The EMP|SFM Oral History Program

With its oral history program, Experience Music Project|Science Fiction Music (EMP|SFM) has created an archive of interviews with the musicians, authors, filmmakers, producers and other key figures who have shaped American popular music and science fiction.

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Oral History Live!
EMP|SFM's Oral History Live! event series brings notable music makers, science fiction luminaries and the public together for an intimate curator-hosted interview recorded before a live audience. See the EMP|SFM calendar for upcoming Oral History Live! events.

Recent Oral History Live! guests have included:

Graham Nash
Watch selected video clips from this Oral History Live
Graham Nash was interviewed by EMP|SFM's Curatorial Director Jasen Emmons during the opening of Taking Aim: Unforgettable Rock 'n' Roll Photographs Selected by Graham Nash. During the interview, Nash played a few songs, including "Peggy Sue," on a guitar that Buddy Holly performed on. While best known as a musician--Nash first became famous as a member of The Hollies during the mid-1960s, and went on to co-found Crosby, Stills, & Nash--he has also pursued a parallel career as a photographer, collector and digital imaging pioneer. In 1990, he co-founded Nash Editions, the first professional fine-art digital printmaking studio, with R. Mac Holbert.

Jane Henson
Jane Henson, co-founder of The Muppets and wife of the late Jim Henson, gives a behind-the-scenes look at creating a cultural phenomenon. See seldom-seen video clips from the Jim Henson Family Archives, and hear about the early days when she met Jim Henson in a puppet class. Stay after the presentation for an exclusive showing of Time Piece, the rarely seen Oscar-nominated short film, directed and written by Jim Henson.

Watch selected video clips from this Oral History Live
An intimate interview with the band YES, hosted by Jacob McMurray, EMP|SFM's senior curator. As a dominant force for more than four decades, YES has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide, stretching the boundaries of progressive art-rock with their dynamic instrumental contrasts and abstract lyrics. Their symphonic use of sound and innovative musical styles continues to make them one of the most successful and long-standing group in rock history and their amazing career continues to defy many of their contemporaries, as they continue to add new, young fans to their following. Band members Steve Howe, Chris Squire and Alan White take part in the interview.

Commercials and Experiments with Karen Prell
A mind-blowing collection of shorts, crazy commercials, and other rarities from the Henson vault. Highlights include an industrial film for Wilson's Meat that must be seen to be believed, excerpts from experimental TV programs The Cube and Youth '68, and Time Piece, an 8-minute masterpiece that showcases Henson's talent for making music out of everyday sounds.
Karen Prell is a puppeteer and animator. She first worked with Jim Henson in 1979 on "Sesame Street." She is best known as Red Fraggle on "Fraggle Rock." Prell also performed on "The Muppet Show," Dreamchild and Labyrinth. Prell now works in computer animation, including several Pixar projects, A Bug's Life and Toy Story 2. Recent animation credits have included The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Son of the Mask and Frank Oz's The Stepford Wives.
Part of Muppets™, Music and Magic: Jim Henson's Legacy.

Muppet History 101 with Craig Shemin
Learn your Muppet history! This is material you won't see anywhere else: early TV appearances, commercials, guest spots on The Dick Cavett Show, and more! Plus, this program contains the rarely-seen pilot for The Muppet Show—The Muppets: Sex and Violence.
Craig Shemin is a former Jim Henson Company staff writer, who began with the Henson organization in 1988. His Muppet writing credits include Muppet press interviews and appearances, and text for licensed products, and video games. He also co-wrote The Muppet Show Live. Part of Muppets™, Music and Magic: Jim Henson's Legacy.

Perspectives in Poster Design
This panel discussion focused on the evolution of poster design in the Northwest. The evening included prominent local graphic designers discussing everything from poster art and design process to unsung graphic heroes and influences, all illustrated with examples of their work and others. Panelists included Barry Ament and Coby Schultz (Ames Bros.), Don Clark and Ryan Clark (Invisible Creature, Tooth & Nail), Art Chantry (Art Chantry Design Co.) and Jeff Kleinsmith (Patent Pending Industries, Sub Pop). The panel coincided with EMP|SFM's exhibition American Letterpress: The Art of Hatch Show Print.

Stockpiling Star Wars
After five years of research, Gus Lopez and Duncan Jenkins created Gus and Duncan's Comprehensive Guide to Star Wars Collectibles, the largest Star Wars collectibles guide ever assembled. This international guide covers over 75,000 unique Star Wars items from over a hundred different countries. During this event, Duncan and Gus shared their adventures tracking down memorabilia. The presentation included highlights from their private collections and showed some of the more unusual and humorous Star Wars collectibles that have been produced over the years.

Al Kooper
Watch a video clip from this Oral History Live.
Listen to Part 1 of the podcast of this Oral History.
Listen to Part 2 of the podcast of this Oral History.
Songwriter, record producer and musician Al Kooper organized the group Blood, Sweat & Tears and has recorded with several distinguished artists, including Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Who, B. B. King and Cream. Kooper recently updated and released his memoir, Backstage Passes & Backstabbing Bastards: Memoirs of a Rock 'N' Roll Survivor, which chronicles his many misadventures as an experienced musician.

David Bryan
Listen to podcast of this Oral History.
As the keyboard player, songwriter and founding member of Bon Jovi, now in its twentieth year, Mr. Bryan's journey has included selling 130 million albums, traveling the world playing to millions of people in more than 50 countries and circling the globe for 25 years. In his time off from recording and touring, Mr. Bryan began a career as a composer and lyricist of musicals. The 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, WA opened his newest musical, Memphis, in January 2009. Memphis, written by David Bryan and Joe DiPietro (the author of I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change and Over the River and Through the Woods), is a rafter-rattling musical that immortalizes the DJs who gave rock its original roll.

Doug Chiang
Doug Chiang is an Academy Award-winning artist, production designer and author. Chiang began his career as a stop motion animator on the Pee Wee's Playhouse TV series. As a production designer, he has designed films such as The Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol. Before that, he was design director for Lucasfilm's Star Wars: Episode I, The Phantom Menace and Star Wars: Episode II, Attack of the Clones. Chiang has received an Academy Award, two British Academy Awards and a Clio for his work. He has written several books, including Mechanika and Robota, co-authored with Orson Scott Card.

Sub Pop Records Founders Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman
Bruce Pavitt started Sub Pop in Olympia, WA in 1979 as a radio show called Subterranean Pop; by 1980, the show grew into the music fanzine Sub Pop, and a year later began releasing cassette compilations. In 1983, Bruce moved to Seattle where Sub Pop became an indie specialty show on KCMU-FM. In 1986, Sub Pop Records released its first record, and in 1987 Pavitt teamed up with Jonathan Poneman to release Soundgarden's "Screaming Life" EP, after which Bruce and Jonathan quit their day jobs and opened a full-time Sub Pop Records office, which led to many recordings of Seattle area groups, including Nirvana. Sub Pop continues to achieve critical and commercial success releasing music by popular indie bands including The Postal Service and The Shins.

Krist Novoselic
Watch selected video clips from this Oral History Live
Krist Novoselic is an acclaimed rock musician best known as the bassist for Nirvana. In addition to performing with Nirvana, Novoselic currently plays in the band Flipper and has been active in politics, including creating the Joint Artists and Musicians Political Action Committee (JAMPAC). JAMPAC has been active in local politics including fighting the Teen Dance Ordinance, a 1985 law that limited the ability of minors to attend shows. Novoselic published his first book, Of Grunge and Government: Let's Fix This Broken Democracy, in 2004.

Billy Cox
In honor of the new exhibition celebrating Jimi Hendrix, Jimi Hendrix: An Evolution of Sound, EMP|SFM members were treated to a special Oral History Live! with Billy Cox. Billy Cox is a bass guitarist best known for playing with Jimi Hendrix. Cox and Hendrix met in the army and played on the chitlin' circuit together. Years later, they connected and went on to play together in bands such as Gypsy Sun and Rainbows and Band of Gypsys until Hendrix's death in 1970.

El Vez
El Vez, the self-proclaimed "Mexican Elvis" (aka Robert Lopez) has a musical career spanning twenty years. He began with the early L.A. punk band the Zeros, followed by Catholic Discipline. As El Vez, his lyrics, from plays on words ("Say It Loud, I'm Brown and I'm Proud") to sharp musical revues ("I've got my green card...I want my gold card!"), keep audiences entertained and aware. His work is proof that activism and humor can work hand in hand to create compelling social satires.

Michael Shrieve
As the original drummer for Santana, Michael—at age nineteen—was the youngest performer at Woodstock. He helped create the first eight albums of this seminal group, and was on the forefront of shaping a new musical era.

Clive Barker
Best known for his Hellraiser film series, Clive Barker is one of the leading authors of contemporary horror and fantasy fiction. His characteristic style often involves hiding fantastical worlds within familiar settings, and exploring the role of sexuality in the paranormal as part of his richly constructed and complex universes. Barker is also a prodigal visual artist, and often illustrates his own books.

Jeff Baxter
Jeff Baxter is a highly versatile session guitarist most noted for his work with Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers in the 1970s. His musical career has led him to play with Jimi Hendrix, and as a session guitarist with musicians as diverse as Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Dolly Parton and Rod Stewart. Baxter has also worked as a prolific and highly respected producer, and is now a government defense analyst.

Lorraine Gordon
Instrumental in the jazz scene since 1939, Lorraine Gordon is the owner of the Village Vanguard jazz club in New York City. She helped to discover and promote some of Blue Note's most beloved artists, including Thelonius Monk. The Village Vanguard continues to thrive, hosting jazz fans from across the world eager to hear live music performed by today's top musicians.

Greil Marcus
Greil Marcus is a noted author, critic and music journalist who made his mark by redefining rock music criticism. He propagated the literary essay that places rock music into a broader framework of culture, art and politics.

Ruth Brown
The legendary R&B songstress, known to many fans as "the girl with a tear in her voice," Ruth Brown is famous for both her recordings made under the Atlantic recording label (or, as it was referred to in its formative years in the '50s: "The house that Ruth built.") and then later for her work on Broadway. Brown was an innovative force in the blues world. It has been maintained that it was her unique rhythmic style which led to the development of R&B as its own genre and musical phenomenon; simply put, she put the Rhythm in Rhythm & Blues.

Dick Dale and his son Jimmy Dale
Dick Dale is a pioneer of surf rock. He is well known for creating a use of guitar reverb that has since become a surf music staple. He began playing with The Del-Tones, and wrote "Let's Go Trippin," commonly regarded as the first surf rock song. His first full-length album was Surfer's Choice in 1962, which was distributed nationally by Capitol Records, propelling Dick Dale toward fame. The use of his song "Misirlou" in the Quentin Tarantino film Pulp Fiction gained him a new audience of surf music fans.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd
Kenny Wayne Shepherd and his group exploded on the scene in the mid-'90s and garnered huge amounts of radio airplay on commercial radio, which historically has not been a solid home for blues and blues-rock music. Shepherd began playing at age seven, never taking a formal lesson, and at age 13, was invited on-stage by New Orleans bluesman Brian Lee and held his own for several hours; thus proving himself, he decided on music as a career. Shepherd's latest project saw him traveling in the American South with a documentary film crew and a portable recording studio as he backed up several veteran blues players on their home turf. The resulting album and film, 10 Days Out (Blues from the Backroads), was released in January 2007.

Andy Summers
Andy Summers is the English guitarist and composer who rose to fame playing in The Police. He began his recording career in the 1960s playing for Zoot Money's Big Roll Band, and later joined Eric Burdon and The Animals. He spent the 1970s as a session guitarist for Neil Sedaka, Tim Rose, and Joan Armatrading among others. After joining The Police, he wrote such songs as "Omegaman" and "Mother," and his instrumental "Behind My Camel" won a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental in 1980.

Trimpin is a Seattle, WA-based kinetic sculptor, sound artist, musician and composer, who uses sculpture and music to create spatial musical experiences. He was the recipient of a 1997 MacArthur Genius Award, and his work has been a part of the Henry Art Gallery, the Frye Art Museum, the Museum of glass, the Missoula Museum of Art, and the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, among others.

EMP|SFM has made creating oral histories a principal focus of its curatorial and educational mission. These interviews have been featured in everything from exhibits on the blues, indie rock and disco to the acclaimed book Yes Yes Y'All: The Experience Music Project Oral History of Hip-Hop's First Decade. The EMP|SFM collection currently includes more than 850 recorded oral history interviews—a selection of EMP|SFM oral history videos can be viewed on the web site.

In 2005, generous funding from the U.S. Congress allowed EMP|SFM to collect more than 108 additional interviews which document for posterity, on camera, the stories of pivotal musical figures, their influences, career choices, scenes and artistic achievements.

On February 28, 2007, EMP|SFM opened Sound and Vision: Artists Tell Their Stories—an exhibition dedicated to our oral history collection—scholars, educators and fans alike can come in, kick back, relax and see and hear the stories of American popular music and science fiction, as told by the legends themselves, in a comfortable lounge setting at EMP|SFM.

As time goes on, and with the consent and participation of those interviewed, we hope to see this collection made available in as extensive a manner as possible.

Main image: Krist Krist Novoselic, Oral History Live!

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