A lot of music fans are familiar with musicologist John Lomax’s pioneering folk recordings. Hauling a 300-plus pound acetate cutter around the South, Lomax produced an amazing array of discs while attempting to capture songs in their purest, most raw forms. Years later, it has been said, the growing folk movement would inspire young musicians to make pilgrimages to far-flung backporches and hidden juke joints in search of the mysterious musicians they knew by only the barest of information.
This weekend, I became one of them– an enigmatic legend in my own time.
Of course, in today’s world, the pilgrimage took the form of a MySpace message. Which is just as good, because my back porch is a mess. The message began:
“soooooo hello… I live in a trailer park right. And i was kinda in this old trailer were noone has lived for a while….we needed a fridge. and i found a box of fuckn tapes. and alot of papers about some kinda band called ELECTRIC KITTEN VOMIT. or EKV. ohhh but yeah the tapes…the tapes man. they are golden.”
This was more than a bit of a small surprise to me, obviously! You see, some years ago, I had rented a small trailer for music practice space. It was ugly, smelly, and alternately too hot or too cold. But it was a great place to try out noisy sound experiments that didn’t sit too well with the neighbors around my own place. When I moved, a lot of things couldn’t come with me– and I didn’t feel too bad about leaving a fair amount of junk behind, reasoning that it simply replaced the junk that had been there when I started renting the place. Of course, I didn’t think I’d left anything of real value– I wouldn’t miss some waterlogged LPs, a trashed turntable, the broken-down fridge, or yard sale children’s cassettes.
But as is often the case with being in a hurry, I missed something:
“…the best take in there was this mystery band that is way unable to be explained by words. but it was a tape about some kinda journalism crap. but duct tape was strapped on so it was rerecorded. it says “SIDE 2″ and PZEK! at the bottom. in a shitty brown marker. anyway. when i found them i was quite intoxicated and had to listen to it right away. i like the sound a lot. sorry if its weird… but i feel like since i got in that little green trailer i’ve been on a quest.”
Well, this was no waterlogged record. I seems I had accidentally left behind my recording of “PZEK,” a very strange set of cassettes I had made in December of 1999 with friends in Kentucky. This was decidedly weird material, especially so for anyone coming across it in an abandoned trailer. Luckily, the tape had not only been found by someone able to appreciate it, but willing to do the online detective work necessary to track me down. Correlating “DaveX” and “Electric Kitten Vomit” online wouldn’t be difficult, and I’m sure this eventually led to my “It’s Too Damn Early” homepage.
I decided to invite my new listener to that evening’s radio show. He was willing to give me my tapes back, which I thought was incredibly cool, but I also really wanted to connect with this individual who had thought so highly of my recording. Since he had been unable to purchase a copy of my album “The Avant-Garde Revolts” due to not having a credit card, I decided to bring along a copy of this as a gift, along with the otherwise unreleased full version of PZEK! on CD.
We met up at the station, along with a friend of his– apparently another new fan, who had encouraged the initial search for me online. While I broadcast a somewhat haphazard show, we swapped stories about the trailer park, music recommendations, and talked a bit about circuit bending. And yes, I got my tapes back, including one additional tape from his Trash Ant project. I also got a very cool circuit-bent keyboard, with a nifty optical sensor and sustain switch!
Obviously, I was happy to find out that another person is Southern Illinois appreciates this sort of thing, and was heartened to learn that the practice is catching on somewhat among some of the local high-school students. Perhaps there is more hope for an experimental art community down here than I would have thought!In the end, I lost my status as a mysterious legend; but I gained a couple new listeners, and hopefully helped some of the people that will be part of a thriving, local experimental music community in the future.
I had Kids Kamp host Mama C. take a picture of everyone, with Trash Ant on the far left. Pay no attention to my haggard appearance and untimely mid-blink.