Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Early next month Totally Wired: Postpunk Interviews and Overviews is published in the USA by Soft Skull. It's the first of three of my books Soft Skull are putting out over the course of the next year: the others are Bring the Noise and Energy Flash.

Totally Wired US is slightly different from its UK incarnation, featuring the "lost" chapter on SST/Los Angeles/"progressive punk", compensation for its inexplicable absence from the US edition of Rip It Up.

There will be a Totally Wired event in Los Angeles on at Book Soup (8818 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood) on September 16th at 7PM - more details of that to come.

Monday, May 18, 2009

director's cut, Arena, March 2009

by Simon Reynolds

Every decade has its retro twin. The Seventies looked back wistfully to the Fifties. By the Eighties the focus of revivalism had shifted to the 1960s. And in the past decade it's been the turn of the 1980s themselves to enter the retro spotlight, with young groups pillaging ideas and imagery from New Romanticism's foppish synth-pop and from postpunk's angst and angularity.

Yes, there's a pattern here, a recurring twenty year interval, but there's more going on: each decade relates to its precursor era through the "opposites attract" syndrome, with the earlier epoch supplying whatever the present lacks.

So in the early Seventies, when rock had matured and grown pompous, become riddled with complexity and addled by subtlety, there emerged a hunger for the teenage kicks and raw energy of Fifties rock 'n' roll, the innocence of a time when pop was organized around jukebox 45s and pulsating pelvies rather than concept albums and pensively furrowed brows. Hence glam 'n' glitter's invocations of rock 'n'roll, hence movies and TV shows like Grease and Happy Days, hence even punk, whose its chief ideologist Malcolm McLaren started out flogging crepe jackets and brothel creeperd to Teddy Boy revivalists and whose #2 icon Sid Vicious scored his biggest hits posthumously with Eddie Cochran covers.

In the Eighties, similarly, the rock underground rejected the slick synthetic pop synonomous with yuppie materialism and embraced the bohemia and bliss of the 1960s, a semi-conscious dissident gesture against Thatcher-Reagan, who abhorred that decade and tried to roll back its gains. Hence the Jesus and Mary Chain's resurrection of Velvet Underground noise, hence TheSmiths and REM borrowing of the Byrds's jangly guitars, hence the nouveau psychedelia of My Bloody Valentine and acid house.

But hang on a minute: if the Eighties were so barren, why on earth would the coolest bands of the Noughties even look there for inspiration like they've been doing for most of this decade? In truth, today's sharp sound-operators aren't interested in Eighties mainstream fare--Madonna, Springsteen, Pet Shop Boys, U2, not even Prince. It's a different Eighties, an earlier Eighties, that enthralls them: the postpunk period, whose prime phase of ambition and daring was concentrated in the five year stretch from 1979 to 1983. This Other Eighties spawned artists as singular as Talking Heads, Joy Division, Human League, The Specials, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Devo, plus genres as fertile and enduring as synthpop, industrial, and Goth.

The romance that the postpunk Eighties holds for today's young musicians makes perfect sense. After all, we've been living through a pop era of unparalleled and almost unrelieved vapidity, the UK charts dominated equally by assembly-line idol-pop and its supposed "alternative", an indie-rock whose modesty of ambition and plainness of sound betray everything that "independent music" ever represented.

In comparison, the early Eighties must seem like a lost golden age of innovation and heroic pretentiousness. Catalysed into existence by punk, those bands felt a moral imperative to be as interesting as they could possibly be, and accordingly ransacked ideas from not just the esoteric crevices of left-field music history but from modernist literature and art (especially Futurism and Dada), cinema and radical theater, philosophy and political theory. It was an art-into-pop movement, even with those groups, like the Fall or Joy Division, who didn't actually go to art school, as so many postpunks had. But the word "pop" was equally important as "art": inspired by the sociocultural shock waves that rippled outwards from the chart-topping impact of the Sex Pistols, these groups also wanted to reach as many people as possible. They weren't interested in sequestering themselves in some experimentalist backwater; they wanted to shake up the state of pop. And a surprising number of postpunks pulled it off. All kinds of really improbable people became stars, oddballs who didn't look like obvious hit parade material, who in some cases (Kevin Rowland, Edwyn Collins) could barely sing.

So many bright minds and sharp concepts buzzed through the highly competitive corridors of postpunk culture that you could get a contact high from reading the NME in those days. The very tempo of the time had a speedy sensation: that's why I borrowed The Fall song title "Totally Wired" for my new book of postpunk interviews and overviews. So it's totally understandable why the idealism and ideas-ism of that time would be inspirational to aspiring young bands in the Noughties.

But there's an in-built contradiction to harking back to postpunk that most of the first wave of these bands--Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, Futurehead, Interpol, et al--stumbled over, namely that Postpunk Principle #1 is "Thou Shalt Not Hark Back". Adamantly opposed to nostalgia, postpunk was utterly committed to the modernist ethos. So the extent to which a contemporary group actually sounds like a specific postpunk ancestor--Franz with their discernible debts to Scots outfits Orange Juice and Josef K, The Rapture emulating Gang of Four's guitar sound--is a measure of their failure to live up to what postpunk stood for.

Who gets it right, then? Various enclaves of musical activity today seem to me to resurrect the spirit, rather than substance, of the postpunk era. One key hallmark of that period was the bands's passionate engagement with the cutting edges of contemporary black music--in those days dub reggae, funk, disco--and their attempts to assimilate and mutate its innovations in rhythm and production, mood and expression. That often entailed a willingness to embrace the potential of the latest technology: in those days, drum machines and synthesizers, but also the new studio arts of dub versioning and remixing.

In New York and Brooklyn right now there is a vibrant milieu of bands who are idiosyncratic but share a common approach, what you might call "ecstatic/experimental": their music has a tribal, ritualistic, literally entrancing feel, colliding folky and world-music influences with electronic textures and programmed rhythms influenced by techno. Animal Collective are the godfathers of this scene, but equally worthy of your attention are High Places, a male/female duo who weave child-like vocals through their delicate clatter of undulating percussion, and Gang Gang Dance, whose remarkable Saint Dymphna album featured high in many critics polls at the close of 2008.

In some ways Gang Gang Dance are successors to No Wave, downtown Manhattan's postpunk scene of the late Seventies. Two of the group even live in the same area, the Lower East Side, where groups like the Contortions and Teenage Jesus dwelled back in the day (although it's now far less scuzzy and dangerous, of course). No Wave's ranks were full of artistic polymaths: from painters like Basquiat to film directors-to-be like Jarmusch, just about every creative in town had a band. Likewise Gang Gang Dance's Liz Bougatsos and Brian DeGraw are both accomplished visual artists, while the group actually performed in the 2008 Biennial at the Whitney Museum. Apart from the occasional eruption of weird noise and Bougatsos's unconventional approach to singing, Gang Gang Dance don’t really resemble the fabulously uncompromising No Wave outfits, though. Their future-primitive sound teems with off-kilter but intoxicating rhythms, ornamental flourishes and an aura of exoticism that's hard to source in specific ethno-musical sources. They recall, without precisely sounding like, the "4th World" fantasia of David Byrne/Brian Eno's My Life In the Bush of Ghosts and David Sylvian/ Ryuichi Sakomoto's "Bamboo Houses".

But what really echoes the postpunk mindset is Gang Gang Dance's keen interest in the latest black dance rhythms. On Dymphna they've clearly been listening to grime and dubstep, and overtly signal their respect by featuring MC-ing from London pirate radio veteran Tinchy Strider on one track. This is truer to what Liquid Liquid and ESG did back in the day than those Noughties neo-postpunk outfits who went back to that specific Eighties punk-funk sound rather than coming up with a brand-new hybrid using ideas from modern hip hop or dancehall reggae.

Few people would connect Gang Gang Dance and Vampire Weekend, another New York/Brooklyn band who did splendidly in the end-of-year polls. But to me they are just as much about reactivating postpunk principles. In their music you hear intermittent echoes of that era: the clean guitar lines and transparent structures of early Talking Heads, The Beat's rhythmic exuberance, the just-brushed freshness of Orange Juice. But more telling is their open-eared curiosity about the world beyond the convention-hardened borders of indie rock, from hip hop to West African guitarpop to reggaeton, all of which is absorbed and mutated in their music in an unforced, natural-feeling, and wonderfully refreshing manner.

Another postpunk hallmark is Vampire Weekend's emphasis on control, both aesthetic (they produced their own album, ultimately electing to put out their demos) and in business terms (unusually, they own their recordings). There's a consciousness and attention to detail about every aspect of what they do, from the music and lyrics to the record design and the band's self-presentation that seems very much in the postpunk tradition, and this conceptual approach has resulted in accusations of calculation and cold-blooded detachment being hurled their way just like David Byrne received back in the day. But they're just being true to their well-read, cosmopolitan, historically-savvy Ivy League selves. Originally launched in part as an investigation of the preppy aesthetic, Vampire Weekend's founding principles included the edict that no member of the band would ever appear onstage or in photographs wearing a T-shirt! That rejection of indie-slacker scruffiness recalls the "we oppose all rock'n'roll" stance of postpunk outfits like Subway Sect.

Lest you surmise that postpunk's inheritors are all clustered in one city on the North East coast of America, I'll conclude with some praise for the U.K. British postpunk was partly defined by its special feeling for reggae, with groups like the Pop Group and Public Image Ltd drawing on its heavy roots rhythms , disorienting dub production, and apocalyptic aura of spiritual militancy. Today the legacy of British bohemia's veneration for Jamaica lives on with dubstep. If the core scene is largely concerned with "bangers", tunes with the bass-weight to mash up the dancefloor, the more art-minded periphery of dubstep has unleashed a series of albums that work wonderfully well as home-listening: Burial's self-titled debut and Mercury-nominated sequel Untrue, The Bug's London Zoo, and Dusk + Blackdown's Margins Music. All four are records about London that evoke its tension and dread while simultaneously celebrating the capital as a hub city in what the theorist Paul Gilroy called "The Black Atlantic", a port metropolis enriched by the criss-crossing musical traffic between America, the Caribbean, and the U.K.

The Bug is Kevin Martin, a veteran musical extremist old enough to have had his life changed by Public Image Ltd's Metal Box. Anointed the Best Album of 2008 by The Wire magazine, London Zoo combines that postpunk tradition of headfuck dub--the lineage from from PiL to Massive Attack via Adrian Sherwood's On U Sound System--with contemporary dancehall riddims and guest vocals from an assortment of ragga and grime MCs.

Like London Zoo, Dusk + Blackdown's debut album is an essay about London as a dark city and a black city. Blackdown is the sonic alter-ego of Martin Clark, a well-respected journalist whose beat is the city's pirate radio culture, while the title Margins Music refers to the less well-known zones of the metropolis, those ethnic and working class enclaves poorly served by the London Underground but which are the well-springs of London underground music.

Dusk + Blackdown work with a larger canvas and more sensuous sound-palette than The Bug, taking in not just the perennial Jamaican influence but the many other immigrant flavours that enrich the capital, infusing their music with samples from the Indian sub-continent, Africa, and the Far East. I doubt that postpunk means much to Dusk + Blackdown, who are products of Nineties rave culture if anything. But with its "Fourth World" merger of computerized rhythms and exotic folk instrumentation, its unabashed conceptualism and hybrid ambition, Margins Music strikes me as very much in the postpunk spirit: it's a modern-day equivalent to 23 Skidoo's Urban GamelanMy Life In the (Shepherd's) Bush of Ghosts.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

an interview with me, largely but not entirely about Totally Wired, for Pennyblackmusic webmagazine, by Mark Rowland -- part one, and part two

Sunday, April 26, 2009



conducted by Simon Reynolds


early life

I come from a small family that migrated from Dayton,
Ohio to southeastern Pennsylvania in 1960. I had a
largely forgettable and sheltered childhood, spent
primarily in silent contemplation, alone in my room,
drawing pictures and listening to the most esoteric
edges of rock and roll music. My eyes weren't opened
to the world until 1970-72, the two years I spent
under the influence of Alan Goldstein who taught
sculpture, and my mentor and spiritual advisor Marion
Anderson, in the Bucks County Community College fine
arts department. Knowing them started the spark to
carry me creatively through a third year at another
school which was less than desirable. Trenton State
was a teachers' college that nobody seemed to want to
be at and that included me. I was waiting out the war,
and the draft, and fine tuning my skills in
performance art to the utter disdain of staff and
students alike. I had a course of independent study in
painting where I did things like "paintings to be
walked through".

More than anything else at the time,
I was inspired by Yoko Ono's book "Grapefruit". (Also,
her album "Plastic Ono Band" which I shall refer to
later). I was fortunate in meeting teacher Ned Gibby,
who helped me to find out more about
fluxus, performance art, earthworks, minimalism, and
other assorted New York eccentricities by introducing
me to various publications including Avalanche
magazine, and I exposed myself to the New York art
subculture by absorbing every issue I could get my
hands on.

new york city

The next year the government did away with the draft,
and my tuition money had run out anyway, so I got a
job at a local branch of Waldenbooks. I met David
Ebony (Eganey) one day at work when we started up a
conversation over the publication of "The Louds: An
American Family", a book documenting the PBS-TV series
about the demise of a California family that fell
apart before the eyes of millions of television
viewers. One particular point of interest to us both
about the show was the outrageously flamboyant
character of Lance Loud and clips we had seen of New
York's Greenwich Village scene including bits about
Warhol and The Factory and Interview Magazine. We got
to be great friends, having in common, a particular
fondness for all things odd, and artful, and musical.

That year for Christmas, he gave me two
albums--"Shirley Temple's Greatest Hits" and Alice
Cooper's "Killer". At some point, David had picked up
a copy of "Rock Scene" magazine which told about The
New York Dolls and an exciting new band called
Television, and Patti Smith. The only previous
knowledge I had of Patti Smith was her liner notes on
the album cover for Edgar Winter's "White Trash" and
in Todd Rundgren's album package for "A Wizard, A True
Star" wherein she had printed a poem on a band-aid.
Wayne (later Jayne) County had a column in "Rock
Scene" and wrote constantly on a number of topics
ranging from Max's Kansas City, to his/her fanaticism
over Dusty Springfield and the Dave Clark Five, to
fashion tips on the use of makeup, and accessorizing
with ripped up nylons and toilet paper rolls and other
odd bits of found and discarded clothing and objects.

In the Spring of 1975, in the pursuit of a career in
art, and through the constant support and
encouragement of my friend David, I moved to New York
to find an apartment in Greenwich Village.
David shared a Bleecker Street apartment with me,
coming up on weekends while he finished school, before
moving to the city permanently in the summer

the new york art scene

In 1975 and 1976 I became involved in the Soho and
Tribeca art worlds, and in particular, the performance
art scene. My first performance in New York City, was
an impromptu street piece on West Broadway, on a hot
night in July of 1975. It consisted of abstract dance
gestures and smashing and throwing barriers behind me
made of water-filled plastic bags to the haunting
musical accompaniment of David playing a recorder.
The second was at Charlotte Moorman's "12th Annual
Avant Garde Festival", September 27, 1975, amidst
dozens of other artists' performances, exhibits and
works. I mapped out a perimeter on the Floyd Bennett
airfield runway with a stick of chalk and took several
objects including a toy piano and a blanket with me to
live in a self-imposed cage like an asylum inmate for
the day. "The Death of Sparrow Hart" was a persona I
took on, part bird, part autistic child, dancing and
sobbing and pecking at the piano, hiding under a
blanket and so on. David went his own way equipped
with a map of the world and a pair of scissors selling
countries to passersby for nickels and quarters. We
had a fun life in New York going to art shows and
openings on Saturdays, meeting well-known and
not-so-well-known people including the father of
correspondence art, Ray Johnson, who later introduced
me to Andy Warhol and other art luminaries. I was
often seen wearing an endless variety of sunglasses
and clip-on child's plastic earrings from my
thrift-shop collections of bad taste collectibles.
David often wore neckties and pearls and chains and
brooches and rings. As a pair, out in public, we met a
lot of interesting people. David met Susan
Springfield (Beschta) at an art opening one night on
West Broadway and began a discussion on music. Susan,
was doing photographs at the time, making gigantic
photo-blowups of daisies, and doing self-portraits
which showed her being progressively beaten black and
blue. We started hanging out together, the three of
us, going to CBGB's and Micky Ruskin's Ocean Club down
on Chambers Street (Mickey had previously opened the
famous Max's Kansas City and the Ninth Circle, then
the Local. The Ocean Club was the "in" hangout of its
time where the art world met the rest of the world and
one could often see celebs from Andy Warhol to John
Belushi schmoozing there).

My first formally advertised, solo performance
occurred on January 29th, 1976, in the storefront
space of Stefan Eins' 3 Mercer Street Store. It was a
gender-bending, exercise in self-confrontation
entitled "Mommy, Me, Bandage", with garish makeup, and
props like bevelled mirrors and apron strings, and
scissors, and a cutout of a 1950's illustration of a
stereotypical nurse, and dozens of miniature sexless
plastic baby dolls which encrusted my body, attached
by adhesive tape. The apron strings were cut, the
nurse's head snipped off and taped to the mirror, then
the dolls were removed, one by one, to cover and
conceal my reflection in the mirror. All this was done
to a tape I had made from an old found-sound phono
booth record, on which two young girls sang and
giggled their way through a song, which stuck and
repeated and skipped and droned in various speeds, the
maniacal tune "Tell Me Why I Love You So" giving the
whole tableau an unnerving "dark theater" psychodrama
edge. In the week that followed, it received a praise
review by Mark Savitt for the Soho Weekly News (Soho's
then alternative to the Village Voice). Susan
Springfield had taken a photograph which they had used
for the review (this photo of my body covered in dolls
was used later in Toronto's File Magazine and made
into a postcard for a boxed set of artists' postcards
put out by Vancouver's Image Bank).

The same issue of the Soho Weekly News had an article on Wayne County.
David and I went to see Wayne's performance shortly
thereafter at a place called Mother's on 23rd Street,
where he/she sang songs about being fucked by the
devil, and simulated sex with a toilet plunger. He
wore a wig made up of about twenty wigs on an armature
which trailed to the floor and was decorated with
toilet paper rolls and wrappers. We also saw Wayne at
Max's one night where we hand-delivered a love-gift of
a flame-retardent polka-dot paper dress in a
gift-wrapped box, which we had found in some discount
shop on Canal Street.

We were going to art events at the Fine Arts Building
on Franklin Street and Varick which housed Artist's
Space. We also hung out a lot at the Ocean Club where
a strange variety of performances seemed to be taking
place, jazz, rock, country, etc. We saw the
three-piece version of Talking Heads (before Jerry
Harrison), solo John Cale, the original Cramps (with
Miriam Linna on drums), Television, Patti Smith, the
Screws, the Roches and others. Some artists had
resident studios in the Fine Arts building and David
got one and opened up a gallery where Diego Cortez,
among others, showed his work. I had a brief
pre-holiday installation there with tapes of Taiwanese
pop music set against the sound of clattering and
shattering dishes and glass windchimes. There was a
miniature silver metallic Christmas tree with blue
lighting, and dozens of antique butter knives
suspended from the wall with blades dipped in
luminescent paint, and a slide projection on faded
Agfa film depicting a pastel-colored, blur-smeared,
grinning housewife, proudly displaying her holiday
dinnerware while wearing kimono pajamas. Talking Heads
came in to have a look while my show was there.
Serious purveyors of "serious art" at the time were:
Diego Cortez, Julia Heyward a.k.a. Duka Delight,
Laurie Anderson (whose appearance at that time
approximated a matronly Anne Waldman with pageboy
hairdo), Philip Glass, Charlemagne Palestine, Ralston
Farina, Willoughby Sharp, and many others. I suppose
you could hardly consider these artists "serious" when
you think about it, their stuff was very cutting edge
and utterly unsellable, often playful, and even
sometimes comical to an extent, still, they took it
quite seriously. Nobody had yet left the art scene for
rock music, least of all, me, for fear of not having
my art taken seriously. But David and Susan were very
keen on Patti Smith, and David groomed Susan towards
the idea of the two of them starting a band together.
He played piano and she would play guitar. They
drafted her friend Jane Fire to play drums. He had me
cut Susan's long tresses into a short punk cut, the
first I can recall in the Village, and way before
anybody on St. Marks started doing weird stuff with
their hair. She took guitar lessons, and couldn't sing
or play, but had the drive to want to try. She and
David both had incredible charisma and managed to
build a band around their efforts which made its way
onto the roster of regular performing bands at
CBGB's--The Erasers was the name they gave the band
after the title of an Alain Robbe-Grillet novel. They
were making contacts all the time. Susan was sleeping
with Ivan Kral, then Lenny Kaye (both of Patti Smith
Group), then Richard Hell with whom she settled in for
a long time. Originally, the Erasers also included
Jane's babyfaced boyfriend Donald on bass, but when he
and Jane broke up, he left and was replaced by Chris
Spedding's girlfriend Jody. They had a second
guitarist too, but I can't remember his name. Two of
their most popular tunes were "Maybe" (their cover of
an old Chantels song) and "Marc In Leather" a song
Susan wrote about her fantasy of a photograph of gay
porn star Peter Berlin who she mistook for Mark 10
1/2" Stevens of "Deep Throat" fame.

At some point during appearances at clubs or perhaps
hanging out at Duane Street's Barnabus Rex bar where I
met James Chance, I did a performance at Artists'
Space called "Nursing Is An Art". It was sort of a
combination of dance and gesture execution and lecture
set to a slide show of x-rays and contorted body
poses. I remember meeting Lydia Lunch with James
Chance one night on Canal Street. She complimented me
on my announcement card for the Artists' Space
performance which showed a stylish 1940's nurse
preparing an enormous syringe. Lydia told me about the
band that she and James were starting called The
Scabs. Some time later with the band's name changed to
Teenage Jesus & The Jerks, they debuted on one of
CBGB's band audition nights. I was blown away. I was
so moved by the intensity, yet simplicity of what she
was doing, that my emotions got the better of me and I
cried. I ran backstage after the set to show her my
tears (the best compliment I could think of).

I had longed for the opportunity of making music myself but
had no musical training other than a handful of guitar
lessons, and I wanted to play keyboard, but assumed it
was outside my capabilities. David had sold me his old
Vox electric piano when he had found another more to
his liking, and I bought an old amp from filmmaker
Amos Poe, who had once been in a band with Ivan Kral
and was now selling off what he could to supply his
film habit (I was later to appear in his film The
Foreigner, alongside actors like Debbie Harry). David
told me that lessons were not the way to go with
learning the piano. He said the best way to learn was
to sit at the keyboard for hours a day, every day,
just banging away, and sooner or later I would come to
a method of my own device. He was right. However, I
was impatient and my time limited. I couldn't read or
write music and developed a crude method of
remembering tunes by abbreviated hieroglyphic symbols
scribbled on index cards. I couldn't do much more than
repeat 5 note sequences over and over alternated
against a two or three note bridge. The repetition in
the work of Philip Glass and of Marty Rev from
Suicide, and the even more minimal simplicity of the
structures Lydia was using for her tunes in the CBGB's
and Max's club circuit, opened the gate for me and
said okay, you can do it too. Now, it's okay. I began
rehearsing with Alan Vega's (of Suicide) girlfriend,
Anne DeLeon, and her friend Johnny (Dynell), in a
basement in Chelsea the summer of Sam and the big
blackout. (I remember that night. We were rehearsing
when the power went. We made our way through a city of
darkness and silence, down to the village where David
McDermott and his roommate, stood in vintage 1920's
clothes, on the corner of Bleecker and Christopher
Streets, with a handcranked Victrola, playing old 78's
to entertain passersby in the darkened city. Pinned on
the storefront wall next to them was a handscrawled
sign that read "1928". It was a Twilight Zone moment,
the only sound you could hear for blocks around was
the sound of the music from that old spring-driven
record player.) rehearsals with Anne and Johnny came
to nought.


One night at CBGB's I asked Lydia if she needed a
keyboard player in The Jerks and she said no, why
didn't I start my own band? I asked if she knew of
anybody on my wavelength interested in starting a
band. She had two suggestions--the first was a pair of
14 year old sisters who were The Jerks' roadies and
didn't play anything or have any instruments; the
other choice was Arto Lindsay who was closer to my age
and did have a guitar. I talked to Arto and we hit it
off and started working together. Teenage Jesus and
Mars were the two bands at the time that were
"off-the-wall" and different from anyone else around.
There were a group of art and music hangers-on who
became the audience supporting these bands at their
gigs by spreading the word and the applause to insure
that they would continue to be booked by CBGB's Hilly
Kristal and Max's booking skeptics who were reluctant
to book anything more unusual than the tried and true
"3 chord rock" groups like the Ramones or something
patently pallatable to the neighborhood scene like The
Shirts. Terry Ork, who had put out the first
Television 7" single "Little Johnny Jewel" on his own
Ork records, was booking new bands at Max's the last
weekend of each month, and during August, he told Arto
he'd heard about his new band, and offered us a date
at the end of September. We said sure.

We had been rehearsing with Gordon Stevenson and his
wife Mirielle Cervenka (little sister of Exene of X)
in their Tribeca loft, where they made jewelry out of
plastic chains and trinkets, like bundles of miniature
plastic fruits, or dice, or skulls, for boutiques like
Reminiscence. Gordon played bass. I had gone with him
on a day trip to Long Island to buy some kid's
unwanted electric bass. Mirielle wrote the lyrics and
sang. Arto played guitar and I played keyboards. We
didn't have a drummer. When Gordon and Mirielle heard
that we had a gig in less than a month, they freaked.
Mirielle was shy and Gordon felt inadequate. They both
jumped ship. Arto and I decided to hold onto the
opportunity while we looked around for someone else to
fill out our sound. We went to the loft where Lydia
was rehearsing. James had already begun his split with
Lydia concentrating more on the Contortions as Lydia
increasingly limited James' song-offerings in The
Jerks repertoire with each new gig. Adele Bertei and
Pat Place, and filmmaker James Nares, were in James'
new lineup and they shared Lydia's rehearsal space.
Lydia had a Japanese bassist named Reck in her band

along with Bradley Field on drums. Lydia on guitar
and vocals completed the trio. The only one hanging
around the rehearsal loft that wasn't in a band was
Reck's Japanese girlfriend Ikue. Arto wanted her to be
our drummer. I was reluctant, for a number of reasons.
The first was that she had played violin and had no
experience on drums. The second was that she didn't
own any drums. The third was that she didn't speak
enough English for us to communicate and manage to
build a 20 minute set of songs in less than 30 days.
And the fourth was that her visa was expiring and she
was planning to leave the country 8 days after our
scheduled gig. All this overwhelmed me. It seemed like
the odds were too much against us. Working with her
seemed like a Herculean task considering we hardly
knew what we were doing, let alone trying to
communicate our uneducated efforts, in a foreign
language, to someone who planned to abandon us within
days after our first gig, and we had to come up with
eight or so songs within something like 28 days. And
what about the equipment? She did have one thing going
for her. She was interested in working with us. Arto
managed to talk Nancy Arlen of Mars into letting us
use her drums for Ikue to rehearse on and to play the
gig. I think we were co-billed with Mars that night
which made things easier. I remember how we came up
with the band's name DNA. We were sitting in Phebe's
restaurant on the Bowery between sets of some bands at
CBGB's. We tossed around lots of names. Arto and I
couldn't agree on any of them and Ikue didn't really
understand our debate. Arto was friends with, and a
major fan of, Mars, who had just written a new song
called "DNA", which sounded like a million little
crazed ants running across the surface of the moon. I
liked the song as well as the title, and thought it
might suit us for the name of our band (I had been
pursuing medical and science references in my art and
performance endeavors). Suggesting that we use it as a
band name might lead Arto to consider it an hommage to
his favorite band, and end my stalemate with him over
the decision on a name. I stated my case along these
lines. DNA is a 3-letter acronym representing the
combination of molecular strands which make up and
feature characteristics distinguishing one living
thing from another. Arto comes from a culture in
Brazil, Ikue, a different culture in Japan, and I,
from a third culture in an American suburb in Ohio.
Three cultures, three individuals with different
characteristics, three letters combined into one new
combination revealing the blend of our peculiar mix.
DNA spelled backwards is AND; Arto AND Ikue AND Robin
combined are DNA. Besides that it refers to Mars' best
song. Arto seemed to appreciate this. He tried to
explain the concept to Ikue. She seemed to understand
(we did a lot of communicating through drawings and
sign language). She gave her okay and we became known
as DNA.

My favorite album and musical inspiraton of
the previous eight years was Yoko Ono's Plastic Ono
Band. A wild album a decade or more ahead of its time,
I considered it the true precursor to the new school
of bands like Teenage Jesus and Mars. It played the
tight driving organized rhythm section of Klaus
Voorman on bass and Ringo on drums against the
seemingly emotionally chaotic and disorganized guitar
of John Lennon and vocal of Yoko Ono; a constant
struggle of order against chaos. This was what I
wanted of DNA. As we were a trio, the balance was
achieved, metaphorically, more like a seesaw, with
Arto supplying the chaotic bursts and uncontrolled
explosion of emotion, while I countered with tight,
cold, controlled, confined, suppressed emotions and
patterns, both of us balanced on Ikue's fulcrum, which
weaved in and out of the two extremes, like a juggler
juggling fire in one hand and water in the other, and
managing to make steam, without extinguishing either
fire or water.

The success of our debut gig at Max's Kansas City
postponed Ikue's departure and began months of gigs
pairing the four bands-DNA, Mars, Teenage Jesus & The
Jerks, and The Contortions on bills with one another
and other experimenters who were up and coming, or in,
from out of town, like Devo. This signalled the start
of, what Lydia coined in an interview as, "The No
Wave" with a myriad of generations of bands to follow,
as well as generations of new clubs opening up to the
possibility of bands playing original material, rather
than the Bleecker Street scene of clubs pushing "top
40" cover bands. Other artists and artists' friends
began to pursue an interest in rock music and playing
in bands. Within the year Artists' Space held a
weeklong display of new bands in concert, at their
space down on Franklin St. in the Fine Arts Building.
The week boasted a number of new bands, culminating
in the Friday and Saturday double-bills of the four
bands that started it all. John Rockwell of The Times
had taken some interest and reviewed us in his paper.
He had also encouraged Brian Eno to check out these
new bands. This lead to the "No New York" album
project in which he tried to capture the phenenomenon
quickly before it transformed into something else, or
burned out altogether. The album was originally slated
for release on Island Records but word has it that
when the record company heard the mastertapes, they
were so horrified at this financial blunder, that they
tried to hush the already contracted, and paid for,
project, by releasing it on their minor sub-label,
Antilles, so as not to call too much attention to it.

The bands involved in the project continued for a
while then branched off in different directions. Mars
played a number of gigs getting stranger and noisier
and more experimental with each new concert, finally
abandoning their electric guitars for trumpet,
clarinet and bassoon. When they reached the height of
cacaphony, they retired from the music scene
altogether claiming they had reached their pinnacle.
Lydia played in various projects from Teenage Jesus to
Beirut Slump (with New York filmmaker Vivienne Dick
and siblings Liz and Bobby Swope), then Eight-Eyed
Spy, 13:13 and a number of other projects including
solo albums, readings and so on. James Chance worked
with the Contortions then changed his name to James
White and revised the band to James White & The

DNA played and rehearsed the same tunes for
about a year, and I was getting really tired of them.
I assumed that starting from nowhere technically, we
would evolve into a trio building on proficiency
towards new material in new directions. Rehearsals
were unbearable. We played the same songs over and
over and they never sounded the same twice. It was
frustrating. Arto was exerting some influence on Ikue
to get her to free herself up more on the drums, and I
felt that the dynamic shift in the sound then became
offbalanced. I felt myself struggling, indeed
floundering, to maintain the driving rhythm to rein in
the songs. And, we weren't writing new material. I
expressed my displeasure and began looking for
musical alternatives.


Q/ Tell me about Ivan Kral

Ivan Kral was in the Patti Smith Group early on. I
can't remember what he played (guitar/bass?). You can
probably research this online. He was also a close
friend of filmmaker Amos Poe and did the soundtrack
for his film "The Foreigner" which I acted a couple of
bit parts in and recently found available online as a
DVD. (It's got a great acapella Debbie Harry vignette
as a chanteuse in a soho alleyway). According to a
recent online search, he was apparently born in
Czechoslovakia and recently returned there to renew
his musical career with a number of albums in Czech.

Q/ Tell me about Terry Ork

I didn't know Terry Ork very well. As I recall, he
was a stout scruffy little guy with immensely
thick-lensed glasses, a dense wild prickly brown beard
and out of control curly hair who always appeard
stoned and unkempt, but pleasant nonetheless. He was
on the scene when I met him at Max's booking dates for
a special event night in September. Picture a
vision-impaired hedgehog, or Mole from "Wind In The
Willows".... The Ork Records
label consisted of business partners Terry Ork and
Charles Ball. I don't know the history behind Ork
Records.... I also do't know what Charles Ball's participation in it
was. I don't even know whether they had more than one
release, but I don't recall any other than the first
Television single "Little Johnny Jewel". And at the
time, this was the only fledgling Independent Record
Label I had run across, perhaps the first in a whole
upcoming tidal wave industry.

Q/ Tell me some more about Charles Ball?

Charles Ball was the corporate face of Ork Records.
He was a relatively handsome, benign looking
middle-class golden boy with an unadventurous wardrobe
of tan and maroon sweaters and blazers and a
conservative haircut to match his gold wristwatch. His
musical interests leaned more in the direction of Van
Morrison, Bruce Springsteen, Lou Reed and the Modern
Lovers than the noisy "no wave" stuff that he became
identified with. I don't really understand what appeal
it had for him, but I'm glad it did. He once confided
to me that I was added to the roster of Lust/Unlust
musicians largely because I was the only act his
live-in girlfriend liked. Her name was Joanna
(something, I forget) and she was in great part
responsible financially and clerically for keeping the
business end of Lust/Unlust afloat through her
paychecks from her dependable day job and her after
hours assistance to Charles with bookkeeping and
mailings. They had a respectable-looking upscale
apartment on a prime block of St. Mark's Place next
door to the church which later housed the famous Club
57, future scene of prose and poetry readings,
performance art, theme event nights, and limited run,
underground, off-off Broadway theatricals featuring
Ann Magnuson, John Sex and a horde of others. ... I don't
know what happened between
Charles and Terry prior to his leaving Ork Records to
start his own Production Company, which is really what
Lust/Unlust was. He tagged his records with that, but
let the artists choose the names for their labels so
it looked like he had a whole stable of different
record labels to his credit. I believe his first three
singles were (Lydia Lunch's) Teenage Jesus & The
Jerks-Orphans/The Closet; DNA-You & You/Little Ants;
Teenage Jesus & The Jerks-Baby Doll/Freud In Flop. My
single after leaving DNA, r.l.crutchfield's Dark
Day-Hands In The Dark/Invisible Man, was I believe the
fourth single (it may have been the third).

Q/ What was Arto like?

Arto was likeable and intelligent with a wide range
of interests that seemed to have little to do with the
no wave. The music he was listening to, was jazz,
Brazilian artists, funk like Bootsy Collins, and R&B
artists like Marvin Gaye and Al Green. He talked in
visual terms of pulling sound ideas from sources like
these. Visually Arto was a nerd and a geek holding
down a day job selling ad space at the Village Voice
until he quit and devoted his full efforts to working
the scene and taking advantage of free meals and
boarding by his friends, particularly Mark Cunningham
and Connie Burg of Mars... He wasn't an angry young man
like others on
the scene and there was no pretension visually either.
He wore lived-in pants and secondhand-looking
sweaters, simple button-down shirts and horn-rimmed
glasses. He made the guys from Devo look stylin'. He
looked like a cross between the nerdy geek character
of Anthony Michael Hall in the John Hughes movie
"Sixteen Candles", and Ray Bolger's Scarecrow's
dancing scenes from the "Wizard of Oz". Someone once
compared him to a sort of a psychotic Barney Fife (the
wiry, thin, yet nervous deputy sidekick of TV's old
Andy Griffith Show). He had brilliant ideas, but
wasn't particularly easy to work with. Musically, I
guess I didn't take him too seriously, as we were all
coming from a place of talked-up abstract theory and
ideas without hands-on musical experience. During my
year with DNA, Ikue and I seemed to be starting to
develop a musical consistency and proficiency at
playing our new instruments that I never saw happen in
Arto's guitarwork. It remained as "first-time guitar
approach" sounding as the day he first picked up an
electric guitar. His playing danced in and out of the
rhythm without making any attempt to deal with tune or
melody, but we didn't really have command of a rhythm
to dance in and out of yet. I remember him using an
electric guitar tuner to tune his 12-string
Dan-electro electric guitar despite the fact that
sonically it didn't seem to matter what notes he hit,
it was all squeak and squawk.

Q/ How did you guys manage to communicate with Ikue?

As far as communicating with Ikue, a lot of it was
diagram and gesture. She had a rudimentary
understanding of English, even though she couldn't
really speak it so much (or at least didn't think she
could). Arto might have to act out in charade what he
wanted to do, shuffling and shaking his arms to a
certain beat or gesturing for a pause or tempo change.
A lot of it was describing an image to emulate, like,
"Okay, this bit should sound like a drunk coming down
a flight of stairs at the end of a long night out."

Q/ Tell me some more about Mars

Mars (originally named China until an Elton John
Rocket Records label band by that name forced them to
change theirs to Mars) was, as far as I can recall,
the first "no wave" band, before the term was coined.
The closest thing I can think of that preceded them
was some of the stranger Velvet Underground
experiments. I don't know much about their history.
Nancy was the eldest member of the band,
younger-looking than her actual age, she kept the fact
hidden that she was a good decade older than her
cohorts. She was a serious sculptor working with
plastic resins, and was a confidante of Sumner Crane.
I believe that Connie and Mark and Arto all went to
the same college in St. Petersburg Florida. Mark and
Nancy were the rhythmic mainstay of Mars while Sumner
and Connie traded on weird vocal affectations and
guitar play involving tempo changes, overtones and
feedback. Their sound was hallucinogenically textural
with a beat and psychotic episodes of vocal wailings
and mumblings.

Q/ What can you recall about the Artists Space Festival of 1978?

I don't remember how the Artists Space week came
about. The four bands paired off for the weekend spots
had been playing clubs pretty consistently for months:
Friday night DNA and Mars; Saturday night Teenage
Jesus & The Jerks and The Contortions (James
Chance/White had once been an early member of TJ&TJ).
Many of the others (The Gynecologists (Nina Canal's
band), The Communists, The Static (Glenn Branca's
band), Jules' Baptiste's Red Decade, Tone Death (Rhys
Chatham's band), Theoretical Girls (Jeffrey Lohn's
band), Daily Life (Barbara Ess's band before Y Pants),
Boris Policeband [I'm not certain I'm recalling this
lineup exactly but I may be able to find out, or you
can do some more online research) were relative
newcomers or holding onto arts venues in preference to
the tacky greasy dives like CBGB's. The event was
well-attended, mostly by Soho art types interested in
the new crossover between art and pop music and many
were bandmembers checking out what each other were
doing and being supportive. Brian Eno and New York Times
writer John Rockwell attended at least one of the
weekend sessions which turned into the No New York
album project. (I think it was the night we played
with Mars; or maybe we played with the Contortions. I
may have the pairings wrong way round. That seems more
likely as TJ and Mars were the elder bands more likely
to earn a Saturday night spot).

Q/ What was Brian Eno like to work with and as a person?

Many of the people involved projected contempt and
distrust over his perceived elitism, and their concern
over the divisions of money. I recall a debated
meeting at his 8th Street sublet over whether the
royalties should be divided by band or by bandmember:
DNA and Teenage Jesus each had three bandmembers while
The Contortions had six. I was very impressed by his
actions and his behavior which was supportive,
concerned, and professional. Still, it was a big
incongruous, as if Philip Glass went over to England
and asked Johnny Rotten to record a record with him.

Q/ Tell me some more about Nina Canal and Ut

When I first saw the Gynecologists, I felt Rhys
Chatham was their weakest link. He was already
pursuing interests in overtones and volume which he
carried on into his next project Tone Death. The other
Gynecologists were Nina Canal and Robert Appleton,
both British. Their guitar and bass mix had the odd
tug of reggae to its playing, but the minimalism of a
Young Marble Giants with strange melodic choices to
the riffs. I think Rhys was replaced by a third member
named Charlie who played drums, but then left and I
think that's when I was looking for projects outside
of DNA and approached them to become their new drummer
(or maybe Charlie and I were auditioning for the same
bit and he got it). We had a couple of rehearsals and
it didn't really work out for me. I wasn't adding to
their sound in a substantial way and I believe Robert
was feeling like calling it quits. In any event, they
did split up shortly after. It's too bad really 'cause
they and Mars were my favorite bands despite the
inspirational impact Teenage Jesus had had on me. I
never understood Ut at all and felt it was beneath
Nina's talents. She had a great emotionally compelling
voice along the lines of The Slits and The Raincoats,
amazing guitar abilities and interesting songwriting
ideas. But she also had a tight rapport with the three
other women in the band, which I believe was to its
musical detriment. They all played less competently
than she and they all decided to play musical chairs
on the instruments for different songs so each of them
would share the experience of trying a hand at each
task. This made for tediously time-consuming concerts
while each one shifted place onstage and retuned and
adjusted each instrument for each song. A fifteen
minute set could take an hour to play. It often looked
like she was overlooking her own musical frustration
by trading off in favor of the joy of playing with her

Q/ How did you get to know Tuxedomoon?

I met the members of Tuxedomoon when we both
played at the M-80 festival in Minneapolis. We had
this immediate affinity, musicwise, fashionwise,
conceptually. Tuxedomoon, Judy Nylon and Dark Day were
definitely the darker forces at the festival playing
mysteriously melodramatic music and dressed in black.
All the others were more rock, or funk, or angry, or
loud. The airplane hangar we were playing in was very
echoey and most of the bands reverberated like musical
mush. The sparser, artier ones like us cut through the
atmosphere of the large space enhanced by the echo
with single-note keyboard patterns or soaring violins
and soprano saxophone.

Q/ Tell me some more about this Moondog cat

Moondog was the pseudonym of an oddball blind
street musician (self-named after a dog he had who
howled at the moon) whose history was a mystery to me
(revealed in the liner notes of his Columbia album;
blinded in his youth by fireworks), but he was
well-known in midtown New York City throughout the
'60s for standing on a streetcorner dressed in a
Viking outfit complete with horned helmet peddling his
poems and playing cyclical rounds of his own
compositions on harp and glockenspiel with shakers,
rattles and hand drums assisted by his daughter and a
couple of friends. Someone at Columbia Records gave
him a shot and signed him for two albums in the late
'60s. Both have been reissued on a single CD. His
music, odd in the way Nico's persona was, was of a
different time. It was refreshingly primitive. The
closest comparison one might make to his music is some
of Penguin Cafe Orchestra or Dead Can Dance, both of
which came along much, much later, and neither of
which really does him justice. My "Darkest Before
Dawn" CD comes much, much closer at paying a tribute
to his sound, medieval-sounding pagan instruments
playing tuneful rhythmic rounds.


dark day - phase one

We had done a 7" single with Charles Ball's label
Lust/Unlust prior to the "No New York" album and
Charles expressed interest in continuing working with
me beyond DNA. Charles had once been partners with
Terry Ork of Ork Records and now ran his own label. I
had a couple of song ideas but couldn't get together a
group of musicians willing to commit to a band. I
managed to get Nina Canal from The Gynecologists (and
later Ut) on guitar, and Nancy Arlen of Mars on drums,
to assist me with several rehearsals and a recording
session for one project. We recorded the single for
Charles who was allowing his acts to name their labels
at the time under the umbrella of the Lust/Unlust
Production company. I was going to name my label on
the single, Dark Day Records. But I couldn't come up
with a name for the group, and I didn't want it to be
just my name. I liked the sound of Dark Day better
than any of the other names I was coming up with, so
that became the name of the band. The single got some
promising reviews in the local rock newspapers and
Charles was interested in following it with an album.
I had made additional attempts to find new musicians
through friends and acquaintances to join the project,
as Nancy and Nina weren't interested.

dark day - phase two

Our first concert as Dark Day was played at The Mudd
Club, with Nina filling in at the last minute on
drums. Phil Kline was the guitarist, friend of
writer/coworker Luc Sante at the bookstore where I
worked. He was also best friends with Jim Jarmusch
and was pursuing an interest in film music. David
Rosenblum played bass. He was a coworker of mine,
interested in pursuing his own musical directions with
a band more into jazz-fusion. At the first Dark Day
gig, Wim Mertens, (later with a productive musical
career of his own) approached us about performing in
Europe for the Belgian radio. Charles Ball made the
arrangements, having been abroad previously with
Suicide. A friend of a friend in our rehearsal space
recommended to us a drummer named Barry Friar, who
joined the project and began rehearsing with us. David
departed to form his own band but continued to share a
rehearsal space with us. A "New, Now, No Wave" music
festival was being arranged in Minneapolis and we were
among the New York bands asked to play. Having only
played a couple of gigs so far, and only to audiences
of under a hundred, we would now be in a stadium, on a
stage, playing to several thousand. It was all
happening fast, and a bit overwhelming. We went to
Belgium to play in Leuven, and on the same trip did
gigs in Amsterdam, coinciding with a New York poetry
festival there (where we hung out with Kathy Acker),
and Rotterdam where we rescued Adele Bertei from being
stranded in Holland, and returned with her to the
states. We recorded our first album, "Exterminating
Angel" with Steven Brown (from Tuxedomoon whom we'd
met in Minneapolis at the festival) guesting on
soprano sax on one track. New York photographer Jimmy
De Sana did the photoportrait for the album cover. My
close friend and coworker Jack Zaloga did the design
and photos for the inner sleeve with the lyric sheet.

The album was released. Time passed. My friend Jack,
who was doing a lot of drug experimentation at the
time, disappeared for days on end, and, finally,
turned up about a week later, in the East River.
Charles wanted to release a 12" single from the album
about three months after the album's release to boost
its sales. I was reluctant about the idea,
particularly since he wanted to release the slowest
song on the album at a time when people were putting
their upbeat numbers on 12" and releasing them in
advance of an album rather than after the fact. I
finally agreed to a compromise. He could put what he
wanted on the A side, if I could do what I wanted with
the B side. I went back into the studio with the
master tapes, flipped them over and played them
backwards altering track assignments, speed and reverb
effects, and riding the faders in and out, to create 6
short "exterminations" of the original songs. These, I
dedicated to my departed friend Jack. Of my early work
that survives, this ep is probably the thing with
which I remain most pleased.

Q/ Tell me some more about the Exterminations project

Charles Ball had the debatable idea of putting out
a promotional 12" for the first Dark Day album
"Exterminating Angel" after the album's release
instead of preceding it. And instead of choosing an
upbeat club-oriented dance-type song as others were
doing, he chose the most dirge-like song on the album,
it's closer "Trapped". I fought tooth and nail in
disagreement with him over its release, and he was to
meet me at the studio in finalizing some work for the
flipside when he was called away and had to be late.
The time was already booked and rather than watch the
engineers sit and twiddle their thumbs, I talked them
into allowing me to play at the board with the tapes
flipped over in reverse fashion, selecting the best
bits from each song on the album, bathing them in a
wall of echo, and riding the faders in and out to
create six undoings (new mixes) of the original songs.
I was thrilled with the results and persuaded Charles
to allow me to use this material for the B-side, if I
agreed to give in on his decision for the A-side. At
about that time, a close friend of mine had gone
missing and his body turned up a week later in the
East River. His death remains a mystery, but in light
of his demise, I dedicated the six songs
(Exterminations) to him creating a sense of closure on
the Dark Day of that time, taking time off to grieve,
to rest, and to rethink, only to regroup later with
different musicians and a different sound.

Dark Day continued to
play a number of gigs locally at CBGB's, Max's Kansas
City, Hurrah's, Tier 3, The Mudd Club, and even a gig
at Tracks with Jim Jarmusch guesting on synthesizer
and Peter Principle (from Tuxedomoon) on bass. Then I
became despondent. New songs weren't forthcoming. Phil
wanted to continue gigging for the extra income. The
only money he and Barry made from Dark Day was what we
made doing concerts. I didn't enjoy live gigs and
preferred studio work. Phil became involved in his own
project, the DelByzanteens.... We drifted apart.

dark day - phase three

Charles suggested a new album and began looking for a
studio. I was all for it, but Phil and Barry had gone
on to pursue stuff more profitable to their own
interests. I decided to start over. I acquired a new
keyboard and began working with a new acquaintance,
Bill Sack. Dark Day was now a two-man all-keyboard
project. We did a few concerts including being the
first amplified rock band to ever play at the Pyramid
Lounge (before they installed soundproofing), and
recorded, depending on how you looked at it, a very
long ep, or a very short album. But gigs were hard to
do live, as we'd overdubbed all the studio tracks
between just the two of us, and there was no way to
deliver that sound live. Plus, I couldn't sing and
play these songs at the same time, due to my own
musical limitations. We completed the album, but
Charles' creditors were after him, and the album
remained tied up in the studio when he skipped town.

One of his major distributors decided, with my
reluctant approval (under pressure from the studio),
to bail the tapes out of the studio and release them
on his own label, Plexus Records, which had released
some American pressings of Japanese bands including
some solo Riuchi Sakamoto albums. But, much as I
feared, Plexus gave us no support whatsoever, and
didn't know how to represent us. The album had only
about 1,000 copies to its first, and last pressing,
and without promotion of any kind, disappeared into
the void of the bargain bins.

dark day - phase four

Some time passed and I made new acquaintances of
percussionist, Brian Bendlin (who helped produce early
Linda Smith efforts and shared a band, The Woods,
with her), cellist, Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer (also of
The Woods, now gaining an audience with "Y'all"), and
a recorder player, Shawn McQuate (who did dance works
and shows of his outrageous clothing designs, with Ann
Magnusson, before drugs took over his life).

This developed into the next phase of Dark Day, a sort
of acoustic chamber ensemble performing cyclical,
pagan-sounding, instrumental works I had composed,
which featured rattles, bells and drums, inspired by
my early musical influence, the legendary Moondog. We
played some concerts locally at parties and clubs and
a Pagan street festival, and recorded some tracks in
Wharton Tiers' Fun City studio, for what I hoped would
lead to a next album, despite not having a label. The
songs were finished up several years later at Brian's
home studio, after the band had dispersed, where I
added several new numbers with Brian's help. With the
addition of two solo pieces I had recorded at the
Institute For Audio Research, I decided to release the
album myself, on my own label, on compact disc in
1989. I was unprepared for the business end of the
music business and had trouble finding shops and
distributors willing to carry the disc unless they
took it on consignment. I got ripped off, with few
paying their bills. Disheartened by the unpleasant
experience of the "business" of music, and despondent
about the lack of "art" in the music business, I
retired from music, until an outside opportunity
should present itself, if ever that should happen


In the fall of 1997, Dirk Ivens of Daft Records wrote
me a letter from Belgium expressing interest in
re-releasing my old material on CD. Between us, we
assembled a compilation "Dark Day: Collected 1979-82"
which appeared in Europe a few months later.

dark day in the new millenium

In September, 1999, I finished recording an album of
new material, "Strange Clockwork", using computer
technology to help me construct pieces in a process of
polyrhythmic layering techniques. This material, which
has been compared to Steve Reich and Stereolab, still
in search of a label, is available only by mail order
as a CDR. In the winter of 2000, quirky film director
Errol Morris contacted me about using "Wheel
Whirl-Thing" from "Darkest Before Dawn" for the
opening and closing credits of an episode of his Bravo
TV series "First Person". He also commissioned new
music and used a percussion-free mix of "The Laugh's
On You" from "Strange Clockwork" for the episode
airing on April 19th entitled "In The Kingdom Of The
Unabomber", an interview with
psychologist/writer/penpal of the Unabomber, Gary
Greenberg. Besides airing on Bravo network in the
United States, it aired on England's Channel Four and
elsewhere around the world.

In August of 2000, Dark Day's 5th album of original
music "Loon" is released. The subtitle is "the mental
health project" and its assembly was an exercise in
exorcising some of the demons of the psychiatric
world--delusion and sleep disorder. A sort of sonic
brain massage to help me deal better with the little
difficulties in the details of my day-to-day living,
it sounds like Philip Glass meets the Addams Family.

I press on in my 49th year with a new album under the
moniker darkdayrobin entitled "The Happy Little
Oysters." Following in the vein of Dark Day's last
several albums, the material is multi-layered,
rhythmically cyclical music with infectiously pop
melodies and a sinister edge.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

An Italian translation of Totally Wired is to be published by Isbn Edizioni, who also did Rip It Up (as Postpunk 1978-84) and Bring the Noise (as Hip-Hop-Rock 1985-2008). Should be out early 2010.

Sunday, March 1, 2009



questions by Simon Reynolds

Can you tell me a bit about your personal background?

Born August 23 1952 Chicago Illinois; grew up in Hinsdale- western suburbs. Wanted to study film, checked out nearest University with a film program in Iowa and it was a bit expensive so ended up in Liberal Arts program at Western Illinois. University for 2 years. Looking for a niche with other like minded outsiders like myself got involved in underground theatre and with the White Panther Party. In addition to putting out an independent newspaper with innovative typography and color scheme (rainbow effect) they organised blues concerts on campus. It was there I developed my love for da blues. Moved to Springfield Illinois. To attend brand new ‘alternative’ style SSU –Sangamon State University. Studied revolutionary China, art history and took a class in contemporary music where one day the teacher asked us to “play the room”. Here I met my first synth --a small suitcase that opened into a painted touch sensitive keyboard and oscillator knobs. Until then my musical education had consisted of piano lessons at age ten (thanks mom) and clarinet through junior high and high school.

And what got you into music first and how your taste developed?

The commercial radio of the 60s and later discovering an all night FM underground radio station from Chicago. One night the Dj ‘Scorpio’( I still remember his name) fell asleep and his snoring was broadcast til dawn. I believe this had a lasting effect on me. Also the few records my parents owned: Barbara Streisand, Harry Belafonte and How to Scare the Hell out of Your Neighbors, these all had their unique appeal for me. It was finally the cinema that brought me to music. I saw SINBAD with effects by Ray Harryhausen and music of Bernard Hermann and I knew what I wanted to do.

How did you come to San Francisco?

For my high school graduation I got a plane ticket to San Francisco and went with a friend, took Super movies in Marin County on the coast which really moved me. Two years later returned in road trip with friends and discovered the Angels of Light. Fell for a bearded transvestite in the show and moved in with him at the AOL commune. The theatre of the Angels was a revelation. This is what theatre was meant to be: a Dionysian rite of lites and music and chaos and eros.

In an interview I read, Jay Cem described SF as "the kook capital of the world". And in the sleevenote to Pinheads on the Move, Blaine compared it to Montmartre back in the day, a bohemian paradise. Can you give a sense of the reasons why SF was so great for unusual people and artists of all kinds?

Not only was but hopefully remains so. There are many theories —holy Indian energy center — mediterranean climate — the last stop on continental USA heading west. One need only look at the Beats in the 50s, the Hippies in the 60s, the punk in the 70s -- to see a cyclical flow of energy. When we were there people were always experimenting and trying out outrageous concepts in their daily lives and in performance -- and finding an audience. I was lucky to be part of the Angels of Light which were offspring of the Cockettes in the 60s —- glitter gender-fuck theatre queens who inspired Bowie and Elton John. We lived together in a big Victorian. Men women children and dog pooled all our disability checks each month, ate communally 100% vegetarian and used the rest of funds to produce lavish theatrical productions -- never charging a dime to the public, believing art should be free.(They were very serious about art being free and nobody in the group was allowed to participate in any profit making ventures relating to theatre).

You could write a book on the Angels of Light and I hope someone does. A ‘family’ of dedicated artists who sang, danced, painted, and sewed for the Free TheatreGay or Bi men and women who were themselves works of art… extravagant in dress and behaviour, disciples of Artaud and Wilde and Julian Beck. We were living the Marcel Carne’s film “Les Enfants du Paradise”. Every show required months of work from writing of scenarios to musical scores, costumes, sets, dance numbers etc. My debut was standing on the stage of the San Francisco Civic Auditorium in front of a packed house dressed as a giant starfish (a costume I had made) playing a clarinet in a gorgeous underwater set…the show was: ”Paris Sites Under the Bourgeousie.”

Could you give me a sort of bohemian topography of the city? Where did people hang-out, where bands played? Performance spaces, all night cinemas etc.

There were 3 places in North Beach: The Savoy Tivoli, The Mabuhay Gardens (a Filipino restaurant by day), and a place around the corner whose name I forget….’City’ something… There was the Mutants loft by the bus station; The Deaf Club in the Mission District, an authentic club for the deaf where you ordered beer in sign language and where presumably the patrons obviously didn’t mind the music because they couldn’t hear it but liked the vibrating floorboards. The Café Flor on Market and 14th was where everyone went for good coffee (still a rarity in those pre-Starbucks days) and good crepes. Here there was a mix of nearby Castro Street queens and punks and artists of all sorts. The Roxie cinema on 16th street. Midnite shows of Rocky Horror in a cinema on Market St. Tuxedomoon staged several ‘salons’ in the Angels of Light rehearsal studio on Valencia in the Mission. There were many private parties. In fact Tuxedomoon played for the first year or so in private homes at birthdays etc -- hooking up our ‘gear’ to hosts stereo system in guerilla fashion.

What I've read, it seems like there was quite a lot going on in terms of art-rock/experimental stuff before punk? What was it like, and how did punk change its direction?

We were just starting Tuxedomoon when I heard ‘God Save the Queen’ for the first time. I still see the moment clearly… putting on the headphones in the house at 3645 Market. It was exhilarating and inspirational.

Did punk open up more of space for left-field artists like yourselves?

Yes and no. The punk ‘do it yourself’ anything goes attitude was shared by most promoters and so yes, all kinds of acts got a chance to play. But very soon punk ossified into a puritan dogma of guitars bass and drums and screaming vocalist. When Blaine Reiniger and I first started performing in public --a violin, a sax, a synth and a tape-recorder -- the crowd threw beer bottles and screamed: “Where’s the drummer!!??” The forest quickly got lost for the trees I felt. For many, punk came to represent only one simple style of music.

So both you and Blaine were studying electronic music, right?

There was a very high quality City College where residents of SF could study for free. It was like Xmas. I took classes in etching, piano, harmony, and Blaine and I took a class with Jerry Mueller in electronic music primarily to get our hands on the giant Buchla-built synthesizer and the tape recorders they had there. This was before the days of polyphonic keyboard synths and the class was more like an electronics or physics class … voltage… oscillators... square waves etc. We produced sounds by patching cables and turning knobs. Music concrete and Subotnik like bleeps were the order of the day. At term's end we all had to perform a piece. Most were unbearably sterile and abstract, if not pretentious. With the aid of Tom Tadlock, who would later become Tuxedomoon's producer-manager-guru, I set up a tape loop system designed by Brian Eno and diagrammed on the back of the lp Discreet Music. Into this system I played Tadlock’s Polymoog producing successive layers or washes of string sounds -- what today would be called New Age I suppose. Blaine on the other hand assaulted the academic flourescent-lit ambience head on, singing and dancing in a white smock with a balloon headdress to a pre-recorded tape and projected Super-8 film. Absurd and entertaining: the perfect performance in the perfect place. It turns out we both enjoyed each other's performance --different as they were from one another.

Forming Tuxedemoon, how did you ‘assemble your sonic idenity’ i.e. the instrumental choices made, things ommitted, goals, taboos, self-chosen restrictions, role models if any?

Our identity came largely from what was at hand — synthetic rhythms recorded on tape at school — Blaine’s violin, my sax, Tom’s synth. Inspiration came from many fronts: Burroughs Phil Glass, Eno, Roxy, Bowie, Cage, Reich..etc The only rule was the tacit understanding that anything that’ sounded like’ anyone else was taboo.

In one piece, the band cites its influences as: "burroughs, bowie, camus, cage, eno, moroder". Can you say what you admired or drew on vis-à-vis these artists?

William S. Burroughs -- ideas concerning use of media - tapes, projections, his radical anti control politic in general as well as his outspoken gayness. Early on we duplicated on stage one of his early experiments projecting films of faces onto faces.

Cage – use of tapes and radio and noise. His books more than his music.

Bowie for his unabashed showmanship and constant changing of styles and musical explorations.

I read somewhere that there was this initial concept for Tuxedomoon as combining music, theatre and writing into some sort of "Unified Field"?

Big on Scriabin and Wagner.. delusions of grandeur. Of course I suppose we succeeded in our own way. I can think of shows we did using tapes, live instruments acoustic and electric, professional painted sets hanging on stage, Winston Tong in black tie and tails manipulating wondrous homunculi created with his own hands, a female chorus - Victoria Lowe at once vocalist and foil to Winston Tong, our sound man Tommy Tadlock a protégé of Nam June Paik … then later with addition of Bruce Gedulgig we had film projections, covering all the bases…

There was a fair amount of talk at this time, especially in the U.K., of getting rid of stale rock procedures and routines, the gig, the encore, etc. Was this a motivation? One U.K. experiment in these terms was Cabaret Futura, the brainchild of Richard Strange formerly of late-period glam outfit Doctors of Madness. You played Futura once, right? Moving away from rock, people seemed to look back (to cabaret, ultimately to show biz and "variety" ideas — everything scripted and choreographed) and look sideways to the margins (performance art, multimedia, film back projections etc). Who do you reckon did interesting work at the time in terms of outmoding the Gig?

Well, for a split second, film and performance art were a part of the cultural revolution of punk . Z’ev… Mark Pauline… NON… even Devo in the beginning with their Bruce Conner films. What happened was the tyranny of music over the other arts. It’s apparently still easier today to make waves with a music CD then say a new film. Although this has changed a lot lately with films like Happiness, Safe, Poison, Velvet Goldmine etc..actually making money. For Tuxdomoon our shows were always ‘scripted and choreoed’ after our own fashion. The point is there were video artists and performers like those mentioned coming in on the wave of energy then. Its just that to put it country simple; Tuxedomoon couldn’t even get airplay (in the US) with their discs so imagine for the rest. Living where I and a lot of other like minded souls do today,(Oaxaca) there is just NO ACCESS to non-commercial contemporary films,for example. This is a big city thing but hopefully will be changing as more and more people flee the grand metropoli. In fact in a way I suppose we are beginning to institute this change: one of my self appointed ‘jobs’ here in Oaxaca is showing 16mm films to the pueblo for free.

You mentioned Winston Tong -- what was his contribution to Tuxedomoon?

The name of Winston Tong already elicited a flicker of interest - excitement even before I ever met or saw him. First time was on upper Castro St in a salon / party in a very nice Victorian apartment The buzz of the party hushed and there in the center of the room was Winston in a black tux with 2 dolls for lack of better word, he himself used the word but they were really alive… these creatures, these homunculi he had created. This of course was a marvel to behold. Tong was and is a pro. He’s got the magic. Don’t know if you know the book by Thomas Wolfe.. You Cant Go Home Again.. there is a scene in that book that eerily seems to be describing what I experienced that night in the Castro. Later through mutual friend Victoria we delighted in Winstons participation in one of our Tuxedomoon salons held in the Angels of Light studio. From that moment on we worked together.

And you mentioned Bruce Gedulgig with his movies...

Bruce had been working with Winston for some time when we started working with him. He was studying film at the University of SF. The ‘instrument’ he played was super-8 projector.

You supported Devo at the Mabuhay, right? Did you feel any kinship with them?

We admired Devo a lot from the beginning. And of course there was an affinity between songs like "Mongoloid" and our "Pinheads" for example. We were on the same wave length for a minute… then they got famous and rich and we didn’t…

Tell me a bit about Tom Tadlock? He’s described somewhere as a "electronic music guru"? How important was he in the early days of Tuxedemoon. And whatever happened to him?

A few years before the encounter with Blaine, I had joined The Angels of Light. This was the real ‘America On Line’!! It was with the AOL that I met Thomas or Tommy or Tadpole. Tommy was the audio systems designer for the Group. He also owned a Polymoog. This fact alone already gave him quasi dio status for some of us. Long before I ever met him I was always hearing about him from various Angels. In fact he was extremely important to the Angels of Light which prided itself on its original scores and songs performed live with each production. I remember Beaver or Rodney mentioning his name with tones of reverence or desperation depending on the day’s events. In fact I remember that more than I do the actual moment of contact with the man. Suffice to say I ended up moving in with him. Later Blaine would do the same. Patrick Roques having moved in before him. And there in the house on Upper Market street beneath ‘Twin Towers’ with a view of the Oakland Bridge and Bay we all cranked out our weirdness together and lopped it into something called Tuxedomoon. To say Tadlock was a pivotal all important first member of Tuxedomoon would be an understatement. There is hardly a day goes by now that I don’t think of him. He was a guru in an electronic music and also a spirtual way. Sometimes frighteningly demonic yet always there to keep prodding us when we got lazy or discouraged.. in short he was blood.. one of us.

For Blaine, who played both electronic violin and guitar on stage, Tommy designed ‘Treatment Mountain’ -- a plywood pyramid displaying junction boxes or compressors or effects he had designed and built, as well as an Echoplex. Years later these treatment loops that sat on the floor would be marketed by every major musical brandname and used by guitarists everywhere. But this was only one instance of Tadlock’s genius and over the years Blaine and I realized how lucky we were to have known this man.

What was the concept behind "Pinheads on the Move" and "Joeboy The Electronic Ghost"?

Jolly jaunts up and down the yellow brick hiway between S.F. and Daly City I think it was, down south ie: outside the limits of the liberated zone and shot into California’s own quirky version of suburban life in the late 70’s. Blaine and his pal Leslie found no end of joy and illumination in these pilgrimages. Pinheads is you might say the soundtrack for these trips. Joeboy R Police was a grafitto on a wall in Chinatown, San Francisco that Blaine picked up and ran with, creating a whole new mythical character called Joeboy the Electronic Ghost.

About Ralph Records...did you ever meet the Residents or do they play that whole mystery shtick straight all the way down the line, hiding behind the Cryptic Corporation?

We eventually figured out that the guy doing the graphics and the engineer in the studio were in fact the Residents. They didn’t wear eyeballs to work so it wasn’t all that obvious at first. The other eyeballs that performed live as The Residents remained more of mystery.

What were the Ralph offices like?

They had a huge warehouse on Grove Street at this time. It consisted of Jay Clem’s office, a huge room full of records and a graphics studio and in back there was a recording studio. There was also a huge garage-like space used as a film studio and where we would eventually shoot JINX in 16mm with Graham Whifler directing. He did most of the early Ralph videos and it was an honor to work with him. I for one was more impressed by the Residents videos then their music.

Did you feel much sense of community with the other bands on the label, like Chrome and MX-80? The Chrome guys come over, in early interviews, as somewhat unhinged.

Not really. MX-80’s music I found intolerable and there were feeble unfruitful attempts to relate to Chrome. Damon had a sort of star complex though of all the acts I felt more affinity to what they were doing.

Who else was there of note on the SF scene? Factrix? Voice Farm? The Units? 2 plus 2?

Ive already mentioned Z’EV… NON… I liked The Mutants: they were a good time party band on and off stage. Factrix were interesting… The Sleepers is where I first saw Michael Belfer. They were good adolescent sexy rock. The singer Ricky was a sort of young Iggy Pop. Mark Pauline and his Survival Research Laboratories remains my favorite American artist. He always had live music. Matthew Heckert was in charge of that. He played a while in a band called The Pink Section. The Screamers were very good -- all synth no guitar.. They were from LA. Voice Farm I liked. The Avengers were a good classical punk band. The Tubes with Fey Waybill were already an SF institution when we arrived and did great shows.

On a lot of your music, especially Half-Mute, there’s a vibe of suave noir sophistication, slinky elegant despair, deluxe desolation – it reminds me a little bit of James Chance but without the frenzy. You called your publishing company Angst Music, and songs like "What Use" are all about numbness, anomie, worldweariness. Great lyrics. Likewise "7 Years" – the line "seven years went by in one night"—reminds a bit of those Eno solo album songs about immobility and being becalmed and stranded except for him that was a kind of bliss, whereas in Tuxedomoon it’s more like this insuperable ennui. So is all this where your heads were at? It seems to clash slightly with Blaine's descriptions of San Francisco in the late Seventies in terms of feeling blessed to be alive and there, a cultural dawn.

Well I suppose in that sense we fit into the nihilist punk ethos just that we had different orchestration. It was the times… being in beautiful free liberated SF didn’t preclude our own inner artistic tension and struggle for perfection. Antonioni lives in Italia and well, look at his films.

I’ve heard people going on about the tritone for years, it’s almost become a cliché a la the mythical sonic frequency that is supposed to make audience members shit their pants. But Tuxedomoon must have been one of the very first to actual talk about the tritone and use it in their music. How did you discover "the Devil's sound"?

It was Blaine who had had a classical background who educated us on this point. I came up with baseline for ‘Tritone’ and he pointed out what the interval I was playing was.

Tuxedomoon appear in in Downtown 81. Did you feel the vibes at the Mudd Club? Was there a sense of kinship between the twin bohemias of San Francisco and downtown Manhattan bohemias? In San Francisco it seems like black music and "dance" were less important as sources.

The Mudd Club was amazing. A hole in the wall that everyone waited in line to be hopefully allowed entrance to. The door policy was an underground parody of the Studio 54 policy. You had to be or look like somebody. Of course one of dear friends was at the door so we had no problem. I remember asking Johnny Rotten at the bar how PiL had gotten that great bass sound on their recent new lp. “With a bass.’ He replied. I also remember doing a great show and taking the lift up to the ‘dressing room’ where the owner Steve Mass bribed us with a bottle of Dom Perignon to do an encore. We felt pretty good about that. The Mudd Club was the epicenter of the New York scene for a good year or three. It’s definitely true the music in NYC was different from SF… more dance and black and Latin influences. It was maybe more urban where SF -- when it wasn’t copying The Clash ( ‘The only band that matters’ as posters on every corner reminded us) or The Dead Boys -- was blatantly experimental and more psychedelic. We always said it was good we didn’t live in NYC because the enormous support we received seemed related to the fact that we were from out of town. Once we played Danceteria which was the post Studio 54 happening giant commercial disco. Live acts were basically just a break between DJs and allowed 15-20 minutes on stage. Evan Lurie was overwhelmed when we got called back for an encore. It was the first time that ever happened there, he said.

There’s a kind of European-ness to Tuxedomoon’s sensibility – and of course you got big in Europe. Did you feel like exiles in America? The post-punk stuff that was going on in New York and SF never stood much chance of impacting the rest of America, did it? It took 15 years for even straight-ahead punk a la Nirvana and Green Day to make the mainstream of America. Is this why you made the move to Europe – a much more congenial and supportive environment?

It took me years before I could figure out why we were always branded as ‘European-like’. We did start in San Francisco, California after all. I think now that this perception had to do with our constant experimentation… and refusal to be a part of any one scene. Of course putting out singles like "The Stranger" with snips of Camus himself reading from his novel only stoked that opinion. Also the violin… the theatrics of Winston. When we did make the move to Europe we didn’t have a clue what it was going to be like. After three years or so we had gone from dodging beer bottles at the Mabuhay to playing sold out shows with lines around the block. SF is utimately a small town.. 700,000 was the official population and we said to ourselves ‘Well we could stay here and be a popular local act or we could go to LA, or New York or Europe.” We almost randomly chose Europe. Bruce and Winston had toured their in the Theatre circuit; the rest of us had never been. But yes we soon found to our amazement that there was a public there already and that yes in general we were treated like artists… something unheard of in USA. Ultimately working with Winston’s manager in Paris -- Maria Rankov -- we too played a more theatrical
state-sponsored circuit of professional theatres with dozens of dressing rooms and mirrors and sinks and showers etc. This was mainly in France. But everywhere the situation was much much more developed and professional than in the US for musicians.

In another interview, you talk about SF’s bohemian golden era ending with the assassiantion of the liberal mayor and Harvey Milk, and a shift to the right? Is that really what it felt like – Reaganism’s tentacles reaching the liberal mecca of Northern California? Time to get out?

We were in Europe on tour during the elections and Blaine joked to anyone who would listen (including the press) that if Reagan was elected we weren’t going back to the US. Well, essentially, this is what happened. It was a co-incidence of course and a good topic for the European press. But in SF yes there was a very dark period after the dual assasinations. The energy was very heavy and negative. When Dan White got off with such a light sentence based on his defense as being a family man under a lot of stress and surviving on Hostess Twinkies, well there was a huge riot. Dozens of burning police cars (White was an ex-cop). The City Hall didn’t have one window intact. It was an incredible outburst from the normally reserved if politically powerful gay community. Then when Diane Feinstein took over as mayor it only got worse. She was not well liked and had shady real-estate connections. Moscone was a Kennedy-like figure and Milk was the country’s first openly gay elected representative… it was a heavy heavy blow. And yes this made it a lot easier to move out of the City by the Bay.

And then you lived for a while in Utopia -- an 'artists commune' housed in a disused waterworks in Rotterdam. What was it like? My book ends in the early Eighties but I’m curious about the whole Belgium connection: There seems to have been a very receptive environment there for certain literate and arty musicians of the period – you guys, Ludus, Paul Haig, Alan Rankine. Was this a broad Belgian thing or really down to certain inviduals or a specific milieu? The whole Disques Du Crepuscule and Crammed milieu?

Life in the waterworks… well that was something. There was a queen bitch who lived in the tower and ran everything unseen. There were various Dutch artists there living and working quietly in their Dutch way. We all lived in one building and rehearsed-composed in the basement standing on planks over the 3 inches of water. There were large brick open cisterns of water in front and the Rhine river in back. Finally the queen decided we weren’t meant to live in Utopia. And we were unceremoniously evicted. We should include that in our curriculum; that we were thrown out of Utopia. So we were homeless -- quite literally not knowing where to turn when Maria in Paris saved the day saying another of her clients, a dance group in Bruxelles, the Plan K, were going to Brazil for 6 months and wanted to sublet their apartments.. Though nobody particulary wanted to live in Bruxelles, we had no choice and jumped at this opportunity. After the periphery of Rotterdam, Bruxelles seemed very much more alive and sophisticated… at first. The truth is it was the right time in the right place. Les Disques du Crepuscule and Crammed were just getting started and to have Tuxedomoon fall in their laps was a blessing to all parties. We soon had lots of work. Bruce hooked up with a video studio, Image Video, where we soon had carte blanche as well. And there produced our first videos and the Ghost Sonata. We always had a good public in Bruxelles but as far as it being home to so many ‘alternative’ artists this had a lot to do with Crepuscule and Crammed who really made the scene by bringing in artists from abroad and producing new music. Later of course Play it Again Sam became a major player. It's worth pointing out that Belgium had a very big electronic music scene as well in mid eighties long before the DJ craze of today.

more about Tuxedomoon at their official site

and at Blaine L. Reineger's personal website

and at this photo-laden fan site

and at this more discographic but cover-scan-laden fan site

exhibition at Garelie Dennis Cooper of Benoit Hennebert's cover art for Les Disques Du Crepuscule, including a Tuxedomoon or two

information on Isabelle Corbisier's book about Tuxedomoon