Wednesday, October 14, 2009

All Chopt Up & Nowhere To Go

Choptsicks - All Chopt Up & Nowhere To Go (1999-2000)

1. Great Flood
2. Walkin' Choptsicks Blues
3. Horsey Broken Man On Fire
4. Intestinal Florae
5. Loop A
6. Operation Gravyboat
7. Quasi...
8. Loop B

Aaron Bachelder - drums
Eric Jackson - bass, trombone
Michael Thomas Jackson- guitar, vocals, synthesizer, clarinet
Kemp Stroble - guitar, vocals

Michael Thomas Jackson moved from Asheville to attend North Carolina School of the Arts as a composition major. After school he used the Wherehouse as his default home whenever he was between renting homes; living in the basement and later in a tiny, oddly shaped room with one window and a small wooden platform for a mattress (now part of the America Suite). At the time they were gutting the building across the street from The Wherehouse to make the new Government Center, and he would wake up every morning covered in soot. "It was summertime, and you had to have the window open, cause it was hot as sh*t. So I'd wake up with concrete dust shoved up my nose, when they started with jackhammers at 6:30 am."

At school Michael had put together the Spool Ensemble, with fellow composer Aaron Bachelder, who'd also made the Asheville to NCSotA move. After
another project with NCSotA students  called Rompecabezza, he formed Choptsicks in 1999. Originally it was a quintet with Michael, Aaron, Kemp (on keyboards), Eric and Speight Rue (who had also been in Rompecabezza). After their first gig, opening for The 1985, Speight moved to Wilmington and they continued as a quartet with Kemp on guitar. Michael started the project as a way to release more of his material that hadn't been used in Rompecabezza, with intentions that it be a recording project, and not a working band. That soon changed, and they began playing gigs regularly in Winston, Greensboro, Raleigh and Virginia (at The Pudhouse).

The band mainly revolved around songwriting, as displayed on their single; but were also comfortable improvising, as is evident here (along with some goofing around in the studio). All of Choptsicks recorded material (except some overdubs) was captured from December of 1999 to January of 2000, in the old Wherehouse basement studio on 16-track tape. Chief engineers were Brian Doub and Chris Leiser, although Will Dyar and Mark Linga helped out when needed. The ALL CHOPT UP & NOWHERE TO GO cassette existed in three editions of varying sizes and packaging: 1st edition of three (in a soapbox with a sticker), 2nd edition of thirteen (in a slipcase with a sticker), 3rd edition of twenty-three (in a Norelco box with a J-card). 
They also released their only 7-inch, TYPICAL OF TRADITIONAL GLONOUS HISTORY AND CULTUAL; on Burning Fight Records in 2000.  The rest of the recorded material remains unreleased instrumentals, as Choptsicks disbanded before finishing the vocals.

The first two tracks of
ALL CHOPT UP & NOWHERE TO GO are the only composed pieces, and reflect Michael's interest in plagarism and re-appropriation of existing material. Kemp sang and wrote the lyrics to, "Great Flood", and Michael added synthesizer. "Walkin' Choptsicks Blues" was written around a line from the song "The Walk" by Prince protege group The Time. Michael played clarinet and synthesizer (Eric's Roland SH-101) and they assembled anyone and everyone in the building to shout the lyrics. The third track features Kemp on drums, Eric on trombone, Michael playing one of Chris Kennedy's homemade 2-stringed 'banjos' that was lying around (from a Divine Morsel session), and Aaron on smoke break. Michael also contributed some feedback guitar and everyone moaned and chanted. "Intestinal Florae" is a high energy piece that was used live as an intro to another song. "Operation Gravyboat" and "Quasi una Fantasia..." are straight group improvisations with some vocal overdubs and the tuned-down guitar of Kemp. Michael says, "I love how the tape runs out on "Quasi una Fantasia..." just as we seem to settle on a rendition of "Another One Bites The Dust". Eric is solely responsible for the two loops.

Choptsicks lasted for over a year. Kemp got busy with Malabaster, Aaron and Michael had young children and Eric wanted more harmony than dissonance in his musical and daily life; so they split. In their short existence Choptsicks released 4 songs, recorded eleven unreleased instrumentals and released this set of improv compositions. Others in their repetoire (like a medley of Pink Floyd's "Interstellar Overdrive" and "The Nile Song") didn't make it to the studio. On listening to this set I told Eric I especially enjoyed "Walkin' Choptsicks Blues", but that his final loop put me on edge. "Choptsicks could do that to people" was his reply.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Brian Doub Reborn

So, Brian Doub has been in an almost impossibly long list of bands (IQ9, Bilsheeoh, Bell Brothers, Podunks, Malabaster, Finks, Odes, Bright Leaf, Cakes Of Light, etc.), and has been releasing material under the alias Ray Cathode for many years. This October 1, 2009 performance opening for Richard Buckner was at The Garage in Winston Salem, NC. It is his first performance under his own name. No other cohorts or pseudonyms; just Brian in all his naked glory. Enjoy!

An Imaginary Dialogue

Michael Thomas Jackson - Space Projective 1 (2004)
1. Space Projective 1
2. Feldspar In Ballast

Local avante garde composer Michael Thomas Jackson and other artists, were commisioned to construct sound pieces by Project Space 211 for a May 7, 2004 Art Installation. Joe Morgan was on the board of directors for P.S.211 at the time, and conceptualized the exhibition entitled; ECHO CHAMBER. A West Coast artist was flown in and received his commision, but there were not enough funds to pay Jackson as planned. This change compromised his resources and original intentions, resulting in a shorter, more simply fashioned piece. However, what was created might be of greater historical value for our purposes than the originally planned piece! Jackson captured sounds within the building, in several separate sessions; mainly in the empty room beside the performance space. Previously this room had been the site of the Creature Tease experiments (which we hope to feature later), and become a storage space over time. By this point it had been cleared out and a hole cut in the wall, for a second floor doorway leading to the back lot. This was in anticipation of future plans for an art gallery, and artist studio space (which is what currently exists there). In the empty concrete shell with a gapeing hole into open space; Jackson rolled objects around the floor, captured toilets flushing, water in pipes rushing, snippets of conversation, and other sounds. These sources became the sound collage titled, "Space Projective 1". In Jackson's own words:

"Space Projective 1 is a work of musique concrète. I assembled a variety of sounds from inside The Wherehouse with a variable-speed cassette recorder and realized the composition on a multi-track hard disc recorder. In a way I guess I was trying to breathe sentience into the walls and floors of the space or create an imaginary dialogue between its many ghosts, but that proved a ridiculous idea. It is what it is and was composed asystematically with the intention of providing some sort of dramatic trajectory. The title is a bit of a pun since the work has nothing to do with geometry. The term projective was borrowed from the lexicon of psychology, thus considering the work a subjective commentary on the space emerging from my subconcious. Whatever, right?

The exhibition aspect of the piece consisted of a CD player and 2 speakers mounted on one of the space's mighty wooden posts. Ah, so many nights spent leaning on that post. The same source recordings were used in the concert I performed the night of the opening, a piece entitled "Feldspar In Ballast." In addition to the tapes I also employed a deer hunter's call, a short wave radio, some signal processors, and both electronic and acoustic feedback. This is a slightly edited version of the piece...I kinda like."

Rah' Beefalips: Intergalactic Man of Mystery

Rah Beefalips (known on his home planet as Rob E. Philips) is admittedly one of the more interesting characters associated with The Wherehouse. His contributions to the mental landscape of the place kept things closer to the surreal than the real. One of Rah's most endearing ideas, was putting large, red, hardback journals in the coffeeshop for people to doodle, journal and create in. These journals were a mainstay of Krankies for many years, and may have inspired some of the strange material on this disc. This set is one of the mystery recordings that Rah left lying around the building for further confusion. These three tracks display a small measure of the strange infectious humor Rah was capable of, as he gets further into his status as an intergalactic diplomat and stand-up comedian. I particularly enjoy the old vinyl atmosphere on the first track, since this was only ever released on compact disc. This is 'clean' by Rah standards, but the rest of us should probably download this only if we don't mind the 'A' word, the 'F' word, the 'V' word, the 'P' word or the 'A-hole' word.

Monday, October 5, 2009

As Brown As It Gets

Malabaster - self titled (2000)

1. This Does Not Work This Does Work
2. In The Early Days
3. Lungbrush
4. Starts To Melt
5. Southern Lights
6. Steak Pie Please

Brian Doub - guitar
Will Dyar - drums
Kat Lamp - bass, vocals
Kemp Stroble - guitar, vocals

#5 live on WXDU.
#1 done on a digital 8-track.
All others recorded @ The Wherehouse studio on 16-track. 

In 1999 Kat Lamp and Kemp Stroble's group, Teratoma was laid to rest; with the untimely passing of the drummer. While Kemp was living at the Wherehouse, he and Kat found themselves in the communal kitchen discussing what their next musical move might be. Kitchen lurker and drummer, Willie D, offered to join forces with them and a legend was born. The larval three piece asked fellow resident Mark Linga to name the band. He immediately broke out a brown marker and a piece of paper, creating a long list of possible names. Of them all, Siamese John Cale and Malabaster, were the favorites. They said they knew what the one meant, "...but what's a malabaster?" To which Willie D slyly quiped, "It means; as brown as it gets!" After a few early practices, Brian Doub and Chris Leiser sat in, with Brian eventually joining. Kat says it was the most effortless writing arrangements she's ever been involved in. "Someone would bring in a riff, someone else would add something and before you knew it, the tune had evolved into something new." The group practiced in the Wherehouse basement studio; consequently it was easy to capture the sessions on tape. Songs developed as demos, and were re-recorded by laying down single instrument tracks (not as a live group recording). The self titled album engineered by Brian and Willie D, also featured one track recorded at a practice, and one recorded live on WXDU (hopefully, more about that later).

Live Malabaster shows involved plenty of improvisation, lengthening and modification of their compositions. The band played the Wherehouse, several Malette Street house shows in Chapel Hill, Greensboro's Onion Cellar, Go Studios in Chapel Hill, and house shows in Asheville. One show was in Baltimore at the OttoBar with Oxes and Erase Erata. Drummer for Oxes, Chris Freeland, even performed a solo set dressed like a pimp and talking about himself over some pre-recorded tracks. He stayed in character all night, except when playing with Oxes. This gig was a showcase where some record execs had come to scout. One approached Willie D at the bar with a slick spiel along the lines of, "Hiiii, I'm (insert name) from Monitor Records, and weeeee came down tonight to check you guys oooout..." which Will cut short with, "Whoa! Relaaaax man! I'm just here to get a drink."

Malabaster was the first Wherehouse band to play at the Pudhouse in Charlottesville, Virginia; eventually performing there at least three times. This connection happened when Raw Dog Rex & the Family Nads played the Wherehouse. Kemp was booking the Bellabaster tour and asked Family Nads members, Tom and Colin if they could recommend a good place to play. Colin replied, "We have a place called The Pudhouse." This venue was a wild and totally unscturctured scene of people dancing and freaking out inside, as well as roaming around outside on the train tracks, uncoupling the cars and making them collide with one another. Kat remembers waking up to that sound and thinking, "Really? First thing in the morning?" It was at these shows that they witnessed the gestation of USAisAmonster. In the beginning Tom played keyboards and guitars, Sara was the drummer and Colin would wail on his guitar while running around the room, sliding on his knees and generally freaking out. Alot of Rod Stewart was listened to in the van on the Bell Brothers and Mabaster tour, and became a running joke amongst the two groups. In an interview for the Wake Forest college paper, The Old Gold & Black, they were asked what advice they would give to record companies. Willie D blurted, "Listen to Rod Stewart!"

There was a Go Studios show with Engine Down, and another with Mile Marker, Oxes, and Fin Fang Foom; as well as a weekend mini-tour to Greensboro, Asheville and Durham. The first of these was in Greensboro at a shortlived warehouse space near some railroad tracks called, Track 13. The show was with Damad, Zegota and Catharsis; the last two being part of the Crimethink family. These band's radical roots brought a clique of Washington DC fans down, including some who were working on a benefit project. After the show Malabaster were asked for a contrubution to that compilation. By the time the, WITH LITERACY & JUSTICE FOR ALL: A BENEFIT FOR THE DC AREA BOOKS TO PRISON PROJECT disc came out, Malabaster was already broken up. The second show was in Asheville at Vincent's Ear, where they stayed the night with college buddy Reed and it snowed. The nasty storm caused numerous accidents, which Malabaster avoided as they crept from Asheville to Durham to play live on WXDU. They also played three shows at the Cedar Street House in Greensboro; one of which was their last show (as well as the last Bell Brothers show). Another Cedar Street show with Zegota was a particularly great one, where everything gelled for the packed crowd (Zegota were also featured on the same Literacy compilation). The other was with Wherehouse band Cobra Clutch, when lead singer Steve Tesh crawled under the carpet and sang, then rolled himself up in it like a burrito. Of course, there were plenty of Wherehouse shows like; with Fin Fang Foom & Oxes (2.19.2000) and Mercury Birds (7.16.2000).

Malabaster dissolved in the late Fall of 2000, when Willie D moved to New York City. Of all the different bands, projects and groupings from The Wherehouse; Malabaster is easily one of the most talked about, marveled over and sought after of recordings. On October 25, 2005 a special pre-Halloween Reunion show brought several old Wherehouse bands back together; namely Rompe Cabezza, Bell Brothers and Malabaster.