Dirge for 8 and 20 (The Teeth of Baltimore)


Dirge for 8 and 20 (The Teeth of Baltimore)




  1. The psychological effects of constant observation by police helicopter on an urban population
  2. Middle-class white men, age 30-70, performing delta-inspired, finger-style guitar under the premise that they may have actually invented the genre (all roses have thorns and appropriation comes in many forms)


Another dirge from the realm of vsls for your entertainment and somber reflection. More on that: for anyone just tuning in, I build most of the instruments that make my sounds, most of which are numbered in the succession of the order they were created in. Number 1 was made in a yurt in Colorado in 2007. At the moment, we’re floating somewhere around Number 54 or so – or something like that. I’m doing my best to keep on track of documentation, but sometimes one or two slip through the cracks – especially when I’m chasing a deadline and building for others. And even more so for the early models when I wasn’t thinking about prestige or my instruments being some sort of viable art form. Legacy only goes so far when you’re broke. But then there’s the instruments that have stuck with me for a second and then some. Number 8/20 is one of those. I’ll be brief considering there’s full build reports on both, but here’s a quick recap. Number 8 was born during my time co-helming The Golden Trapperkeeper Lodge in San Francisco in 2008. The original intention was to build it in exchange for a quick buck to pay a late student loan bill, but since I was still new to building and didn’t have a reputation quite yet, there were no biters. So instead of paying the bills, it was incorporated into my live rig with the Pink Canoes, which was the band I was playing in at the time. Two years later, looking to up my game and consolidate the electronics, I rebuilt Number 8 as Number 20, largely using the same circuit, but upgrading the enclosure and interface. Four years later, I upgraded Number 20 again, swapping out the machine screws for 1/8” jacks to make my instruments a little more baby-friendly. In 2016, said instrument was incorporated into the Sound System (the silly name I gave the big metal box that houses my performance rig), took a trip to England and played on a handful of shows and recordings until early 2018 when I decided that after a decade of use, it was time to put it out to pasture. Not to say its broken. If anything, it was an act of preservation – the circuitry was originally wired point-to-point through a sheet of plexiglass and some of the connections were beginning to get loose. Not wanting to rebuild the instrument from the ground up when I upgraded everything in 2015 or so, I applied a coat of hot glue to the circuit to keep things in place and at this point, while everything is still working, travel’s not doing anyone any favors and any attempted repairs would probably destroy the circuit – so it goes. So the instrument gained a gallery hook on the back and joins the hall of fame along with the other retired instruments from the menagerie. One day I’ll have an art show of these guys. In the meantime, they make some pretty good wall candy.

So that’s what this record is about. It was recorded in two parts – the first in May 2017 in Baltimore at around that some pretty intricately laid life plans dissolved into mush and I was in a pretty extremely dark place as we figured out a plan b. The second part was recorded in April 2018 in Ithaca, NY while the girls were out of town, it was snowing and I needed a distraction from the weather. Considering the circumstances, I’d like to think that we’re in a much better place at the moment – but hey, from a sonic perspective the juxtaposition’s pretty interesting.



tjohns – analog electronics, mixing, mastering, artwork