Saturday, November 05, 2005

2001 Sound Unseen - IV


The last bit of business, with regards to re-telling the story of Some Assembly Required's involvement with 2001's Sound Unseen, is to tell the story of Minneapolis Summit. This post might have made more sense at the Escape Mechanism blog, but I don't have an Escape Mechanism blog. My only other excuse for telling the story here is that the resulting recording was originally intended to be aired on Some Assembly Required, but then we all got bigger ideas...

Somewhere in between Wobbly's performance with John Oswald, and my performance with The Tape-beatles, for the 2001 Sound Unseen underground, film and music festival, I invited anyone with an interest in an improv session to join me in the studios at Radio K, where I was producing the show at the time. Wet Gate had not yet arrived, and while Oswald had expressed an interest in bringing his saxaphone, it was agreed that the improvising to be done was to be of the recycled-media variety (though I sometimes wonder what the CD might have sounded like with John Oswald on saxaphone!). We wanted to wait until Wet Gate were in town, but Wobbly would have been gone by then, and it wasn't clear if there would have been enough time, based on everyone's schedules, so Lloyd Dunn and John Heck (The Tape-beatles), Steev Hise, Jon Leidecker (Wobbly) and myself (Escape Mechanism) all got together to play.

Everyone's pictured here. The photos of (top to bottom) John Heck and Lloyd Dunn (The Tape-beatles), Jon Leidecker (Wobbly), Steev Hise, and myself (Escape Mechanism) are all taken from the official Minneapolis Summit website...

I remember the day quite well. The Tape-beatles put together a little website for the resulting CD, where they got to tell their memories of the event, so this is my opportunity, I guess. I was the Production Director at Radio K, at the time, and was pretty knowledgable about how to write and produce underwriting announcements and promotional spots, but when it came to how to set up a live "band," as it were, in Studio One (which was technically one of my duties as PD), I was pretty lost. Of course, as I had done the inviting, everyone was pretty much looking to me to guide them as they set up their equipment, and I eventually had to go and find our station engineer, Larry Oberg, who saved the day, without complaint, by answering some basic questions about the set-up of the room.

I was used to playing with two mini-disc recorders (with Gregg Boullosa and Corey Hansen on samplers and turntables), when we would be asked to play out live (as Cast of Thousands with Escape Mechanism), so I just set up those same units, with a stack of mini-discs, at the ready. Wobbly's set-up was the same one used at his performance at the Bryant Lake Bowl (later that night), while Steev, Heck and Dunn all used their laptops as instruments. We'd all done similar performances in the past, with a variety of different set-ups, so this was no giant step for any of us; but I have to say, having heard a lot of such recordings, that the results were definitely above average.

We boiled the session down to about three takes (one long and two short) and spent a couple months after the festival, emailing little changes and mailing CDs around the world. We eventually decided to submit an edit of the longer piece to Staalplaat for consideration, and were excited when they decided to put it out. The Tape-beatles were in charge of the album art, and Steev and Wobbly did most of the final edits. I basically just sat back and watched, with my fingers crossed, hoping someone would want to do something with it. After having contributed my input to the actual recording, while successfully (or: miraculously) engineering the session, I just breathed a big sigh of relief and trusted them to take care of it from there. Of course, they did a fantastic job.

A funny story, which the rest of the guys probably don't know, about the recording of the session: As we were setting up, Radio K was having a manager's meeting in the main office. As a student staff member, I was expected to be at the meeting, and since a number of people had seen me in the building, I couldn't exactly call in sick. So, I made it down to the meeting, a bit late, and very distracted, and received a lot of dirty looks from people who didn't know, or understand, that I was right in the middle of a once in a lifetime recording session with some of my favorite sound collage artists, from around the world. I had to make a decision about who I was going to annoy more - should I leave the guys down in the studio, wondering where I am, or do I bail on the meeting, making a bad impression on my bosses and co-workers? I ended up excusing myself early, to tend to the mix. It was a risk, but I was very excited to be working with Wobbly, the Tape-beatles and Steev Hise.

The disc is available at the Tape-beatles website (of course I've sold and/or given away all of my copies by now), and there's lots more information at the official Minneapolis Summit website, where there's MUCH more information and photographs (and sound files) - should this post not contain enough info for you...

Alright, next post: People Like Us, and Sound Unseen: 2002!
thanks for reading,
jon nelson


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