’s possibly a little too experimental to go full production, but we’re getting there. Either way, I’m kind of surprised at the influence of maker culture on general capitalism – the minute you give someone the option to make it yourself, it becomes this great commodity as opposed to something artisan made. What’s the point of hand-made if it wasn’t made by your hand or something. Either way, I still have some circuits left, so there will be at least a couple proto-Mosswaves in the works before the holidays.

Thing 2: Tourism. Getting back into that. Xime just turned two, so now that a good portion of our existence isn’t the two of us raising a baby hundreds, if not thousands of miles away from the nearest doting family member it’t time to hit the road for a second. I mean, not along the lines of absentee father road-hitting, but as a performer, there’s gigs to be had. In that lint, I’ll be in San Francisco next week getting my jam on with Alex Catona from Costa Rica/Romania. More on that or a day or two.

Thing three: Production stuff. Gonna be shaking that up in a second. VF’s turning 5. And in some degrees, we’ve come a long freaking way. In other aspects, not so much. One is in production. When I started building for, how you say, money in 2011, I had a lot of time on my hands and cut certain corners in production knowing I could make it up due to the fact that I had oodles of ample time and a studio at my disposal. Now that Xime’s 2, she has her own room and the workshop is in a bot of a refugee status. Truth be told, we’re out-growing the nest. Needless to say, I want to keep building, but now that there;s the day gig, the plan is to deplete the current supplies of circuit boards and redesign the boxes to be assembled slightly faster. A lot has changed in the past 5 years ala small-scale industrial production. It’s time to adapt. As a heads up, things might be unavailable as that happens. I’ll be as transparent as I can as the process digs in.

Thing four: VF Industrial. This drops next week. A slight change of direction influenced by the Japanoise book and my meeting with Carlos Amorales over the summer. Long story short, I’m creating a web label. Yeah, archaic, I know. But the plan is to have a place on the web where various friends and influences are all united on one page Who knows, maybe one day some journalist or scholar will write an enthographic field study about us. The first records drop on Sept. 22. The next batch on the winter solstice. Stay tuned.

Thing five: Politics. I’m not much of a political mouthpiece, but keep in mind that we’re an immigrant family from an area of the world described by a certain political candidate as a collection of murderers and rapists – and that was the first shot across the bow at the start of said deplorable human’s grasp for power. It’s only been downhill from there and as much as I have my gripes with another politician who forced a government shutdown for archaic political gains that prolonged the processing of our initial round of immigration paperwork, the fact remains that the various notions of immigration reform swirling around the finely coiffed head of a certain small-handed vulgarian do not bode well for my family’s upcoming round of biometrics and interviews. So, that being said, here’s my plea. You don’t have to like the other person – I mean, hell, as a New Yorker I’m fairly disappointed with her senatorial record, but if you like Pau, Xime and I, try to vote your conscious in a way that will prevent the election of fascist xenophobes with anti-immigration agendas. Just saying. And that is about as “I’m with Her” as I can get, but I figure it needed to be said.

No picture this time. These are words – read them. As much as I’d like to offer a fancy picture to the aggregates each time, sometimes I’d rather just get it all on paper without having to crack open the Photoshop. Dig?

And we’re back once again.

•July 17, 2016 • Comments Off on And we’re back once again.

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Hey there, tigers!

Just a friendly heads up that we’re back from our vacay and the shops are open again. Mexico was wonderful – thanks for asking. Met some good folks, saw some cool exhibits. Even tried the new Churro-flavored Starbucks beverage and practically went into sugar-shock for at least a good two hours after that. Seriously, sugar regulation, people – an entire generation of potential diabetics will thank you. Al also read David Novak’s Japanoise book. It was interesting, but as someone semi-involved in the west-coast equivalent of that scene, I have my objections – not that I’m going to argue – if anything, I do like his arguments for the notion that the concept that there was a proper “scene” of Japanese noise at any point is negligible, to say the least. Is experimental music as a whole a series of inter-connected vacuums? Who knows – I mean, there was definitely a scene in the bay when I was there. In Baltimore, I’m just ind of doing my thing. There’s a couple other groups, but I’ve really not connected with any of them. My days of house shows are over and there’s kind of a generational/genre gap between folks my age and the sounds I make – with a couple exceptions of course. Not to mention that most of my hang-sessions involve babies right now – gotta love the baby-friends.

So anyways, a couple new projects = in the works. One such being a VF-centric net label designed for the sheer pleasure of seeing as many friends and collaborators on the same page. The other being the box above you. That’s the MossWave – a new workshop box that I’ll be rolling out in DC in a few weeks. It does stuff. It’s nasty. And you can build it for a Benjamin. Other than that, Pau will be in Costa Rica in August for the Central American Biennial, I’ll hopefully be in California for a few days in September and then I’m off to England in November to present a paper in Manchester. More on all of the above will most likely be rolled out. Except for the Churro latte – that’ll be our little secret.