Three-Way Split!

It’s a new release for the spring, with new music from all your favorite Experimental Artists.

Three new tunes by Bast Awakening! (Ellen & Chris)

A new jam by DEATH MUTATIONS. (Chris & Myself)

…and…?

Over an hour of new music, and it can only be yours, easily, if you want it. Not available for download (yet), if you must have this, you’ll also need a CD Player.

Hand made music! Discs assembled and duplicated, with covers cut / folded / stapled by hand! Limited to 50 copies! Reversible covers allow you too present this disc in four different ways!

It’s the WTBC Three-Way Split! Get yours today!

Lessons From D&D

This common bit of wisdom from my early days as a young gammer has been on my mind a lot lately – “Health Is A Team Resource” – and I’m surprised that someone else hasn’t already made a meme.

This was, of course, advanced thinking to a lot of gamers. So many are focused on just themselves, and so they don’t consider the health of others. Often, these kinds of characters don’t last long. They don’t know how to act as a group, and so they often die under embarrassing circumstances. Largely because they didn’t put the group over their own desires.

Here’s my take on a meme for our time.  I have a feeling someone else could probably do something a little more concise, but at least the sentiment is there.

Settle Your Debts

The Ides of March was upon us, and rather than cower in fear – which seems to have been what we should have done – The Olsen Twins Ghostlight Ensemble convened for a Sunday morning recording session that just so happened to tickle our fancy. Hopefully, you enjoy this one, too.

This arrangement includes: Scott Eave (Guitar, Woodwinds), Kevin Van Walk (Drums) & Austin Rich (Ronald’s Luggage / Electronics / Synths).

The Lava Lamp Lounge has been a nice room to host a number of folks, and this particular arrangement is very nice. It sounds good, and I think we play well in this space. And this might be the primary way you hear us from now on, so we’ll continue to iron on the way we present these to you. Maybe we can improve the camera stuff in the future? Hard to say.

Perhaps you can pick up this recording, and help keep us in new strings and cables? It’s really our primary expense, and we want to keep bringing this to you, somehow.

Mail Call

I’m assembling packages / mail to go out. If you ordered a t-shirt, a zine, or are in any of the music exchange groups, and you are expecting something, it should be in the mail by the end of the day.

Did I overlook you? Do you want some mail art? Or, even, just a letter in the mail? I’m not sure if we should worry about costs at this time. Let’s just make sure the people who want something in the mail are getting it.

I’m happy to send you something. No one needs to suffer from the “no mail” blues.

It’s funny how slow social media is when social distancing was enforced. 

untitled by Austin Rich
untitled by Austin Rich

A lot has changed in a few days.

I hope I can change enough myself to keep up.

I’m considering hosting some organized streaming events, to give us something to do with this technology we all have in our pockets.

It would probably have a host who organizes the event and manages a calendar of who is doing what when. The host would DJ and introduce the performers, tell people where the next stream is and how to find the music to purchase, etc. And then you could have performers log on throughout the show, and do their thing.

If nothing else, it would incentivize a lot of us to clean our offices or practice spaces.

Welcome To Apocalypse

When I discovered punk rock in the early ’90’s, one of the things we talked about was how we were living in the apocalypse already, and the rest of the world hasn’t yet caught up. (Cathead even had a song about it, of which this is the best recording.) Most subculture seems to have been “hip” to the notion that all of THIS <waves hands around our civilization> could just <snaps fingers>, and then we would have to live with what it’s like when people stop being nice and start being… well, untethered to cultural references, anyway.

So, there is a tiny part of me — a very, very small part, I should underline — that feels like I’ve seen this coming for 20 years, at least. The writing was on the wall when The Ramen City Kid and I realized that Eugene was no longer viable, and as we looked around, all of our options were… bad. The punk in me always knew that all of this was temporary, even the rock and roll paradise that Portland seemed to be when I got there.

Anyway, in light of this crisis — this very real, very bad, and very-likely-to-have-LONG-TERM-consequences-that-we-have-not-really-fully-thought-through crisis — there is a part of me that keeps thinking, “Well, how is this different from how punks and weirdos have always seen the world?” We’ve been catastrophizing everything for decades, screaming at walls and coloring our hair as brightly as possible, to try and wake all of you up into looking past what you expect to see.

It’s like, the rest of the world needed this many catastrophes and crises to happen before they finally see the world the way punks do.

Welcome To Apocalypse

Deliberation

[untitled] by Austin Rich
A more or less full day ahead of me. Olsen Twins Ghostlight Ensemble rehearsal early, and closing Salem Cinema tonight. Current virus and panic concerns sort of throw a little wrench into things. Who knows what today will hold? Perhaps there will be a live stream?

Sometimes, I want to put everything on hold and just do nothing for a few days. But the moment I sit down to take a break, I just start working instead.

If only I knew how to relax.

Mental Health Improvement Diary

I did some backing up.

And something thinking.

I watched a movie with Marla that we both knew pretty well. On the whole, it was pretty casual.

I spent the day making merch. It’s looking good. You want one?  Message me. There’s a limited quantity, and I want the people who will like this to get it. It’s a three-way split CD, Bast Awakening (Ellen & Chirs), DEATH MUTATIONS (Chris & Myself) and Mini-Mutations. All the primary work is done. All that was left was the printing, disc duplicating, folding, and assembling.

And, of course, thinking about how I want things to look, and where I want things to be, in the future.

 

T-Shirts Are Now Available For A Limited Time Only!

T-Shirts Are Now Available For A Limited Time Only!

Mini-Mutations Shirts

(Limited Quantities! S, M, L, XL or 3XL Still Available!)

The Olsen Twins Ghostlight Ensemble Shirts

(Limited Quantities! S, M, L, XL, 2XL or 3XL Still Available!)

100% Cotton. $20 Each. Until they are gone.

* * * * * *

In the 27 Years that I’ve been making ’zines and playing in bands, there have been painfully few t-shirts that were ever available to the public. So, it is with no small amount of fanfare that we are offering, for a limited time, a selection of copy- and trademark infringing shirts by Mini-Mutations and The Olsen Twins Ghostlight Ensemble, for the low-low price of $20 apiece. ($25 shipped.)


When these are sold out, there won’t be anymore. If we make more shirts in the future, they will not look like this. And who knows if that will happen again, to be honest? I’ve never sold shirts, so this is a bit of a gamble. And, there’s a limited quantity, too, to add another wrinkle to this puzzle.

These shirts are screen printed by hand, by our lovely friend Sarah Kindl, on 100% Cotton black shirts, in a fetching monochromatic arrangement that looks good on anyone, and shows your support for the kind of music you would like to discuss at parties. (And, in the case of the Twins shirts, will ensure a long conversation about the reference that will be lost on many in this day and age; the perfect gift for the aging hipster with a strange sense of humor!)

These will be available to buy at the end of February / Beginning of March. HOWEVER, for fans who cannot live without, you can pre-order these NOW, to ensure that you will have the shirt you want. 

I’ll be straight up: these shirts look great, I think you are gonna like them too, but there aren’t that many. If this is a success, then there might be more in the future… but not like these. Right now, this is a test. I believe in these. I think they are in the spirit of both projects, and I want these to get into the hands of people who like that stuff I do, like these designs, and: like t-shirts. 

Considering all of those factors, I am recommending you should reserve your shirt today. It’ll secure your shirt when they arrive, and it’ll help me weigh the possibilities of doing this again at some point in the future.

To make a reservation: e-mail austinrich@gmail.com with the subject line, “RESERVE MY T-SHIRT.” In the body of your e-mail, please specify the shirt you want; which project, and which size.

ACRONYM, Inc. T-Shirts, Now Available. 

Until They Are Gone.

Programming And Listening Changes For Our Radio Show.

(You can always get the current listening information for our programs on their respective websites: Mid-Valley Mutations and WTBC Radio In Beautiful Anywhere, Anywhen!)

******

1. That Was Then.

When I first started in radio in 1998, there were often scheduling changes that you just couldn’t announce to anyone short of calling them directly, or through putting up a flier. I used to advertise scheduling changes in my zine back then, and often, listeners didn’t really notice the change. The way radio works — both then and now — is that the LISTENER is choosing to turn on the radio when THEY want to listen. If I happen to be on the air, then that’s a lucky break for me. I’ll have to let the listener decide how they feel about the matter on their own. 

I relentlessly taped my show, on cassettes, and I offered edited copies of the show in my zine. I never sold one. When I got the technology to transfer tapes to CD, I digitized my shows, and offered them on CD. Again, never sold one. It wasn’t until the technology existed to post full radio recordings online — certainly a 2004 and later innovation for me — that there was any demand for my show in a form other than the original broadcast, and while I’m glad I recorded my shows for the sake of keeping an archive, in a lot of ways, those recordings are for me alone. 

Anymore, what people seem to want from my show are two separate and different things by two different groups of people:

The first group, they want a live, real-time radio-listening experience, that they can either tune in for or stream as it is happening. And this group of people is usually different than the group that wants a timely podcast episode to appear in a dependable (and regular) podcast feed. This change was almost immediate; I began to hear from two different kinds of listeners after I launched the podcast feed for my show in 2004, thanks to KPSU having adopted the technology for all their programs back then. And, for the most part, the live show and the podcast are the same; the latter is a recording of the former. I’m really just producing one show, and it’s being distributed in two different ways. It’s sort of like old school syndication, but I don’t have to deal with mailing CDs out to anyone. They can just subscribe digitally and enjoy.

All of that is a long way of saying that, since 1998, the distribution model for my radio show has changed so many times that I can’t even keep track of everything, save for the spare announcements I make about it on old episodes of my program. So announcing changes are nothing new, and, in fact, can help bring the show to new people at a time new listeners would appreciate jumping on. 

With all of that in mind, let me introduce you to the NEW broadcasting schedule that we will be working with, for the foreseeable future, and give you a small glimpse into what the next for radio broadcasts will contain.

2. This Is Now

Here’s when you can hear the show, now, primarily:

We are happy to return to the airwaves of KLFM.org in beautiful Split, Croatia! We have been syndicated on KLFM before, and we love working with them. So, beginning TOMORROW, you can hear our show on their station again. 

WEDNESDAYS: 3 PM – 5 PM PST (12 AM – 3 AM CET): You can listen to our show live!

This is an interesting time of day, as it is the end of the work day for people who work in offices on the West Coast, it is an early evening listen on the US East Coast, and is late night fare in Europe. (It’s EARLY morning fair for half of Asia, and wake-up / breakfast listening for the rest.) So, hopefully, people who enjoy experimental radio in those parts of the world will enjoy this program, humbly coming to you from Salem Oregon, by way of Croatia. 

As to not spoil those who want to tune in live and hear something new, the podcast will not drop until 3 PM PST. So, if you are the kind of person who listens to podcasts as they are released, you’ll hear it in tandem with the Live Listeners on KLFM. Or, you can enjoy it at your leisure, whenever. 

There is, however, a need for me to set aside a time to produce the show. And, as some people have become interested in this element of the show, there will be a special time, set aside, for true believers to enjoy the program before anyone else does, via a live streams on social media. We’re still in the beginning phases of testing this, and making sure that we can do this in a sustainable and manageable way. But I will be recording the shows at a scheduled time anyway, so I might as well right? Join me at:

SUNDAY MORNING, 8 AM to 10 AM PST on Social Media for a live streaming version of the show.

Since these streams are not for everyone, and require a certain amount of dedication to enjoy, they will be for those who want to really be a part of the show. I’m hoping to get interactive phone and Skype boxes added to the studio, so that people can get in on the old “Audience Participation” element of how I used to do radio. (Seldom used, but often mentioned when I was live.) However, that will require getting some new gear, which may take a while, so don’t be surprised if the show sounds a little “canned” for a while. Until we can get the new gear, we’ll do our best to deliver a low-tech version of the show that you can interact with in real-time, and someday, we’ll try to deliver a higher quality version.

Another point of order on scheduling: We will be producing a radio show every week, but if you tune in every week, you will hear two different programs: “Mid-Valley Mutations” on one week, and “WTBC Radio” on the other week. Both shows will be heard on KLFM.org during the aforementioned time-slot, but will be available in their own podcast feeds.

This gets at a problem that I’ve mentioned before: I love doing more than one radio show, and I have many ideas for many kinds of radio shows I want to do. But doing two weekly shows is a bit much for one person to handle, especially for someone who doesn’t get paid to do any of this. So, by changing the release schedule, and doing the “every other week” dance like this, I’m able to produce both shows, at a rate I can manage, and keep the quality at the same level it’s been at previously, which is important to me. So hopefully you don’t notice the shows dropping in quality, only in how often they come out. 

One final concern: KMUZ. I started “Mid-Valley Mutations” on KMUZ, in spite of the program having roots that go back to 1998. The new direction and name for my 20 year old show was a sort of a re-christening, as I attempted to pursue a vision that felt important to me. Out of the show that I grew at KMUZ, I developed Mini-Mutations, my musical act that has become another creative outlet that I value, and KMZU became a place where I could try and find my voice in a radio world that has many who say very little. KMUZ never censored the program, and never told me to change anything. They encouraged me to make the show I wanted. KMUZ made “Mid-Valley Mutations” possible, and as “Mid-Valley Mutations” moves on to continue finding itself, this is not because of any problem or issue with the place that helped grow us. In fact, I am developing a new program with them right now, which should be announced very soon. But recently I realized that “Mid-Valley Mutations” needed to grow a little more in order to become what it has always wanted to be, and that might need a place where I can go long or short if I need to , a place where the language restrictions might not be as tight, and a place where I can REALLY get experimental without fear of alienating the listener base that KMUZ has so carefully grown. So, this isn’t a parting of ways with animosity, or any negativity at all. I’m excited to find out how my new KMUZ show goes over. But “Mid-Valley Mutations” has gotten some wanderlust, and it needs to roam free in a way that KLFM is only happy to allow. I think, if I was to try and pursue these changes at KMUZ, it would really ruin the mood for everyone.

3. And What About Then?

With all of that said, here’s a tentative calendar of upcoming shows, for the listener who might want to get the feel for the every-other-week low-down, and who might be curious about the next couple of guests on WTBC. It’s exciting to not only have a schedule, but to have carved out blocks of time where I can get my radio done, and not feel like it’s always a rush.

Questions? Suggestions? You know who to call…

05 February: MVM #180
12 February: WTBC: Scot Jenerik
19 February: MVM #181
26 February: WTBC: Jeremy Hight
04 March: MVM #182
11 March: WTBC
18 March: MVM #183
25 March: WTBC

And so on…

Four Dimensional Nightmare – 4DN 2020

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Four Dimensional Nightmare – 4DN 2020 (Kill Pop Tarts)*

Reviewing the last decade of Four Dimensional Nightmare releases offers a wonderful glimpse, and incredible insight, into what they have accomplished on this most recent release, 4DN 2020. And even that narrow window into the career or this artist probably omits some of the more impressive, and compelling, work. But that does us no good if we are looking for an entry point into this album. To suggest that we should examine the scope and sweep of their career to fully understand what this album is about is akin to saying, “You need to see 23 movies before this one will make sense.” ­

Consider it this way: if you’ve been following their carrer for any length of time, then this album continues themes and tropes that you’ve been picking up on for a while, and certainly is rewarding in that respect.

But that doesn’t do a new listener much good, does it? To say that 4DN is continuing to explore places they hinted at in previous releases is not a decent map for someone about to enter into the kind of darkness predicted by track 5, a beat-driven track almost unlike anything else you’ve heard on a Nightmarish release like this. Layered over the industrial rhythms and strange dance jams are these synth explorations that beg for scrutiny and consideration, and that doesn’t even address the ebb-and-flow soundscape that eerily weaves through the various performances, almost hinting at a Haunted House. This is a dense track, not exactly a great entry point if you were hoping to be eased into this artist, but is perfect for getting to know the mind of Four Dimensional Nightmare.

“Beta Tonic” shakes with a low-end pulse that really caused my head to turn, another track I love, but I’m not sure if it is the way “into” the oeuvre of this artist. Certainly, you are better off trying to catch one of their rare performances, as that, I think, better lets you get a sense of where this stuff is coming from, and perhaps, how you can get in synch. But “Beta Tonic” builds in a way that feels like something new, and I was excited to let it have it’s way with me.

It’s with repeated listens that this album really shines. The hallmark of any Four Dimensional Nightmare album is certainly density. There are layers and layers on any given song on any given album, and there is a weight to a 4DN track that seems heavy with multiple, nuanced performances. You need to re-listen to really get a sense of what’s going on.

What feels new this time around is there is a clarity to the layering, either through careful production or higher quality facilities, that gives you a chance to focus on the different synth lines as they dance around each other. This is a great record for leaving in your car, so you have to return to it over and over again, without needing to change anything. Each time through, something else sticks out, and these bits that catch your attention give you something new to dig into.

The production seems unmistakably first class, and to my ear, this is a major evolution. It’s no wonder Four Dimensional Nightmare makes regular appearances on Mike Watt’s program, as this album illustrates the strengths and boons that are the hidden gems on every 4DN release.

Certainly, the nerdiness is worn on the sleeve of this group, and that is probably never more apparent than on the opening track, “Pi,” which contains some of the first lyrics I’ve heard on a release is years. This comes with the territory; someone playing around with this many synths for this long is bound to get wrapped up in some of the more science-informed subjects, as time goes on. But there are also moments of pure joy and frenzy, like on “Beta BonZyard,” where the ferocity of the Nightmare comes into sharp focus, only to have moments of almost beautiful sounds come forward out of the burbling chaos.

If anything, this is the work of someone who has been at it for a while, and this release not only highlights the expertise with which Four Dimensional Nightmare produces new work, but the repeated listenability of a record that is as experimental as the genre actually suggests.

* When I firsts reviewed this album, it was self-released. Now, Four Dimensional Nightmare has moved to Kill Pop Tarts.

The memories feature here has achieved an interesting effect when considered over time: I’ve been reliving a barrage of my own political posts from a wide range of time periods on a near daily basis, and I’ve been noticing this fairly acutely, in the last calendar year.
I don’t think I disagree with anything I’ve written on here in the past. Most of my points seem like they reflect how I feel to some degree.
But…
Why did I post it at all?
In general, I think the best thing I can do now is lend my voice to the right causes when others feel marginalized. And I’ve found a creative outlet for my personal point of view, and I think both my radio show and my music are more interesting than my tirades ever could be.
Sometimes I feel motivated to act, and writing online is immediate.
But why do I need to share all this stuff at all?
If I’m expressing myself politically in a satisfying creative way, and if I’m the first to lend my voice to good causes when I can do so helpfully…
then… 
what function does saying something online like that serve? Just because I feel it to be true, it should be online? Isn’t this like a character in a movie directly stating their motivation in dialogue?
Isn’t it… uncouth?
I’m starting to link that, perhaps, I am of the wrong age to express myself like that. I have art and radio, and I will champion good causes however they arise.
But my, these, “these things I believe…” posts are getting a little tired.
To these eyes, anyway.

Tonight, at the Graveyard Bar: two excellent acts are coming through, and a new act that I’m playing in is opening up the show. Black Noise Orchestra is brand new, so be gentle. Sweeping dark guitars & ambient drones fir heavy dark vibes. You should check it out. A little something different, and I think you’ll dig it.

I had a dream where I was trying to explain myself to other people, and no one knew who I was. I tried to say to anyone who would listen, “C’mon! I love The Halo Benders! Everyone knows me!”
Not sure how that exactly identifies me, but sure. Why not? I do love The Halo Benders. But is that my only defining trait in my own dream logic?
Apparently?

I’ve been experimenting with my “reactions” here on FB, hoping to add a little more ooomph to my interactions. Mostly, this has taken the form of using the “Love” reaction more than just the “Like.”

I’m not sure why; it just started to happen, and as it was happening, I was thinking, “yes, a like is not enough for some of these, and I do mean it more emphatically than a simple thumbs up, so…” But I’m not entirely sure what motivated it. I just started feeling like the people I interact with needed more, and that I want to be a source of not just liking cool things, but loving them.

I’m not sure if it’s working, or if it has any impact. But with hindsight, it feels important. Perhaps I just want you all to know that my bitter facade is full of an aching heart who wants to know I’m thinking of you.

Maybe I should just come over and say it in person?

The Mr. Rogers of Driving

Yesterday I got into a car and drove, by myself, for the first time in my life. After years of being scared of driving, I’m now a licensed driver.

I’m not sure the full impact has hit me. I didn’t drive anywhere particularly strange, and I’m not good at it yet. But I can do it, no one honks at me, and I get there eventually. So, that’s the important part, right?

There’s a part of me that wishes I was having some sort of Springsteen-esque epiphany about how my loins and my wanderlust were somehow hopelessly entwined and I needed a hemi in New Jersey to sort that out. But it is hard to muster that feeling when you’re looking for parking and missing your turns constantly.

Errands hardly capture the teenage ego-unleashed-in-four-wheeled-fury! There is certainly more Mr. Roger’s in my driving style than there is Blues Brothers, and while I appreciate the incredible opportunities driving will now afford me, another part of me sees that 99 times out of 100 I’ll be making emergency runs to the store for coffee than I will be exploring my freedom as I search to, “ride eternal, shiny and chrome.”

And this is part of the problem: I’m not a car guy. I never was. My entire relationship with cars is from popular culture, and as I drive I can’t help but feel like Xander in, “The Zeppo,” where, in a desperate search for identity, he posits the notion that, well, maybe he’s a car guy? (Later, of course, he is not really seen driving again in the show.)

Not that I need to be a car guy to drive. But I can already predict the dollar signs in the eyes of any mechanic I visit, as they can tell within moments that I spent my time troubleshooting radio gear and arguing about Slint records rather than learning about car engines.

Nevertheless, I did get a twinge of excitement the moment I decided to add an unscheduled stop to my errands. The idea of being alone, without anyone knowing where I was, to go about my day and to see where I wind up and to be able to just go without any holdups. That does sound a little appealing.

I have spent my whole life as a passenger. Dependent on public transportation for commuting, and walking for everything else. Travel is hard, going out is not exactly easy, and I’m always the one who needs to spend far more time planning the trip because I need to make arrangements. My wife… has been tolerant, for someone who has done all of the driving for almost a decade. I know she is going to be excited to never need to pick me up from a show at 2 AM again as long as we are married.

Just the idea that I don’t have to ever beg for a ride home again is mentally exciting in a way that “autonomy” doesn’t fully capture. What does the future hold? Who can say?

So, I’m trying to be practical, yet positive, about what this really means.

And: I’m ready to drive!

I’m not sure I’m ready for a 12-Hour epic road trip at the end of which we all play a show and party all night.

But I am totally ready to meet up and offer you a ride, this time.

Because I probably owe you, and I really want to see where you’ll take me.

Available now (and in the Merchanbox): Pussification. Mini-Mutations has a track on this compilation of music all inspired by cats. I’m very excited to have a track on a No Part of It release, and this one has a slew of incredible artists on it. (Thanks Arvo Zylo.) Having two tracks come out on two different comps during this tour – where I self released a number of things, as well – has been incredibly rewarding. You can pick up a copy of this comp at tonight’s show!

 

Doing last minute prep for this show tonight. I’m not gonna lie; this tour has been an incredible experience, and it has all been building to this show, on such an excellent day, too! Buddy Runyan is kicking things off, then Mini-MutationsMark Hosler, and a closing set by Monster Planet. This will be THE party to attend tonight, and you will not want to miss this show. I assume I’ll see you there?

https://www.facebook.com/events/375681649627261/

Friends: I’m playing my very first United Sound Collective gig at Shotski’s Wood Fired Eats, and I really want you to come out. Katy & the Null Sets is one of my faves, and we’re both supporting Motorcoat, so it should be fun. I’d like to see more odd and fun shows like this, and if you live on this side of town and have been curious about what I do when I play, then this is the perfect compromise. Oh! And it’s free! Come on down!

Now we offer the most ubiquitous piece of music merch that every band must have: buttons! Known as both pinbacks or badges depending on your favorite regionalism, these are locally made by Button Arcade. There are five different mutations to choose from, and they look beautiful on the accessory of your choice, and not just grandpa’s jacket. At $2 these are the quintessential way to signal to the world that you have already been mutated.

Now We Are 20: Reflecting on Two Decades of Radio Life

The Beginning
(Originally broadcast on 15 April 1998 on KWVA.)

This was my first ever radio broadcast.   4 A.M. – 7 A.M. on KWVA.  What follows is a recreation, based on playlists, recordings, and memories from that evening.  This is an approximation of what it was like to listen to my show in those days.

Here’s the backstory: I have been obsessed since I was 10, when I got my own radio / cassette combo, and a box of tapes to go with it. (Plus a couple blank tapes.) Staying up, past my bedtime, listening to radio dramas (not called “Old Time Radio” among fans) and classic rock DJs as my pre-adolescent mind tried to wrap itself around all the things I was hearing. It stuck with me, as I started calling KZEL to request songs and chat with the DJ, my mom already working in that field herself. It was KZEL that broke grunge to me, my friends at school how suggested KRVM, and as alternative began to find it’s way to the sleepy town of Cottage Grove, I found myself wanting to break out of the confines, and find the world I was hearing through the radio.

Pump Up The Volume is sort of the nail in the coffin, isn’t it? Suggesting a winder world of radio and music that is not what you once thought it was. When I finally did burst out of Cottage Grove for Eugene, KWVA was the station we all huddled around, and you would hear it all over town, blasting out of coffee shops and front porch freak-outs. It was almost as instructive as the tapes Colin & kiisu would make for me, and this inevitably led to the Colin Mix tape that featured Negativland heavily. I connected with them, and copied my roommates’ albums immediately, to find that I loved this group. As I dug into them more, I had heard tale that they did a radio show, which sort of blew my mind. A band, that does a radio show? I love radio! I need to heard this!

By the time I was staying with Little Jon, I had not only come into recordings (through CDs and tapes friends would mail me), but our mutual friend Shane With No Last Name starting a morning mix show on KWVA. All of these vectors sort of coalesced, and I obsessively taped Shane’s show (and a lot of KWVA), anticipating each new entry into his “9 AM Slayer” segment, and getting to know the station in general.

I immediately filled out an application to become a DJ, and submitted it, only to wait for some time, not hearing a peep. I was a little discouraged, as it seemed like it had been so easy for Shane to get his show. I must have done something wrong. At the time I was still making ‘zines, so I focused my energy into that, until one day, several months later, when I was in the area and dropped into the station. I asked about my application, and there it was, in a pile of “to be read” applications. None of the staff had actually seen it yet. I hadn’t done anything wrong, and nothing sinister was afoot. The first rule of radio was learned: if you keep showing up, you’ll eventually get on the air.

It wasn’t long before I got a call back, and was asked to start out in the “beginner” slot. This is the dreaded 4 AM to 6 AM airtime (with a 3 AM to 3:30 AM “arrival” time). I took it, because I was 23 and full of energy and what was I gonna do with my time, anyway? This was the ’90’s, and everything was cheap. I was working part time jobs and living with roommates. Of course I’ll leave the bar, pick up some records, cruise on down to the radio station and DJ for a couple hours. What else am I going to do?

And so, on April 15th, 1998 (a Wednesday), I waltzed into the KWVA studio at 3 AM, and began a tradition that has now lasted me 20 years. Fortunately, these days, I don’t go in at 3 AM anymore.

In the time since I’ve been on at a number of stations here in Oregon, and 14 years ago we began podcasting, which has changed the game considerably. I’ve moved, changed the name, hosted up to three or four shows at once, and for years and years on end, hosted a weekly live band, too. (I’ve recorded somewhere around 300 radio performances in that time.) And if we roll the clock back to include the ‘zines and bands I’ve been in, and the live shows at venues I’ve put on too, and we’ve got 25 years of this nonsense I’ve been making, trying to carve out my own version of art in that time.

It’s a lot to process. But I’m entirely grateful for this career that I’ve managed to sort out for myself. Being on the radio for 20 years has not only given me a chance to figure out who I am and what I want, but has given me a creative outlet that really feels comfortable. When I set out to make a new radio show, it feels as exciting as it was to show up to KWVA 20 years ago, and have the station manager look me up and down, and say, “Okay, when I leave at four, you’re on. You’ve got the place to yourself. Don’t screw it up.”

Hopefully, I haven’t. Making radio has been incredibly rewarding, and I’ve met incredible people in that 20 years, who have all contributed to making this show possible, week after week. When I get discouraged, I return to radio. When I’m happy, I can say it in a show. Before I had this outlet I would make tapes, obsessively, sending them out to friends, trying to perfect the mix. While I keep redefining what that mix “is” as I get older, I have to say I’m fairly happy with the shows I’ve made over the years. It reflects who I am, and how I’ve changed. While the show that I pitched to KWVA – an Over The Edge clone – was not the show I ended up making, as the years progressed and as my tastes changed and evolved (and as I moved from station to station), the show I originally pitched became the show I do now, and you can hear that 20 year evolution if you’ve been along for the ride.

But that isn’t to say that my show wasn’t more conventional at times. I used to do an all 60’s Rock show. For a spell it was strictly punk. I went through a phase of just playing everything at once and hoping for the best, and then a full pre-planned and pre-produced phase, that sometimes felt that way, too. For years it was just live bands, and I even did a brief stint doing only progressive rock. My show is difficult to pin down because I don’t really want it to be any one thing, restricting it to a format of which I can then grow tired. But as the years wore on it was clear that I was gravitating more and more to something that was obviously influenced by Over The Edge, even though it did not start that way.

On April 15th, I was more than a little drunk, and the station manager actually left before it was officially 4 AM. (She had been called in suddenly to cover for the 2 AM – 4 AM gent, who suddenly didn’t show up.) And to make matters worse, the DJ after me didn’t show up either, so the Programming Director came in and relieved me. Most likely I was actually on from 3:45 to 6:50 (or something like that), but I didn’t keep track of thing then as precisely as I do now. (A phrase which could probably go on my tombstone.)

The show had the incredibly unwieldy name of The Church of Blasphuphmus (Not Jesus) Hour, and up until 2013, some variant of that name was the one I used, on the air, no less. I got a few complaints about the “anti-religious” sentiment, but very little, considering how long I kept the name around. Since then, the name has changed a few times, but Mid-Valley Mutations seems to suit best the nonsense I’ve created, and feels like a good roadmap, too. While the old name was informed by the religion kiisu & Colin made up (and I willingly began to join in on), I can’t help but acknowledge all that the SubGenius did for me, and for them, in giving us ideas, too.

Through the miracle of tape and digital archiving, there is actually a recording of my first broadcast. The recording that follows is a re-creation of it that I made, using the surviving tapes, playlists, and guesswork as to what was popular then, and in particular, what I remember hearing / playing on KWVA in those days. (So, the re-creation is only as good as that.) In those days, it wasn’t as practical for me to record and keep all the tapes necessary to archive my entire show, and I played a fair amount of music that I already owned in other formats. So when archiving my KWVA shows, I would cut out the songs I owned elsewhere, and just keep the other bits. I rarely saved commercials, and I regularly lost huge sections of shows. (Near the end of my KWVA run, I just stopped taping entirely, and have still not yet found the supposed recording I made of my “last” KWVA show, before I moved to Portland.)

Suffice it to say, the recording here is a pretty good reproduction of what my show was like back then, but also, is like a journal entry from that day, from that year, that I can look back on. Because I’ve recorded so many of them, and because there are plenty of specific places and dates associated with all of them, the really do act as a way I can “listen” to my own story, and get a sense of who I was and what I’ve become in 20 years. This first show is not “great,” but it is a nice slice of nostalgia, and it shows the potential of what was to come.

I’ll be including occasional other selections from the archives to bring out some of my favorite moments from my radio years. I’ve done a few shows that I think are very indicative of the fun I’ve gotten to have on the radio over the years, and I want to share those moments with you now that I’ve had a couple of decades to reflect on them.

Most importantly, thank you. Without an audience, there is no art. And without you, the listener, there is no show.

Be seeing you.

* * * * * *

KWVA Studio

The Beginning

HOUR 1

01.) Strychnine * Strychnine * Born to Loose * Industrial Strength Records
02.) Millionaire * ?? * ?? * ??
03.) Teenagers From Mars * Misfits * Collection * Caroline Records
04.) Christine * The Con Men * Live In-Studio * KWVA Radio
05.) Dicks Hate The Police * The Dicks * 1980-1986 * Alternative Tentacles Records
06.) Stereo Phasing Test / Television * Man… Or Astro-Man? * Experiment Zero * Touch & Go Records
07.) Cramp Stomp * The Cramps * Big Beat from Badsville * Epitaph Records
08.) Selector Pt. 2 * Dub Narcotic Sound System
09.) Buenos Tardes Amigos * Ween
10.) Fade In / Fade Out * Red Aunts

11.) Forest Fire * Dead Kennedys * Plastic Surgery Disasters * Alternative Tentacles Records
12.) BluBlud * KARP
13.) KWVA In-Studio Performance * The Outclass
14.) My Novel * Oswald 5-0
15.) Let’s Go Away * The Wipers
16.) Neat Neat Neat * The Damned * Damned Damned Damned * Stiff Records
17.) Justification * Against All Authority
18.) Streamline Yr Skull * New Bomb Turks

HOUR 2

19.) Embryodead (Aghast View Remix) * :wampscut:
20.) Shaved Women * Crass
21.) Praying Hands * Devo
22.) Caught In My Eye * Germs
23.) Smokin’ Banana Peels * Dead Milkmen
24.) Hexenzsene * Unwound
25.) Metanoia * King Missile
26.) The Way Of The World * Flipper

27.) Happy Hero * Negativland * Dispepsi * Seeland Records

28.) Kill All The White Man (Live) * NOFX * I Heard They Suck Live!! * Fat Wreck Chords
29.) Germfree Adolescents * X-Ray Spex
30.) Universal Corner * X
31.) Hustler * Blatz
32.) Gargoyle Waiting * …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead
33.) Persistent Vision * Rites of Spring
34.) Whirling Hall Of Knives * Butthole Surfers
35.) Treat Me Right * The Con Men * Live In-Studio * KWVA Radio

HOUR 3

36.) Titanium Expose * Sonic Youth * Goo * DGC Records
37.) Birthday Sandwhich * godheadSilo
38.) Theme * Los Mex Pistols * Unreleased Radio Promo Tape

39.) Runnin’ Through My Bones * Tight Bros. From Way Back When
40.) Ain’t No Woman Gonna Make A George Jones Outta Me * Daniel Johnston *
41.) This Is Radio Clash * The Clash * The Story of The Clash, Volume I * Epic Records
42.) Egg Raid On Mojo * Beastie Boys

43.) Excuse Me, But Pardon My French * Unwound * The Future of What * Kill Rock Stars Records
44.) Balalaika Gap * Camper Van Beethoven
45.) Born To Do Dishes * The Queers
46.) Sidewalk Warrior * Screeching Weasle
45.) Jello Biafra * Wesley Willis
46.) Hangin’ Tough * New Kids On The Block * Hangin’ Tough * Columbia Records

47.) False Start * Bikini Kill
48.) In My Mind * Crimpshrine
49.) Kasimir S. Pulaski Day * Big Black

04.) Tennessee Stud * Jimmie Driftwood * The Wilderness Road * RCA / Victor Records

To complement our show Friday, which was heavy with my interview with Wobbly. We didn’t get time to play selections of his music, strangely. So, this mini-mutation features music from Wobbly’s career, focusing on stuff we mentioned during the interview. And: stay tuned to the very end, for a short sample of his as-yet-unreleased new record, Monitress. Happy Sunday.

Raw Wobbly (#79a)

When the crypt goes creak,
And the tombstones quake.
Spooks come out for a swinging wake.
Happy haunts materialize,
And begin to vocalize.
Grim grinning ghosts come out to socialize.
Now don’t close your eyes,
And don’t try to hide.
Or a silly spook may sit by your side.
Shrouded in a daft disguise,
They pretend to terrorize.
Grim grinning ghosts come out to socialize.
As the moon climbs high o’er the dead oak tree,
Spooks arrive for the midnight spree.
Creepy creeps with eerie eyes,
Start to shriek and harmonize.
Grim grinning ghosts come out to socialize.
When you hear the knell of a requiem bell,
Weird glows gleam where spirits dwell.
Restless bones etherialize,
Rise as spooks of every size.
If you would like to join our jamboree,
There’s a simple rule that’s compulsory. Mortals pay a token fee.
Rest in peace, the haunting’s free.
So hurry back, we would like your company.

In my mind, this was a lot further away… but it’s this weekend! Noise Therapy, with Justin Smith, Herd William, devils/club, Talc & Rock Forming Minerals. I’ll be doing a shortened, live version of my radio show, Mid-Valley Mutations, with a crew of great experimental artists. And we’re playing at an art gallery, too. Come on down. You won’t be sorry.

 

Sunday Service: A Mutation Showcase

sundayservice00It’s Time For Something New.

Over the last year, Mid-Valley Mutations has evolved from a mere idea to a flourishing weekly radio program that features music and live performances you cannot (and will not) hear via other venues.  To that end, the program has featured a number of artists from all over Oregon, to highlight some of the incredible experimental acts that are right here in our own back yard, even if you don’t see them play very often.  Until now, that is.

To help further the cause, Mid-Valley Mutations is launching a monthly live showcase in conjunction with The Space Concert Club, to give you a chance to actually see these acts, in person.  Sunday Service will happen the last Sunday of every month, and offers a wide range of experimental artists that cover every kind of music: electronic, post-punk, noise, deconstructed folk, home-brewed and circuit-bent gear, and everything in-between.  “Experimental” can mean almost anything, and our hope is that we can offer small slices of this world, every month.

While the phrase “experimental” can conjure up wild (and often inaccessible) performances, Sunday Service will offer intimate shows with performers who are dedicated to their craft, create art that is personal and meaningful, and would like to share this work with the world around them.  While the music may be atypical, the intent is not to be obtuse or difficult.  These showcases are presented to feature the beauty and joy in creating music, and the freedom that comes with following your muse, where ever that might be. Sunday Service will not just feature music, but will offer a chance to meet these performers, and find out more about what they do in person.  These shows will be curated, organized and hosted by Mid-Valley Mutations mastermind Austin Rich

Our first gathering is March 26th, with the incomparable Guyve headlining the show, playing their first Salem gig in their 24 years as a group.  And in April, join us for a rare performance by traveler and recording artist Eric Hausmann, who has called Portland, Ipoh Malaysia and Pittsburgh his home in recent years, .  The spring and summer are full of surprises too, and we can’t wait to announce them once they are final.

Sunday Service Showcases are Free to the public, and are 21+.  The Space offers a full bar, vegan menu, and a positive, inviting atmosphere for discerning and excellent guests.

Join us for Sunday Service: A Mutation Showcase every month to hear the best in experimental artists you can’t hear anywhere else.

We’ve been waiting for you.  Join us.

 

Help Two ACRONYMS at Once: ACLU & KMUZ.

WTBC Getting Into The Act. It’s ACRONYMs all the way down…

Mid-Valley Mutations

a1373653999_10As many of you have probably heard, Bandcamp is donating 100% of their proceeds this Friday to the ACLU, which makes spending money on music that much easier to do. Additionally, KMUZ’s Pledge Drive is very soon, and with that in mind, 100% of the money I make on these same purchases will go to KMUZ’s Drive. Two great causes supported by your single purchase.

a1714948314_16You can get the entire bundle of all 21 of our releases at a discount for $16.25. Or, you can pick and choose what you’d like to purchase. Either way, there’s plenty of releases new and old that are worth investing in, and you can support both the ACLU and KMUZ, two acronyms that do a lot of good for our community.

We all love music, and we all love supporting good causes. Here’s a way to do both.

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A Review of The 10 Albums Stolen From My Studio in 2016

15242017_1323392491044751_4871179563205436913_nA Review of The 10 Albums Stolen From My Studio in 2016

At about 8 PM on Christmas Day 2016, my home was broken into.  My wife, cat and I were with family at the time, and most of the neighbors were, too.  Even worse, we were in the process of moving.  For a number of reasons that defy logic and explanation, we moved mostly on Christmas Eve.  We had left some things to move after Christmas, and thought that we could leave our house unattended until we were done celebrating.  But when we arrived at our old house on the 26th, we found that everything that wasn’t nailed down had been ransacked and overturned, while anything of actual value was loaded into a truck and moved.

Who would be suspicious?  We were doing just that the day before.

To make matters worse, both my wife and I had offices in the old house.  We were planning to continue working out of there until we had Internet service at our new place, which wouldn’t be connected until January 4th.  This means that in addition to our bicycles and lawnmower, they got our laptops, my desktop and studio recording gear, my wife’s collection of purses and her winter coat, and a stack of the last records I had not moved yet.  In total, it was about $6000 worth of stuff that was stolen.  Someone’s Christmas present to themselves, probably snorted  before the week was out.

One of the hardest things to do (at first) was come to terms with what was stolen.  It was hard to remember, at first.  With each new corner turned, we found something else that was gone, something else that they took.  And we still haven’t unpacked from the move.  Who knows what else we’ll find missing, when all is said and done, when we can no longer use that as an excuse.  How do you look for things that are missing?  How do you notice what isn’t there?

While we are not quite over what had happened, the immediate shock has faded.  And we’ve come to accept what is gone, in a way.  But when I think about what we lost, the thing that is most frustrating is the pile of records they stole.  It was an assortment of recently heard and recently acquired stuff, plus a few things that had not been filed when it came time to pack.  I had less than 20 records in that pile, maybe more, maybe less.  I was gonna use some for my radio show, but on the whole it was just stuff I was looking forward to, things on my mind just before the break-in.

This isn’t a complete list, nor is it the most valuable or the most precious.  These are just the things I remember that were in that pile, and stuff I wish I still had.  Much of this stuff came from Dimple Records, a place I visited just before we began to pack.  (Thanks Dad & Mernie!)  It seems important to Eulogize these albums.  It’s likely they never found a home, never got sold, and wound up in some dumpster somewhere.  They deserve a proper burial, a goodbye to music that will go unappreciated.

r-1714176-1371418561-6500-jpeg10.) Mink Deville & Coup de Grâce.

I really only knew “Spanish Stroll” by Mink DeVille, but for a steal, I decided to check them out.  My wife and I listened to these, and we actually enjoyed them a lot.  I was really looking forward to enjoying them, too.  Now some junky probably threw them away when it turned out that they weren’t particularly valuable.

r-3051333-1330157378-jpeg9.) The Essential Odetta

I picked this up based mostly on her reputation.  Odetta is a legend, and while I wasn’t familiar, I was looking forward to learning more.  This is probably typical for her career.  Overlooked and ignored, Odetta is tossed around by people who could not care, and when in the hands of a fan, is never given a chance to be appreciated.  Poor Odetta.  You didn’t deserve this, at all.

r-9410906-1480127249-9701-jpeg8.) Strung Out In Heaven – Amanda Palmer’s Prince / David Bowie Covers

Here’s the real tragedy: we had gone to the record store day sale, not only to get some stuff for me, but for my wife.  She specifically wanted this, and we got it, excited to support the cause, and hear the tracks that were getting a lot of play because of the recent losses to the music world.  These assholes don’t realize how much the music world is suffering.  Instead, they want a quick score, and even though I can hear this album anywhere online at any time, that is not the point.  This one was completely unopened.  Pristine.  And now, completely destroyed, ruined by nameless assholes who will never care.

r-426453-1345758734-2982-jpeg7.) Negativland

In the year 2000 I heard that my favorite band – Negativland – was running low on vinyl copies of their albums, and that they would be selling CDs after the LPs sold out.  I immediately ordered a copy of their first album, and got a nice hand-written letter back.  The album came with a custom made cover, a collage assembled by the band members.  I ordered another, but by then the LPs were gone, and got CDs for their remaining albums.  I loved that album, and listened to it often.  It sounds good anywhere, anytime, and I just wish the junkies had taken the time to listen, and get to know the album.  It is well worth it, no matter what your interests are.

r-2786259-1300986342-jpeg6.) The History of Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys

Bob Wills is great, but there isn’t anything special about this record.  It is older than me, and it has a lot of hits.  But I love it mostly because it belonged to my Grandmother, who has passed.  You will never love that album as much as I loved her.  What dicks.

r-4963807-1456357193-3964-jpeg5.) The Popeye Soundtrack

I already have an original copy of this record, but I decided to pick up the Record Store Day reissue because there is no other movie that can make me cry faster than Popeye, and the soundtrack is no exception.  I’m not as mad about this, because I’m sure even the bonus tracks are easy enough to find.  But this was unopened.  And, to be honest, this is probably the most personal attack of the bunch.  You don’t care about these songs like I do, like my family does.  How dare you.  That record is too good to be treated like that.

r-2104259-1397069851-4880-jpeg4.) Cast Your Fate To The Wind by The Vince Guaraldi Trio

I’m trying to imagine these junkies putting this album on.  Do they know who Vince Guaraldi is?  Could they connect with the music of Black Orpheus?  What would they get out of it?  Would they enjoy it?  Do they understand the journey into the underworld that they have taken?  Would I have enjoyed this album?  Do I enjoy the irony?  Who can say…

r-725536-1363189912-8068-jpeg3.) You Broke My Heart In 17 Places by Tracey Ulman.

They probably broke this album in 17 pieces.

r-5351726-1447962608-6617-png2.) 1947 – Helen Hume

I took a chance on this record because of the price and because it seemed like a good bet that it was good.  And it probably is, but that’s not the point.  I had entirely forgotten I’d bought this album until I saw a picture of it that I’d taken, just after I purchased it.  Part of me feels bad; I didn’t even remember that it was gone.  That’s awful of me.  How many albums do I have that I neglect in some way, that needs attention that I can’t even remember?  The dangers of collecting?  Perhaps.  But I would have at least given this album a chance.  And they never would have.

r-3385142-1328338335-jpeg1.) 2 by Neung Phak

Probably the rarest and least-known of the bunch, this is most likely out of print, and not something you would find in Salem, at least not very easily.  I bought this record from Mark Gergis, when I saw his band Porest play in Portland.  This was one of two US performances for this artist, and I traveled out of town with a friend at night to see this show.  Mark, who had never met me, was really nice, and had no idea how much this night meant to me, had no idea how much I was looking forward to hearing this album.  He didn’t have to be nice to me.  Who was I to him?  And yet, I never got to hear this album before it was ripped off.  Mark, who heard about this, send me a digital copy, and for that I am eternally thankful.  But what did they see in this album?  In any of these albums, for that matter?

* * * * * *

There were more.  There will be more.  Forever this event will haunt me.  Every sound is a window breaking, every movement someone stealing our stuff.  Who knows if this will go away?  Who knows if I will get over these being stolen from me.  I can only say that there is a part of me that wishes they would listen.  That they sat down, and by the end, found something meaningful in those albums.

Because I sure did.

 

NANOWRIMO Wrap-Up

untitledI first heard about NANOWRIMO in 2004, and in 2005 I decided that I was going to compete.  While I didn’t do it every year, it wasn’t until 2015 that I actually completed the expressed goal of writing 50,000 words toward one story in 30 days.  Let’s process that for a moment.  10 years.  Usually, when I fail at something for 10 years, I just stop trying entirely.  I guess that’s what Writing does to you; you become an addict, constantly looking for the next rush.

It is true that I have always loved writing personally, and that I usually opt to do that if I can.  But NANOWRIMO is a bigger challenge than writing a ‘zine, and much more demanding than knocking out a short story on the weekends, when there’s not much else going on and there’s no deadline.  For all of those wannabe writers who love to talk about the craft and how they are in love with the written word, there is something about having to produce that much material in that short a period of time, that really forces you to work close to the metal.  There are no do-overs.  On December 1st, you do a total word count, and hope that you got there with all that blubber you added at the last second.

In 2015, I had a number of factors working for me, and I started very strong with my novel, with the very-high expectation of writing 2000 words a day.  This worked great at first, but between technical challenges, a computer crash, and majorly loosing steam half-way through, I missed several days, where I couldn’t write a single word.  I caught up quickly, and when I limped across the finish line with a few days left to spare, I just quit completely, and didn’t write anything those last few days, in spite of trying.  While I technically finished, I felt a little lame about the way I finished, especially since I did this publicly; not only were chunks of the book being serialized on this very blog, but I was allowing people to read the Google Doc where the story lived at any time, and published that link all over.  (It might even still be available, buried somewhere in the avalanche of other stuff that’s online.)  Anyway, there was something about the public nature of the project last year that really made me feel bad about the way it ended.  I should have finished a little more gracefully, but so it goes.

I approached the process of writing a story like this very differently last year, too.  In the past, I would start at word one on page one, and would try to build the story from there.  It was sort of painstaking, as a friend of mine used to say, the “Ice Skating” approach to writing.  (Get it right in the first pass, and that’s it.)  If you don’t know what the next word is, well, you wait until you do.  And you hope that inspiration will guide you.  For my 2015 attempt, unlike all previous efforts at writing, I spent the first couple of days assembling a detailed outline.  All of these outline words counted toward the total 50,000, and as the month progressed, I would highlight a couple of words from the outline, and flesh it out into the scene that was described.

On the whole, it worked, and it allowed me to do something that I’d never done before: write something out-of-sequence.  Humorously enough, I almost never did.  Usually, I would look at the outline and work on the next section.  When I got stuck, I went back a couple of times to flesh out spots that seemed weak in hindsight.  But I rarely went forward.  I just had no idea how to do that.

For 2016, I more or less forgot that NANOWRIMO was coming, and really only decided to do it at the last minute.  There are a number of personal factors that informed this, but when it looked like I had time on November 1st, and an idea occurred to me, I ran with it.

Like last time, I decided to start with an outline.  Like last time, I set a goal of 2000 words a day.  And like last year – and in previous years – I ran with a detective story, too.

But, when it came to the actual writing and day-to-day aspect of it, this year felt very different.  There was a sort of confidence up front that I didn’t remember from last year.  Having completed it before, it now seemed manageable.  Like I’ve heard many people say about honing any skill, once they achieve something once, they know it is possible.  Doing it again is just a formality.  So even on days when I didn’t hit my goal, or even didn’t write anything, it never felt desperate.  I’d already had the worst happen to me: complete computer crash in the middle of a novel.  And in the end, we recovered.  It wasn’t even mildly awful.  If that’s the worst that can happen, then what did I have to fear this year?

Another first for me this time was that I wrote things well out of order.  This was quite practical at first; sometimes, I just didn’t know how to flesh out a scene, and it made sense to write some bantering dialog.  For a good part of the beginning, I wrote a ton of backstory, so I would have some reference material to inform the main plot.  It wasn’t until I’d spent almost five or six days on the backstory that key plot points started to come together in my mind.  Writing out of order also helped me realize that there were huge sections of my outline that were unnecessary when I reviewed everything, and now sections of the story have these weird dead-end sections that sort of go nowhere, because I realized that set-up was no longer necessary.

In fact, when I review the results of this year’s efforts, it is largely unreadable on December 1st, and this is very different from previous attempts.  I will not be serializing this anytime soon, and I’m not sharing the link, either.  But, there is a the seed of a story in there, somewhere.  I could imagine, given a long enough timeline, that I could whip this into shape.  But for now, the idea of returning to this monstrosity just seems inhumane.  It is a huge, sprawling, messy and largely nonsensical detective yarn, and even by that standard, would be hard to enjoy, offers little closure, and is not a good example of what I can at my best.

To make matters worse, I actually got a writing gig in November of this year, which meant that I had to crank our three non-fiction stories during the bulk of NANOWRIMO.  Not only did I have to put the brakes on my “novel” to do my newly-acquired job, but it sort of took over a lot of my brain-space, too.  You don’t realize how many processes are working in the background to come up with words, that it is only when you need to split that time across two project that you realize how exhausting that process is.  You are just wiped out.  In this respect, and in this respect alone, I cheated; the work I had to write for this new job was added to the total word count for November writing.  While I did come up with an in-story reason for this, and I don’t feel guilty in the slightest for doing it, I do feel like I need to mention this caveat.  I absolutely wrote a ton in November.  But not all of it was strictly for this novel.  (But, you never know, considering one of the characters is a journalist / zine writer, it fits, right?)

Another difference this year was location; I wrote this novel in a number of places throughout the month.  It’s sort of hard not to, what with the holidays and etc.  But technology makes stuff like this so incredibly easy, and by using a Google Doc, I never lost a word, no matter where I was writing.  However, this didn’t prevent me from experiencing writer’s block.  When I was not in my two primary writing environments – the office or my home – it was so much more difficult to put my butt in the chair and start churning out words, that there were many days I wrote nothing.  Never had the environmental factor become so apparent to me, and now I had evidence to back it up.  I write better in my natural environments.

Because I missed a lot of days this year, even my 2000 words a day goal couldn’t cover for the days I wrote nothing.  This led to something I had never done before, and turned out to the most exhausting thing I’ve ever done while writing: churning out 4000 words a day, or more, in order to catch up near the end.  On no less than six occasions I wrote well over 2000 words, and three of those were in the 4000+ range.  (One day was nearly 7000 words, even.)  Those six days were… terrible.  There’s just no way to sugar coat it.  Not only did the words get worse as the day progressed, but those were tiring days.  To my knowledge, I’ve never written that much in one day before, and to think that I did it this year still seems insane.  I should know better.  While I finished the projected goal by the end of the month, there were a few days where I felt physically exhausted, just from coming up with words.

On the whole, I had a great time this year, because I feel like I learned a lot of practical lessons about writing that, while perhaps obvious, are things I need to continue to keep in mind to continue this journey of becoming a writer.  Never have I felt that there was so much to learn, and at the same time, never have I felt I have made such progress.  While I’ve tried to condense this into a handful of tips to close out this reflection, I should preface this by saying that it has taken me 20 years of writing and 10 years of failing at NANOWRIMO to make these realizations about myself.  While useful to me now, please don’t assume this is across-the-board advice that will work for everyone.  Just a few observations about how I work when I’m writing.

Hopefully, this will help you find what works for you.

 

10 Writing Tips Learned From NANOWRIMO 2016

1.) It’s About Words; Nothing More.  There is a time for making every sentence unique, making every simile perfect, and having continuity between the entire body of work.  This is not that time.  Just write.  A lot.  Let the words flow.  Let your sentences be clunky.  Let it all out.  Much later, you can fix anything you don’t like.  But for now, just get words down.  Lots and lots of words.

2.) Set Very High Goals.  To beat NANOWRIMO, you need to write at least 1667 words a day.  Write 2000 a day.  If you can, write even more.  Over-shooting the goal early, when you’re just getting started and you’re excited, can save you when you have trouble later, and you need a cushion – for whatever reason.  If you can write for a week straight hitting that higher goal, you’ll have plenty of wiggle room when Thanksgiving hits and you are too full to write.

3.) You Are Over-Thinking It.  Usually, anyway.  All of the best moments of my story are unplanned, and all the parts I want to save in future revisions are the things that I just threw in suddenly, without thinking about it.  When I would agonize over something, it would get worse and worse, and the more I would work on it to get it “just right,” the more time I wasted not-writing, because I was “thinking.”  You will have plenty of time to think about the story when it is done, and you can revise the hell out of it later.  But right now, stop thinking.  Start writing.

4.) Stop Being Precious.  This is something we could all work on.  In the end, this writing is not important.  There is nothing special or unique about your ability to sit down and write for hours a day, except that it speaks to your privilege, in that you are able to do that.  It isn’t true that you write better in one take, or when drunk, or whatever it is that you think makes you a better writer.  What makes you a better writer is to write, a lot, and to take it as read that you will be revising it all in the future.  What you write isn’t a perfect snowflake the first try.  This is just a mess of words that could be something in the future, if you let it.  But it can’t be anything if you aren’t able to just sit down and start writing.  Stop making excuses.  If you are a writer, then, by all means, write.

5.) Location, Location, Location.  It has been said by people more well spoken than I, so I will merely repeat: it is worth it to spend some time creating an environment you want to write in BEFORE you have to start writing.  My office and home are perfectly established places, where I can work and feel good about it.  Unless you thrive in places that are unfamiliar to you, I suggest making sure you have a few places ready that are comfortable, inviting, and induce as much positive energy as you can muster.  You will need it.

6.) Start Early, Work Late.  If you can, start writing in the morning.  Write as much as you can, and keep adding to that number as the day progresses.  If you can, write as late into the day as you can.  Every minute you are not writing are words that you can’t get back, so the sooner you start, the sooner you will get done.

7.) Track Your Numbers As You Go.  Spend some time creating a document where you can track your progress, so you can see how much you have written, and how much more you have to go.  I found that using a Spreadsheet offers the largest number of ways you can manipulate your data, and you can fine-tune it to give you exactly the kind of information you are looking for.  Obviously you want the grand total, but I like being able to look at the work finished each day, and how much I have to write each remaining day to hit the goal.  I recommend learning the key commands that offer your total word count, so you don’t have to use menus or look it up each time.  Seeing your progress in real time can help motivate you to stay on top of your goals, and keep working when you are running out of steam.

8.) Learn To Accept Failure Early, And Often.  There will be days when you just don’t write well.  There will be days you don’t hit the goal.  You might not even finish at the end of the month.  Or, you might, but your story will be crap.  Going into NANOWRIMO is ultimately an experience in coping with failure, because even if you finish, the story you have written will not be the breakthrough success that will make you a star.  Most likely, you spent a lot of time on something that you will not be compensated for, in any way.  That is fine.  Like accepting criticism, or having to accept what you can’t do, writing is not always something you will succeed at, even if you are good.  Learn to sit with that.  Find a way to feel okay with it, and move on.  You will need to if you want to hit 50,000.

9.) Take Breaks. It seems strange, but when you are in the zone, and you are writing well, the last thing you want to do is take a break.  But after even an hour, writing can wear you out, and if you are hungry, or distracted, or tired, it will be harder and harder to write.  Take as many breaks as you need, go for a walk, or whatever.  You will find even a few minutes away will not only help you feel like you can write longer, but will often give you new ideas that don’t come to you while you are actively writing.  Breaks are like the rest in a musical performance; learn to value them as much as the parts where you are writing at full steam.

10.) Get Ready For Post-Novel Depression.  This sounds silly, but I absolutely get depressed when I finish a project.  Nothing dramatic or even dangerous, but completing something is almost like giving birth.  Afterward, you feel like you’ve lost something.  And you have, in a way; a huge story has been created from words you put down.  All of that is out of your head, and while it can be relieving to get things out, it can also make you feel a little empty, in a way.  Fortunately, NANOWRIMO ends with the holiday season in full swing, and hopefully there’s enough going on to help give you some focus and purpose as you cope.  (Or, conversely, this is the most depressing time of the year for you, and you might need some help staying upbeat as you enter it.)  Either way, get ready for it.  This is just a sign that you need to recharge your creative batteries, and do some non-writing things for a while.  You’ve put in a lot of work in a short period of time.  If you want to be able to do it again someday, you’ll need to give yourself the recovery necessary to get back to full strength.  In the meantime, I suggest picking a new TV Show, letting yourself gain a few pounds, and re-doubling your efforts to spend time with friends (or, if you aren’t depressed by the holidays, with your family).  Not only is it the right time of year for it, but you’ll find recovery is so much better with people you care about.

Looking In All The Right Places: White Shark Shivers, Porest & Sir Richard Bishop at Turn! Turn! Turn! (26 November 2016)

There is a long history of you and your friends piling into a car and driving well into the night in order to catch a show that is not coming to your home town.  While the traveling performer is a very old trope in our world, it is only with the advent of national radio – where audiences could get to know artists before they ever made it to the town they play in – that listeners were in a position to know what a show might be like before they went.  Of course, by then the lines of communication were open so you could promote shows like this, and suddenly, all the pieces were in place to develop a culture where not only space could prevent you from seeing something you want, provided you could get there in time.

A much more modern tradition revolves around the weekend after Thanksgiving.  As people are visiting family and friends for that holiday, they are usually casting around for something to do on the days leading back to that Monday, when you return to work.  Bars fill up and, if you’re lucky, a few bands will tune up in the corner to help pass the time.  The folks at Turn! Turn! Turn! certainly had that in mind this year, and to that end, a select handful of us found ourselves huddled around a brand new stage as we took in one of these shows, bolstered by booze and food and a sense that, for whatever reason, this was what we wanted to be doing instead of standing around the kitchen as we cast around for the last few things we’ll be saying to each other before we go home tomorrow.

hjmxi8y8ynsrqbebpjmkuconzyof883xusgvtawb4d9ic_soj7cclbn5wn6jsimjfofztuovpzjjq85rbn9qk-r1zhcoqmvjmq2jis635jut2l3it65_o7nrlrqlij1hk2aqgpfzzpckuttwvt4vx5p9dsxrlydb4yyg3syocfjahvuaiqfv3sa_yu6guikqe4b_wyvWhite Shark Shivers started the show, an ensemble born out of various Thinking Feller’s Union Local 282 projects, with a large horn section and two guitar players, delivering something that had some of the same spirit as that long lost band, while creating a much more specific tone and mood that is not only more appropriate for a gloomy, raining evening, but felt in line with the current national mood.  While this seems to be an extension of Mark Davies’ 1994 solo project The White Shark – and the set certainly included some of those songs amid some covers and originals – this seemed like a new ensemble made up of old friends that is capable of so much more.  If we can’t have the Feller’s back, White Shark Shivers is absolutely the next best thing.

yokvbx1pqfpq4emq9rd2astju8zol6y6gh0u8nxtp8b-lbmfyf7hxnhswlndex5nujynmoczn7yiblvj_wyrrwcxqvtwzzhrffm1cbqc4ndord56qkxgj2cy7l8dua4y10hvudkrfljjbibac_m6cdkhvu8jcsdj5lsd__zygwfvja1ibgwnpdz29gchnldjdxxoy-iCompared to the crowd on stage for the first act, Porest’s two members was certainly an interesting juxtaposition, to say the least.  Having not played in the US for almost 10 years, this was one of two shows that were happening on this continent, and when you listen to some of the songs Porest is known for, it actually makes sense.  While mining some of the collage / experimental territory that Negativland loves to explore, Porest takes their political tone and runs wild with it, intermixing comedy and collage with deconstructive lyrics that might explain why Mark Gergis has been living outside of the country in recent years.  “Soapbox Cutter” is a scathing indictment of US policy and politics, delivered from his “karaoke soapbox” that so conveniently is the form of his stage show, “Diplomat Smile” continues to explore these themes, in a way that pre-saged the recent election, and yet seems to be commenting upon it, too.  “Keep fighting the fight,” seems even more ironic, and yet hopeful, when delivered to a crowd of dancing, happy fans.  Mix this with some on-stage destruction, comedy, and slick dance moves that accompany a song against smoking, and it was most certainly worth it to catch this rare artist in his natural environment.

f8ol_hdpflgycidxcnnruhzycj4gmzcmcts8xpon8tsdfk2b_fgkf6gn4tmq5w0xafiypcifzqhwddupgccsiny0g4a2vuszpewk1nwlxbvr-7jxlofizzel9u3nbhml39ftzc3r_pptqijurhjpwd2dupdomuyhd7vd6wecp5f8x7_mj2rhwzufhkhvpoefdyxo9tuTo close the show, Sir Richard Bishop of The Sun City Girls took the stage, and amid protests that we’d already seen the best, and that he was far too wasted to play well, he continued to deliver acoustic originals and covers that felt celebratory in a way we all desperately needed.  While his improvisational sonic explorations are always contemplative, he wasn’t beneath throwing in a few jokey covers like “Fly By Night” and an incredibly earnest version of “If I Only Had A Brain.”  We swayed, we rocked, we laughed and we cajoled, but it was mostly because we didn’t want it to end.  We still had an hour drive home ahead of us, and the liquor soaked joy and pot-tinged celebrations seemed to be just starting as Richard insisted that we had already gotten our money’s worth.

But as we blasted back down I-5 to return home, it seemed the perfect endcap to an incredible evening.  If seeing them, as Richard insisted, was about getting our money’s worth, then he’s being incredibly disingenuous.  Porest didn’t come to this country just to play for a small crowd in Portland for the money, and it seems odd that Mark Davies would assemble a group like his because there was certainly money in it.  Rather, this was another one of his jokes.  When it comes to shows like this, none of us are getting together in a small club because it is “worth it.”  Rather, we’re coming for the comradery, we’re coming to get away from our families for a few minutes and enjoy ourselves.  We’re looking for something else in the night, in the rain, in the darkness, in this November at the end of a year that has beaten us down, insulted us, degraded us, and made us feel like there is no hope.

We’re looking, for a few hours, for some music.  And, fortunately, we found it.

 

 

 

A Sequel, And A New Beginning

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A new publication, with a new story.

And a pseudo-sequel to our previous endeavor.

Film & music reviews.

A chapter from the latest Dexter Roland yarn.

Photography by Austin Rich.

All in monochromatic glory, available physically, or digitally.

Our first run of both digital and print editions come with our previous effort, free.

Free, or you can make a donation in the amount of your choice to austinrich@gmail.com, via PayPal.

Dot Too.  Something New.