This year has been another mess, as usual. And I could probably spend a lot of time documenting the things that went wrong. But I’m going to try and do something that doesn’t come easy to me: make a list of the things that went right. Maybe this will be more therapeutic than difficult, but either way, it might be worth it to try and remember the things that went well in a year that felt more like it was on fire than anything else.
1.) I kicked off the year with a new album by Mini-Mutations (http://wtbc.bandcamp.com/…/reading-nancy-listening-to…). It contains some of the best live performances from the previous iterations of live Mini-Mutations from the previous years, and one original piece that you can only get on this album (a song about Reading Nancy Comics, one of my favorite things to do during the Pandemic). And: you can’t stream it anywhere… yet.
2.) I also released a new album and split 7” by Shot Reverse Shot (shotreverseshot.bandcamp.com). This was my “sci-fi concept music” band, with a continuing narrative, rock songs connective tissue, and electronic “story segments” with a voice-over narrator. The 7” is a split with Seattle’s Half Eye, a band that’s been around since the 90’s but had never released a 7” before. Also: you can’t stream this album yet, but a re-mix is pending that may get a streaming re-release.
3.) I began sending “musical postcard” every month to everyone on my mailing list (a designed postcards with QR code links to music that you can only find with the QR codes). There was either a “single” by a more “rock music” type project, or 30 minutes of new experimental music, on each card. With all the material that I assembled for these postcards, there was over six hours of new material by Mini-Mutations, Shot Reverse Shot, The Olsen Twins Ghostlight Ensemble, DEATH MUTATIONS, The Eleven-SixtyFours, The Short Pockets, Asthenosphere and a spoken word release under my own name. (austinrich.org/postcards/). A collection of this work is coming in 2022.
4.) The postcards became such a hit, The Eugene Weekly ran a story about my “musical postcards,” a project that was only a couple months in at the point they ran the story, has has been completed since. (https://www.eugeneweekly.com/2021/01/21/the-postman/)
5.) I went to the DMV, got fleeced by their staff, and came out with the title of my car in my name for the first time. “Look at me! I’m a motorist!”
6.) From working on the postcards, I launched some new musical projects: The Eleven-SixtyFours (theeleven-sixtyfours.bandcamp.com), my super-stripped-down punk band, and Asthenosphere (http://wtbc.bandcamp.com/…/november-2021-asthenosphere…), an experimental collaboration with Moth Hunter (mothhunter.bandcamp.com) that was eight years in the making. It also motivated me to record new material with The Olsen Twins Ghostlight Ensemble and DEATH MUTATIONS, both projects I really enjoy and the work we did came out great.
7.) Working in My 2021 Music Exchange group, myself and Deejay Embryonicpetitsac (petitsac.bandcamp.com) decided to work on a new duo, where we collaborated at a distance to whip up something half way between our sensibilities. Together, we released our horror noise epic, “Salientia” by IVO (wtbc.bandcamp.com/merch/ivo-salientia-cassette), which is out on Sweatband Records cassette label, or I can get you one, too.
8.) My 2020 Music Exchange Group (The “Slightly Less Weird Group”) got organized and released a collection of the music we mailed to each other in 2020. It’s now available on CD or digitally. (http://wtbc.bandcamp.com/…/from-our-house-to-yours-2020…).
9.) In the summer, Jessica invited me to host a “Pop-Up” sale of my various ’zines, music and other oddities at The Art Department, which motivated me to finish a number of projects that were “in-progress.” This event was a huge success, and solidified my place in the Art Department community. (Which would pay off for me later in the year.)
10.) Between June and October of this year I recorded 16 punk songs for The Eleven-SixtyFours, including an EP and two Singles of original tunes, and an EP of covers. These songs were intentionally written quickly, recorded quickly, mixed quickly, and published quickly, in an effort to work in a way contrary to how I usually work. Where Shot Reverse Shot (my band project from 2020) involved a ton of planning and careful assembly / plotting, The Eleven-SixtyFours were all composed on the spot. (theeleven-sixtyfours.bandcamp.com)
11.) I landed a part time job at The Art Department! This not only gives me a little income adjacent to the kind of creative work I’m already doing, but has plugged me into the Salem community in a way I was really looking for. I feel like I’m fitting in quite well.
12.) I was contacted by Old Nick’s Pub, and was asked to assemble a short set of Mini-Mutations for the show that Negativland played in Eugene this year. The next day, Negativland contacted me, asking if I could run their merch for the Portland and Eugene shows on the same West Coast Tour. Double Masked, and getting to live out one of my dreams, I got to spend two-days with Negativland, filming them and running their merch. Colin Hix joined me in the Mini-Mutations performance, for a new re-formulation of a piece I took my first pass at in 2020. (Colin originally introduced me to Negativland’s music in the early ’90’s, so it only made sense that he join me.)
13.) In spite of the Pandemic, I still assembled new performances / videos of Mini-Mutations material, totaling three live performances of new stuff (about an hour of new material). This has taken the project into “composed experimental” territory, where I’m actually writing the backing music and carefully assembling the voice samples in a dramatic order, rather than improvising electronic drones with collaged vocal samples on top. Mini-Mutations has evolved quite a bit in a way I’m really enjoying.
14.) Over three weekends, Colin, Capps and myself formed The Short Pockets, wrote and recorded six songs, and then, over a couple months, actually learned how to play the songs for a show we played in front of a real audience at Old Nick’s Pub, where we got paid for the performance! A huge success, in my mind. (theeshortpockets.bandcamp.com) There will be more from The Short Pockets in 2022.
15.) Over the year I recorded 32 new episodes of my Pandemic Project Radio show, Somewhere In-Between: A Radio Zine, which is my half-hour community radio talk show that is broadcast on KMUZ.org. (betweenradiozine.com) This show is a much more DIY, and funny, version of “This American Life,” where I record a few episodes, then re-run a few episodes, and create new, short stories about my life in small town, Oregon. There’s also music and comedy.
16.) I launched a new podcast with my friend Wendella, 20 Minutes Into The Future: A Max Headroom Podcast, where we watched and talked about different episodes of my favorite TV show, and actually got to interview some of the writers and creators behind the show! We only made 14 episodes so far, but we have several more in the can that just need to be produced. We hope in 2022 to get back into the habit of making new episodes. (We’re still sitting on at least one more interview listeners haven’t heard, and we’ve only reviewed a fraction of the Max content that’s out there. Certainly there’s more to come! (20minutesintothefuture.org)
17.) Through a series of events, Mid-Valley Mutations (my experimental radio program that has been on the air in some form since 1998), finally moved to Sheena’s Jungle Room on WFMU!, a streaming radio station that is a part of the WFMU family. We’re finally back on Tuesday Night’s, where I do a little something different and strange every week. (midvalleymutations.com)
18.) Marla and I bought one thing we intended to, and one thing we didn’t plan on: our house, and a new fridge.
There’s probably tons of things I forgot. But there’s probably plenty of things I’m making a bigger deal about than I should. But why not? After all, we might as well count our successes, no matter how small, when we’re taking stock of the year.