I knew about Charles Rice Goff III through the documentary "Grindstone Redux" (2009). In it, he appeared at various times surrounded by cassettes and fanzines of the time, in addition to playing the guitar with Disism in 86. Those images were embedded in my brain, and seeing that the website of his Taped Rugs label was still maintaining a frenetic activity, I contacted him proposing an exchange of material. The package I received after a few weeks was like a wonderful Christmas gift: a dozen tapes with intriguing covers and names (-Ing, Disism, Herd of the Ether Space, Turkey Makes Me Sleepy); hours of strange sounds, a door to a microcosm inhabited by a creature of overflowing energy and imagination; a twisted R. Stevie Moore fascinated by loop tapes.
Charles is a prolific guy at all levels: he publishes music in huge quantities, he has a radio program where he shares his interests and discoveries, and as you will see below, he is not exactly a person who is sparing in words.
1. Charles, where were you born and which are your first musical experiences or memories? There’s a little child with a guitar in the cover of “20th Century Goffic” cassette. Is that you?
Yes, that's a picture of me, playing a Mickey Mouse guitar, Jimi Hendrix style (left-handed, upside down). I was born in the late 1950's, and I resided long into adulthood in the East San Francisco Bay Area of California, USA.
My family enjoyed music, and through them I got exposed to everything. It was the swingin' 1960's. My parents were big fans of lounge pop, and by the end of the decade, they started taking me to performances of people like Sammy Davis, Liberace, Debbie Reynolds, and many other similar artists. My older sisters spun a lot of records around me in those days too: (real) rock and roll, folk, and, later in the decade, psychedelic music. My sisters themselves played guitar and wind instruments. When I was really young, my dad acquired a mono reel-to-reel tape recorder, which fascinated me from my very first encounter with it. We had a semi-in-tune baby grand piano in our living room. I learned how to read music and play clarinet in grammar school. My next door neighbors were proprietors of a hippie discothèque across town. So... all sorts of music influences swirled around me in my early years.
2. When did you start recording your music? In the “Treasures For Deep Divers” cassette there’s songs from 1973, are these your first pieces? How old were you then?
Ha ha! Those are certainly the oldest EXISTING recordings of mine. I was a very young 14 year old when those were produced -- voices, Jews harp, kazoo -- "multitracked" with my dad's reel-to-reel and a late 1960's "shoebox" cassette recorder, via cheap open-air microphones -- there is a hint of what was to come in the weirdness of those ancient recordings methinks...
3. You’ve been running Taped Rugs Productions, your label, since 1980, right? What were your inspirations and main impulse to do that? How many items have you published by now?
Yes, the first official Taped Rugs production was created in 1980. The name "Taped Rugs" was one of several that I thought up for the first real "group" I was a part of -- a group which actually ended up being named: "Temporarily KY" (the name "Temporarily KY" was an accident, conjured by the entire band one strange and fateful night...). Anyway, I liked the name: "Taped Rugs," and it applied perfectly to all the tape experiments that made up my first cassette album (entitled: "Might As Well Beyond Venus," 1980). Taped Rugs has endured ever since as the moniker of all my productions. Say it to yourself a few times to understand what it really means.
I've produced more than 300 Taped Rugs projects of all sorts (audio, video, photographic, literary, etc.) -- most of them currently can be experienced in an online form at www.archive.org.
4. For what I know, you’ve been part of –Ing, Disism, Herd Of The Ether Space and Turkey Makes Me Sleepy. Were these projects “studio” bands or you played live, too? Could you tell me some words about each of them?
There are very detailed descriptions of all these groups online at www.archive.org. Each of these is/was both a recording and a performing group. I recently had a little fun and listed performances from all of these groups at www.setlist.fm . A long story here -- the setlist.fm website does not recognize the names of the individual groups I was in, but for some reason it does recognize "Charles Rice Goff III," so I listed all the performances under my name, and wrote notes about each show on each post, including the group names, persons involved, where a recording or video of the shows can be accessed, etc.
But, briefly, since you asked...
-Ing: Mostly the duo of myself and Steve Schaer (RIP). Mostly tape loops. Includes both improvisation and tape loop compositions for public performance. Mostly electronic guitar and synthesizer.
Disism: The duo of myself and Killr "Mark" Kaswan. All varieties of improvisation, plus some tape loop composition for live public performances. Lots of sound collage. Wide variety of instruments/non-instruments, 4 Track tape experiments, vocals. Still active today (last album: 2015).
Herd Of The Ether Space: Various combinations of at least 40 people were involved in recording or performing with this group between 1984 and 2001. Core members: Myself, Robert Silverman, Killr Kaswan, Stuart Sands, George Gibson. Everything from tape loop improvs to recording/performing acoustically in public parks. Staged performances involved loosely structured compositions. A HUGE detailed history of this group is available here: http://www.archive.org/details/TheHistoryOfHerdOfTheEtherSpace1980s1990s
Turkey Makes Me Sleepy: The trio of myself, Michael Adams, and Eric Matchett. No tape loops in this group. All forms of improvisation, sound collage, wide variety of instruments, lots of actual "song writing." Just a couple of months ago, Taped Rugs released an album of lost TMMSleepy tracks from 1997, called "Somnific Snood." We performed a couple of times publicly in Lawrence, Kansas, back in the 20th Century.
I've been in a few other recording groups too over the years, which have also performed publicly.
5. You were/are involved in the “cassette scene” of the 80’s. I’m 42 so I didn’t have the opportunity to experience that culture. From the outside and historical perspective, it seemed like a fascinating musical time, with so many interesting music and people. How did you get involved in that network? Are you still in touch with many people from that era?
I got "involved" in cassettes because I wanted to share my recordings, and I didn't have a contract with Warner Brothers or RCA... ha! While I made cassette albums in the very early 1980's, I didn't really participate in any "scene" until around the middle of the decade. Most of my earliest albums ended up in the hands of fellow artists whom I knew personally, or in the mailboxes of college/community radio DJs and nightclub owners.
But once I jumped into the fray of the cassette "scene" (with the first Disism cassette), I discovered a whole universe of artists -- all ready and willing to reveal things beautiful and terrifying, thought-provoking and uncensored -- just what I had always been looking for. I think my first exchanges within what today is regarded as the "cassette culture" were made through Rough Trade Records in San Francisco and through the pages of Unsound Magazine. Quickly, however, one connection led to another to another to another. I think it helped that I already had several years of recording experience before I dived deep into the homerecording community.
And yes, I still have lots of very close friends whom I met through the "network." Many of these relationships are now entering the 35 year range...(!). And many of my fellow cassette culturalists from the 20th Century still produce recordings and/or still perform before live audiences.
6. I think now your most usual tool to make music is your guitar, right? Who are your biggest influences with the instrument? I’ve read that Robert Fripp is one of your greatest inspirations. Anyone else?
I do play guitars on a lot of my recordings, but I do not think of them as my "usual" tool for making music. Guitars certainly are "regular" musical tools for me, however. And, yes, Robert Fripp has been very much an inspiration for me for most of my life. His approaches to creating both harmony and dissonance seem to fit perfectly, just like puzzle pieces, right into my little brain. Other guitarists whom I make vague attempts at emulating include Fred Frith, Frank Zappa, Bill Nelson, and Steve Hackett. Honestly though, I really do not think of myself as a particularly "good" guitar player, and my techniques pale considerably in comparison to the finger magic of any of any of these heroes of the fretboard.
Possibly the "most usual" tool for me to make music with is recording technology itself. Not only has it served its most obvious function for me as a sculpting chisel for composing in the studio, but most of my live performances have involved manipulations of sound through reel-to-reel tapes, cassettes, micro cassettes, vinyl records, mp3 samples, etc. My main influences here come from sonic experimenters such as John Cage, William Burroughs, Pierre Schaeffer, George Martin, and Brian Eno.
Actually though, I believe my voice might be my greatest tool for making music. Among my vocal "inspirators" are Brian Wilson, Todd Rundgren, Jim Morrison, Karen Carpenter, Petula Clark, Meredith Monk, Diamanda Galás, and Laura Nyro.
7. You make an amazing radio show called “Magnetic Bungalow” under the name Swami Loopynanda. Why do you use that pseudonym?
It's an old name; I've used it for years. Imagine a name that Matt Groening might have given to a circus sideshow mystic in one of his "Life In Hell" comics -- it's something like that, combined with a bit of word play: "loopy" is an adjective for irrational/crazy, and tape loops/sound loops are something that I have been associated with since the 1970's. Perfect for me, right? I actually use a few other pseudonyms from time to time as well, and I've never been afraid to invent new ones as the need arises.
8. One of the things that I love about your music is the sense of humour, playfulness and joy that it conveys. I think this was something not very common in the 80’s, maybe I’m wrong. Did you ever feel “out of step” because of this? Were you interested in the industrial music of the time?
My own impression is there were lots of humorous and playful home recording artists back in the 20th Century (Walls of Genius, Buzzsaw, Amy Denio, Heather Perkins, Evolution Control Committee, etc.). And not all the music I did back in the day was "joyful" -- some very far from it (Noises Of War, Desert Foxtrot, Caliginous California, No Stairs). But, you are quite right to point out that I have been involved in expressing myself in a very large variety of ways. To me, each recording I create has its own life, and thus, its own style. A lot of what I've created over the years exhibits mixtures of various genres, and much of it exhibits no genre at all. Simply put: my brain intuitively tells me how to proceed, and my body obeys the commands. Since I am not a "commercial" artist, there is no manager or producer to direct my creativity away from its purest instincts.
People react in all sorts of ways to what I do. I certainly don't expect anyone to like everything I create. Naturally, people with open minds tend to enjoy more of my recordings than people with closed minds. People who are familiar with the most dissonant and challenging aspects of my work -- whether they like it or not -- are usually shocked the first time they hear my more lyrical and harmonic recordings. And, of course, those who only have been exposed to my more playful "songs" are usually quite surprised the first time they hear my sound collages or lengthy improvised pieces. It's only natural for most people to take some and leave some. Fortunately, there's plenty of all of it to go around.
As for my interest in "industrial music," I have honestly never been quite sure what that genre really stands for. But my mind is quite open when it comes to what I like to listen to. For me, it's a mood thing. I love to hear Einstürzende Neubauten when I'm in the mood for it. Likewise, I love to hear Amalia Rodrigues when I'm in the mood for it. Or Roy Wood's Wizzard. Or Ahmad Jamal. Or...
9. Could you make a list of your favorite records/artists/musicians? I love lists, and I love to read about the influences of the people I like...
I did a top ten list of influential recordings for an interview with Don Campau several years ago. What I said back then was that it would take many pages for me to really explain how many artists have influenced me in so many dramatically different ways. That interview and list is still online for anyone interested in digging it up. For you, I'll cook up a different list of ten equally inspirational albums -- mix and match these with those, they all apply, and there are plenty more too. Note that the recordings I'm listing here are all very old -- the influences that have most deeply impaled my brain dug their holes during my younger years.
“The Doors”, The Doors, 1967.
“Starless and Bible Black”, King Crimson, 1974.
“Magical Mystery Tour” (USA Version), The Beatles, 1967.
“Todd”, Todd Rundgren, 1974.
“White Light/White Heat”, The Velvet Underground, 1968.
“My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts”, Brian Eno-David Byrne, 1981.
“Horizon”, The Carpenters, 1975.
“The Tunes of Two Cities”, The Residents, 1982.
“Eli and the Thirteenth Confession”, Laura Nyro, 1968.
“Weasels Ripped My Flesh”, The Mothers Of Invention, 1970.
10. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the first time I listened to your music The Residents came to my mind. Not that your music sound like theirs, but I felt maybe you shared some of the same influences and ideas. Is their music a big influence in yours? Did you have contact with them or another similar collectives like LAFMS or people like the great R. Stevie Moore?
I remember when I used to shop at Rather Ripped Records in Berkeley in the early 1970's. The first Residents albums were always displayed on a special stand there -- they were right in front as you walked in the door. I saw the Residents perform many times back in the 20th Century. I attended their "garage sales" in San Francisco in the 1980's. Many of my friends and collaborators were/are fans of the group. -Ing performed a tape-loop version of "Smelly Tongues" at the San Francisco Inter-Dada Festival in 1984. I participated in the Ecto Tapes Residents tribute recordings (The Residents Unmasked!, 3 cassette set, released during early 1990's). So... it certainly could be said that I picked up some influences from the Residents. I have not really paid much attention to their activities in the 21st Century, however, and I am sorry to hear the rumors of the recent passing of Hardy Fox.
As for LAFMS, please forgive my ignorance, but you are only now introducing me to them.
Mr. Moore and I have had only a couple of very brief exchanges, many years ago.
11. “20th Century Goffic” is my favorite release I’ve listened from you. It’s a really great tape full of imaginative and great songs full of amazing vocals and melodies. I guess it’s a compilation of some of your “pop” stuff. Have you ever been approached by any label to release this kind of music you make?
I am glad you enjoy this tape, Jose. It is indeed a compilation of some of my favorite song-oriented recordings from the lo-fi cassette culture days of the 20th Century. As you might expect, I have incorporated 21st Century technologies into my more current song-oriented composing, and these higher fidelity results have been quite well received by many listeners as well. But I think there are very few people who have a mainstream idea of music who would classify any of these recordings as true "pop" music.
There have been many labels from many countries that have released my music over the years -- so many, in fact, that it would require me to take a time-consuming exploration of my filing cabinets to figure out exactly how many. But generally speaking, all of these labels have been more interested in spreading around artistic visions than they have been interested in making profits. Probably the most impressive example of this phenomenon happened in 2017, when Jack Hertz's Aural Films label honored me by putting out a very fancy three disk biography of my recordings, which includes 52 tracks, dating from 1981 to 2016. You can listen/order this collection here:
As for my "pop" music attracting the attention of commercial recording labels like Columbia and Warner, that's never happened, and if it ever had, I fear that the experience would have cursed my abilities to achieve true artistic expression. In the unlikely event that some big label takes an interest in my recordings before my time on Earth is over, I would certainly be very detailed and careful in negotiating the terms of any recording contracts. I definitely never want to give up the rights to be able to freely play or record my own original works. The tragedies experienced by artists like the Beach Boys, Badfinger, etc. are prices I am unwilling to pay for personal profit and notoriety.
12. In the emails we have exchanged, I get the feeling that you are a person really passionate about music. Is there any actual music that you love?
I am not quite sure what you are asking here, Jose. Sounds generally hold a special place within the spectrum of what my human body is able to perceive. And music, specifically, offers so many ways for humans to arrange sounds, combine them with ideas, express them with emotions, release them with physical energy, etc. All music seems quite special to me.
As for music that I genuinely "love," if this question applies to music that I have not had a personal hand in creating myself, I guess the answer would be "too many things to list here." As I mentioned earlier, I listen to different types of music depending on the mood I am in. Yesterday I listened to five albums by the K-pop groups WJSN, Pentagon, Apink, and Laboum -- I was cleaning the house. Yesterday I loved them all.
As for me "loving" any of the music that I make myself, this also depends on my mood. Sometimes I'll listen to a particular recording of mine and think -- "oh, this was one of my best pieces, something to show off my genius to the world forever." But, on another day, I might listen to that very same recording and think to myself how it truly never achieved the vision I originally had in mind for it. This gets me thinking things like how my tricks for recording music are merely tools that create delusions, and hypnotize my senses into falsely believing that I have any actual "talent" at all.
As a sidenote here -- there are many recordings I have made that are based on melodies and themes which I dreamed when sleeping. I do not "love" all of these recordings equally, but I do regard them as particularly special recordings -- as genuine gifts from the gods.
13. Thanks for your time, Charles. Anything else you want to add, this is the place!
I fear that I have blabbed so much in these responses here, that I've overwhelmed you already. I, of course, would like to thank YOU, very much, Jose, for your interest in my art and in myself. I encourage you to keep up your own good work as both an artist and a chronicler of art.
Afeite Al Perro