Monday, January 31, 2011

Mind/No Mind - Music For Dead Phones

The name came from a series of espionage novels featuring emotionally-tortured ninja assassins written by Eric Van Lustbader (noticed recently that he has penned several post-Ludlum Bourne novels which makes perfect sense). I devoured these as a pre-teen. Long complicated plots featuring copious amounts of tawdry sex, set pieces in tragic nations like Cambodia and Vietnam, labyrinthine plot threads featuring all manner of betrayal and emotional violence, and killer action sequences full of stealth, shadows, and quick death. The protagonists were usually young men with a horrific past full of murder and despair, tossed by the currents of life into the hands of power-mad father figures intent on using their skills to manipulate global politics and economics, puppet-masters with only the most devious of intentions. Toss in a bit of Eastern mysticism and philosophy and I was sold. And that's where the name came from. The master assassin character would inevitably slip into the "mind/no mind" state; a perfect Zen headspace where you were both operating on total instinct and hyperaware perceptions. To achieve the mind/no mind state was to be a primitive animal and an intellectual of almost supernatural ability, simultaneously. I really dug that. Isn't that what we all want? Perhaps not, but if I could be a knuckle-dragging Einstein, I would.

So, years later, when I started to cut n' paste together zines of dubious distinction, I named my little venture, Mind/No Mind Enterprises. All business. Punk rock CEO.
So, then, even more years later, when I cobbled together various home-recorded experiments of the previous half-decade, I decided to name it Mind/No Mind.

Below you can download the A-side of a c60 that I "put out" in 2000. It features all sorts of weirdness recorded on tape recorders and 4-tracks starting around 1995. The cassette was called Music for Dead Phones. The titles are as follows:

The Shape of Noise to Come
Taking Cover in the Mekong Delta
My Whole Life is a Vibration
Passage of Time
Burning Me Sideways With Your Song
I Can't Even Figger Myself

"FRANKENSHTEEN!" has a fairly amusing story behind it, and is the earliest piece recorded (and really the only proper "song" on here). It was senior year of high school (ouch, this hurts just thinking about it), and I had an assignment due for my AP English class. Now, I hardly ever did homework (against my morals), or, really, much of anything in school besides sleep (how I managed to graduate with a 3.0 [exactly] is still beyond me). We had read Frankenstein (wow, how "advanced") and we were tasked to do some sort of project, any project (how progressive!), about how Shelley's book was a "frame" story. Y'know, a story-within-a-story (within-another-story for ye olde Victorian yarn, I believe). So, typically, it's the night before, I haven't done shit, and I'm starting to feel a bit of anxiety, as my grade sucked in the class and even the extra point might not save me from an F (pretty sure I had never received an F despite my endless scholastic naps). I'm downstairs in the computer room/den and in my turmoil I turn and see my pathetic little music set-up: generic shit guitar, Gorilla 15 watt practice amp (which ruled), a floor tom given to me by a friend with head that had to have been on there at least a decade, one Radio Shack mic, and a Tascam porta 03 4-track. The lightbulb went off. Within an hour I had recorded "FRANKENSHTEEN!" (yes, you are correct, a Young Frankenstein reference), dodgy English accent and and all. At the end of the narration I say, "That's very nice, you should write that down and put it in a frame," which makes virtually no sense, but is my one concession towards the stated aim of the assignment. I was so proud of my strange lumbering song. The next day, I brought in the tape and a small boombox. When my time came to present to the class, I strode up to the front, popped the cassette in, hit PLAY, and watched the looks of confusion pass over everyone's faces like a stormcloud gathering on the plains. "What The Fuck?" seemed to be the common sentiment silently communicated by these need-to-fart facial expressions. The teacher, who already thought I was a weirdo and resented my complete disinterest in the class (also, she was bitter that she lost on Jeopardy! to her fellow teacher, who kinda liked me even though she thought I was a weirdo too; her bewildered response to my 20-page thesis on Naked Lunch the year before was "A+") just looked at me like I was wearing a trenchcoat with a semiautomatic hidden underneath. Who knows what grade I got. And who cares. I still like that song, and high school was a load of shit.

The rest of the side features early experiments with tape recorders, delay pedals, and even a snatch of spoken word. I'll spare you side 2 for now, as it gets a bit redundant, but perhaps in the future you will be able to hear its lost, uh, genius. Don't you wanna know what "The Real Sound of Cyberspace on Macgillicuddy's Farm" sounds like? Remember when people used to say "cyberspace?" Oh those were the days.

I made about 20 of these. A decade-plus later, not a single one exists most likely. Hey Not Not Fun, why don't you "reissue" this crap? You got nothin' to lose.

Within a year of releasing this tape, I had begun to play live shows under the Mind/No Mind moniker. The first one being a Men's Recovery Project show at Speak in Tongues in Cleveland (big ups to Jake Kelly for both organizing this show and asking me to play it, basically out of the blue). It went OK, so periodically I would perform some weird mix between experimental-not-quite-noise muzik with a sort of performance art twist. Each show was with different personnel and featured a completely new, one-time-only performance, seeded from some half-baked vision I had. Mind/No Mind played with such early Ought luminaries like Lightning Bolt and Black Dice. These performances culminated in the "American Cherry Burst" performance at SIT in 2001, of which I will be posting a recording of in the near future.

Anyway, "enjoy":

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