Walls Of Genius' 1986 compilation of Cassette Culture artists,
"Son Of Madness", is now available on Bandcamp:
When we put out the call for "Madness Lives" in our catalog "The Gift Of The Geek" (approx. March 1985), we had no idea that the response would be so enthusiastic that a sequel would be warranted. But that was in fact the case.
Some of the materials were out-takes from the first go-round. We were sent more material than we could use for each artist and wanted to include as many artists as a 90-minute cassette would hold. We requested that artists limit themselves to 5 minutes. "Restrictions (were) limited to questions of recording quality (we're not super finicky) and content (we're partial to peculiar stuff...)". We asked contributors to not "be afraid to go psychologically naked for this project, let it hang down to your knees and, above all, to take effective measures to unleash your inhibitions." The response from the Cassette Culture was a tsunami of fascinating and diverse material, from sound collage to demented rock'n'roll.
Why "Son Of Madness" now? Why not the original "Madness Lives" first? That's just a quirk of circumstance. In the course of conversation I discovered that Little Fyodor had already digitized almost all of Walls Of Genius' titles at his end, so I asked him if I could get copies of "Son" and "Live Improvisations". I started checking out his digitized version of "Son" and one thing led to another. So, eventually, of course, "Madness Lives" will also be available via Bandcamp, but for the moment, only "Son Of Madness" appears on the Bandcamp site (along with other WoG titles).
The most comprehensive discussion of all the tracks on "Son" appears on Hal McGee's website, haltapes.com, in the Walls Of Genius archive section:
Briefly, thirty different artists each have a track. I've broken the 90-minute cassette into volumes one & two for convenience because that's a lot of tracks! Some of the artists are just Walls Of Genius in different incarnations. Cowtown is Walls Of Genius backing up Cowtown's only actual member, punk dee-jay Peter Tonks. Wally Bob Colorado is WoG's own Head Moron putting on his cowboy hat. Meichenbaub was the teenage brainchild of one of our Boulder pals, Bob O'Connor. Russ Stevens, imploring us to "slap the buttocks", was one of the
original Dirt Clods from the proto-Walls Of Genius period in Ed Fowler's living room.
Many others were stalwarts of the scene, like Problemist, from Unsound's
William Davenport. Dino DiMuro gives us the first of two Hitler related pieces, while the salacious Roberta Eklund gives us the second. The prolific Don Campau appears, as does Schlafengarten (a Psyclones associated group), Minóy, Smersh, Tom Furgas, Ken Clinger, Booed Usic (a/k/a tENTATIVELY ... a cONVENIENCE), John Wiggins, and Master/Slave Relationship (Debbie Jaffe of Viscera and Cause & Effect). Others were artists getting airplay on Little Fyodor's radio program "Under The Floorboards", Johnny J. & The Diversatones for one. All of the artists on the comp represent individuals who had either received our catalog or knew somebody who had. Some of those artists remain quite mysterious to this very day.
In any case, "Son Of Madness" is a real tour through the classic 80s Cassette Culture scene and is filled to the brim with gems every bit as worthy as those found on the original "Madness Lives". We here in WoG-land hope you enjoy!
(by Evan Cantor and Little Fyodor)
When Hal McGee started gathering Walls Of Genius materials in 2012, I (Evan Cantor) had been out of the underground loop for over 30 years. In the years following Walls Of Genius’ 1986 dissolution, I was unaware of how current Little Fyodor had kept the flame burning. I truly thought nobody would ever give a damn about Walls Of Genius. I've said this many times and I'll say it again: I'm glad I was wrong. But why should anyone give a damn?
Walls Of Genius, ostensibly an avant-garde music ensemble, was a prominent participant in the 1980s Cassette Culture. We pursued and experimented with a wide variety of musical styles, everything from lengthy psychedelic improvisations, free-jazz, punk-rock, lovingly crafted, uninhibited and manic deconstructions of pop, jazz and country-western standards to poetic ravings, recitations, musique concrète, industrial noise and sound collage. Walls Of Genius was reviled and loved in equal measure by the Cassette Culture.
For instance, an Unsound magazine review of one release (Before ...and After) indicated "Simply Genius...the new sound terrorists of America". In a later edition, another review (The Mysterious Case Of Pussy Lust) was not as
impressed: "This is music made by zealous fans who want to imitate, not by musicians who want to create and be original". You may well imagine our disagreement with that.
Walls Of Genius was active from 1982-1985
(the 'classic' period)
and subsequently revived in 2014.
As both a live-performing and studio-recording band,
as well as a cassette-album "label", we released over 30 titles of our own and others' music in the mid-1980s.
We were featured on numerous compilations
and issued two of our own,
Madness Lives and Son Of Madness,
representations of the best that
the Cassette Culture had to offer.
As Electronic Cottage is the direct descendent of the Cassette Culture of the 1980s, in fact existed in its first incarnation at that time, it is relevant to review the music of Walls Of Genius for insight into the overall network of underground artists participating. Because Walls Of Genius bridged as many gaps as possible in the differing underground scenes at the time, our music represents the many different perspectives noted two paragraphs above. We worked across the board, dismissing nothing, deconstructing broadly and experimenting, mostly successfully, with everything.
It was truly gratifying that, in 2012, Hal McGee contacted the former members of Walls Of Genius, interviewed us and collected materials for a comprehensive archival collection on his haltapes.com website. This revival of interest led to a Walls Of Genius reunion session, which in turn led to the revival of the group in 2014 as an active concern.
Where to start with the archive? The Main Page will give you an idea of what is here, a table of contents at:
Check out Walls Of Genius' most popular and best-received release, Before…And After. Writing for the Allmusic.com website in the 90's, pop music professor Richie Unterberger claimed it was our only release that "truly hit the mark" and deemed it "ripe for excavation on CD reissue by some company that doesn't mind losing money for art's sake". (No one has yet taken him up on this idea, can't imagine why….)
You'll find a link to Before …And After on a page listing all of their cassette releases (click link or pic below):
Walls Of Genius - a survey of their cassette releases
On that page click on each cassette title and you will go to dedicated pages for each cassette, where you can stream all the music from Walls Of Genius' 'classic' period. Each cassette release page features in-depth recollections and analysis by the two primary movers of the group, Evan Cantor and Little Fyodor. These two haven't always seen eye-to-eye about these things and like so much seen through the filter of memory, their recollections don't always match, but they always illuminate.
A favorite of both was Crazed To The Core, the ultimate foray into the bat-shit bonkers, screaming, hollering, psychologically naked, takes-the-piss-out-of-everything side of what we did. So you may alternately want to start there (click on link or tape cover above).
There’s a lot more than just the cassette releases here. There’s a rare video from 1985 of Walls Of Genius performing live in concert in a room beneath the bleachers at University of Colorado’s Folsom Field.
Evan’s Walls Of Genius scrapbook is reproduced in full, filled to the brim with images and artwork, much of it never before seen elsewhere, collected all in one place.
There are interviews discussing the times, places and influences relevant to the music
as well as a page dedicated to the wacky
snail-mail-art catalogs generated by Walls Of Genius to market their work in the pre-digital era.
Additional pages focus on the instruments used,
the recording gear
and the Walls Of Genius band-house itself,
the "Hall Of Genius".
Yet another potential starting point for exploring the archive would be the very beginning.
If you think you have what it takes, the gumption and the granular fortitude to plow through this entire dense resource, start with The Dirt Clods (1983), the so-called proto-WoG cassette that arguably started it all.
Then you can proceed tape-by-tape, taking in the full story. Not only did Electronic Cottage's own
Leslie Singer (Girls On Fire) do just that,
she enjoyed it, to boot!
Proof that it can be done.
This process is made easy by links to the next tape
on each page.
Whether or not you believe that Walls Of Genius matters, we think it's damn good story. Both Cantor and Fyodor dove headfirst into the project, providing all the music, art and memories that Hal McGee had requested. It's possible that we overwhelmed him, but he rose to the task and created a thing of beauty (at least to those who think it matters).
Little Fyodor muses that if Hal McGee thinks this matters, then readers of Electronic Cottage should also, essentially asking the question: "What would Hal listen to?" Even if you don’t care about "us" specifically, the entire voyage constitutes a microcosm of the human condition. You might see yourself in there.
So! The HalTapes Walls Of Genius archive
is a comprehensive and lovingly-constructed collection of everything you could ever want to know about these seminal do-it-yourselfers.
In the America of the 1980s,
a time strangely relevant to our own,
these guys attempted to crush, mutilate
and take waffle-stompers to society's norms
through the power of music.
That they succeeded in their mission
is why Walls Of Genius matters,
then and now.