Back in January when I was in Gainesville to perform at the wonderful Apartment Music 31 and 32 shows, I met the affable, accomplished fellow ECer and Apartment Music performer, Adam Naworal. He and his multi-talented wife, Aimee Grace Naworal perform as the duo, Tomokie’s Cup. Adam has initiated two way interviews with fellow ECer’s such as Lord Litter and Frank and kindly invited me to do one with him.
You can read Adam's interview of me here.
What inspires you to pick up a certain instrument or piece of gear? For instance,
what attracted you to the electronic bagpipes?
I always wanted to do things that others aren't doing, without trying to sound too
full of myself. The electronic bagpipes were something we found after getting actual bagpipes and finding out they were defective and INSANELY expensive to repair. I tend to go for instruments that are easy for Aimee and I to both play and learn. I also don't want to limit myself to one particular type of instrument, which goes into our decisions as well. We have synthesizers and strings and a harmonium and various other things, all of which come in handy depending on our mood and what ideas we have at the time. I truly believe that being a multi-instrumentalist opens up a vast array of creative possibilities, and I highly encourage everyone to pursue that path.
Do we survive death in any sense, and if so, do we survive for a time or forever?
I believe as long as you leave memories, acts, and art behind, you never truly die. I’m not much of a believer in afterlives and such, but I do feel the quickest way to achieve immortality is to leave a tangible piece of your life for future generations to study.
What is the story behind Waste of Tape?
Oh wow, there's a question I have genuinely never been asked! Waste Of Tape
started when I met Jim Greco. He was stunned that this nerdy little goth kid knew who Beherit was (he was wearing a Beherit shirt). We got to talking and realized we both had similar interests and thought processes, and we were both interested in doing noise as a therapeutic release. Jim was especially interested in experimenting since he's in a lot of death metal and black metal bands which require a lot of thought and practice. We recorded some really bad noisecore and then some better jokey tracks on the first day of our existence. We were throwing names back and forth and finally I said "Well, might as well call it Waste Of Tape because it's starting to look like one", upon which Jim said "STOP! THAT'S IT!" We've since evolved from mostly comedic who-gives-a-fuck-ism into
more restrained and atmospheric music, while still being jerks to each other in the best sense. Jim's a good dude and I've enjoyed creating nonsense with him for all these years.
Can mind dominate matter or does matter completely dominate mind, or has each, perhaps, a certain limited independence?
Mind CAN dominate matter, but be careful what you wish for; their limited
independence may be the best thing. When you put too much mental emphasis on physical pleasure, for example, it can be a toxic combination. I think it’s best to approach this subject on a by-case/by experience basis, since not every experience will warrant the same reaction or thought process.
What music do you listen to around the house when you are hanging out with the
Aimee and cats? Or when you are just hanging out by yourself with the cats?
My main musical interests run from noise rock and no wave to free jazz and fusion to krautrock and weird prog to early electronic and musique concrète and everything in between! That being said, I can go from listening to Girls on Fire right into Xhol and then switch to "Easy Lover" or "Games Without Frontiers" without feeling like I'm being too eclectic. A good song (or piece of music or piece of audio art) is good, regardless of genre or popularity, and I will not deny that some of the poppier stuff I enjoy would probably surprise people. A good cross section of my musical (and film) tastes can be found at my Rate Your Music page, where I operate as dotadot.
Has the Universe a purpose? Or it it driven by blind necessity? Or is it a mere
chaos and jumble in which the natural laws that we think we find are only a fantasy generated by our own love of order?
I'm not so certain the Universe has a purpose per se, but if it doesn't, that simply
makes the universe the greatest embodiment of Dada ever. Nothing wrong with that!
Legend has it that goats discovered what berry?
b. coffee berry
d. none of the above
I wanna say B!
I recall reading somewhere that goats were observed being more active after eating coffee berries and their herders thought "Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm".
If there is a cosmic scheme, has life more importance in it than astronomy would
lead us to suppose or is our emphasis upon life mere parochialism and self-importance?
I'm going to quote the recently departed Mark Hollis of Talk Talk for the last part of the question: "Life's what you make of it". I really think including others in your life leads to a healthier overall experience than being self-important or –absorbed. The EC community is proof of that!
What is your favorite Pepperidge Farm cookie?
AN: Mannnnnnn, I haven't had any of those in forever! I remember the one I liked was shortbread with caramel and chocolate; I'm not sure if they even make that anymore.
(EDIT: After reading your interview with Lucy (Bonk), the cookie she named is the one I was thinking!)
If you had one message to give to your fans, what would it be?
Never let anyone tell you that what you're doing is worthless. Always go with what your heart tells you. If you don't like something you've created (art, music, whatever), think about how to improve it and go from there. Just keep creating; your ideas should never stay in your head to the grave. In the words of Jónsi from Sigur Rós, GO DO.
has been an integral part of the Florida noise scene since the start of the new millennium. In addition to her own amazing noise work, she also collaborated with other great noise musicians/groups such as Dan Reaves, Kris Gruda, Adam Naworal and Canned Ham. She has performed at a number of Hal McGee’s magnificent Apartment Music shows as well as other noise festivals, galleries and clubs. As a big Canned Ham fan, I was thrilled and overjoyed when Hal suggested that I check out Lucy’s work on-line and reach out to her for an interview for the EC site. I was thrilled and overjoyed again when she agreed.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Saint Augustine, Florida.
When did you start making music? Did you start with playing drums as a kid?
I guess I technically started with failed piano lessons as a kid, and then progressed to the usual recorders-and-marimbas stuff in elementary school, and then was actually a low brass player (euphonium, tuba for a short spell) in middle and high school, marching band, the whole schmear. I never played drums as a kid, I was taught drumming basics by a crust punk who showed me how to play the beat to "Hey Ya!" on a crappy drum kit that was stored at the local lefty bookstore/show venue when I was about 18 and from there I just basically messed around with any kit someone would let me use.
Who or what do you consider your biggest influences?
Who- Negativland, Reed Ghazala, Forrest Mims III, Nicolas Collins, Simone Giertz, Sun Ra, various comedians.
What- Garbage, doing things because you think it’s funny and pretending it’s art.
How did you get interested in noise and the noise scene?
Circa 2004 or so my best friend and I were very into absurdist and dada stuff, even though we wouldn’t have called it that at the time. We used to do "noise busking" before I was even really properly familiar with what noise was, bringing ridiculous stuff into the streets of a tourist town to see if people would give us money for making sounds with it. They did. Mostly really drunk people. Musically it was probably realizing that the most important thing about punk rock to me was the DIY part more than the sound. And we just liked to do things that made us laugh, like "covers" done with instruments that made no sense and forcing our friends to listen to Amway tapes, etc.
Lucy Bonk/Adam Naworal at +SoLo, August 24, 2012
Bulky Acronym is a great moniker. What are all your other monikers and how did you come up with them?
Bulky Acronym is just an anagram of my full name, Lucy Mary Bonk. I mostly used it for screen names and internet stuff, but have performed under that name a few times. I actually stopped using it a while ago and will probably never revive it. ALL the monikers I’ve ever used, oh my god. I have been doing noise and stuff off and on since I was about 17 and have literally never settled on something I wanted to use forever, and I probably never will. Let’s see if I can make a list. These are mixed solo names and "band"/project names.
- Reality Executives
- Reptile Theater
- Terror Probe
- Guilt Trip (what I’m using the most currently)
- Big Church
- My real name, which people don’t believe is real half the time anyway
- SHOUEZ (a recent one off for a showcase of bad bands created on the fly)
- ECM3 (not my name idea)
- HOW RUDE
- Phantom Prank Device
- I’m Pregnant (another one-off)
That’s all I can think of for now but I know there are more.
You’ve got a wonderful critical and absurdist sense of humor with the way that you use sampled audio material from TV and radio. One of my most favorite performances of yours that I’ve seen is the one you did under the moniker of Aggressive Investment at Apartment Music 19. What do you like about using found material?
Aggressive Investments happened because I had just gotten a job doing transcription for mostly financial industry clients, and was suddenly dumped into all this bizarre jargon I had never heard before. I usually think of something first and then go and find the audio later, thank you sketchy YouTube-to-mp3 websites that have probably given all my computers viruses over the years. But of course, like most people who are into this stuff, I’ve come across a lot of strange cassette tapes over the years. I enjoy improvising along with the cadence of speech and emotional state/volume of a person talking. I regret some of the things I’ve sampled in the past, because I feel like it was insensitive or exploitative ("gangstalking" channels on YouTube, etc.) and my running joke obsession with Alex Jones because, well...we all know what’s happened with Alex Jones.
I also really enjoy shortwave radio and have a small rig to pick up signals from CB and different stations, found a lot of great cult/religious stuff that way, also strange to me pop music from around the world of course.
Aggressive Investment at Apartment Music #19, September 14, 2013
You get some really cool, heavy sounds from your gear. What kind of equipment and software have you been using to create your music and artwork? Can you share some background about your circuit and data bending/modifications?
I learned how to circuit bend when I was about 23 and was immediately in love. I saw it as a way to get sounds I thought only synthesizers I would never be able to afford in my life could make, and also to demystify my own gear so that I could fix things when they went wrong, or make them functionally wrong if they were boring. Toys, of course, are full of mysteries.
I don’t do much out-and-out circuit bending these days. My last hardware project was adding a bunch of arcade buttons to glitch points on a Casio PT-100.
I modify toy arcades, and have been unsuccessfully trying to build my own cabinet that will only play the worst bootleg games I can find.
Lucy Bonk at Apartment Music #10, May 28, 2011
Lucy Bonk at AR179, February 6, 2018
Databending/datamoshing/controlled data corruption has been an interest for a while. I started out just using Notepad and Audacity and importing image or music or program files incorrectly to see what they puked out. Basically a computer doing the best it can when being asked to do something it isn’t supposed to, i.e "open this text file as a .wav". Datamoshing is, in short, just removing certain types of frames from video, creating the effect you’d get from a bad digital antenna connection.
I know it’s uncool but currently I am very into video games on several levels. I can’t play with anything without wanting to get inside the guts, so when I discovered rom corruption, which is basically taking the data of a video game and mashing it all up via rearranging bytes, abusing cheat codes, replacing values with a hex editor to get amazing visual AND audio artifact, it became what I do the most and is pretty much an obsession. I use a program called Vinesauce and another one called Real Time Corruptor, a hex editor called Cygnus, and a pixel editor called YY-CHR. It doesn’t sound exciting but I recommend it to literally everyone.
(A link to a YouTube channel with three great pieces of rom corruption)
(A link to the YouTube channel with some music and video along with a weird fake anti-reading PSA that Lucy made in collaboration with a bunch of her internet pals and coworkers.)
hover your mouse over the slideshow below to activate controls for Pause, Back, Forward, and Play
click the Play button in the video below and be sure that your sound is turned up
A link to some of Lucy’s songs/pieces on Soundcloud
I really like how your work moves around from the circuit bending to all out percussion with pots and pans—the electric to the acoustic of sorts. What is/was your inspiration for in both of those areas?
Ah, I almost NEVER use acoustic instruments any more, but someone gave me a giant mixing bowl that sounded like a gong, and from there I hunted down a bunch of other bowls for different sounds. I then started building stuff like a xylophone made of water-filled contact mic’d mason jars and various glass bottles, etc.
Lucy Bonk at There Must Be Something in the Water, July 23, 2011
Derek Prommasit and Lucy Bonk at Laboratory Music #5, March 3, 2012
Do you have any pets?
I have four cats (two indoor, two outdoor) and an Eastern Gray Squirrel.
And now for the question that a colleague of mine used to wrap up every interview with:
What is your favorite Pepperidge Farm cookie?
Uh, all of them? I haven’t ever really met a cookie I didn’t like. If I gotta pick, it’s these toffee and chocolate chip ones I am about to smash. They don’t have a goofy name like most PF cookies. Did they stop doing that or did they just shaft this cookie for no reason? Excuse me, I need to go write a letter to the company.
Editor's Note: below are additional media files from various shows and compilations I have produced.
Lucy Bonk at Apartment Music 18, January 19, 2013
Lucy at Apartment Music #25, June 22, 2014
While I had been working with Hal on the Girls on Fire archive project and putting together some new pieces/songs, I was especially looking forward to performing live with other sound artists. When Hal emailed a bunch of us out of town Electronic Cottage members with an invitation to perform at the next Apartment Music shows as part of his 61st birthday celebration, I jumped at the chance. I am a big fan of the Apartment Music series and have very much enjoyed the last two, Apartment Music 30 and AM31.
For me, the Apartment Music shows continue the legacy in Western music, art and intellectual activity of the salon gatherings in a patron, supporter or fellow artist’s home that began in the 18th Century and continues on to this day. The Hal McGee-organized Apartment Music shows are scheduled during weekend afternoons in his living room in Gainesville, FL.
The space allows for the beautiful Florida sunshine to stream through and for the space to be open to deep listening, openness and engagement.
I remember reading an interview with Diamanda Galás and how she mentioned that she wanted to cry when she heard tapes of her live shows in the California punk clubs of the late ‘70’s because the breathing room and silence in her pieces were gone as the audiences wouldn’t stop talking during her performances and she had to scream over them non-stop.
The Apartment Music shows let that breathing room and space back in. Like with many of Allan Kaprow’s happenings and in the true punk spirit, the performers and the audience are one and the same. We are surrounded by Hal’s “Merzbau in Gainesville” walls adorned by his cool splatter paintings, received postal art, posters for Eraserhead, Twin Peaks and Burroughs: The Movie. And then there are the shelves upon shelves of cassette tapes from the golden era of the art cassette music making; a truly amazing, priceless archive and library. All of this lends an almost spiritual feeling to the room. It is we, who perform now, who are carrying forth the Word and lifting the spirit with sound; be it called electronic music, noise or spontaneous improvised music. All part of the One Big Note.
Like the Happenings in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, there is a script or conceptual framework of sorts for the shows/events that Hal refers to as “stipulations”. These reasonable and logical guidelines help to ensure good feeling, respect and the best possible realization of the performances.
Keep equipment set-ups minimal, 10 minute sets and no high volume levels that would disturb next door neighbors. No drugs or alcohol. (The old straight edge punk in me really appreciated this stipulation.) Some participants like to joke about these rules but we all respect and understand that they are necessary part of the success and the continued future of these shows.
There are lots of delicious snacks and Hal’s excellent coffee.
Everyone is friendly and generous. In addition to sharing equipment cables to fellow performers when necessary, everyone brought self-made gifts for all. I came home with a load of wonderful zines, drawings, CDs and tapes as well as a Florida Noise sticker that I promptly put up on the wall in my office.
Aimee Naworal wrote a cool article about her art & literature haul at AM33
Another feature of the performances, especially during the set up times, is what I call (effect) Pedal Porn. During Fiver's Stereo/Jay Peele’s set up for Apartment Music 32, another fellow performer, Shelby Radcliffe directed my attention to Jay’s Moog Moogerfooger. I got so caught up in admiring it, I started touching it while Jay was trying to set up. He graciously accepted my apology. During Penny Grune-Fae’s set up for Apartment 33, I noticed that she was using a Caline Crazy Cacti overdrive unit. Penny says that she likes it. I have heard blues guitar players use that effects pedal/box so it is interesting that prepared guitar players do as well. Many of us use cassette players or digital dictaphones as sound sources as well as toys, household hardware and other found objects. It is like a multi-dimensional pop art assemblage.
Apartment Music 32
Saturday’s Apartment Music 32 big roster kicks off with Unfade, a duo comprised of Rachel Kinbar and Jonas Van den Bossche. Mic’d found objects, cassette recorders and voice filtered along with effected guitar. Weather and traffic sounds give way to taped voices and guitar crunch waves. Jonas applies a giant nail to the guitar grinding down on the strings with it. Not quite nine inches but certainly long enough to do some damage to your skull, thank you very much. Rachel plays a mic’d balloon and intones “We shed our skins, we become ourselves.” I agree.
photos of Unfade by Jen Sandwich
Most of us perform under various monikers. Today Trevor L. is performing as Lumen K. Deep layers sedimentary sounds and amplified volcanic burblings in the background as Lumen powerfully sings in a gospelized voice of a true story involving his parents when they were young and encountered a Zodiac Killer type entity and lived to tell their kids about it later. Very chilling.
Jay Peele/Fiver's Stereo continues the pulses—this time they are the sounds of breath and heartbeats with keyboards and effects like the Moogerfooger Analog Delay.
The pulse is put on pause for the screening of two of my videos
from the mid-‘80’s.
And then onto Jiblit Dupree’s (Danny McGuire) set of dark humor and confessional garage punk with a vintage Silvertone guitar and Epiphone amp. There had been rumors of a Dusty Twang reunion but alas, they remained rumors. Jiblit took requests and played a bitchin’ version of Black Flag’s arrangement of “Louie, Louie.” His guitar solo put Greg Ginn to shame.
Later on that day, he and I, inspired by Hal’s cover of the George Jones classic, “He Stopped Loving Her Today”, jammed on acoustic and toy guitars, relaxed and sang our hearts out before taking a wonderful, keepsake FTW photo together.
And speaking of photos, Jen Sandwich was in attendance at Apartment 32, translating the frequencies and performances into trippy digital photography. Here is a link to Jen's Flickr album consisting of 53 photos from Apartment Music 32.
Following Jiblit, Shelby Radcliffe, introduces her set about the healing and meditative properties of what some call noise. John Cage would have appreciated this. Her set ably does invokes a relaxed, inward focused state of mind with a number of folks closing their eyes and gently bopping their heads to her synth and effects waves.
The next performer, Ironing (Andrew Chadwick) turns the beat around with mad scratching skills. He plays records on top of records at all kinds of crazy speeds and looped phrases and beats. He even plays with a portable turntable on top of his head. The best use of vinyl that I’ve seen in a long time.
photos of Ironing by Jen Sandwich
The next performer, solid, affable, The Glyph (Aaron Abrams), followed with a Danelectro Free Speech talkbox and Game Boy type handheld game consoles. Distorted, abstracted 8-bit melodies and the Glyph’s facial expressions made for a fun time.
photos of The Glyph by Sandwich
Then Girls on Fire did our first performance since 1983. Needless to say I was very nervous but everyone was supportive and the set was well received.
Girls On Fire performance photographed by Jen Sandwich
To close out Apartment Music 32, the mighty Canned Ham (A.J. Herring, Hal and Mark McGee) gave us the sounds of great organic clatter with toy piano, melodica, talking drum, washboard, pink two string toy guitar and declamations like “We’re so representational.” A great ending to a great afternoon.
Canned Ham photos by Sandwich
Apartment Music 33
The next day, we got one of those famous Florida afternoon showers and a different vibe at the Apartment Music 33. Anchored and floating in space. Kind of psychedelic.
Dylan Houser begins the show with Sony ICD-PX 470 recorders, synth and Behringer Ultra Metal pedals. Words and phrases arc off into heavy sound waves. The synth riff sounds like the march to the ocean for a primordial return. Talented multi-instrumentalist, Dylan can create beautiful, awesome music with anything he touches.
Penny Grune-Fae creates waves of infinity. Prepared guitar, toys and vibrators as sounds triggers on the guitar strings. She uses the pickup on her guitar to amplify the sounds emanating from a small cassette. Her piece is incandescence in sound. She brought homemade cake made by her sister and chocolate “bark” from the health food store where she works. Her mother is kind enough to include paper bowls and napkins along with the cake. Penny quotes her mother as saying “I love your noise friends.” I think she means it!
The day before at AM 32, I felt like I performed the Girls on Fire set like Mick Jagger presenting to the board of directors the fiscal year audited financial statements with prankster party sounds effect bombs going off. Today, I’m seated, relaxed and am channeling the Dada muses. I get through my entire post-Coltrane/Residents’ version of My Favorite Things.
DJ Hollow Life (Joe Billingsley) follows with Filtered beats and Furby sound triggers. I have memories of news stories during the Furby craze that they were banned in some CIA and military bases/locations because of a recording circuit board in the toy.
Up next is the garrulous Aimee and Adam Naworal of Tomokie’s Cup. Adam and Aimee don Mexican wrestler masks for their performance. The drone of the Adam’s electric bagpipe and the reverberated percussive intonations of the wooden sound sculpture made from door-stops and other hardware (assembled by Penny) that Aimee brings forth make for a nicely textured and chilled out set.
Elsie Shiro changes up the vibe with manipulated tapes, miked drum lid and reverb laden music boxes. Repeated phases like I’m right here” and “Oh no” are slowed down and repeated with screeching rewind. Repetition and memory. Some memories are not necessarily good. Innocence lost. Very intense.
Apartment Music 33 ends with a live in-person real time audio assemblage by Hal McGee. Random playbacks on the ICD-PX 470 digital recorders, Korg Monotron Delay and mixing/affects. GOF snippets from AM 32 back in the mix. Hal’s beautiful and thought-provoking poetic cut-ups. Philosophical questions that would stump Bertrand Russell. Do you believe in noise? Do you belong to silence? And wise advice to keep the chaos in the noise where it belongs. Then he quotes fellow ECer Don Campau, “Folk Music is whatever the folks are playing.” Apartment Music 32 and 33 are living proof. Right on.
The Re-Discovery and Resurrection of Girls on Fire
It’s been seven months almost to the day since I received the first email of inquiry and re-introduction from the peerless and fearless artist and intrepid Electronic Cottage editor, Hal McGee.
Hundreds of emails, questions and answers, photos, fanzines, flyers, 45’s, unearthed cassette tapes, books, cd’s, chicken pot pies and Big Macs (hold the cellulose milk shake, please) later, we now have a site/project that is an organism/artwork of its own.
Like two composers working on a single score, Hal and I, to paraphrase John Cage from “A Composer’s Confessions”, experienced the pleasure of continual discovery; undiminished because the possibilities were/are endless.
The blurring of life and art was our inspiration. From an August 11 email from Hal, “When I do research on a subject I immerse myself in as many words, sights, sounds, tastes and smells associated with the subject matter as possible. No joke. It’s the way my art is too. Immersion.” He wasn’t kidding! Along the way we deeply grooved on Erik Satie, William Burroughs, Vivienne Dick, The Contortions, Julee Cruise’s time in the B-52’s and of course, Allan Kaprow.
A true collaboration, embedded in the site/project is all of Hal’s numerous, contributive hyperlinks which further edify and add to a story of US history and culture as told through the journey of Girls on Fire. In the seven sections, from the recession and N-R-Gee (Crises Blues) of a ‘70’s teenage punk girl to the dawn of the Reagan ‘80’s prog-rock/post-punk of DC’s ultra Rip It Up and Start Again Pigpens, Psychodrama, to the discovery and safe packaging and delivery to Gainesville, Florida of a tape of Early Rarities featuring a song destined after 35 years to amazingly get played at least once on the radio, "I’m in Love and on KW", immersion and discovery were our words to live by.
With the five sections in one known as
the Girls on Fire Cassettes,
(from the golden age of cassette music, 1983-1985)
Hal, inventively, came up with cool ways to illustrate the time and place of those songs
—such as using Google Map photos to find the still-existent laundromat of “I Wash and Dry My Clothes”,
from I Think About Jackson Pollock
and the site that sells mugs and t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “Guns Don’t Kill People, Rotten Bananas Do” to illustrate the song, “Rotten Bananas” from In My Blood.
Thanks to Hal, I got back in touch with my ex-husband and cleared out a whole lot of old cobwebs with the Your Mom Too section.
Then we connected it all with my ‘80’s performance/cut up music videos collected in two compilations, Freud’s Snack Bar and Total Eclipse of the Sun.
It’s great to have all this audio and video work up on-line and available for streaming and downloading. The old is new again.
Along the way, it has been wonderful to renew contact and friendships with fellow travelers from the ‘80’s cassette days like Evan Cantor and Little Fyodor of Walls of Genius and Richard “Rick” Franecki of Vocokesh. I also want to thank
Al Margolis, Robin James, and Jerry Kranitz as well for all their contributions and support to this project. It has also been wonderful to meet and be inspired by the work of new listeners and supporters through the Electronic Cottage site. The sense of community that has truly transcended time and space is so life affirming and reminds me once again the positive power of music and art.
What’s next? As I mentioned to Hal in one of my emails during this process, for the past year I had felt something had been missing in my life but couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
Right from the beginning of our work on the GOF site, I began to get the “itch” again to make sound pieces/songs. I had been “woodshedding” since 2017 or so by listening to and reading the essays/interviews of John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen.
My first return to audio was in June 2018 with a brief re-working of John Cage’s “Mesostic 2” that I recorded off the fly with my iPhone. It was a m4a file.
I sent it off to Hal and his response was very encouraging, patient and helpful with audio tips (record in WAV, not m4a) which is very Zen/Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji when I think about it now.
Since then I took his further advice and purchased one of those handy dandy ICD-PX470 digital recorders. The Girls on Fire loony tunes machine is fired up once again!
Stream and download Leslie's new Girls On Fire song, "Purple Tooth".
After a break of over 35 years, Girls on Fire is excited to be traveling to Gainesville, Florida and performing at the upcoming Apartment Music 32 and 33 shows (January 12-13, 2019). I very much look forward to meeting and experiencing in-person the music of the great Floridian ECers.
"Florida" from Life is Too Funny — I Think I’ll $hoot Myself (1984)
To paraphrase John Cage, this time from his preface to his 1959 opus, Indeterminacy, “Then I said that I did not see that we were going to a goal, but that we were living in process, and that process is eternal.”
Editor's Note: Here are Leslie's notes on the song "Florida":
My grandparents, Grandma Sylvia and my Grandpa Louie (my father's parents) moved down to St. Pete from Washington DC circa 1970. I was very close to them and have a lot of good memories of both of them. To this day, I still remember advice that both of them gave to me when I was a child and an adolescent. When I was 11 and 12, I spent both of those summers with them in St. Pete. I fished, played chess and read library books with Grandpa Louie and Grandma Sylvia taught me America style cooking. My grandparents were hardcore bridge players and would take me with them to their games. All kinds of people would be there playing bridge. I used to do small pencil sketches of their faces especially those of the younger hippie looking guys while sitting near my grandparents. I think that one of them noticed me sketching his face and kind of dug it. I think that I was supposed to be learning bridge but I could never get that interested in it. I have fond memories of those summers. When I first met John Hricko, he showed me photos of his two sisters who both lived in Tallahassee and how whenever he went there to visit, everyone played bridge so thereafter he and I would swap Florida stories. I did that song for him. As I recall he really enjoyed it.
Florida is a hot state
Florida, da, da is a long state
Florida is a hot state
Florida, da, da is a long state
Florida is a hot state
Florida is a long state
And Florida is very old to me
Florida is a hot state
Florida is a long state
And Florida is very old to me
Florida is a hot state
Florida is a long state
Florida is a hot state
Florida is a long state
And Florida is very old to me
Da, da, da, da
SF Air/SF Hair
This song is about seeing and trying to come to terms with the unexpected.
San Francisco was always known for being the big California city with clean air. Now, because of the Northern California wildfires, its air can sometimes be worse than the smog in Los Angeles. The realization of this change and its impact and how to communicate it vocally was inspired by Elvis Presley’s notorious “Desert Storm” speech of 1974. Elvis was in the midst of his divorce from Priscilla Presley and finishing up what would become his final residency in Las Vegas. There are recordings of his nine minute tirade against the gossip/movie/entertainment magazines for reporting/spreading rumors that he was “strung out on heroin.” During this melt down he claims that he has never been strung out on heroin and that the only thing that he has ever been strung out on was music. The audience is clapping and very supportive of him during this harangue. He goes on to say how dangerous these kinds of rumors/reports (fake news) are to his father, his band, his audience and his little daughter.
That is when I got to thinking about how his daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, is/was one of the Ramones’ biggest fans. She was close friends with Johnny Ramone and helped pay for the statue of him at his gravesite in Hollywood. Johnny, who was everyone else’s nightmare (the subject of “The KKK Took My Baby Away”), was the light of Lisa Marie’s life. I think that there is a Buddhist moral in there somewhere but moving right along….
Editor's Note: These are the first new Girls On Fire recordings since 1985!
Thanks for the Feedback
Bringing back the autobiographical elements along with real potty talk and some important, helpful public health information, the lyrics speak for themselves:
Cheap imitation furniture
Anthill off the freeway
Nice white ladies
With asses made of sandpaper
Sadly and quickly
Wore away the toilet seat
Go glasses away
It is broken
Fuck this dumb shit
It turns out
You can’t get scabies
From sitting on
A toilet seat
Last Sunday, there was a reunion of Girls on Fire and Walls of Genius. It had been a little over 30 years since Little Fyodor along with Evan Cantor showed up on my doorstep in San Francisco’s Mission district. This time Little Fyodor and I re-united at the Mission Chinese Food Restaurant on NYC’s Lower East Side. The years evaporated away as we enjoyed the General Tso whiskey sours, the Drunken Fish and other culinary delights along with the delightful company of Little Fyodor’s better half, Babushka, friends JD and Amanda as well as my bff, Laura. To commemorate this joyous occasion, Laura pulled out the handy Captain Beefheart Trout Mask Replica iPhone and snapped a couple of pics. A good time was had by all!
Hal and I have now come to a pivotal moment in the Girls on Fire story. By the time that I completed and released the cassette album Life is Too Funny — I Think I’ll $hoot Myself in early 1984 I was no longer the teen art punk who went searching for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow called San Francisco. I was about to be 21 and heard the call of other muses. Or were they really sirens?
While working on Life is Too Funny— I Think I’ll $hoot Myself, I was reading the book Happenings, An Illustrated Anthology written and edited by Michael Kirby, published in 1966. I believe that I found this book used at Aardvark Books on Church Street in SF. (It is still there).
The book contains the statements, scripts, and production details of 14 happenings by five artists: Allan Kaprow, Red Grooms, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Whitman, and Jim Dine.
Allan Kaprow, a student of John Cage, is credited with coining the term "happening". Frankly, I think that in addition to being one of the first in this grouping of artists to do happenings, he was also the one most genuinely engaged with making life into art, not just trying to sell some overpriced tchotchke.
A former painter, inspired by Jackson Pollock and his action paintings, Kaprow thought that the next step was to literally step out of painting and make lifelike art. The script for his 1961 Happening, A Spring Happening, is a “grocery list” of sounds and actions like “car horn starts constant sound”, “nervous kazoo sits in chair”, “person speaking babbling”, “Lights out in cubicles” and “cooking food.” Script directions like this were an inspiration for songs on Life is Too Funny, especially the last piece on the cassette album, "Camus’ Crashing, Burning and Eating Hungry Man TV Dinners".
The piece is an audio document of a performance that I did at Club Foot in SF in late 1983. I ate a TV dinner on stage while an audio tape loop of car crash played in the background. I was now edging into contemporary art practice/commerce as after this performance I began to slowly move away from making cassettes and into something else....
Other songs on the cassette album deal with topics of everyday life, and reflections on the impermanence of this earthly realm: "Hideous Pants", "Jessica Savitch" (celebrity death by car crash, a theme Singer explored over and over), "My Groovy Apartment", "My Ironing Board", and more.
Leslie and I have been working since mid-2018 on creating an archival resource site for her Girls On Fire project, based on interviews with her that I have conducted via email.
Released in early 1984, Life is Too Funny — I Think I’ll $hoot Myself was the fourth cassette that Leslie had created since she had moved from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco in October 1982. There would be one more Girls On Fire cassette, In My Blood (1985), and then no more. Leslie turned to other creative art forms, and you will find out more about that as the project develops.
Editor's Note: Leslie Singer's work in the 1980s incorporated elements of pop, conceptual and performance art; as well as doses of hardcore punk and lo-fi experimentalism; and even contained traces of progressive rock. Her music and films prefigured Harsh Noise and Riot Grrrls.
Dear EC Community Members,
Hal McGee and I have been working on uncovering and assembling an untold history of unheard music. This one is centered in the much storied Washington DC Punk / New Wave scene at the dawn of the Reagan 1980’s. While many fans of US punk and post-music have heard or read about the straight edge, hardcore punk scene that was based in DC during the very early ’80’s, not as many know about the art punk bands such as the one I was a founding member of in 1982, Psychodrama. Based out of the DC “bedroom communities” of Northern Virginia, Psychodrama (Brett Kerby, Rob Lippert and me) came into existence after playing together and meeting each other through the Throbbing Gristle-damaged From Far Away, Beauty?
Psychodrama’s influences were no wave, prog rock, electronic music, dada, surrealism and horror movies like the original Night of the Living Dead. Our lyrics were naive excursions into “transgression”, covering such topics as death, Armageddon, drivers ed movies and bitching about the DC music scene as was fitting for a band who consisted of mostly disaffected teenagers (I was 18 going on 19, Rob was 15.). Brett, in his mid ‘20’s, was a veteran of DC progressive rock group, Bazilisk.
Psychodrama performed/gigged at the now legendary DC clubs, d.c. space and The Chancery as well as one wacky show at CBGB’s in NYC. Audiences didn’t know exactly how to respond our blend of musics and theatrics but that didn’t stop us from releasing a cassette album in the spring of 1982, 300 Days of Sodom. Inspired by the burgeoning art cassette movement, we self-produced and distributed a 30 minute cassette of our tunes.
By the late summer of 1982, two of us in Psychodrama, (Brett and me) decided that it was time for a change. We drove across country and moved to San Francisco in October 1982. After two weeks, Brett moved back to Northern Virginia and I stayed on to put out a series of five cassette albums under such monikers as Girls on Fire, Sadistic Gossip, and Girls Who Hate Their Mothers.
Over the past several months, Hal and I have been putting together this story in words, pictures and music. We hope you enjoy it!
While having the pleasure and honor to work with Hal McGee in assembling the history of my early 1980’s multi cassette album project, Girls on Fire and all its other manifestations including my earlier work with Washington DC art noise bands, From Far Away Beauty and Psychodrama, I have gotten the opportunity to renew my affinity for working in collaboration especially in a band or music related setting. With this good feeling of working with Hal, I reviewed all my ‘80’s cassette albums and came away with more good feeling about one of my releases in particular, “Diary of a Shiteater.” I did this cassette album under the moniker of Girls Who Hate Their Mothers/The Chicken Fucks and in collaboration with my old bandmates in the second incarnation of Psychodrama, Brett, Rob, and Mark/Jim Taylor. “Diary of a Shiteater” is a volcanic bubble of cut up samples of songs by me, the Psychodrama guys and snippets of others out in the world. All pushed into the red even more than The Velvets' White Light/White Heat.
Hearing all this hot mess now reminded me of another work and another great collaboration also from the 1960’s, the Everest recording of John Cage and David Tudor’s realization of Variations IV. Variations IV was composed in 1963 and is considered part of Mr. Cage’s compositional Indeterminacy period. As I understand it, the composition has a graphic score with different clear plastic overlays and it is about different sounds occupying different spaces simultaneously and what happens to our perception of time and space as the composition unfolds. In 1965, as a fundraiser, Mr. Cage and Mr. Tudor performed this piece at the Feigen/Palmer Gallery on La Cienaga Boulevard in Los Angeles in 1965. The Everest recording was first released in 1966. It has since been reissued a number of times and is currently available on CD, vinyl and digital download.
The recording of this realization should have been used as the soundtrack for the gallery scenes in the 1971 Columbo episode entitled “Suitable for Framing” about the homicidal art critic who kills an art collector, steals his Degas drawing, enlists his hapless art school girlfriend to assist him with the crime and then attends an opening of a contemporary art show on La Cienaga Boulevard so he can have an alibi. The paintings on display are wild abstractions with the gallery owner holding court and thrilled that the critic has finally attended a show at her fine establishment.
The Everest recording of Variations IV has this same kind of feel. One hears a room recording of various snippets of symphonies, operas, lectures, historical dramas and folk songs from scratchy old records mixed in with the faint sounds of an art opening. A woman is explaining that the show is like a happening and that according to Mr. Cage one never hears the same sound the same way twice. Sound is always changing. Then we hear her again loudly announcing that she sold the Monet this morning. A male responds with “Show me the check, baby!” The Everest recording is broken out in 7 sections, with 5 to 15 minute excerpts from the evening’s performance according to hourly segments “ 7 pm to 8 pm, “8 pm to 9 pm” etc. until the final section which ends at 1 am with the sounds of a toilet flushing. The records and conversations are a great documentation of the early ‘60’s era: classical music trying to hold its own against rock ’n’ roll and the folk music revival, America coming to grips with the legacy of WWII as it is about to go into Vietnam, the changing attitudes about sex and marriage and the rise of modern and contemporary art as an investment product. The Everest recording of Variations IV brings all of this together as a sound cut-up par excellence.
After high school and a year in the DC noise band, Psychodrama, I moved to SF in 1982.