Wednesday
Mar282007

« Fresh Ears »

Fresh ears after all these years...

ed and matt zuniga posing before the newly modified drums, with big wide homemade rack and lots of chrome and silver and gray tonesEd and Matt outside in an industrial park, June 1992In 1992-1993 I was an exiled drummer who had to go out and play under bridges, in parking lots, parking garages, and other places in order to practice my craft. This persisted on an occasional basis until maybe 1997, but for a couple years my best bet, if I wanted to wail on the drums, was to go out and do some midnight or weekend drumming in isolated business parks. My buddy Matt Zuniga, a friend from our job at Subway, would come along because he too wanted to wail on a kit and had none of his own. Since we could not both play at once, we would do nonsense singing and other tomfoolery to amuse ourselves between turns at the kit. Almost immediately, I began to record this stuff regularly and to collect the most memorable stuff. Hey, tape was cheap.

From these humble beginnings in underground lots, and other places that offered shelter and massive reverb from concrete walls, and some AC power, I began my recording career, if you can call it that. I have a box of tapes that I made during those years with Matt, and about midway through, I took this nonsense seriously enough to collect things into "albums" with cover art and liner notes, and to hassle my "friends" to have a listen. I even went to the ridiculous extreme to write up some way overblown fanzine/newsletter on my word processing typewriter, and to send out two volumes of that. Oh, what silliness, but it was my life for a while. After Matt and I stopped doing Rhythmic Catharsis, I made a "box set" of all this stuff to capitalize on the exploding trend of such collections. But my box set was actually just for me—the repository of my recordings and silly lyrics all fit into a retired bologna box from Subway. For my listening pleasure, I kept the seven "albums" we recorded in my regular tape collection.

I used Rhythmic Catharsis material as a basis for a slightly more legit effort to make music in the later 90s, as I worked very hard on a bunch of my reckless and irreverent and humorous sounding stuff, but this time on my own, or with others, and Matt's occasional cameo. Some of the kernels for songs from the RC era turned into some favorites of mine from this period which I dubbed "ReCyclED" (recycling Rhythmic Catharsis and ED, get it?). The old RC stuff was not heard for a long time as I created these new recordings, and as the years passed since then. Maybe I played a tape once in a while, but it has been a few years, and as my disaffection with my muse has grown, my objectivity has grown too.

ed in front of a newer rack for the same kit. this time square instead of round tubing, and more compactEd, June 1993 with the new rack and the RC logoSo it was inevitable that I'd hear Rhythmic Catharsis and discover what a horrid piece of work it was! Of course, I'd just be catching up with all the people who knew that and told me so, even back in the day!

I got rid of my tape machines in 2005 or before, and have not heard a lick of RC in that time. All the RC stuff predates legit multitrack recording though it was RC that received the "benefit" of my first quasi-overdubbed performances by using a "tape+mic" bounce technique to overdub additional percussion (with a hyperactive tamborine and cowbell usually) and voice. It was some of this work that helped shock me today because there was no level or editing control, and I had not yet done enough of it to actually be good at it! These additional bits, when added, were added to a "mix" of Matt doing his screaming bits (on songs he liked enough to get into) or his unenthusiastic readings on the songs he didn't like so well. And almost always, he was buried in the "mix" because we used one single cheap mic situated in front of him, and the drum set some 10-15 feet behind him. Such was our level setting for that period, and the drums were always too fucking loud, so sometimes he slips below the drums, to be heard, but not understood.

As I listened to some RC in the company car, I was almost aghast at how bad it really was. I still reveled in some of the wordplay and in-jokes that passed between us, but God! was it amazingly bad! After the years of Hog Heaven era recording (my own recording space filled with all I need to do somewhat complete and polished recordings, 1998-2005), the RC stuff was beyond edgy. It was savage. It was amazing to hear the originals of the songs that I eventually made into ReCyclED material. Only one song retained its overall edgy RC quality and basic performance in that process (a pounding and desperate track called "Is God Trying To Make Me A Smoker?" —among my very first songs from 1992), but all the others soared beyond their beginnings and turned into some interestingly varied recorded works and colorful bits of humor and social commentary.

I guess I used Rhythmic Catharsis to keep off drugs as a teenager and early 20-something. Maybe that's why I was so lonely then. Should have been hanging out and playing with the druggies. At least they get together and hang out and try to make "real" music.

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