Days As I Recall Them
Being an account, by way of recollection, of my early days and migration to New York City, as well as my move from the pursuit of art for art's sake to the pursuit of music for art's sake.
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. See my website to see this photo www.dark-day.com ). 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 (Gordon later became the Jerks' bass player, and Mirielle their manager). 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 Blacks. 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.
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. 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, and Barry got more involved in drugs. 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 again.
In the fall of 1997, Dirk Ivens of Daft Records wrote me a letter from Belgium expressing interest in re-releasing my old material. Between us, we assembled a compilation "Dark Day: Collected 1979-82" which appeared in Europe a few months later, but never made it stateside. Dirk seemed interested in releasing additional new material by me, and that inspired me enough to try to work again. Unfortunately, the material I was interested in doing was instrumental, and a far cry from my early sound. Dirk, seemed to be seeking vocals to match my work of 20 years ago. That Dark Day had its time and the place and context of the material have passed. The millennium was almost here.
DARK DAY IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM
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, while still in search of a label, is available by mail order. 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 also aired on England's Channel Four and elsewhere around the world. In August of 2000, Dark Day's 5th album of original music "Loon" was released. The subtitle is "the mental health project" and its assembly was an exercise in exorcising some of the demons of the psychiatric world. A sort of sonic brain massage to help me deal better with the difficulties in the details of day-to-day living. In April of 2001, on the 20th anniversary of a reading I did at Joseph Papp's Public Theater back in 1981, I released a CDR of the performance called "The White Things". I press on towards my 49th year with, hopefully, more to come.
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