Friday, August 28, 2009

Don Joyce

Don Joyce

Don Joyce is a member of the band Negativland and the host of "Over The Edge," on KPFA, in California. His work as a sound collage artist has been well documented, since the early 1980's. Negativland have released over a dozen albums, not to mention their Over The Edge series, and Joyce has produced at least one solo album (1994's "We'll Be Right Back," from Staalplaat's Mort Aux Vaches series), as well.

Joyce was the very first person I interviewed for the program, when Some Assembly Required was in its first year, in 1999. I believe I played an unedited recording of our phone interview that year. A little over a year later, in early 2001, the produced version ran as part of a feature on Negativland, as the third artist feature to run in syndication (check it out HERE).

Since then, I've interviewed fellow Negativland member Mark Hosler twice on the show (and turned two of those three interviews into articles for local publications, City Pages and Ruminator). Meanwhile, the band have been on at least a couple of tours and released over a half dozen new albums (not to mention re-releases and DVDs). We had Hosler out to Minneapolis in 2004 to present some Negativland videos and give a talk as part of that year's Sound Unseen, and sponsored the band's art show at Creative Electric (also in Minneapolis) in 2006; and during all of this, Don Joyce has continued his radio work at KPFA, on his long-running radio program. Over The Edge has been on the air since 1981.

They've been keeping very busy since 1999 and it seemed like a good time to do another interview with Don Joyce, who suggested we turn this week's online Q&A with him into a feature for the radio show as well. Thanks to his direction, I've learned how to record my computer's "voice" reading his answers to the Q&A and produced it all to fit between tracks off of Negativland's 2006 Over The Edge release, "It's All In Your Head FM," along with some creative (and musical!) interpretations of their work by The 180 Gs, accompanied by the very Negativland tracks which inspired them... Check out Episode 238 HERE.

I'm as pleased to present this new Q&A with Don Joyce as I was to present that very first interview back in '99. His dedication to his craft has long been an inspiration, and I've admired his work in radio and as a member of Negativland for close to twenty of the thirty years they've been working at it...

Check out the "animation" of this Q&A in Episode 238, along with an update on the band Negativland. Without further ado, here's the SAR Q&A with Don Joyce...

*Name: Don Joyce

*Are there any additional names used to describe this project: (Don Joyce programs/hosts “Over The Edge”, and is a member of Negativland.)

*Members: (In addition to Joyce, many members of the band Negativland have made frequent guest appearances on Over the Edge. The program also features characters such as Crosley Bendix, Pastor Dick, C. Elliot Friday, Dick Goodbody, Dr. Oslo Norway, Dick Vaughn and the Weatherman.)

*Tape manipulations, digital deconstructions or turntable creations: Well, mixed feelings is the byword here. I love the micro-manipulations digital editing provides, but I still prefer the carts for playback in performance mode. Nothing is faster or more foolproof than the physicality of analog carts for performing a live mix, especially for how they can be paced and continuously interspersed in a mix without losing their place.

*Another genre descriptor: (Receptacle Programming, Culture Jamming)

*Is there a story behind your name? In the early '80s, I wanted to try live mixing on the radio. I hoped it would sound like it was over the edge of expectability in terms of the general radio entertainment out there in the air, so the name seemed appropriate to my hope.

*Location: I remain situated here in Oakland, very close to the Berkeley line, but nevertheless in Oakland.

*Original Location: New Hampshire.

*What is your creative/artistic background: I was a geometric painter and then an electric light artist who got into radio for its potential as an expressive medium made out of sound, then saw its potential as a mixed mediums live "performance" format as well. Electric sparks of live "thereness" that painting lacks.

*History: I first tried college radio as a DJ, then OTE began on KPFA in 1981. For a short while it was a regular DJ show with odd records played, then morphed into a live mix of live and pre-recorded elements, a fragmented collage of found sound sort of thing. I only met Negativland agents through OTE and they came up to play, and that's when it changed from my DJ record playing operation to everything getting mixed together live from multiple sources with improvised content.

*Born: 1944, Keene, N.H.

*Motivations: I think when sampling began in pop music, in the '80s, it was bound to appeal to artsy artists on the basis of its abstraction potential, and it did. Beyond the instant appeal of a sound manipulation/technique that seemed to typify and yet demystify mass produced music, sampling began the bigger musical process of a deconstructional expansion all over the recorded past. Everyone from pop stars to avant musicians were involved, and still are.

*Philosophy/How would you like to be remembered: "In the future, nothing will remain intact."

*Web address:
Over The Edge:

Episode 238, Some Assembly Required

Episode 238, Some Assembly Required
(featuring an update on the band Negativland, with Don Joyce)

01 180 Gs – “Intro (Everything's Going Fine)”
02 Corporal Blossom – “Poprocket”
03 Negativland – “What Is Your Idea Of God, Let Us Have Faith,...”
04 Negativland – “Dr. Oslo Norway: What Am I Talking About?, Humans Invented It...”
05 Negativland – “In The Beginning, So Many Different Kinds Of Gods, Feeble Intellect, A Sense Of Self,...”
06 Negativland – “Old Is New”
07 Negativland- “Christianity Is Stupid”
08 Frenchbloke – “Britpopped”
09 180 Gs – “Christianity is Stupid”
10 Negativland – “I Am God”
11 180 Gs – “I Am God”

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

People Like Us

People Like Us

People Like Us is the UK's Vicki Bennett. She started out on a cassette four track, in the early 1990's and has released at least a couple dozen records and collaborated with about as many artists since then. She's also expanded into film collage and radio, hosting WFMU's "Do or DIY", since 2003.

She's shown around the world at places like The Tate Modern, The National Film Theatre, The Sydney Opera House, Pompidou left and The Walker Art Center, here in Minneapolis. Most recently, presented a People Like Us retrospective, in Spring of 2008. It was our invitation which brought her here in 2002, and the interview we recorded with her at the time has only just recently gone online. Check it out HERE for even more information.

There have been over a dozen People Like Us records since our 2002 interview with the artist, often in collaboration with artists such as Kenny G, Matmos, Ergo Phizmiz and Wobbly. She and Phizmiz actually moved beyond sampled vocals on their 2008 release, "Rhapsody In Glue," choosing to in fact SING for a change. It was a very pleasant surprise, and one I've found myself recommending people give a listen. Check out their "Honeysuckle Boulevard" as well, while you're at it.

People Like Us continue to delight, and from the looks of things that shouldn't change any time soon. Recently awarded the Great North Run Moving Image Commission, she has also just received a Grants For The Arts commission to create a new live set this year... More to come!

Without further ado, here's the SAR Q&A with People Like Us...

*Name: People Like Us

*Are there any additional names used to describe this project: No

*Members: 1

*Founding Members: Vicki Bennett

*Tape manipulations, digital deconstructions or turntable creations: I'm a collage artist (I've used all of the above and more, and prefer a more umbrella term rather than refer to the tool I use).

*Another genre descriptor: "Collage" covers just about every medium going, across many decades. I prefer not to be any more exclusive than that. I have my own genre description - "avant-retard".

*Why you use this descriptor: Avant-Retard means to go forward and backwards at the same time, very fast. It also means that you look into the past to make the future. It also means that avant garde=highbrow/academic and retard=backwards/unintelligent can merge seamlessly.


*What is your creative/artistic background:
I've always made collage - in paper, photographic, tape, digital audio, film and video form. I've been doing all of these since 1990, and truly started doing what I visualised in the late 90s when I was able to access the kind of tools needed to be more detailed and proficient in what I had in mind.

Since 1990.

*Born: Late 60's, England.

Because it's the only think I've ever done for one, and also being an artist allows relatively independent thought and movement for the majority of the day, week, month and year. So not only is this a very convenient way of being for someone who is virtually unemployable (!), rebellious and awkward, but it also allows me to make things up as I go along and work from project to project basis, and therefore change direction and medium with relative ease. In theory anyway. In practice of course it isn't quite so idealistic.

To be able to connect and communicate efficiently. I use collage (objects and forms that previously exist in another form or context) because it seems an appropriate tool for the age I live in, and feels like a good way to interpret what is around me, and pay homage with what has gone before, in order to shape it into something yet to come, I hope. I'd say it's folk art or even folk music of our time.

*How would you like to be remembered:
As someone that gummed up the internet.

*Web address: is my artist address and is my WFMU radio show homepage.

Episode 43, Some Assembly Required

Episode 43, Some Assembly Required
(Featuring an interview with People Like Us)

01 People Like Us - “Caciocavallo”
02 People Like Us - “Oompah Pumpah”
03 People Like Us - “Repeat to fade”
04 People Like Us - “More plunderblunders”
05 Over the Edge - “Bright giant love balls and roll call”
06 People Like Us - “If someone touches you”
07 Over the Edge - “Nice music”
08 Cyclobe - “I believe in mirrorballs”
09 People Like Us - “Dolly pardon”
10 People Like Us - “Whistle song”

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Think Tank

Think Tank

Think Tank is songwriter, musician and producer, Paul Robb. Originally from Minnesota, he's a founding member of the synthpop band, Information Society, and has also recorded with Barbara Cohen as Brother Sun Sister Moon. Think Tank has at least five releases on Glow and Hakatak Records.

I first heard Robb's work on commercial radio, in the late 80's. Their sample of Star Trek's Mr. Spock, on the Information Society track, "What's On Your Mind (Pure Energy)," really caught my ear in highschool, and then in college, Think Tank's "A Knife and a Fork" got stuck in my head for the longest time as well.

He keeps busy composing music for film and television, working on projects such as Trey Parker and Matt Stone's 1997 film, Orgazmo. He also remixed the South Park theme song, and does commerical work for companies such as Polaroid and Sprint.

After their summer tour (2009) in South America, a recently re-formed Information Society will be releasing a digital-only remix EP called "Modulator'. Also be on the lookout for a 25th Anniversary live DVD, called "It Is Useless To Resist Us".

Without further ado, here's the SAR Q&A with Think Tank's Paul Robb...

*Name: Think Tank

*Are there any additional names used to describe this project: At various times, the project has been called the Captains of Industry, Wirehead, Diabolical Johnson, Satan's Little Helper, Shining Path, BitCrusher, the Crusher, and Wesley Krusher (which is the name I am using now).

*Do you use a pseudonym? See above :-)

*Members: Just me, Paul Robb

*Tape manipulations, digital deconstructions or turntable creations: Digital deconstructions seems as good as anything!

*Is there a story behind your name? Think Tank was originally going to be the name of the Information Society backing players, like Gary Numan and the Tubeway Army...

*Location: New Brighton, Minnesota in the hizzy. (I live in LA now, sadly.)

*Original Location: Minnesota

*What is your creative/artistic background: I've been doing electronic music since I was 17, in 1980. Before that I played saxomophone in school.

*History: Initially, Think Tank was a dummy name for an Information Society white label 12" called "A Knife and a Fork", which was released prior to our second album, "Hack." It actually charted in Europe, and has ended up on dozens of compilations. But since then, Think Tank has been a sort of a catch-basin for all my work that’s not vocal-based pop.

*Born: February, 1963

*Motivations: Generally speaking, Think Tank tracks were the ones that were more underground, less poppy. Eventually, though, Think Tank became the catch-all for my own output that wasn't tied to a particular project (e.g., INSOC or Brother Sun Sister Moon).

*Philosophy: Whatsoever I play, it's got to be funky. Uh!

*How would you like to be remembered: As really excellent in bed.

*Web address:

Episode 237, Some Assembly Required

Episode 237, Some Assembly Required

01 DJ Faust, Z-Trip – “Sudden Death”
02 The Colbert Report – “A Hip Hop Response”
03 dj BC – “Scooter And The Computer Worms”
04 Think Tank – “That's The Way”
05 People Like Us & Ergo Phizmiz – “Carmic Waltz”
06 Jeffrey Sconce – “The 120 days of pop”
07 The Found Sound Orchestra – “Flat White”
08 Ming + FS – “The Human Condition”
09 team9 – “B.F. Meets T.I.”
10 The Evolution Control Committee – “Computers”
11 B'O'K – “The National Anthem”
12 Gordyboy - “A Hidden Forest”
13 Wobbly – “Time's Up”
14 A plus D – “Unpretty Today"

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Saturday, August 08, 2009

Surface Noise

Surface Noise

Surface Noise put out "Copycat Suicide" in 1993, as an 8-Track tape. For those of you my age and younger, 8-Track tapes were a form of media which went the way of the dinosaur (making way for cassette tapes, then compact discs and MP3), a long time before 1993. So, this was something of a novelty to be sure, quite apart from the content of the recording, which was a mix of rock, sound collage and a variety of other influences.

Their novel approach didn't stop there. The band, consisting of Phil Emery and Gary Roscoe Johnson, marketed themselves as an "Exclusive Franchise Opportunity," which meant forming your own band, taking the name Surface Noise, programming your sampler with the same raw sounds (included at the end of their CD) and recreating the songs in your own neighborhood. I think The Tape-beatles had a similar idea at some point in their development, and The Evolution Control Committee invited the reinterpretation of their track "Rocked by Rape," by including all of the spoken words, acapella, on the B side of that release, as well.

Johnson also put together a sort of anti-tribute album, titled "FU2", around the same time. The compilation was an angry shoutout against the current state of copyright law, largely leveled at the band U2, whose label had just sued Negativland for copyright infringment.

They've both continued on in the creative field. Emery is in advertising and design, in Toronto, while Johnson is a practicing tattoo artist in Detroit. Check out his website HERE. Without further ado, here's the SAR Q&A with Surface Noise...

*Name: Surface Noise

*Are there any additional names used to describe this project: Well, we sometimes used the obvious abbreviation "SN" and made a logo out of the two letters that resembled a dollar sign. We considered ourselves a "Sonic Franchise" though, not really a band.

*Do you use a pseudonym?
I have many pseudos, but went by "235" or "Sir Face" in SN. Collaborator Phil Emery went by "The Noise". So, basically between the two of us, we were "Sir Face, Noise" or "Surface Noise". Aren't we clever?


Technically, there were 2 members, but if we ever got the "franchising" idea going, there would have been a cast of thousands.

Noise: We did have a bass player for a bit, but I don’t think we did much with him - but apart from that it was just 235 & me.

*Founding Members: Phil Emery (Noise): Guitar, Bass, Feedback, rhythm programming, concept. Gary Roscoe Johnson (235): Vocals, lyrics, sampling, rhythm programming, concept.

*Tape manipulations, digital deconstructions or turntable creations:
It would be digital deconstruction, although at the time that meant doing everything with 235’s Ensoniq EPS16. There were no real affordable digital audio workstation systems for computers at that time.

*Another genre descriptor: "Post-Media" would be the category we'd use to describe our music.

*Why you use this descriptor:

As mentioned above, we categorized ourselves as a "Sonic Franchise". The idea was that folks worldwide could use the name "Surface Noise" to make their own music; We hoped that other musicians would sample and/or cover our songs and even provided isolated samples at the end of our record "CopyCat Suicide" for this purpose.

Noise: Yeah, it would work just like a real Franchise – you’d pay some kind of paltry fee and get disks of samples, midi-files of the songs, lyrics, standard graphics – then you take all that stuff, put your own spin on it and perform as Surface Noise in your local area – kind of a post-media version of the “Bozo the Clown” business – with less make up and no floppy shoes, of course.


Phil and I met while working at Kinkos Copies on Bloor in Toronto in the late '80's back when the company was fun and funky. He was born and raised in Toronto. I am an American citizen who had achieved Landed Immigrant status to work in Canada. I was born and raised in the Detroit area, where I returned to work at our family business, Johnson Tattoo.

*What is your creative/artistic background:

We both had graphics backgrounds and training. I'd also served a stint in the U.S. Army as a Heavy Wheeled Vehicle Operator and attended art school for 2 years before having to drop out for lack of funding.

Noise: I was in the Canadian Militia for a bit but left once I realized I didn’t really want to kill anyone and that I never looked good in green. 235 was always working with his sampler and putting out great tapes – I was doing the usual Toronto indie bar band thing (which at the time meant how close you could get to sounding like The Smiths). I actually never got involved in graphics until I worked at Kinko’s, but since then I have my own advertising/design practice after going to Ontario College of Art part time after work.

We started Surface Noise in the mid 1990's after working together in other bands such as Braino.

Noise: Braino was a sort of improv – jazz wacko band, although after a while it morphed into a more traditional approach.

We're old guys now. I was born in 1962, and Phil a couple of years later I think.

Noise: Yep.

235: We were taking the cue from groups like Negativland and John Oswald who wanted to construct music by collaging various sources together to make a comment on sampling, collage, and appropriation itself.

Noise: Yeah, that and girls.

235: Yeah, being in a high-concept band about sound collage and appropriation was a virtual electromagnet for female interest!


We wanted to make music that would be impossible to license from a copyright perspective. We sampled soundbytes that themselves were sampled from other sources, covered other musicians' covertunes ("Helter Boring" was technically a cover of U2's cover of the Beatles song; We included samples from the Beatles' original and several other Helter Skelter covers, including but not limited to: U2, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Husker Du. Mixed in soundbytes from Charles Manson and Mr. Magoo for good measure.)

Noise: We started to realize that all music, all art actually, is sampled. It’s just sampled with your brain and played back with your hands. When a country drummer starts to do a hip-hop pattern, he just didn’t make it up – he heard that on the way to the rehearsal – and his band mates will say that it’s out of their “style” – a “style” is just a series of previously heard bits of music that everyone unconsciously agrees belongs together. The whole suing other artist trend that started around then was just a krock that smart lawyers used to get money from dull-brained record exec’s.

*How would you like to be remembered:

Clever smartass and a great, rollicking lay.

Noise: slightly taller

*Web address:

We don't have an official website anymore, but I can be reached at:

Noise: Keep in mind that we predated the internet – well the web at least. We did release a single on the OneNet network (a global network of First Class Software based bulletin boards) to the joy of some, and annoyance of many. I think I may still own the domain.

Episode 148, Some Assembly Required

Episode 148, Some Assembly Required

01 Jeffrey Sconce – “Sundowner”
02 David Shea – “Untitled (Lets Entertain)”
03 Fortyone - “What It's All About”
04 Aggro1 – “Morissette/Clarkson vs. Front Line Assembly”
05 The JAMs - “Candyman”
06 The Who Boys – “Magic in my Eyes”
07 Oh Astro – “Resist”
08 The Tape-beatles – “Scream scream scream”
09 Surface Noise – “LTO (Distended mix)”
10 Fortyone - “Love Is A Circle”
11 Kool DJ E.Q. – “Death Of Hip-Hop”
12 The Bran Flakes – “Mountain Pasture Party”
13 Lee Scratch Perry – “Jungle Soldier”
14 Fortyone - “I Love You”
15 Party Ben - “Independent Room”

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Saturday, August 01, 2009

Wake Up and Listen

Wake Up and Listen

Wake Up and Listen is Australian duo Adrian Bertram and Shannon O'Neill. Together they've released two EPs and produced a live improvised radio show for over 8 years. O’Neill is a media artist working with film, video, radio, music, installation and the internet. He's also an instructor of Media Arts at Sydney's University of Technology, in Australia. Bertram is a professional classical clarinettist, the creator of dream-inspired musical instruments and a collector of analogue synthesizers. They've both performed in multiple bands (see below).

One note: I've been playing their work on Some Assembly Required since at least 2001, and until only recently have been referring to them as "Mustard Keanu," which is actually the title of the mini CD they sent in 2001. Oops. Wake Up and Listen is a MUCH better band name - I should have known better...

Also check out Shannon O'Neill's Alias Frequencies website, home to releases by artists such as B'O'K, Rik Rue and of course WUAL. Without further ado, here's the SAR Q&A with Wake Up and Listen...

*Name: Wake Up and Listen

*Are there any additional names used to describe this project: WUAL. The name came from a track on Mind/Body/Split's album 'if it's not on it's not on'. We chose it because we started out doing late night experimental radio. And we are a duo.

*Do you use a pseudonym? Yes, but not for WUAL. Individually, we are involved in many other projects. Adrian's include Lieutenant Colonel Spastic Howitzer, Black Pig and Winner. Shannon's include Time Being, Projek Lansac and Plenum. Among others.

*Members: Two, although others have played with us more or less regularly at different times.

*Founding Members:
Adrian Bertram, Shannon O'Neill.

*Tape manipulations, digital deconstructions or turntable creations: All of the above, sometimes simultaneously. Our work is usually an improvised collage, with some pre-composed elements.

*Another genre descriptor: No, we make use of many genres, without subscribing to any. Tom Ellard described our radio show as 'plunderphonics and frolics', which we liked.

*Is there a story behind your name?
The name came from a track on Mind/Body/Split's album 'if it's not on it's not on'. We chose it because we started out doing late night experimental radio. And we are a duo.

Sydney, Australia

*What is your creative/artistic background: We met at primary school while both studying clarinet. At the end of high school we both got involved in community radio and began collaborating. Adrian has pursued instrumental musicianship, having studied at the Sydney Conservatorium, and has played in many bands. Shannon has pursued various artforms and now teaches Media Arts at the University of Technology, Sydney.

*History: WUAL has been active since 1991, although less so in recent years, due to other projects.

*Born: Both born 1972, Adrian in Sydney, Shannon in Melbourne.

*Motivations/Philosophy: Absurdity, play, subversion, epistemological and ontological enquiry.

*How would you like to be remembered: Fondly.

*Web address:
Adrian Bertram:

Shannon O'Neill:

Episode 41, Some Assembly Required

Episode 41, Some Assembly Required

01 (2 Many DJs) - “Smells like booty”
02 Splatt - “Dark white”
03 Steinski and Mass Media - “The motorcade sped on”
04 Corporal Blossom - “Little drummer boy”
05 Project: Data Control - “Ladies & Gentleman”
06 People Like Us - “Arkinsaw explorer”
07 Dum Dum Tv - "Couch potato resistance (Side B)"
08 Sole and JC - “What it is”
09 Negativland - “Edited special edit radio mix - I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”
10 Lecture on Nothing - “The Custom Apocalypse”
11 Ros Bobos - “Selling souls”
12 Wobbly - "Yo Yo Yo Yoyo Yo, Hey..."
13 Klarc Qent - “Stepson of word jazz”
14 (Wake Up And Listen) - “Parson’s eyes”
15 Dum Dum Tv - "Untitled (Parti-colored irregular sonic)"

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