From Aural Innovations #22 (January 2003)
AI: I read an interview where you said you got started very young with a tape recorder your parents had bought, and reading this I got the impression you got into tape manipulation through your own experimentations. Could you tell me more about that and at what point you became aware of other people doing this.
Charles Rice Goff III (CRG): I think I was about 4 years old. I remember my dad got a reel-to-reel monophonic tape recorder. And I was just fascinated by the whole thing. Just the fact that you could say something and then listen back to it. And I would just do that over and over and over and over and over. And it came with a tape head cleaning set, and there was a little vial of fluid and some Q-Tips. And I kept asking my folks, "what's that for?" And my mom kept saying, "that's for your dad to clean his head with." And I swear to god, I had this image that there was going to be brain surgery on my dad or something related to this machine.
But I guess just from the very first experience that this thing existed I was really fascinated. And I was in some ways lucky because my sisters are 12 and 10 years older than me, so when I was real young they liked to listen to records and I got a good dose of popular music exposure as a youngster. And I can definitely remember enjoying listening to records. But what I would say got me totally aimed at musical activity myself, beside the fact that I was taught musical instruments, was when the Beatles "Sgt Peppers" record came out I was listening to that as a kid and to me it was so different than anything that I'd ever heard before. And I really thought that it was magic or something. And I thought to myself that this is what I want to do. I want to create magic like this. And I don't think I've ever achieved that [laughs], but I would say that was something that definitely got me motivated towards wanting to record music and sounds. Then later I got a little portable cassette tape recorder and I recorded everything. Then I used that one and that other funky one of my folks to do little overdubbings and stuff. And I did some Beatles songs and other stuff using the kazoo and a jews harp, and there is some singing. I still have a couple of those actually.
I would say that was my start. And as far as what you say about other people doing stuff like that, that would be much later. As far as home recording I had a lot of friends who were musicians in high school, but there wasn't a lot of recording they were doing. There was some but most of it was live performance. I saw the Frippertronics tour in ‘79 and that got me interested in the whole tape loop idea. And I started messing around doing tape loops. But that was like 1979... I was not aware that there was a lot of people doing home recordings at that point. It probably wasn't until probably maybe ‘83 that I started to realize that there was a couple of magazines. I think "Unsound"... do you remember that one?
AI: No. The ones I was aware of and hear artists like yourself talk about are "Op" and "Sound Choice".
CRG: "Unsound" was one of the first things that I ever found that had stuff about home recordings in it. And all of a sudden I realized there were people all over doing this. And I went from doing some pretty weird experiments using just about anything to record with to eventually getting a 4-track recorder. Of course now I use the computer to record with too which is a quite different medium with a lot of different types of opportunities. And I guess I really am very much a kind of a creature of... trying to bend technology into whatever my imagination says can possibly happen I'll try to do that with it. And so as you've noticed from the things that you've heard, especially if you listen from the first thing, "-Re", through the last thing, "Whirledly", you can hear a lot of different styles and ideas, and I think that a lot of the things really just depend on what I have to work with at the time. And again, I think a lot of it depends on the technology. I can't create tape loops on a computer. I don't have reel-to-reel tape decks anymore. They finally all broke. But I'm always trying to find something new. I have a tendency to get bored quickly. And so I like to experiment a lot to try to do something that breaks another boundary of some sort, even if it's just my own boundary. But I often find that the things that I record are very different from things that other people record too.
AI: So it sounds like as taping devices and equipment got better you'd pick them up and it just provided additional opportunities.
CRG: I think that it not only allows different opportunities, but the equipment itself, for me, creates a new genre of what I'm going to do. So yes I would pick them up as I went along, but I also have a tendency to want to use things to learn as much about them as I possibly can before I give up on it. I know a lot of people who are very into obtaining technology as it comes out. They always have to have the newest thing. And the last thing that they had, they may not have even scratched the surface of what that can do. But they already have a new thing. So now they have to start scratching the surface of the new thing and they ignore this old thing. We were doing tape loops for years... into the ‘90s. I guess Fripp probably is still doing stuff like that but I don't really think that a lot of people were doing that as much that late.
AI: The Frippertronics influence is clear on the "-Re" and the "-Ing" CD's.
CRG: And the "Disism" too.
AI: But those are the earliest ones I've heard. The "-Re" and the "-Ing", you've got ‘79 and early ‘80s there, so are these the first recordings you did where you were involved in the scene and trading with other artists?
CRG: There was really not much trading then. I remember I went to UC Berkeley and they had a radio station there, KALX, for the university, and I had some friends who were DJ's there. I can remember playing stuff on there, and on KPFA as well, in San Francisco, which is the public radio station. There used to be a show - I don't know if it exists anymore - called "The No Other Radio Network". When I found out about that show I really realized how much was going on. But I can remember having stuff from the -Re period played on the radio. And I remember we were interviewed a couple of times on the radio when I was in -Ing in ‘81.
But as far as doing trades then I wasn't really aware of any trading network at that point. It wasn't until probably ‘84... maybe ‘83 or ‘84 when I started to become aware of a lot of other people doing it. Now with -Ing we used to do live performances. We didn't really consider ourselves to be a recording act as much because we didn't have recordings... we were a performing group... even though the performances were recording as they were done live. The tape loop thing, that's what we did with -Ing as you probably heard if you listened to the end of that CD.
AI: Right, I noticed those last tracks were recorded live.
CRG: And that was a typical show for us. In those days we would play at punk clubs and... there was really no venue for that kind of stuff. The audiences would be very supportive but the owners of the clubs generally would think of us as being too artsy for them and they wouldn't think that we could bring in a crowd to sell drinks. It wasn't like we were a regular weekly group or something. It was definitely something beyond what the owners thought was going to bring in a bunch of customers for them. But we played at the Keystone in Berkeley. That was a place that a lot of big names acts played. We even played upstairs in the little bar at the Fillmore West. And we played in warehouses and that kind of stuff where there would be artsy acts that would be performing.
But that's what -Ing was about. We didn't really have recordings available. We would send recordings to various radio stations and they would play that. But we didn't have a "product". We didn't think it was possible to make your own product and peddle it. Then when I started in Disism, which was I guess in ‘85, that's after I became hip to the whole home recording world, and that's when I started to do a lot of trading. And Hal McGee was one of the first people that I encountered by the trading network. Now he's one of my best friends! So it's very nice that things can last for so many years.
AI: That's what happens when you're both among the people that really stick it out.
CRG: That's true. I've got a ton of recordings that I've traded with people. They put out a couple of tapes and that was it. Or they did it for a few years and then stopped. And some of these people you just never hear from them again. They just disappear. But Hal... Chris Phinney, he's another one that I contacted early on. Those contacts have lasted a long time. And those are a couple of the people who have stuck it out for as long as they have. And the only reason that I do it is because there's something in my brain that tells me this is what I have to do. It seems I'm compelled I guess. I really don't have a choice in the matter.
AI: So the names I see on the -Ing and -Re CD's, were these fellow travelers that you met at the University?
CRG: Let's start with Steve Schaer, who was the other half of -Ing, and who is deceased now. It's a very sad story, he hung himself in 1998. I miss him tremendously. But I met him when we had some English classes together. I saw him looking at a copy of Diamond Dogs. So I went up to him and asked, oh you're a Bowie fan? This was around 1976. So we had a couple of jam sessions. I remember the day that he brought his ARP Odyssey synthesizer. We had a great time that day. And we were jamming around together and it wasn't until about late ‘82 that we decided we were going to do performances. We had done a lot of recording and sent out a lot of tapes to people, but we hadn't hit the stage yet. The tapes were just to radio stations and we had been interviewed. But we were still just experimenting. We didn't have any kind of "set" to play. And I figured we needed something. And what we did was out of the tape loop jams that we started doing we developed actual songs. And you can see on the -Ing CD there's the studio version of "Whirring During" and there's a live version. The studio version were created out of nothing. We got some free studio time from another guy. Actually we were in a band together before -Ing. And that was called Temporarily K.Y. And the reason it was called that was we didn't really have any name for it, and we consistently were in need of a drummer, and so this band went really nowhere. We recorded, very crudely, some songs so that we knew what they sounded like. It was like a Zappa kind of sound. Maybe a cross between Zappa and Pink Floyd of some sort. But one of the guys from this group started working as an engineer over at Hine Street Studios so that's where we went to create the -Ing music. And that's Gordon Lyon. I think Gordon ended up being a big time engineer over in Italy for some Italian pop star.
But the other guy in the band besides Steve was Robert [Silverman], who is a prominent member of Herd Of The Ether Space, and another good friend of mine who I also met in college. And as you saw with the other Herd Of The Ether Space that was recorded last summer, we actually got together... and we hadn't played together, and me and Killr [Killr "Mark" Kaswan], since probably around ‘98. And I was pretty entertained by it. I think it sounds pretty interesting.
AI: Which one was that?
CRG: That's the other Herd Of The Ether Space CD... Dolly & Jackie & Mr. Wren. But Robert and I are still close. And yeah, he was a college contact. And he's on -Re. That really weird sounding piece, "Toothpaste". Basically we were using two broken tape recorders, that's how that thing came out. And I would say we were never able to recreate that exact sound [laughs]. But what happened was one of the tape recorders obviously was running faster than the other. So when it was feeding backwards playing slower... anyway that's how that came out. Eventually we got tape recorders that were not broken, and in that case when we would do a tape loop where we'd have the one tape recorder running faster than the other one, which would kind of suck the tape through, we called that effect Toothpaste, but it never really sounded the same as that one piece.
AI: One thing that stands out and seems to be consistent with you throughout the years is the use of samples of voices and conversations, and some of it certainly has a political aspect. But is it just a fun element, or a way to communicate, or both?
CRG: Well I guess for me every piece has its own existence. And as far as that's concerned... yes, there is a consistency of using voice samples from just about everything. I would say sound samples including voice. And yes I do like to put together different spoken ideas into ways to create a sort of a Dadaistic message of some sort. You can maybe get a little of that on the Machinations CD. If you listen to that piece "Mourning Has Broken" on the Herd Of The Ether Space "Topical Anesthesia" CD... that was from a show we did that was about the Gulf War. And both Killr and I collected a lot of samples. In fact, I had recorded probably 40 hours of video tape before I got some of the samples [laughing]... we did a whole show, that's just one piece from the show. But to get it down to a 2 hour performance, it was about 40 hours of stuff that I had, and then he had probably another 10 hours.
So yeah, and there are messages that are communicated. And in a lot of ways I think that a lot of the stuff that I do is trying to feed back on to the environment. Y'know, stuff feeds and you've got to feed it back out. I think that happens with all musicians. But there are political messages in there and there are also just nonsense messages. One of the things too is I find that a lot of times people take themselves so seriously about things, and to me that's funny.
AI: One of the things I noticed about the Machinations and Phloby vs. C. Goff III discs is they are so funny. Especially some of the stuff on Machinations. They're really fun discs to listen to.
CRG: Well that's good. My feeling is that the potential for turning things into something funny is very high, especially if people are serious. So that's how I look at the world a lot.
AI: One of the earlier tracks that stuck out, the "Doublespeak" track from the -Re CD, that was 1984, and I'm listening to it and thinking to myself that given that these were the early days of home recording and global networking, that these must have been heavy statements to make with just a little cut and splice.
CRG: I didn't really think of it as a global thing. I do like to share my work with people, but to me that whole Reagan time period, when I think of it even now it's very disturbing to me. In those days I was working with an environmental organization and dealing with some of these problems very directly. Like the Jesse Jackson section where he's giving his speech, I was at that speech. I recorded that live actually. And then when I heard the Nixon thing I thought this was just perfect to go along with this Jesse Jackson thing. But I can't say I was trying to portray a global message or anything. It was more of a personal message I think. And I just wanted to share it with others. Obviously I have some strong feelings about politics in general. And I had a lot of stuff to work from and I just thought I'd do a big long thing and that's how it came out as long as it did.
AI: By the global part I meant more becoming aware that other people were doing this and it might have been unique in those days for anyone you might have shared it with.
CRG: Well that's true. And it's still not now. The way things are is you've gotta dig to get the gutsy art in today's audio art it seems. The way that the controls have been put by the companies that purvey music has gotten to be so incredible. The kind of music I do I never expected that it's going to be popular. That's just not possible in today's world. So again, it's doing what I want to do and realizing that there's others - there's not a lot of us - that are interested. And it's nice to be able to share it with them. And what I really like out of this too of course is that I get to hear what they're doing, which has a lot of influence on me as well as just a lot of entertainment value. The good thing about being a part of the recording world is that you really get to get into some minds and cultures in a way that you cannot possibly any other way. And it worries me that... y'know, I'm really happy that you're doing this Jerry but I gotta tell ya, I would be worried if something like Rolling Stone called me up.
AI: [laughing] You'd probably be more suspicious perhaps.
CRG: Because it just seems to me that if something like that happened that would be the beginning of the end of it. To have it exposed in that way... it just seems to me it would cause some record executive to start scratching their head and say, "how can we exploit this?" And while I would like to be able to survive as an artist, which is very hard for me, the fact is you can't make the music as a thing for profit. The way I think of it is that before there was any profit there was lots of music, and most of it was for celebrations, either religious or personal. And it was not something that was bought or sold it was something that was there to share as part of your daily life. And today when I tell people I'm an avant-garde recording artist they'll ask me if I'm making money. And it's like, I don't want to hear that question because it has nothing to do with it. But in today's United States of America if you're not selling records then the average person doesn't think that you're a valid artist. And to me there's something wrong with that.
AI: And the average person isn't even aware that all this home recording is going on. So I'm sure it would be completely alien to them that people are doing this because they enjoy it and that there would be consumers that would actually be seeking it out.
CRG: I like to picture an ideal world where people get together and share these things and accepts it as part of the natural order of things. But somebody who's not experienced with the home recording world, sitting them down and having them listen to some of this stuff is a very interesting experience.
AI: I liked the Disism set. The two discs were a bit different. I liked the disc one in particular because it has this cool blend of spacey cosmic music with more experimental elements, whereas disc two I described as the Residents' Eskimos having fun at a carnival.
CRG: What happened was Killr had been in Europe and he came back right about the time Steve and I had stopped making music, and right about the same time we finished that "Doublespeak" thing. So Killr and I decided that we were going to start recording as a unit. And what we did was we sort of took the -Ing thing to another level. None of the stuff on the discs that you have represents this, but the very first stuff that we did was we took pieces that we had written for tape loops so that we could play them live. And then we had sound samples, so unlike the -Ing live, the Disism live would be similar but there would be regular samples that were supposedly timed to come in at specific parts of these pieces, and it was supposed to work in a very specific way. Well it never quite worked out exactly right but it came close most of the time. And that's how Disism started. And the disc that you have is the first one where we just decided all we're going to do is have a live improvisation thing. And we recorded all day. And you may not sense this when you listen to it but the improvisations are overlapping on that so there's often more than one thing going on that wasn't originally created that way.
AI: Did you perform live as Disism?
CRG: Several times. One of the things I have is from the Abject And Unusual Music Festival that was held in 1988 at UC Berkeley. Mark Hosler from Negativeland actually introduced us. Anyway we have some live stuff that was recorded for a videotape from that. It has me rolling marbles down my guitar strings. It has Killr playing this hubcap and this large metal canister, as well as a trombone. The guy who videotaped it also added some video effects that are pretty trippy too. But it was an outdoor thing and it was on the day that they invite mom and dad to bring their kiddies down to UC Berkeley before they're actually going to sign them up to go to school. And we were probably one of the low-key bands compared to some of these other ones that performed that day. But fortunately when we were on, it did happen to be the point in the day when the most people were gathered, and we had a very large crowd. There was at least 100 people sitting on the grass in front of us and there was a lot of people walking by. And that was an all improvised gig.
But we also played some of those same clubs I told you about as well as some places we rented. I think we did a couple of acoustic shows where we played acoustic instruments. Killr is a very very close friend of mine, and even though he lives in Los Angeles I feel a very deep kinship with him. And when we get together and make music we do create some things that are very interesting and I think it has to do a lot with the vibe. He did come to visit here in February and something I didn't send you is a brand new Disism.
AI: Is that the first one you'd done in a while.
CRG: The first Disism release since maybe 1992 or so. It sounds a lot different than some of the other stuff we did, but it was a very unified work, each of us providing an equal amount to the whole so that it does have the Disism feeling shall we say. But it's a lot different sound than what you've got. But the one you've got, it's probably my favorite of all of the Disism stuff that we did. Recording it all in one day had a lot to do with it. And as you can tell there's a lot of Iran-Contra stuff involved in that. Both of us very much wanted to make a little commentary with that too. That's sort of the underlying theme of it all. It doesn't appear all over the place. It just kind of pops up here and there.
AI: Looking at the catalog on your web site, Herd Of The Ether Space seems to be the project that has the most releases.
CRG: Let me explain how the Herd came about. I had a number of friends when I was in California and I was always finding more people who were willing to try out some exploration and improvisation. We would invite people over to one another's homes and set up their recording equipment and whatever instruments we happened to decide we were going to use, and then we would just do whatever we were going to do. And the way the Herd happened was I was in this Temporarily K.Y. band, and then I was in -Ing, and then -Ing split up and then I was in Disism. But during all that time period there was a lot of stuff that was recorded that really had no name and the only function for it was for us to trade it between ourselves, the people who made it.
So I had this large collection of these recordings, and then it was about ‘88 when Killr and Robert and I decided that we were going to officially have a name for all this freeform stuff that we were doing and call it Herd Of The Ether Space. And the original name was going to be The Order Of Chaos. But what happened was is right at that same time Robert calls me up and says there's this band playing in town and they're called The Order Of Chaos. And this was a local group. So what Robert and I did was we got our Roget's Thesaurus out and we looked at the Order, and we thought about a lot of different things. We thought about the League, and the Group, and whatever was in there. But we came up with the Herd. That seemed like the most interesting. And then for Chaos there's a whole bunch of little different sections in my Thesaurus that break down and one of them was called Cosmic Space. And within Cosmic Space was Ether Space. And Robert and I are looking at this and thinking this is it. And we ran it past Killr and Killr thought that was a good idea. And I would say the three of us, Robert me and Killr, were the founders somehow, because we came up with the name, and we had played together as three individuals probably more than any of the other groupings.
Steve and I had reduced our playing a lot after -Ing split up. And the reason that -Ing split up was because Steve was just getting really serious. It wasn't any fun anymore. So Steve was part of Herd Of The Ether Space and he did still play with us sometimes, but it was less often than Robert and Killr, and Killr was playing with me as Disism at the time and Robert was just always around. But we invited all kinds of people. There's another person I would consider close to the core, and that would be George Gibson, who I rarely ever hear from now. But George was somebody that I worked with in the environmental group. And George is a real innovator-inventor and he would make his own instruments. He would transform instruments of one sort into another by messing around with them in various ways. He was very into Third World music and brought a wonderful perspective of things to us which really added a lot to the sounds that we made. And then the other guy is Stuart Sands. And he was a friend of Robert's from god knows how long ago. But I met him when we shared a dorm building back in 1976. But I didn't really play any music with him until probably the early 80's. Stu is an excellent guitar player. But he became another guy who we sort of had as a core member. But he never performed with us publicly. We had invited him to, but he didn't. George did.
There's only a couple of live shows that Herd Of The Ether Space did but they were both really very interesting. One of them is on video tape. That's the one we did on the Gulf War. We did it in an art gallery. I had added in all those 40 hours of tape I had told you about into a visual presentation that we had on a TV in the background. And Robert's wife-to-be did some stuff by setting up barbed wire around us, and she did this incredible costume walk around the place. There were parts of the show where I went out and... y'know those champaign poppers like you have on New Years where you pull the string? In Chinatown I had gotten some that had like a gun, where you pull the trigger and it goes off rather than pulling on the string. So I went out and terrorized the crowd. I aimed this thing at people, and people really cringed. And I walked around and I had balloons in my pocket, and I'd blow them up and pop them in people's faces. So it wasn't like hurting them, but it was genuine terror. You could see these people were scared to death of me. Anyway, I think we got our point across very well.
AI: So for the most part would you say people were freaked out but they were staying?
CRG: Oh they loved it. We had a wonderful response. That was one of my favorite shows I've ever done actually. That war didn't happen to last all that long so it was over pretty much after our show was over I think. But we were thinking it was going to go on for years. But George was tremendous. He had brought these trippy Third World instruments with him and he was dressed up very Third Worldy. He had really long dreadlocks. George was definitely a big part of what we did. And Stuart too. And then there was just a lot of other people that were part of it. And on that CD "Topical Anesthesia", I tried to pick for that CD, because I had to pick these pieces out of like 45 hours of recordings, I wanted to try to get in as many people as I could on the CD as well as having pieces that I thought were interesting. But there's still plenty more people that were involved with all of us that are not on that CD that are on some of these recordings. They're all improvised. Except the ones that are based on the shows. And the ones for the shows, there was improvisation but the pieces were sort of planned out. And it's hard to explain that but I would say the way that it was was we had a set of pre-recorded vocal clips and a sort of atmospheric idea of how we wanted to present the piece and what instruments that we'd be using. But every time we'd practice it you could tell it was the same thing but it would not be like "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" over and over again. It's not like playing a song, but I guess in a way it's like a jazz thing, but there wasn't even a specific set of notes to use. It was just more generalized. More limited to the instrumentation. The Mood. And somehow we were able to carry that off in a way after practicing it a few times that it would be interesting for more than one presentation.
AI: I'm looking at the two CD's I've got and Topical Anesthesia includes, as you said, several participants, whereas Dolly & Jackie & Mr. Wren is the three of you which are credited with starting the whole thing. And that's one of the more recent releases.
CRG: I would say now that the Herd doesn't really exist outside of the three of us at this point. I'm not recording anything with either of these guys anymore and certainly not with any of the other guys. I live in Kansas now so it's a whole different thing. Now if we decided that we were going to trade some tapes around or something... When we got together in ‘97, Steve was still alive then, Steve was there, Stu was there, there was a guy named Will Marston who used to be named Will Flannegan, Steve's wife Deeann was there, I'm not sure if she played with us but she might have. It was a large group of individuals... that was a real big Herd gathering. But the fact that we had gotten together again, we had this name so that's what we called the band.
AI: The two CD's I have are very different from each other so it sounds like the Herd can be any number of things stylistically depending on who's participating.
CRG: And depending, as I said at the very beginning of all this, on the instrumentation and technology. That Dolly & Jackie & Mr. Wren thing was recorded on a computer and pretty fancy recording equipment at Robert's house. And I had been traveling from California so I had some homemade instruments that I had stuck in my suitcase. And Killr didn't bring much either. He lives in Los Angeles now so he just happened to be up at that time so he also just brought a small quantity of little things and then we'd use stuff that Robert had. But my feeling is is that when we got together and did that Dolly & Jackie & Mr. Wren stuff, it had been several years since we all had got together and played, and I felt that just right from the first second that we were all just sort of in tune with one another.
And sometimes that kind of thing can happen just right from the start. Such as the Summit recording (see Hal McGee profile in AI #19). The first thing on there... the five of us were just in this room and we had spread instruments all over the place and hung a bunch of microphones. And before we started I think what we said to one another was let's all make sure we listen to what one another is doing, because there are five of us who have never played together before. Hal [McGee] and Brian [Noring] had. But when that started basically we were just all kind of looking at one another and it worked. I got the feeling when we were done with that first piece that we had succeeded in what we had set out to do. We all felt very satisfied about it.
AI: I didn't know you all recorded together. I thought this was a mail collaboration so I'm glad you noted that.
CRG: We were all there at Brian's house. That's why it's called Summit. We did another one too, just me, Hal and Brian called Cryptomnesia. It's a double CD. That's all keyboard stuff. It's pretty long. And the original Summit is actually longer than that. At any rate, that was a fun time. And I also went out to his place [Hal's] in Gainesville [Florida] and recorded a couple of CD's out there. One night Phil [Klampe] was there. He had driven all the way from Illinois. We had two nights. One we did with Phil. It was Good Friday and we called it Unholy Trinity. And then the next day Hal had prepared an east Indian dish that's called Lobhia aur khumbi [the name of the resulting CD], and Hal and I recorded some stuff, Phil had to go home, but we did another set on our own. So that was also not mail collaboration. That was as live as can be. Brian and Hal were supposed to come here once to play with Turkey Makes Me Sleepy. What happened was we were all set for them to come and they called and said they couldn't make it. So I called back and said we're all set up so what I want you guys to do is call up and give me some sound samples on my answering machine and we're gonna mess around with that stuff and incorporate that into the session. And that worked out into some pretty interesting music too.
AI: Sounds like you made the best of the situation. They couldn't be there so you made them "there" as best you could.
CRG: Ya gotta do what ya gotta do. If Plan A doesn't work it's better to go with a Plan B then to just put it in the box and forget it.
AI: Turkey Makes Me Sleepy and Magic Potty Babies. These are people that are available to you locally right?
CRG: Well, Eric's not anymore. Eric [Matchett] moved to Oregon a couple years ago. So he's out of the picture now and that's when Turkey Makes Me Sleepy sort of came to its conclusion. Now he provided stuff for Machinations. He sent me the tape that I used all that, "Wake up in the mornin, wake up in the mornin". That's Eric. But what happened was living here in Lawrence [Kansas] one of the first things I did was of course check out all the local record stores. And one of the record stores, the guy in there who had allowed me to put some tapes in there on consignment, and I actually sold some here in town through his store. But he had a little thing about a community radio station that was starting up. Something that was low wattage and not approved by the FCC. And he said they're looking for people who would like to do shows. And I said I've got an awful lot of home recordings that no one in town has probably ever heard in their lives that I'd love to play on a radio show. And he said, sign up.
So I got in at the very beginning of this radio station, which doesn't exist anymore, it got shut down by the government. But it did exist for a while and in the course of that I met Eric and I met Mike [Mikadams]. And the way I met Eric was at a general meeting he was talking about Negativeland to another person. And I overheard the conversation and naturally our music is very similar to Negativeland. In fact, Negativeland used to live across the street from where I used to live in Oakland. So we started talking about that and it turned out that Eric was a musician. And then we each met Mike probably about a month later, and he just wanted to get involved in the radio station. He had a show too. And he was in band here locally called Lip Smacking Kitty Lunch. And they played some pretty interesting sophisticated kind of progressive music. There's a lot of humor in it, but excellent musicians. And I was quite impressed with Mike's guitar playing. And Eric is mostly a drummer, but basically we all loved to mess around with lots of other things besides our basic instrumentation. And the first time we got together and played we recorded some kick ass stuff. It was very obvious that we were all just in a groove together. So we did a bunch of improvised stuff, and we did a couple of live shows here in town. One of them was at that record store I told you about. We also played a music festival here in town. And there's a recording from that that's on the other Turkey Makes Me Sleepy CD. We have several tapes.
Anyway, we tried a lot of different things and did a lot of different stuff. Now some of the stuff on there we approached not just from strict improvisation. "Sandman", "Edna Lena Loo", and the "Faith Healer" song... what we did was each of us would record 2 five minute raw materials. And then I would give my raw materials to either Mike or Eric, Mike would give his to either me or Eric, then we would overdub whatever we wanted on what the person had given us. And then we'd give it to the last person. So each of us would have worked on all three in sort of a different order. And for each tape there was six pieces totaling 30 minutes. And some of those came out very interesting. The "Sandman", the "Faith Healer" and the "Edna Lena Loo", and I can't remember what else is on that tape but those three in particular were the ones we did that way. So rather than just straight up improvisation, that was sort of improvisation... by collaboration. And we were pretty satisfied with the way those two tapes came out. The first one was called "Swimming In The Sound Soup" and the other one was called "My First Adventure In 3-D". And then the other tapes we did were based on improvisation for the most part. And then the last CD that I put together was some of the last stuff that we had done. And it's kind of a hodgepodge of different stuff.
We actually have a Country & Western song that we wrote one day. It's got harmonica and acoustic guitars, and Mike came up with some great lyrics. It does sound like Country & Western music. It's not like some Dada interpretation. And we have a Gothic piece that we did. This guy Buzzsaw.... Buzzsaw is a completely unique artist, unlike any other I have ever heard in any genre, anywhere, anytime, period. He has got his own space absolutely. And he had some lyrics that were about the seduction of Socrates. And that in itself is weird enough so we decided that we were going to use these lyrics and come up with a song. It's very funny. But just like any other thing I'm involved in, whatever we create has nothing to do with any genre and has more to do with what we decide we need at that time to do.
AI: So it sounds like this radio station was a good local networking tool. You came across these other people through the station.
CRG: I met a lot of neat people through the station. And then as far as the Magic Potty Babies thing goes. Josh [Duringer] was a friend of Mike's. Josh and I ended up introducing ourselves to one another one day. We met up in a record store and had a very good conversation. So then me and Mike and Josh and another guy named Dave Haney who was in the Lip Smacking Kitty band with Mike had a couple of jam sessions. And that was how the Potty Babies came to life was out of some improvisation sessions that we did. And I'm not imagining that there will be anymore Magic Potty Babies recordings at any point. But there might be. I can't say no to anything like that.
AI: I really like that Magic Potty Babies disc.
CRG: A lot of people like it. Josh was the one who did the recording engineering on that. So you'll notice that there's a very different kind of sound to that one than there is to the others. And that's attributable to him. And that's all improvised stuff. There was definitely no preconception on any of those pieces as to how they were going to go. And he's also the one, by the way, who engineered the [Phloby Vs. C. Goff III] Book Of All Things CD that we did together. And the way that came about was when I went over to Josh's house the first time I was looking around at all the shit that he's got in his house and here's his record collection. And I'm looking at these records and seeing things like the Croatian something or other sisters sing folk ballads from Yugoslavia, and then the next record is an instruction record on how to take shorthand, and then there's another record on the soundtrack from Battlestar Galactica or something... and I'm looking at these and saying to Josh that I don't have these same exact records but I've got the brothers and sisters of every one of these. So when he came to my house and was looking at my records he said what we need to do is have a 4 turntable jam session. No instruments. Just 4 turntables. And my two I made sure they were cranked wrong or broken so that they would sound a little bit off. And that's how that was created. We had two sessions where we got together and just did live improv. It was very synergystic. But he was the one that put together the final product and I think he did a really good job on that.
AI: I really like it and as I said there are similarities between that and Machinations.
CRG: Well most of that stuff I produced. So if there are similarities that's an interesting fact. He did produce a couple of the pieces on there.
AI: Machination was you on all of the tracks and collaborating with a variety of people right?
CRG: And some of them actually did the final production. But most of them I did. Buzzsaw did some pretty interesting ones. Josh's are different just because they're longer than the others.
AI: Did the Magic Potty Babies do any shows?
CRG: We never performed live. And like I said, I don't perceive a future for the Magic Potty Babies. The potential might exist at some point or other. But knowing the way that all of our lives are right now, I know it's not going to happen now.
AI: As I was making my way through all your CD's one of the last ones I came to was Vulnerable And Volatile, which surprised me because it was the most different of all of them being a set of what sounded like serious and personal songs. Is that what they were?
CRG: Just like the title says, I put myself out on the line on that. Like I said, to me, whatever I do is what I need to do at the time. Those songs on there are very personal. Many of them are anyway. And I needed to record those. And when I say record them I guess I needed to write them and sing them. And one of them I wrote when I was 16. So I've been singing a lot of these for years. So yeah, it's something that is different than some of the other music. Did you get any sort of a pop sense out of the songs I sang on Whirledly? Like the Marlboro advertisement?
AI: That was pretty funny. But a pop sense? Maybe a little bit. But what I'm remembering immediately is I listened to it right after Vulnerable & Volatile so I guess I was feeling that I was going back into what would be more "normal" territory for Charles.
CRG: I've done a ton of cover music which would probably be more similar to the little acoustic sing-a-long type things... because they're familiar songs even though they're often done in a different way than the original artist did. On one CD I put together a bunch of what I would call my more lyrical pieces of that nature. That's call "Pop Cycle". So there's a more sophisticated version of the "Padukem" song. Turkey Makes Me Sleepy actually performed that once. There's a little more sophisticated versions of "Fly Away", "Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference"... I think just about every one of the songs that's on there [Vulnerable & Volatile]. And what I wanted to do with this is I just always play these songs on my acoustic guitar. I've been doing this for so long I just figured it's gotta somehow be part of the whole. I love to sing. And some people really like my voice and some people can't stand it.
AI: I do like your singing style. And listening to you sing I kind of got an image in my mind of an avant-garde version of Bill Murray's lounge singer act from the old Saturday Night Live shows.
CRG: I did a tape of lounge music actually. It's called "Cocktails Will Be Served". It's got "McArthur's Park Is Melting In The Dark". It's got a cocktail lounge version of "Time" by Pink Floyd" which is very interesting. [Hear this on part 2 of the radio show... J.K.] I've got some real cocktail lounge music like "You Make Me Feel So Young". What I was going after was a strange sort of Karaoke effect. And I've got this one album which is just killer. I think it was released probably in the late ‘50's by The Nelson Riddle Orchestra which is them playing and you sing. But these arrangements are just incredible. So when you hear me singing on these things you can hear the crackle of the record and it really sounds like I was there in the studio with these guys recording this stuff which is the way I tried to pull it off. That was a lot of fun to make. And that Marlboro thing is probably the best example you've got of how that works out in its purest form. I do have a CD I compiled that are just cover songs too. "Goldfinger" is on there. "Day By Day"... like a real Burt Bacharach sort of version. "Tiny Bubbles".
AI: That sounds like a riot!
CRG: A lot of people like that. That was a lot of fun to do. And before that I did one... I picked up this hymn book that was published in 1904. I'd never heard any of these songs before and I didn't know what they sounded like. And I've got a midi program that you can notate things with so I took the notation from the hymn book and started messing with it, and I got all these different approaches than you would in the Church. And that was interesting. These aren't songs that are common hymns, if there are such things. So that was another sort of experiment that I did. And by the way, that's the same program I used for Whirledly. Most of that sound that sounds like keyboards playing is stuff that I composed using a midi composer. The potential is there to create a lot of different instrumentation and different ways of notes going together that really would not be possible in any other way, or at least for me personally, kind of like a synclavier I guess.
As far as my singing, at one point I did singing telegrams to make my living. That also adds to that cocktail voice I guess. But I worked out of San Francisco which is a very artsy fartsy place and there's definitely a lot of vocal trained highbrow-ish kind of stage singers and such which were the general people that worked at Eastern Onion and I just wandered in there and said I know I've never had any vocal training but I think I can sing and probably put on a pretty good show for you. And they auditioned me and said ok we think you can do it. And I think I was the only one that at that point at least that didn't have a real show business background.
AI: You got me thinking about the covers you were talking about but I got a kick out of your "Queen Beatle" [from Whirledly].
CRG: That was fun to do. I sat down with a book of Beatles lyrics, and I worked on this for a long time to try to find just the right words to go in just the right places. It took a million years to do those lyrics and you probably can't even hear all the stuff that I'm saying.
AI: Yeah. I was listening and thinking, do we have "Killer Queen" but with Beatles lyrics throughout?
CRG: That's exactly it. I've always loved the song "Killer Queen", but I didn't want to sing the lyrics to it. So I thought, when Queen first started getting popular back in the early ‘70's a lot of people were talking about them as being the new Beatles, and that always stuck with me. So I thought, ok let's do a Queen song and we'll do the Beatles lyrics.
AI: Thanks Charles!