I became friends with the members of Fugazi in Spring of 1999. They were my favorite band in the world and I was going to see them play live as much as possible. I am lucky to have seen them as much as I have. They have had a hugely positive effect on me, both as a musician and as a person. Joe Lally moved to LA from DC in October of last year. Josh Klinghoffer and I had done two experimental electronic shows here in LA at the Knitting Factory, both of which Joe had attended. We scheduled two more shows, thinking we would play songs off the at that time unreleased The Will To Death and soon to be released Shadows Collide With People. We asked Joe if he would play bass for us, to which he said yes. But I started to realize, very much in the spirit of that period of time, that I was not interested in repeating things I had done, but wished to do things that were new.
The three of us agreed on a basic musical direction and we started rehearsing, playing long improvisations with repetitive bass lines and exploratory drums and guitar. We would record them and at night I would write vocals for my favorite pieces. At rehearsal I would sing, trying to adjust to playing in an exploratory way while simultaneously singing. Joe wrote vocals to one song and Josh wrote vocals to two.
We were feeling very much like the music was playing us. There is this feeling that often comes when playing music with people which is that music is just there and we, as musicians, are sucked into it's swirling energy. That is what it felt like, and we felt so good about the songs that had resulted from these improvisations that we decided to book studio time. We thought we would record it all in one day, but we ended up recording 90 minutes of music in four days. We recorded for two days, then played the two shows at the Knitting Factory, then recorded for another two days. Everything was recorded live in the studio with most of the lead vocals recorded with basic tracks. We spent an equal amount of time experimenting with electronics and doing treatments as we did recording the band. The sessions will be released in two halves. The first is called Automatic Writing and will be released on August 10th. The other half will probably come out in January or February.
These were very exciting records to make. Normally in the recording studio there is a sense of being careful in the performance, but on this record there was a sense of abandonment and being out of control. When one records on tape there is no fixing to be done. What occurs during the live tracking is all there is, but instead of being careful we just went off. It was a great feeling. Basically, the three week period this music was made in was a very exciting time and I feel like I will always hear that music with the same sense of wonderment I feel now, which is just with a question in my mind of, "how did this happen?" It happened so quickly and I would rate our best moments with some of the most powerful feelings I have ever felt in my life.
Listening to what we did I am, without fail, shocked by what a deep groove Joe lays down and how free, yet solid, Josh's playing is. There was a great feeling that ran through everything which was that at any second something could go wrong yet it never did. Josh and I went on to do other records and other experimental shows, one of which featured Joe in a completely different context. I have had other musical relationships with great musicians where the music just floated into thin air without being properly recorded. I am glad that in this case I had the perseverance to document what took place between the three of us.
This record marks the first time I am extensively using the synthesizer in a way that has nothing to do with 80's synthesizer sounds. I am using it to treat the vocals, the drums etc. as well as to make noise that has more to do with feedback and computer noise music (like Pita) than with anything people normally associate with the synthesizer. As I said in my bio for The Will To Death, I am drawing inspiration for how to approach my modular synthesizer from music that has no synthesizer, such as The Velvet Underground and Max Neuhaus, as well as synthesizer music that has no relationship to the way synths are used in pop music, such as Iaanis Xenakis and David Tudor.
Hats off to early PIL as well from all of us in Ataxia.