My buddy Jon Brumit and I convened for two TN improv shows in late October in support of our touring Swiss colleague, Phil Zuercher. We played a special trio set in Chattanooga with Jon’s son, Otto, now 14, and the next night as a duo at the Pilot Light’s improv series in Knoxville.
The good folks at Knoxville Community TV film, record and post every show but unfortunately, my guitar isn’t well represented in the audio. This video fixes that. I recorded the set from the stage and mixed the audio in with good results!
Remember (Walking in the Sand). The Bodice Rippers was one of the coolest bands I played in/founded during my Oakland, CA time. Megan is a star of a singer and my buddy Chris writes great songs. This classic is, of course, not one of them but a band fave tracked at one of our early recording sessions in 2010 and recently mixed. I did a sort of dark Steve Cropper thing on guitar (which I’d be happy to do all night long). The video became a 2020 Pandemic project, made from old footage I captured in Rhinebeck NY, Storm King Art Center and Bombay Beach, CA
In The Pines. This was recorded in my friend Nina’s living room in Ljubljana, Slovenia in 2019. Our mutual friend Eva is the singer for Tabu, the biggest pop band in Slovenia and this is one of her favorite songs to sing. I was messing around with a spacey ebow version of the chord changes when she grabbed a djembe and just went off. I made the video after escaping the desert for the mountains and pine trees above Palm Springs sometime during ‘lockdown’ in 2020.
Tonight is a special show. My first conducted composition for large ensemble. It’s big. It’s beautiful. Piece to Celebrate the Proximity of Pearl Harbor Day and the Death of John Lennon on the only date it can happen – Mon Dec 7 @ The Makeout Room in San Francisco.
Rehearsal last night was very productive. I discovered that conducting is a rather rigorous affair and will continue to cling to the notion that notation software sucks in general (the sprawling score required good old scissors and glue to paste sections together properly). Aided by a stack of cue cards for the maestro to hold up, the musicians were able to get through the piece and it was fantastic to hear it come to life.
It is in four sections and scored for 10 guitars, 3 bass, 2 percussionists and 1 vocalist. It incorporates my favorite things from some of Glenn Branca, Rhys Chatham, and Moe! Staiano’s work.
The guitars are unison tuned with two low E strings, one middle E and three high E strings. Sections one and two make use of specially prepared spent bullet casings and scraping technique across specific strings to achieve the dramatic sound of planes approaching and departing.
Section 1 – The Sun Also Rises
Section 2 – TORA! TORA! TORA!/The Sleeping Giant Awakens
Section 3 – Helter Skelter
Section 4 – The Sun Also Sets score.pdf
The piece was conceived in New York City in August of this year. After booking a gig on Dec. 7 for large ensemble and having no idea what to present, the date struck me as significant. Pearl Harbor Day followed by Dec. 8, the death of John Lennon – two events that managed to wake people from their collective stupor for a moment. More than anything else this piece is about that, but the analogies are endless.
Members of the Orchestra include:
Suki O’Kane, Pat Spurgeon, Eli Crews, Dave Jess, Geo Kitta, John Shiurba, Nils Erickson, Daryl Shawn, Wayne Grim, David Slusser, Bobby Ray, Brian Good, CD Cummings, Reid Johnston, Dylan Champagne and Katherine Copenhaver.
The show was really great! Good vibe and crowd. We powered thru the piece and received so much positive feedback and encouragement. Thank you, thank you. It was a cool night of music overall – both Ross Hammond’s trio and Michael Heullits’ trio were smokin’!
Video of the first 10 minutes from Ross H (Section one, The Sun Also Rises and part of Section two, Tora! Tora! Tora!):
…off to the The Makeout Room for the Snowball Pond Orchestra performing Piece to Celebrate the Proximity of Pearl Harbor Day and the Death of John Lennon, the first conducted composition by kingtone (aka Lucio Menegon). (Some readers my recognize Lucio as the host of the Ivy Room experimental-improv series.) The piece is a a surround sound minimalist-meets-mayhem piece to celebrate the proximity of two events that managed to wake people out of their collective stupor for a moment or two.
The first two sections appeared to focus more on Pearl Harbor and the last two more on John Lennon. The opening section featured the guitars, as described above. Later on, much darker guitar and string sounds were set against snare drums that sounded at once militaristic and like a clip from a rock solo, followed by long sustained guitar unisons and complex chords. The music gradually took on more of a rock feel as the narrative moved from Pearl Harbor to John Lennon, with quotations from Helter Skelter (from the White Album) towards the end.
The 8th annual Starry Plough Murder Ballads Bash this past Halloween eve was really great. I was there with the Bodice Rippers performing, Tigerero our tale of death in the jungle and Options, a klezmer inspired song that muses upon all of one’s post mortem options. Great sets by Dylan Champagne, Penelope Houston, John Shiurba, Loretta Lynch, Suki O’Kane, Luther Monday, Happy Clams, Maurice Tani, Blunderbusst and Whore. ‘Twas was just the beginning of an epic Bodice Rippers evening that went until dawn by the waterfront of the 5th Avenue Marina in Oakland…
micheal zelner’ s photos:
and a cool short iPhone movie made by Francine and starring Ms Anna Gramme and the Curve:
The Overdub Club is proud to announce the completion of the HD video version of Nightsoil. We have worked long and hard to bring this former performance piece to a place where it can be screened. The premier is slated for Sept 30 at the The Exploratorium in San Francisco.
Nightsoil is a single channel video by filmmakers Thad Povey and Alfonso Alvarez with music by Lucio Menegon, collectively known as The Overdub Club. Derived from a triple projection, live performance piece, Nightsoil utilizes found footage that has been physically reconstituted using hand-processing, tinting, and other hands-on filmic techniques and features a powerful new audio score and soundtrack.
Nightsoil is a layered and evocative display of humanity’s ability to create both beauty and destruction, whose title echoes the archeologist investigating abandoned human latrines. Coming at a dramatic time in America’s history and created in the spirit of this zeitgeist, Nightsoil calls out with an appeal to “think what you’re doing” before choosing violence as a solution to humanity’s problems.
The music for Nightsoil was developed in a series of jam sessions where musicians Lucio Menegon and Mark De Gli Antoni improvised over a series of test reels and live presentations, mixing and matching sounds, manipulating and exploring audio textures – taking ideas from the morphing images and giving ideas back to the film-makers – until a dynamic three section composition coalesced. The move from the live presentation format presented a golden opportunity to re-compose and fully arrange and orchestrate the original score. Along with the musical contributions of John Hanes, Suki O’Kane, Jenya Chernoff, Rebecca Seeman, Jonathan Segel and Laurie Amat, a final soundtrack and score emerged that matches the intensity and emotion of the visuals – at times in syncopation with and at other times cutting against the multiple image presentation.
Prehistoric Horse plays a very intense and dynamic form of improvisational music that sometimes borders on sheer noise but also incorporates the dramatic and absurd. Our sets morphed with the miles logged and the tenor and pacing changed dramatically from the first chaotic show in Albany CA to the final mellow moments in NYC. There were many good shows on our 13 gig cross-country run with Oakland, Seattle, Minneapolis and New York being particular highlights.
Since my last post in Madison, we played Louisville, KY (where I managed to leave the power supply to my laptop – thanks to Mateo for mailing it back), Pittsburgh, Toronto, Baltimore and NYC. The lack of laptop partially explains the drop off in the tour blog, but in truth, the last few shows were difficult, involved much driving and were not necessarily inspired. The NYC show was the exception, so I will wrap up a brief description of it.
The gig was in hipster Williamsburg at a place called Monkeytown, a space that boasts four walls of projected imagery, with musicians in the middle and comfy low-rise couches behind spartan japanese style tables on the perimeter. In response to said surroundings and perhaps inspired by a terrific quartet improvisation featuring cellist Okkyung Lee, we upped our game (New York does that to you) and performed a rather ‘cinematic’ set, quite different from others we have done before. David used a stripped down percussion setup and the overall tone was much less frenetic, with more melody and ‘playing’ from Valerie and I. The audience seemed to appreciate it and despite some of the usual second guessing, this feeling was verified a few days later when a gent stopped me in the street to favorably comment on the performance 🙂
Below are some links to videos, pics and audio. Plans are afoot for more shows/tours in the next year. Enjoy.
Here is a particularly interesting section of improv from Toronto, Canada. A gig with the dubious distinction of having ‘not a soul in attendance.’
Driving. All about driving. We put in a long day of driving thru some gorgeous Montana mountain country, the rushing streams and the every-present Burlington Northern railway line on our side. We reached the lovely town of Bozeman, Montana, where we once again scored a nice hotel room on priceline.com for a third of the advertised rate of $150. Crashed out and woke up refreshed, took an early morning jacuzzi and swim in the hotel pool and split for the local food coop where we filled up with healthy snacks for the long trip ahead.
After a lovely first few hours of driving along the Yellowstone river (spotted a Bald Eagle perched on a dead tree limb), we began the looooooong drive across the prairie lands of North Dakota. Stopped in Bismarck, ND for dinner at a ‘mexican’ cantina-style restaurant, during which a sudden hail storm accompanied by a freight train roaring right by the place drove everyone off the patio but us (we found the experience rather exhilarating…city folk, ya know). With the change to central time, the sky stayed light well into 10pm. took this video from the back of the van to commemorate it (with John Cage’s ‘Two Pieces & Two Pieces for Piano):
As we approached Fargo and our 11th hour in the van, we began the search for a motel only to find every one of them booked up. WTF?! Turns out large wind farms were being put up all over the area and the rooms were filled with construction workers. We finally found a dirtbag motel at a Flying J near Fargo and crashed hard. the next morning, we ventured into Fargo to say we’d been there, found a cafe with some wireless and then promptly got the hell out (as far as i’m concerned, the next ice age won’t come soon enough to scrape the place clean) and headed for our much anticipated gig in Minneapolis with George Cartwright (of Curlew).
Suki O’Kane and I have launched yet another new project: Delicate & Destructive. We played at the Sacramento ‘In the Flow’ Jazz festival this past Saturday. 105 degrees in Sacto that day and driving to the afternoon gig in a AC car sans AC, I thought I might melt. The festival featured ‘jazz’ (and the majority of the audience) in a main air conditioned fancy venue and ‘noise/improv’ in a warm, funky record store full of vinyl – quite perfect, really. We went for a completely different feel than any of our previous improvisations and sculpted a sonic build that went from, well, delicate to destructive.
Prehistoric Horse provokes audiences through spasmodic bursts of snare drum (david grollman), guitar (lucio menegon), cello (valerie kuehne) and occasional unprovoked dramatic outburst. A very intense and dynamic form of improvisational music that sometimes borders on sheer noise and incorporates the absurd. A mashup of Bennink/Nakatani/Frith/Frisell/Bach/Britten/Bi-polar disorder punk rock sounds. “…spasmodic bursts of clatter and skree via cello, drums, and guitar, typically played in ways that would make conventional music teachers shudder in horror.” (Seattle Stranger)