|OPEN UP WITH AN EPIPHANY
Epiphanies are magic moments that flash lightning. They may pass in an instant but the waves ripple permanently through one’s existence. For music minded folks, epiphanies have extra impact, unlocking amazing worlds that send unsuspecting ears in fresh directions. The finest thing about epiphanies is you never know when they’ll strike. Shining sounds wait around secret corners ready to blow open the spectrum. These rare experiences can assume the form of cousin Cindy playing a Fela Kuti tune on farfisa, a brook babbling the beat to Billie Jean, or psychic gypsies stroking fiddles outfitted with sitar strings. Mine weren’t quite that colorful but they did leave me reeling. In fact the impact was so heavy I thought it would be nice to explore the phenomenon with you. We asked a few fellow timbre travelers to share sonic milestones that molded their audio aesthetic. Soak it up and prepare yourself for that next inevitable revelation.
I was in the third grade and it was the "end of school" party, with cupcakes and everything. Some of the kids brought a boom box to school and started breakdancing in the middle of the class. It was the first time I had ever heard hip-hop or seen breakdancing, and I remember going home that day dedicated to spending my summer learning all I could about the dancing and the music I just witnessed. They were breakdancing to the first Run DMC album by the way...
Last week, I saw Christian Marclay give a presentation on his work here in NY and drank as much free wine as I could get my hands on (there were also these really deliciously spicy trail mixes in the back of the room with like, dried peas, but that’s not the point). So, he prefaced his lecture by specifying he was a visual artist exploring possibilities with music and sound rather than a “musician” possessing what he believed were the “necessary tools” to write. Accordingly, he opened with an early video piece of his entitled “Record Players.” Here, he recorded the audio and visual result of about 8 participants removing random records from their sleeves, scratching their vinyl surface with fingernails, rapidly waving them back and forth or smashing them together, and finally cracking them in half and stepping on shards of what remained of the once-thrift-store-jewels. Besides crafting a sonically interesting piece and commenting on the state of recorded music (you have to remember this was done in the mid-eighties when MTV wasn’t just a retarded commercial for itself and vinyl was still cherished as a medium by people other than pasty music geeks and crate-diggers), this was one of the most inventive extrapolations of musique concrete I’ve ever seen. Here are all these motherfuckers- including myself- looking for sounds and surface noise, and here he comes using the record for the potential music it can make ITSELF. When asked if the recording on the LP made any difference to him, he said no, even priding himself on unknowingly destroying a yellow Jimi Hendrix Are You Experienced LP that would probably go for a few hundred dollars today on eBay. So, with far too many records being released each year, why not just destroy music to hear what it sounds like?
1996, I joined KXLU, a college radio station in Los Angeles that my Dad had listened to (at least the weekend salsa programming) while I was growing up. I was asked to join the station after a brief stint on the sister AM station playing underground hip-hop from LA, like Freestyle Fellowship, X-Clan, and CVE, not a single note of rock and roll. Although I had zero experience with rock music, I was asked to start on normal rotation as a rock Dj. Indie rock ruled the airwaves of the station during the day and I was thrust head first into a library of hundreds of thousands of records. The general manager made sure I played as much rock as I could so I could learn quickly. I discovered the Silver Apples, Stereolab, and a band I had heard here and there called Sonic Youth within the first weeks, since the selection was the largest to choose from and my buddy Hoseh made sure I was well versed on the shit he loved. In a bout a year my tastes completely flipped. I went from listening to underground hip-hop dubs and mixes all day long to not listening to not listening to hip-hop at all. Around the time my girlfriend left for college I started getting into really sad, droned-out music like Slowdive, Lush, Spacemen 3, and Mazzy Star. In 1997, through hanging out with various freaks at the station I found the music that I ended up devoting a good chunk of my collecting life to, '60s psychedelic rock. The quest was on to find original 45s, LPs, and scarce comps with songs I had heard from the mix tapes I bought from local psych guru Tartarex. This was around the time Beachwood Sparks, The Tyde, and a bunch of other LA bands started really going for the psych sound. A few of them were KXLU Djs as well. It was great. The music, the parties, hiding out from the shit college scene outside, feeling like we were changing the world with our four hour shows, and discovering tons of music. I made many friends I still hang out with and make music with to this day. I ended up graduating in 1999 but I stayed on the air until 2001 when I joined Dublab. I still have a weekly radio show on Saturday nights called "She Comes in Colours" that specializes in psych. The few years I spent at that station changed my life. I would not know any of the music I love, nor would my own music be the same now, if it weren't for KXLU and the people that were ready to hit you with that one song you've probably never heard that would blow you away and send you on an insane quest, sometimes one that would never end. Anyone got a spare copy of Freedom's Black and White soundtrack?