I’ve really been ignoring my blog lately. I started making these little web videos and that was satisfying my need to discuss all my thoughts on everything publicly in it’s own way, and as I’ve said before writing is kind of hard for me… That’s not true, writing is easy. It’s the whole spelling, grammar, making sense thing that gets me.
I started a band.
About two weeks ago a local booking agent, I won’t say who just yet, contacted me about performing at one of their curated events as a sound artist. It turned out the event was specific to laptop music, and I don’t use a laptop. I might be if I decide on a set up, but now, no laptop. They said, “Cool, we’ll get back to you for another event”.
I said, “Cool, talk soon”.
This initial contact made me stop and think, “Damn, I need to get a fucking show together ASAP”. I listened to the music I wanted to play and tried to picture the vision of a live stage version and of course immediately Pink Floyd came to mind, billowing red, baby blue, pink, and black smoke flickering in the strobes. Done. Stage atmophere sorted.
Then I tried to imagine how to recreate the songs live and I realized I can’t. Not yet anyway. The music only exists in the speakers, meaning no hi-fi, no song. That’s not so worrying for me because I am a DJ and understand sound system culture and ideology. Some music needs to be played on an instrument to be effective, some songs are only effective in the speakers, the sound system is the instrument and I control that sound.
But I didn’t stop there. As I envisioned my “band” on stage amid the flickering light there were other figures there besides me. Drummers. And a dancer. Yeah a dancer. Every cool band has had a dedicated dancer, Happy Mondays, 808 State, Meat Beat Manifesto, Public Enemy, the list goes on. It just so happened that I met a break dancer a week or so before at a hip hop night and we were talking about making a video.
The first person I contacted about the show idea was a friend from when I was studying afro-latin percussion, playing in our local samba school and with a small folkloric group specializing in Puerto Rican and Haitian music. Gerard’s opinion and experiance is heavy in these matters, and I sought his guidance in an email. I invited him to be part of the sound.
I then contacted the dancer and he was very into the idea, even stating that he “strobes” which I guess is a form of popping. He also mentioned costumes, which had not even entered my mind, but of course, costumes!
I wanted to hear back from my friend Gerard from the folkloric group for his advice on the matter. He’s an old school drum guy and knows the Austin scene well. After not hearing back from him for a few days I thought he blew me off as a freak or missed the email. I decided to hit craiglist in search of drummers.
Before I posted the message I spent a few nights putting together a rough mix of the the program. Right now the show runs about 23 minutes and I’m shooting for a half hour with additional songs ready to mix in after as DJ set. Point being the musicians would be able to have a recording of my mix (minus dub effects and other live elements I will add) for the show, hopefully easing up on rehearsals. So even then I had a really good idea what everything was supposed to look and sound like.
I was bummed I never heard back from Gerard, but I moved ahead anyway.
I posted a simple message in the musician section of craigslist for drummers interested in Jamaican roots and dub music, and I mentioned that I was performing a digital version of these rhythms and wanted to experiment with live dub mixing.
Two guys contacted me, very curious about the electronic aspect of the music. Both are full on gigging percussionists and one also produces ambient dance music as well. So far so good.
I was encouraged by the contact, but still disheartened that Gerard didn’t care about my new music project, I wanted his blessing. I had begun communicating with the other drummers about the project and then with perfect timing came Gerard’s response. A very considered reply, he had really given my idea some thought. Long story short he’s in, and I met with Lane, one of the other percussionists a few days ago and gave him the CD of the show mix. Cool guy, like minded and curious.
I feel good about Gerard and Lane and I am still not %100 about the other guys, but we’ll see about that. I put together a small collection of links that I sent the guys to show them where I’m coming from on a musical and mental level.
We will wait out South by South West before we actually rehearse, although a meeting is planned in a couple of weeks. Not a formal rehearsal, just a loud introduction…
Do I need to suggest how exciting this is? I have been waiting for the right time and place to try out some of my new music ideas and it’s moving ahead. So by late summer (next September) we will be playing some chill psychedelic dub, and I’m sure I’ll get all hot and sweaty, and I hope you do too!
Next up, naming the sound system. All suggestions welcome!! Here are the videos I sent out to the other guys:
This one shows the drum style I’m after.
Real dub recording session from Kingston mid 70′s.
This is discussing the influence of Rastafarian and African ritual drumming on reggae and roots music in Jamaica. Check it out.