Sunday, September 14, 2008

Weird Files, Santa Fe, Sonic Youth, blah blah blah....

I can't even say for sure that I'm going to write about all of those things in this entry. Those are just a few things that I'm thinking about as I begin it.

So, I wrote a piece of music yesterday that is, again, frustratingly unfit for any sort of "live" performance. It might be a piece of drivel, so it may not matter, but in the current musical culture of Oklahoma City, it's an issue in terms of making people aware that it (or the "project" it's associated with AKA Weird Files) exists. Maybe no one would care anyway, and therefore it doesn't matter whether I try to "promote" it or not. But it also comes back to some of the things I spoke about in a previous entry...

Let's say I want to make this piece (at this moment, it is imaginatively titled "Composition 1", since it is the first piece of music I've written since quitting my day job two weeks ago) a part of a Weird Files live performance. Currently, Weird Files live performances (of which there have been exactly 3 to date) involve me performing on electric guitar, acoustic guitar or vocals over some sort of recorded backing track, depending on the piece. No songs have "lyrics", per se...Any vocals are usually some sort of nonsensical noise. What I've managed to do so far, though, is to make every piece in the show a combination of taped and live performance. "Composition 1" does not appear to be performable in that fashion...No guitar part, no vocal part, all electronics and samples generated from within my little Mac laptop. And, silly, poor me, I have no midi trigger that I might use to play some of those parts "live" (even if I did, it might not gel...I don't know). So what do I do? Do I make the piece a part of the show and just let it play while I stand there? This, again, brings up questions about what performance is, the question about DJs, and when they become "performers" and when are they just spinning records. I would just be "spinning a record" of my piece, really, but in the midst of something that could be called "performance" (this is not the first piece I've written for Weird Files that I felt this way about).

That brings up the whole DJ thing again...I really want to do something along these lines, but it is incredibly difficult not to brand the whole idea as ludicrous, mainly because I don't know of anywhere that would allow me to do what I want to do. I mean, it's partly about choice of material, it's partly because I want to mix my own pieces of music in...It's partly because I don't want to do any sort of "DJing" that really fits in any sort of category that people are familiar with. I also am pretty sure I'm really going to suck at it, and that I'll get laughed at because my gear is shitty and not "real" DJ gear. Whatever. Let's imagine a playlist for a DJ set by me:

Jungle Love-The Time
Big Jilm-Ween
Discipline-King Crimson/Phil's Boner Story-Weird Files (Phil's Boner Story is just spoken vocal, so it would play simultaneously with the Crimson track)
Ballooon Man-Robyn Hitchcock
Postal Blowfish-Guided By Voices
Dog Breath, In The Year Of The Plague-Frank Zappa & M.O.I.
Music Is My Radar-Blur
Cause For Concern-Nels Cline Singers
Rock & Roll Friends-Sifl & Olly
Fake Talking Heads Song-Liam Lynch

That's probably around 45 minutes or so, but you can tell how it might go on from there. Not especially concerned with any beat matching, or beats period. Not concerned with anything except playing some music that should get played.

I was in Santa Fe for only the second time since 1998 a weekend or two ago. I never thought I'd enjoy being there again as much as I did this time...When I left in 98 I was kind of sick of it, and the first time I went back (2006) I was just kind of in shock that the place was even real. Shocked that my memories were accurate, and that I had, in fact, spent 5 pivotal years of my life there from ages 18-23. This time it was like coming back to an old friend who had no reservations about giving you a warm embrace, even though things had been awkward the last couple of times you had seen him/her. I feel the pull of Santa Fe, of the boho/artistic population that, perhaps unlike anywhere else, and definitely unlike OKC, believes that whatever you do as an artist has intrinsic value, and doesn't need to be acknowledged by the populace at large as having value...a lie that is perpetuated daily by most of the citizens of my current city (more on that in a's all going to tie together somehow). I couldn't help thinking, as I wandered through the park adjacent to the cathedral downtown, "THESE ARE MY PEOPLE!!" Yeah, I'm sure half of them are flaky nuts (e.g. our waitress at Tomasita's the night we arrived),'s really hard not to want to be somewhere where my artistic whims could be indulged without having to f$%@ing explain myself to people all the time, or whatever, whatever my complaint of the week is. Plus, I love the mountains more than I ever have...the landscape speaks to my heart in ways that it only showed an inkling of when I lived there. I don't know what to chalk that up to. I came close to tears as we headed into the Texas panhandle on the way home and the last vestiges of the NM-esque landscape disappeared. The clouds became further out of reach, the land became flatter and less interesting...Ugh. Thank God for trips in to Lawton and back the last two Fridays, where I witnessed the Wichita mountains and learned (again for the first time) about the geographic loveliness Oklahoma has to offer. That, and when we went to Lubbock last weekend, I also learned about some NM-esque bits of West Texas that I was unaware of.

So here I am in Oklahoma City, plowing away with Dr. Pants (we do have an EP coming out, that I am really excited about, and it's really positive, and I promise I'll get to talking about that and some other positive things some time soon, just not today), and attempting to muster up the enthusiasm for/tweak the performance concept of Weird Files. And trying to start DJing, all in the face of inevitable apathy on the part of the general populace. So, in the wake of quitting my job, not only do I think about all this, but I make the rather hopeful decision to try and write some string quartet music, with the goal in mind of doing a performance of it some time in the spring of '09. There are two possible explanations for this, one being much more cynical than the other. The cynical one is that at some point, I decided to give Dr. Pants a more narrow focus, musically, because I was convinced that a certain "commerciality" would give the music a better chance at being noticed by a larger audience. Now that I know that people don't give a shit no matter what you do, why not write some string quartet stuff? The less cynical explanation is that now that I have some more time to devote to my art, I feel able to tend to more of the "branches" my "musical tree" and therefore can do some things like this.

A few things about records:

Sonic Youth-EVOL

Man...I can't even describe the joy of my late "catching on" that is happening with these guys...I'm all over the map with their material, but this one is a particular favorite at the moment. It's dark, kind of dreary, and has a great 80's production feel that lends it a certain commonality with Joy Division, etc. Highly recommended. Only feel as though I'm scratching the surface.

The Hold Steady-Almost Killed Me

Their first record, which I purchased out of sequence with the others. Has more in common with Lifter Puller, Craig Finn's old band, than their other albums do. Great riffs, less Springsteen-esque than their newer stuff. Well worth it if you're a fan at all.

Brief, yes. But it's almost 1:00 am and it's about all I've got the juice for. Please leave comments. Go be a fan of Dr. Pants on Facebook if you can. We need to build this shit up. "The Cusack-Loggins EP" is almost here. Give us another four weeks or so, and hopefully we'll have it in your grubby little hands. Also, since Mike at was so generous as to post a link to my blog on his myspace page, I need to give him a shout out. could be one of the coolest music networking sites on the net, if you are willing to allow it to be. Go check it out. Dr. Pants is on there, so how could it be bad?


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