Nothing But Overdubs: A Q&A with Bananafish’s Seymour Glass

Posted by on March 8, 2016

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If you’re at all familiar with American zine culture, chances are good that you’ve at least heard of Bananafish, the highly non-glamourous yet lovingly-produced paean to the unfairly obscure and the unashamedly peculiar. A diverse cadre of under-appreciated musicians stormed the pages of the zine’s eighteen issues: Sun City Girls, Nihilist Spasm Band, Macronympha, Burning Star Core, Crank Sturgeon, and Angst Hase Pfeffer Nase are just a few of the acts to flap their gums for Seymour Glass and the motley crew responsible for the sadly now-defunct rag. Glass himself also creates sounds and has done so for quite some time, as a member of Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble and — alongside singer-songwriter Barbara Manning — Glands of External Secretion. Even more intriguing, the man is a peddler of sonic wares, being one of the individuals behind the Butte County Free Music Society imprint and the Tedium House distribution network. Relatively recently, the newest Glands of External Secretion record was jettisoned onto the planet courtesy of the Canadian CD-R emporium Inyrdisk, the proprietor of which is an associate of mine. After a bit of cajoling and some haphazard bartering, I was eventually fortunate enough to be able to reach Seymour Glass himself and ask him a few questions. Here’s how it all went down…

Bryon: I’m always intrigued by the circumstances which spark creative people to go about and get started doing the wonderful things that they do. What events and experiences led you to 1987, when you decided to create the Bananafish zine?
Seymour: I’d volunteered at my college radio station for a couple years prior, which allowed for opportunities to fabricate characters and situations. Of course, the focus was on music, but the cabal I ran with was not shy about taking an interactive approach to the presentation. Sound collage was the mode of choice. We mixed in written and improvised spoken word (found and self-penned), sound effects, spontaneous unscreened phone-calls, our own tape loops and home-made noises, multiple records getting played simultaneously, stopping and starting in mid-song, and stuff like that.

But there was also work to do at the radio station that was not DJ-centric — everything from writing and editing multi-track recordings for ads and PSAs to designing flyers and posters, from writing, rehearsing, and performing radio plays to participating in promotional stunts. Some of which spilled over into activity outside the station. We started making our own fanzines and flyers and recordings. We performed in clubs and galleries, at parties, on the sidewalk, in each other’s living rooms, for each other, for no one.

A few years later, personal computers were still in their adolescence, and the one we had at the house where I lived, an Apple IIe, was just right for what I was ready to do. Photocopies were the most viable method for making your “wonderful things” conspicuous. The DIY ethos was alive and well back then, and it manifested itself in self-recorded cassettes and self-produced zines. It’s what a lot of people like me did in their 20s, whereas now the pastime of that age group seems to be Doing Nothing With A Lot Of Other People. We had the better acronym, if you ask me. This is where you call me grandpa and say “get off my lawn.”

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You were (and I believe still are) based in San Francisco.
I am now, but I lived in Oakland when I started Bananafish, not that that’s important. I moved to San Francisco because I found a room in an apartment that was less expensive than the one in Oakland. If you lived here now, you’d find this fact hysterical.

What was the spirit of the scene like around the time you started the zine?
I don’t know. That’s a pulse I was not monitoring. It didn’t occur to me to make a magazine that was a reflection of or overt comment upon the scene. I sure wasn’t coming at it like a traditionally objective journalist, either. I tried writing for other magazines in that way and for the most part hated doing it, especially dealing with the people who were in charge of them.

Was there anyone else doing anything similar in San Francisco at the time?
None specifically that I can recall at the moment, though there must have been. Still, even if the approach is similar, you always hope that there’s at least some degree of uniqueness to the results. Otherwise, it’s kind of pointless. My first interview was with an old friend who was a great conversationalist. There was no band to promote or idea we were trying to persuade an audience into accepting. The second interview was with a much newer friend, also a great conversationalist, who happened to be an actively performing noise-maker. He lived down the street and traded cassettes and flyers with me, so we did talk about his bands and artwork in that interview. But neither one knew I had decided to start a fanzine or that I was recording the phone-call for publication. Likewise, all the letters to the editor were from one person who had not intended them for public consumption. The interview with Alan Bishop of The Sun City Girls was done above-board, but the one thing they all have in common is a facility with language, an appreciation for a story well told. I figured whatever we talked about, it would be an interesting read, which is all I wanted.

[Editor’s Note: An entertaining early Bananafish review of Sun City Girls is excerpted at Fuckin’ Record Reviews, and sub-excerpted right now for effect: “Sun City Girls are an origami meteor shower, in a world of tissue-paper pinheads.”]

The next couple of issues, up to and including number four, veered closer to what one would expect from a magazine striving to offer a snapshot of The Bay Area at that time, but even so, half of the second issue was interviews with people in Seattle, so…. With the fifth issue, it expanded quite a bit: more people working on it — some with fake names, some using their real names (which I will not discuss); more pages (and with the sixth issue, bigger pages); and more instances of “What the hell is this? Is it even real?”

Who, if anyone, were your mentors?
The teachers of the English and Humanities classes I took when I was a student were great. Unfortunately, my tendency is to ask for the minimum amount of help and figure out as much as possible by doing it myself. I made an effort in school, though I wouldn’t say I excelled. I didn’t spend enough time learning the basics. I was more interested in how to say things instead of considering the necessity of their being said in the first place. Format and content were my weak areas. I might have been doing on okay job with the cut-up techniques of William Burroughs or automatic writing like the surrealists, but the crap I was saying was goofy and dumb.

I didn’t have an actual mentor before I started Bananafish. I was trying to make something my friends would like.

There was no shortage of other magazines that led by negative example. I knew I didn’t want the Bananafish reviews to explain the context or significance, or to describe what something sounds likes, or to serve as a buyer’s guide. Any of the above might be a side effect, but it was more important to me to be worth reading more than once instead of churning out disposable cultural mediation.

We called it a day after twelve issues, and at some point I made friends with a poet who used to hang around at Adobe Books when it was located on 16th Street, an awesome weirdo who told me his name was Newt Ludwig. He used to lecture me on a writing doctrine he concocted called Essentialism. So for a while, he was something of a mentor. I’d sum up his teachings as “try harder, and shut the fuck up a little more often.” Years before, I’d been on a retreat one weekend with The Institute Of Absurdity, and the idea of an older sage passing along arcane philosophies and forgotten techniques to a younger generation of freaks I thought was cool. We published a couple of his texts as guest editorials. I was seriously into it right up until the eighteenth and final issue of the magazine in 2004.

Trawling the internet for Bananafish-related info, I found that the zine is credited with — among other things — introducing Americans to Japanese noise music. How would you respond to that?
Ha, well, you make it sound like an accusation. I have no reason to doubt the veracity of anyone’s claims about how he or she first found out about Japanese noise, but I’m neither proud nor ashamed. It was not my goal to be perceived as a pioneer, so I don’t care. Besides, all I did to find out about it myself was call RRRecords and listen to RRRon’s [Ron Lessard’s] recommendations. Anyone else could have done the same. The secret handshakes came much later.

What made you decide to start releasing music alongside the issues of the zine?
It was RRRon’s idea. After three issues of Bananafish with just a couple artists he’d heard, he asked me if I wanted to do it. He was making the same offer to a couple different zines at the time — The Tape-Beatles’ Retrofuturism, Lowlife from Georgia, and Ron Rice’s H23. I feel like I’m forgetting some others.

I was printing on legal sheets of paper, folded in half to eight-and-a-half by seven. The magazine and the record fit in the same standard 45 bag with an inch-and-a-half of zine sticking out the top, where the name was displayed. I hated having to go to the larger page-size with issue number six because it killed the efficient design.


Financially, how easy was it to press up all those 7-inches and CDs that accompanied the printed matter?
The arrangement was that I would pay for the magazine printing and he would pay for the record pressing. Then we’d swap half of each run. I’m not completely sure about RRRon’s thought process, but I imagine that, based on what the zines he was distributing cost him, he determined that pressing a seven-inch was about the same as printing a fanzine.

At first it was great, very easy, but I got too ambitious and the whole thing was screwed. The fifth issue was huge, like twice the size of any that had come before. My friend at the photocopy shop had moved on to a better job, thus ending the sweetheart deal that allowed me to do the first four issues. The new owners informed me in no uncertain terms that my bizarre and filthy print job was not welcome on the premises. Because Jesus. I found a new printer but the cost of printing the magazine ended up being a lot more than pressing a seven-inch. I couldn’t afford to pay for it. I was dreading having to yank material out, get the page-count down, and re-do the entire layout. Had to call RRRon and tell him that God had created something so heavy even He can’t lift it. He immediately agreed to split the total cost of printing and record pressing combined 50/50. Totally bailed my ass out.

After that, I found yet another printer, which we used all the way up until the end of the life of the magazine. No more photocopies for us. But we had to go to the bigger page-size. The next two issues we did with a friend of RRRon’s — Charlie Ward of Stomach Ache Records. We had the same financial arrangement. Dealing with him was just like dealing with RRRon, except weirder. He acted like he thought what we were doing was illegal. The phonecalls were always whispered and brief as possible.

In addition to the singles with Bananafish, he said he was into releasing stand-alone 45s if I knew of anyone who was interested. RRRon put him in touch with some other people to whom Charlie made a similar offer and I think he soon became overwhelmed. He wasn’t a natural people-person like RRRon. It became difficult to get a hold of him for periods of time, and supposedly he moved to Mexico, which had to be a cover story. RRRon was the only one he trusted, and if you wanted to get in touch with Charlie or get a 45 made, you had to send the parts to RRRon, which naturally fed in to the common belief that it was all a bunch of make-believe.

Anyway, as more people began contributing to Bananafish, and our mailing list increased the number of labels, artists, radio stations, and other zines we were sending copies to, we were left with few if any copies of the magazine to sell. Looking back, we probably should have sent the magazine only, at least to people who weren’t paying for it, but I didn’t like the idea of the two being separate.

Starting with issue number eight, Revolver offered to pay all the costs of printing the magazine and pressing the record, including as many copies as we needed for contributors and whatever else. In exchange, they would distribute the magazine and pay us for every issue sold, once the manufacturing costs had been covered. With the next issue we made the jump to full-color covers, and with the issue after that, to CDs. It didn’t make sense to continue with the 45s. The packaging was already clunky anyhow, and the cost of doing a sixty-minute CD was the same as doing a twelve-minute seven-inch.

Patrick Marley’s Muckraker zine has been mentioned on-line in the same breath as Bananafish. Do you consider that publication (or any others for that matter) a contemporary of yours?
It’s not a thought I keep in my head, but since you ask, sure, why not? There was some crossover in the artists we interviewed, and we wrote about a lot of the same records, so I can’t say no. I enjoyed reading Muckraker cover to cover. I wrote a cringe-worthy thing about Stomach Ache Records for an early issue and lent a hand with the layout of the final one. The last I heard Patrick was a successful professional journalist. I wouldn’t last a month at that job.

I once saw a review that said no other magazine had published more reviews of Merzbow than Bananafish, so we immediately banned reviews of Merzbow. Another time I got a letter from a guy who was annoyed by interviews with the Towne Dandies and Canned Hamm. He thought we were wasting paper not covering harsh noise. My reply was pretty arrogant and dismissive, something like “start your own fanzine and come talk to me in sixteen years.”

I just wanted it to be a page-turner, and a little bit of a jaw-dropper. So in that regard, the kindred spirits that first come to my mind are Breakfast Without Meat, Chemical Imbalance, Wingnut, Flatter, Rollerderby, H2So4. I love having no idea what’s coming on the next page.

What about writers like Byron Coley whose Bull Tongue Review is sub-titled “A Quarterly Journal of Post-Rock Cultural Pluralism”?
Byron has forgotten more things than I’ll ever know.

Having been an active participant in underground publications and music culture for some time, how (if at all) do you feel all of this has changed over the years — with the advent of the Internet, digital photography, home laser printing, and then blogs, Twitter, podcasts, et al — other than a dramatic increase in the volume of words/sounds/etc. being produced and disseminated?
When Mr. Beezer passed away, it really broke my heart. Not just mine. We were all ready to be done with the magazine anyway, but that sealed it. [Editor’s note: Mr. Beezer is one of Bananafish’s publishers, I. Vern Beezer, now deceased.] If any of us were interested in continuing, we might have made the transition to a blog. The process of mass-producing a physical object is gratifying in a completely different way from online publishing, especially if the former is all you know. We probably had the same attitude that a lot of people had at the time, that blogs were inherently inferior to zines. I don’t know, even if they are, they don’t have to be. I blame that on people. Give ’em time and they can ruin anything. But, you know, in the old days, I couldn’t keep up with all the noise and music that was getting released, any more than I can keep up with it now. There was a ton of great stuff and not enough time and money to get to it, but there was plenty of mediocrity back then, too. It was easier to tune out, definitely. I was able to stay focused on my little world, and the communication went in one direction. The nature of “the comments section,” as everyone knows, has evolved into the homeland of radioactive rhetoric and irrational agendas, and a lot of people have learned the hard way that it’s best to stay as far away as possible.

Looking back, what were some highlights for you of the entire Bananafish experience? (i.e., favourite interviews, fellow writers, people you worked with, pieces you wrote, etc.)
Between the time we dropped off an issue at the printer and the time we picked it up, the sense of optimistic anticipation was intense. I was always piss-my-pants giddy. We were convinced — once this new issue made its way out into the world, everyone’s head was going to explode. Everything about each issue was a monumental achievement to us, from the amazing cover art to the hilarious interviews, to the freeform record reviews, to the mind-blowing illustrations.

The tidal wave of indifference that greeted each new issue used to drive me nuts. There were periods of time when all I did was complain, but it’s been over ten years since the final issue was published, and I can now look back at it and feel happiness and gratitude to everyone who was a part of it in any way.

The interview I did with Macronympha could be cited as the magazine’s most legendary interview. At the time, it didn’t seem any different from the Q-and-As I had done with other fascinating lunatics, but then Sissy Spacek did a show at the Synchronicity Gallery in Los Angeles in 2010 that was a table-read of the whole thing. That’s some unusual recognition one is not normally prepared to process.

Many of the artists featured in Bananafish we first found out about because they sent us amazing, baffling stuff in the mail. It’s one thing to approach an artist whose work you admire, it’s another to approach someone just because they seem like they’re out of their minds. Prick Decay, Alex Ross, Lateral Agricultural Order, and Evil Moisture all wound up on our radar this way. Pork Queen and The Irving Klaw Trio just showed up at my house needing a place to stay. They were such characters.

Articles about non-art topics stand out in my memory, like Martti Koski’s autobiographical account of MK Ultra mind control, and Brandan Kearney’s excellent piece about mad cow disease. The interview with Earl X came from a cassette that was sent to us in the mail. It’s just two guys talking about body issues and medical conditions. And, of course, the whole Shut Up Little Man phenomenon.

As far as working with people, I’d have to start with Alex Behr. She alone is responsible for reining in the wank factor. As an editorial assistant, she was merciless about tagging writing as weak, or stupid, or lame, or grammatically damaged. It’s really easy to fall in love with everything you write just because you wrote it, and she weaned us off that addictive toxin like a cattle-prod.

Once we made the transition from collective review-writing to single-author reviews, much as I was against it at first, the back of the book improved considerably. Transcribing Roland Woodbe’s reviews from voicemail was a strange chore. Earl Kuck did most of it, but a lot of times multiple sets of ears were required to verify. Scott Foust and Tom Smith did reviews for one issue each, and their writing stands out in completely different ways: Scott’s is straightforward and concise, while Tom’s works like a game of chess on Star Trek. Fiona Finesse was the most professional out of any of us. If she’s not a regular contributor to Mojo or Ugly Things, they’re missing out. Stanley Zappa had the toughest reviews to write. We all had the option of playing fast and loose with the facts and our attitudes and presentation. But Stanley was reviewing jazz and improv, and you can’t just come along and be a casual douche about it. This is music with an ingrained history of institutionalized social hardship; its players persevered and survived decades of tragedy and injustice. On occasions when he whipped out the poison pen, even if the players happened to have no direct connection to this past and he had to eviscerate dreadful shit that totally deserved it, he did so in service to his obligation. Meanwhile, the rest of us got to be crass and vulgar whenever the hell we wanted.

You are incredibly skilled at using magnetic tape to craft a variety of sonic environments. Have you always been drawn to the use of tapes in your creations? Have you ever tinkered with samplers, computers, and other sorts of digital methods?
I had tape recorders when I was a kid. They were accessible and easy to use. The most time I ever spent splicing tape was in the early ’80s when I volunteered at the college radio station. I did a little after I left, but mostly it was multitrack cassette. I tinkered around with samplers and digital delay pedals a couple times, but it all started to sound the same, so I stopped messing with them. In the ’90s most of the gear I owned didn’t work, and on the rare occasion I was asked to submit a track for a compilation, I used answering machine microcassettes and the voicemail from the telephone.

For years I was collecting field recordings using a portable cassette recorder with a condenser mic and not really doing anything with them, just accumulating. Some I ran in the background when I was in a rock band, but nothing else happened to them until Barbara and I started Glands of External Secretion. The stockpile is now almost depleted, and few of the new sounds and noises that I’m using have ever been on tape, or at least not put there by me; listing “tapes” in the credits isn’t accurate anymore, so we decided to change it to “loops.”

With and without tapes, I’ve used Logic, ProTools, Audacity, an Edirol recorder, and a Boss multitrack, which are all digital. But it doesn’t change what we think sounds good, just how fast we can get it done.

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At what point did you meet Barbara Manning?
It was the early ’80s. I was doing a radio show with an emphasis on spoken word, background music, and sound effects. She had tons of lyrics, poetry, and sketches, and was one of two people who were willing and able to contribute something prepared to every show. What made her such a valuable part of it was fearlessness and openness to trying new things. We both enjoyed figuring out what to do as we went. Bits and pieces are all over Glands of External Secretion’s Northern Exposure Will Be Right Back album. “The Drowning Machine” on Thirteenth Century German Poet (And Who Can Forget Him) by the Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble also has excerpts from one of her pieces edited into it.

When and how did Glands of External Secretion become an entity?
You know how albums used to credit someone with “tea and sympathy”? Barbara self-recorded a couple tracks for a Majora seven-inch in the early ’90s and I was brought in for “beer and mockery.” No exaggeration, all I did was push the record button, tap a coffee mug with a spoon during a guitar solo, and try to make her laugh between takes. Which is perfect for me; my skill set doesn’t extend much further than that. We did another seven-inch under the title The Glands of External Secretion Demonstrate Congo Bob’s Epic Saliva Torture and somehow we adopted it as a name.

We’re not simpatico, musically. She’s a world-class singer-songwriter, and I couldn’t carry a tune if you hot-glued it to my forehead. Most of the stuff we make where I’m calling the shots she won’t listen to unless we sit down together and I talk her through it. At more than one recording session neither of us could figure out how to work with the other at all. It was just a couple hours of being incompetent together. So we’d turn everything off, get in the van, drive to the beach, and that was it. Nowadays I have an easier time of mangling her raw material into something, but it’s not reciprocal, unfortunately. I am unable to give her anything to work with. When we play real instruments on actual songs, we end up mixing my parts out.

We’ve always had fun hanging out together, even if we’re having a bad time. We went to a Holger Czukay show and the band was horrible. The singer was a lame Nico rip-off, but we assumed at first we’re being stupid to think so just because she has a German accent. Then they did a Velvet Underground cover and we thought, “Okay, well, it’s not our fault.” Then they did another Velvet Underground cover! After that it was all over. We just spent the rest of the show sitting in the balcony making snide comments. Barbara tried to get an autograph on an old Can seven-inch after the show, but Holger Czukay was incredibly pompous and rude about it, which was icing on the gravy.

Other than your college radio experiments, was Glands your first effort to record what you were doing musically?
Bren’t Lewiis predates Glands by about ten years. I was also the singer in a rock band for a couple years that I think was finished by the time Barbara and I recorded that first seven-inch of her’s. I don’t know why I couldn’t get over not being a technically proficient vocalist. I loved being in band, rehearsing, writing lyrics, hanging out with friends, making flyers, coming up with patter between songs in case we broke a string, or more elaborate weirdness for theme shows, playing prerecorded noises as background texture during the quiet parts. But I so hated the sound of my voice that I was physically ill before every show we played. To paraphrase Woody Allen, the gut pukes what the gut pukes.

I find it very helpful when artists/groups describe how their music came to be, such as you did with the liner notes for ‘Northern Exposure Will Be Right Back.’
Really? I don’t care for it when they describe how it came to be, and I wish we hadn’t done it.

Ha, yeah I guess it’s my engineering background that makes me want to understand the science behind the sounds, ask “how’d they do that?” and so on, but I can understand wanting to let the sounds/art speak for themselves and not wanting to reveal the “man behind the curtain” so to speak.
Okay, I see what you mean. But those liner notes don’t answer the question of how we did anything. All they do is identify the sources and the circumstances, plenty of which don’t need to be identified. Not because there’s anything wrong with the sources or their identities; I think it’s the essay style format that ruins it. I was focused on making sure to give credit where it was due, and that goal was met, but there’s a bunch of other stuff that, looking back, could have been omitted. The whole thing should have been your standard who-played-what. I am the sum of my regrets.

You’ve already mentioned your affiliation with The Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble, but from those notes it also sounds like you were affiliated with World of Pooh, Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, Vomit Launch, S.F. Seals, the Starlight Furniture Company label, and a whole bunch of other people/groups from the California area (I’ve heard Caroliner are also a part of this circle). Would you say that all of these entities are part of the immediate/extended GOES family?
No. They all existed independently with at best incidental relationships. We all know each other, some of us are still on speaking terms, but there was never anything approaching a circle or a family. We’ve only played live three times in twenty years — at a birthday party, at a nightclub after hours, and at an art gallery in Los Angeles.

Who all is involved in the Butte County Free Music Society?
Oh, you know, a bunch of people. There will be an article about BuFMS in the next issue of As Loud As Possible, written by Fen Addison, who wrote an editorial in Bananafish after 9/11 in defense of Stockhausen. His “leave Britney alone” moment. He’s been working on the BuFMS article for years. The last time we spoke, he said it was seventy-thousand words.

Nice nod to the LAFMS, by the way.
Not so much a nod as a couple flaming sparklers braided in to my hair, but, yeah, it’s a reference to them. LAFMS is incredibly important to me as an entity. On an aesthetic level, it’s half ramshackle nightmare, half highbrow lunacy, and half philosophical inquiry. I love that it’s a large group of people who have been doing it forever. That is probably the most important thing about them that I aspire to for us. Not everyone is, shall we say, as zealous about it as I am — some people are aggressively indifferent, others are adamant about not continuing to participate or having their youthful debauchery resurrected for the benefit of 21st Century comments section consciousness — but that’s the strength of a large pool of contributors. No one has to give a hundred percent all the time, or ever.

Bren’t Lewiis’s most recent show was in Oakland on May 13th, opening for The Tenses at the Life Changing Ministries. Tom Timpson came up with a rough outline for the set where each of us would do some sort of vocalization or word thing for about four minutes and the rest would provide the backdrop. There had been intense, anxiety-heavy situations in the personal lives of some of us, and they were resolved before the show, but the performance turned into a cathartic roar rather than nuanced surrealism that Tom envisioned. I had a bunch of four-minute sequences of sound, noises, loops, and sentences that I was going to mix in. After about ten minutes of not being able to hear a thing over the psychedelic screech, including any of the verbals, I looked over my shoulder and saw Lucian Tielens sitting on the floor assaulting his guitar with an old potato masher. I thought, “Jackie and Ric from Smegma are standing right there watching him do that. This is awesome.” We released an album called Hard Molt that contains several noxious patchwork edits of the recording of the show.

How did that organization / label take shape?
BuFMS debuted in 2009 with Induced Musical Spasticity. It’s a boxset with four LPs, a CD, posters, and four double-sided color inserts. Nothing on it was made after 1984. Some of the tracks we released on cassettes in the early ’80s, and by “released” I mean fifteen or twenty copies, photocopy artwork.

Other than GOES and affiliated projects, are there other projects released by the BuFMS?
Bren’t Lewiis is the most represented artist on the label, but we’ve also done CDRs by Serious Problmz, Idler Arms, The Conduits, and The Protons, and 45s by Jett Hottcomb And The Talented Hairdos, and Vomit Launch. All of it is from the ’80s. We’ve released contemporary recordings by Bren’t Lewiis, Glands of External Secretion and a solo disc by Felix Mace. Descriptions and cover art are available here.

At some point we’ll do the soundtrack to Esther’s Brother Is Missing by Maria Estevez, a film she made in the ’80s based on a short story by C. F. Calderwood. I’d like to do discs by Larry Crane and Emerson Lake & Cheesedoodles but those are further down the road. I guess I should ask them before I start talking about it an interview. Nervous Youth by Serious Problmz will probably be out by the time anyone reads this. About half the tracks on that were recorded with Cole Marquis on guitar.

You seemed to at one time have a particularly symbiotic relationship with the ultra-prolific Dylan Nyoukis (splits w/ Prick Decay and Decaer Pinga).
The facultative bromance between Dylan and me continues to this day, strong as ever. The Blood Lewiis collaboration was recently completed and released under the title Pentecostal Gymnast Trapped In Lime Jello.

I heard he also wrote for Bananafish.
It’s a fact. No need to speculate. Most of the issues he wrote for are still in print. Anyone can verify for themselves.

How did you get involved with him, considering that he’s based in the U.K.?
By the good graces of our respective governments’ postal systems. They may not be perfect but they conquered the Atlantic Ocean. Hats off to Ben Franklin.

Have you ever released anything for his Chocolate Monk label?
Bren’t Lewiis’s Time Lady Rangoon CDR was part of Chocolate Monk’s Well Spliced Breath series. It’s got a couple pieces from our early ’80s radio days and some more recent tape collages.

Lucian Tielens did a split cassette with Karen Constance that’s a bit of a skull-crusher. His side was recorded in a single weekend using a DJ mixer and a couple CD players. I edited and remixed it about seven or eight times before I felt like I had it right.

Dylan and I also did a split cassette. He needed to have it done fast so I threw together five two-minute tracks — my kid playing clarinet, a tape piece using nothing but sentences from cell phones, another one using the big dramatic endings of songs from a live album by Deep Purple, and some improv made with household objects.

I also did on a collaboration with Andrew Zukerman of Fleshtone Aura for Chocolate Monk. We played live together here in 2015; the album has a recording of that and a new track we  built by sending mixes and edits back and forth via email.

One of the live shows you mentioned was for artist Helga Fassonaki’s (Yek Koo, Metal Rouge) multi-sensory Dead C tribute (which also spawned her “Love Song for the Dead C” LP), is that correct?
Yes, it is. Barbara played guitar and sang, I had two tape players running background textures, and a bunch of loops loaded into iTunes, which I started and stopped at certain points in the songs. No matter where you are in the old debate about whether using computers onstage or not is valid — and I guess it’s already been settled, most people are by now used it, no one argues about it any more — everyone probably agrees using iTunes onstage is L-A-M-E. To offset that, I brought an electric grill and cooked meat while we played. I had to stand up periodically and jostle it with a spatula. Didn’t really add anything sonic, just the smell and a little stagecraft.

We began the show with one of her originals, “Something Bad,” which she’d never performed live before. On Northern Exposure Will Be Right Back, it starts with her repeating “there’s something bad in front of me” through a variety of filters and voice-changers at the San Francisco Exploratorium. At the show, she walked around the audience saying the line before the song proper started, while I played different sentences spoken by a consortium of doctors discussing treatment of terminal patients. She was getting really close to people, like nose-to-nose in some cases, saying the line right into their faces. Her mascara was heavily messed up, abused-baby-doll-style. I think it’s safe to say anyone who is familiar with Barbara Manning would be shocked or disturbed to experience that. Which is not to say it’s radical in and of itself. But for sure it is way outside her comfort zone, way outside what any of her fans have ever seen her do. It’s an example of the fearlessness and openness I mentioned. I know Barbara and I seem like something of an odd couple, but for the record, I didn’t put her up to getting all Alice Cooper on everyone. The whole thing was her idea.

We also did a cover of The Dead C’s “Helen Said This,” and a song she wrote in New Zealand with Chris Knox called “Your Pies.” On the latter I did percussion by pulling the string on a little plastic bunny who played drums. The recording of our set we were promised never materialized, unfortunately. But we are planning on releasing a seven-inch of a home-recording of “Helen Said This” backed with Peter Kolovos doing a cover of “Power.” The way things are going, maybe it’s in the cards for 2016.

You’ve also played with Michael Morley as well, and that was documented on ‘Unexplained Bite Marks.’ Do you, too, have a love affair with the Dead C?
Sure do. A friend of mine sheepishly confessed that he didn’t particularly care for their brand of sublime squall. I had to assure him he was in no physical peril. Syd Barrett and Barbara Manning — those are the two people about whom if you shit-talk I will throw you down the stairs. Dissenting opinions about everything else I can tolerate.

Michael was in town for several weeks in 1994, and it was a bacchanal from start to finish. One afternoon we went to this taqueria renowned for its margaritas. We were there for hours. I’m sure by the end each of us had swallowed a gallon of tequila. Barbara and Michael had to use a wheelbarrow to get me into the van. Apparently I was speaking in tongues, rolling around on the floor. Once we got to Barbara’s house they blew pot smoke into my mouth to calm me down and get me unconscious. I’m grateful they didn’t put peanut butter on the roof of my mouth.

We were in North Beach with Margaret Murray, having breakfast, browsing bookstores, and we ran into Tom Guido, the proprietor of The Purple Onion. Within hours we were playing a show there for an audience that was much bigger than I would have guessed could be assembled on such short notice. Margaret, Michael, and Barbara improvised on guitar for about an hour. I put a cassette in my four-track at the beginning and that’s all I remember, really. I recall being aware that I was lying on the floor of the women’s restroom at some point. I blame Michael. He’s a bad influence on me.

You’ve been enthusiastic about the importance of the LAFMS to you as an entity.
True enough, and with the recent passing away of Don Joyce, I am reminded that Negativland and their KPFA radio show Over The Edge are just as prominent in the “without whom” pantheon. The show has aired on Thursday nights for years, but in the early ’80s it was on Monday morning at two. A bunch of us regularly stayed up all night and listened to all five hours before staggering off to class, still high in some cases, bellies full of banana pancakes. Over The Edge had a huge impact on the way we did our own radio shows — some of which were blatant attempts to imitate, some of which evolved with a more assured overall sense of freedom. So LAFMS are the founding god-parents of our city-state, while staying up all night together on ’shrooms listening to Negativland on a regular basis, that was the BuFMS corporate team-building exercise.

What about more “serious” musique concrete / avant-garde types like the GRM, the San Francisco Tape Music Center, or the BBC Radiophonic workshop? Do any of those institutions hold a special place in your heart as well, or not at all?
I heard Poème Electronique and Cartridge Music in high school, thanks to the Berkeley Public Library, but the ones you mention I wasn’t aware of until the mid- to late ’90s at the earliest. By the time I got to them, I’d been through Evil Moisture and Masonna, who are pretty much the pinnacles of cut-up noise. Academic stuff I encountered during that time made me impatient. I kept thinking, “Enough with the dramatic pauses and the monologues by French nannies already!” It would be a while before I was more receptive to it. Of the INA-GRM crowd, Parmegiani I liked immediately when Conrad Capistran shoved a copy of La Création Du Monde into my hands and made me listen to it. Of course, you have to love Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry; having an opinion about them is like having an opinion about orange juice or cotton shirts.

I was late in hearing about The San Francisco Tape Music Center. Barbara introduced me to William Winant, who teaches at Mills. He and I hit it off, but the school is not a breeze to get to via public transportation, so I didn’t go very often. I went to see Luc Ferrari there and William introduced me in such an over-the-top way, singing my praises, just making shit up, laying it on super thick. Metaphorically, if Luc Ferrari is an astronaut who has walked on the moon, I have an electric race car set-up in my garage that I play with on the weekend. But it should be an honor for him to meet me. Right. I was all, “Yeah, man, so… omelette du fromage.”

I don’t think I’d heard of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop until about ten years ago, when Paradigm Discs released a Daphne Oram collection. There was a Lily Greenham CD that the label did at the same time which I liked even more, so I got confused and was under the erroneous impression for a while that she was part of that scene, too.

Anyway, to answer your question, much as I love the work of Delia Derbyshire, for example, no, I don’t have a special place in my heart for them, just a regular place. By the time I was in on it, they were already legendary. I thought it was great, but there was no feeling of revelation, no paralyzed astonishment — like when I first heard the double-seven-inch by The Inflatable Boys Clams, ONO’s Machines That Kill People album, “Crows Over A Parking Lot” by If Then Else, Craig Leon’s Takoma album, “Mean Mr. Mommy Man” by Geza X, or everything by Renaldo And The Loaf. The special place is reserved for unknown weirdos who don’t seem otherwise beloved at the time (even if that’s just a subjective perception and not based in reality).

Do things find hearts with a special place for them nowadays? I know we’ll never run out of record nerds who are certain no one truly understands a given masterpiece like they do, but Grandpa wonders: how is anyone capable of feeling genuine affection for something that already has forty-thousand likes?

I’ve been somewhat obsessed with ‘Reverse Atheism’ and how it weaves music, religion, the occult, medical/psychiatric elements — I guess what Burroughs would refer to as mechanisms of control — and so many other facets of human existence and states of mind into a sort of bonkers radio play of epic proportions.
I became a compulsive radio listener when I was a pre-teen, long before I volunteered at the college radio station, so my default creative template is the radio show, more so than the radio play. It’s quite apparent with Reverse Atheism as you note, as well as Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble’s The Thirteenth Century German Poet (And Who Can Forget Him).

How did the ‘Reverse Atheism’ concept take shape?
The oldest thing on there is Bruce Russell doing the David Crosby monologue from Journey Through The Past. In the mid-‘90s, I wanted to try to do a cover of the version of “Alabama” that that speech comes from. It falls apart into a rehearsal, and then it goes into “God Bless America.” I loved this viral video of John Ashcroft, who was Attorney General under George W. Bush, doing a horrible patriotic song called “Let The Eagle Soar.” I don’t know where it came from — maybe that’s what karaoke Friday was like at the Bush White House. So that was going to replace “God Bless America,” followed by Bruce’s thing, then a bit of an old Nixon speech, which could have been replaced by any number of famous idiotic Bush speeches, and then the song proper fades back in.

The whole thing was going to start with a cover of Captain Beefheart’s “Moonlight On Vermont,” which on paper was going to have Bob Madigan on lead vocals, Brently Pusser and Mr. Hungry from Three Day Stubble on guitars, and Jay Paget from Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 on drums. A long sound collage / electronic section called “You Have No Messages At This Time” would come next, ending with “Alabama.”

We didn’t get around to working on any of it besides what Bruce recorded, time passed, and there wasn’t much point after they were out of office. “You Have No Messages” was torn apart and used to make Inyrdisk’s Masters of Atlantis — except for one section that went to a Chocolate Monk compilation called Fug Gum. The Reverse Atheism concept never included “Moonlight On Vermont” or “Alabama,” but they’re part of the pre-history.

The Messthetics label released a fantastic collection of tracks by Gods Gift called Pathology in 2009, which I listened to over and over and over. Barbara and I had attempted a cover of “Discipline” years before. That was one of the times I mentioned when we gave up and went for beer at the beach instead. I thought we should try again, but I couldn’t decide between “People” and “No God,” so I had this idea that Bren’t Lewiis would do a seven-inch of “People” and Glands would do a seven-inch of “No God,” which led to the question of what would be on the other side of each. In the case of “People,” I noticed there were two versions of it on Pathology, which reminded me of the fact that ONO does two versions of “O Jackie O” on their first album. So Bren’t Lewiis ended up covering both versions of both songs, and that happened as planned with the Refreshing Hemorrhage seven-inch.

The Glands’ companion seven-inch was going to be called Nobody Cares, with “No God” on one side and a cover of XTC’s “Dear God” on the other. While I was waiting for Barbara to arrive, I recorded the vocals for The Osmonds’ “Last Days” by myself, just to keep busy, to which she added keyboards later on. When she showed up she was talking about Hank Williams, and we listened to “I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive,” which has a certain thematic consonance with what we were doing. That was the first gurgling of the notion to go beyond the seven-inch. Barbara did one track of rhythm guitar and another of vocals; we reversed the tape and she overdubbed another guitar track. After that we went back and dumped the original rhythm guitar, leaving just the vocals and backward overdub. Then I remembered I had the cassette of Bruce’s David Crosby monologue, and we briefly considered expanding to a ten-inch.

I had to have surgery on one of my legs during this time, and we joked about recording some vocals in the hospital. After the surgery I woke up to find her standing next to the bed with my recorder and the lyrics to The Birthday Party’s “Mutiny In Heaven” in hand. I was genuinely groggy coming out of anesthesia for about the first half. I’m sure the nurse’s first words at the dinner table that night were “You’ll never guess what happened at work today.” Once we finished the overdubs at home, we knew we were going to make a full-length album. By the time we thought about stopping, it was a double-album. There’s a lot of stuff to not believe in.

How did you choose what bits to include on the album (I’m particularly fond of the Holy Mountain snippet)?
I guess it’s that radio show mentality at work. Any time we hear a song, we tend to think of what it reminds us of, or what would sound good next, or whatever. I’m also really into covers of things no band would ever cover, like text from a Flannery O’Connor novel or The Hippocratic Oath. But the Holy Mountain snippet was Lucian Tielens’s idea. It’s his favorite part of the soundtrack from the movie. He’s such a fantastic reader, we asked him to record scenes from Help and Head, too.

How long did it take to gather all the material?
We worked on it piecemeal for two or three years, very sporadically. We see each other every couple of months for a few days at most, and we just squeeze in recording when we can, if we’re in the mood. We were last together in June and recorded her backing vocals for a Bren’t Lewiis cover of “Deteriorata.”

There have been a number of recording sessions where Barbara just plugs a guitar into the recorder and noodles, while I sit there with headphones on trying out different effects. All she hears is herself playing guitar. I go back to the recording later and pull out pieces and make cut-ups and loops, add more effects, edit it all together.

Some of the Reverse Atheism speakers I recorded in person with a digital recorder, just standing in a stairwell for fifteen minutes during a lunch break or whatever circumstances allowed. Some people have their own recording facilities and got me a file via the Internet, others left a message on my voicemail. All were given the same simple instructions: just say it plainly and matter-of-factly. Don’t try to perform, and definitely no singing.

It feels like it must have taken a monumental effort!
Side three was the most difficult. Everything crossfades, so for mixing purposes, it’s basically one long song. I was using a Boss BR-1180, which is just like a four-track cassette recorder, except digital. If I made a mistake twelve minutes into doing a mixdown, I had to go back to the beginning and start over. You might notice while each speaker recites his or her section on “We Have Control Of The Mind,” there are other voices in the background echoing and foreshadowing single words from the speakers’ texts. Those come from Forvo.com, a website for people who want to learn pronunciations. You can search for words that have already been recorded, you can request words that aren’t in the database, and you can submit recordings of yourself saying words that have been requested. I had precise spots where I wanted those words to land, like during a breath or a pause by the main speakers. Some of them overlap, but that was okay if they repeated. I had to give up trying to nail all that on my own, so I took everything to Greg Freeman’s Man Room, where he loaded it into Logic or ProTools, whichever he was using at the time, and got everything placed where it was supposed to be.

But there was no agonizing in making the album. No scenes of anyone pulling their hair out or throwing bottles against the wall. We were making it just because we wanted to. There were no external pressures from a record label needing new product or a tour that would bomb if the merch table was empty. When I was working on an issue Bananafish, there were times when I couldn’t even be around other people. I’d get so wrapped up in whatever I was thinking about, I could easily lose it if everyone would not please do me the courtesy of shutting the fuck up. I’d be up all night writing shit down and throwing it in the garbage in the morning. Recording is so much less stressful. I can work on it in fifteen-minute intervals if a have to, and if I get interrupted, I don’t panic that this momentary inspiration that I think is going to save the world might vanish, never to be recovered.

I’m curious how you ended up covering Tubular Bells.
Julian Williams asked for five contributions to a compilation of one-minute tracks he was doing called Woodlot Surer (Five Pieces Five) for his label From The Same Mother. I put some pieces together at Mr. Toads. We did a lot of multi-tracking of the same loop, each one offset from the next by a fraction of a second, like a mosaic pattern, and it turned out they sounded better as a single five-minute suite with sixty-second movements. It made me want to do more of the same, but longer.

Was it your idea or Dylan’s or a mutual agreement? Why that particular piece?
It was my idea, but Dylan and I would run into a burning building if the other one said to… I’ve had the album since I was a teenager, loved it, and wanted to do a long mosaic-type track.

Tubular Bells is such a show-piece for Mike Oldfield’s mastery of instruments, so it was obvious that we should approach it in a way that absolved us of all responsibility in that department.

Since it was a “no instruments” interpretation, how much input did Barbara have on that particular piece? Is this an example of what you described earlier of her “fearlessness and openness to trying new things”?
I mapped out all of side one — made a non-musical “score” with notes about what each section sounded like, the volume, the tone, the general vibe, the length. The part where Viv Stanshall announces each instrument gave us pause, since we weren’t using instruments. We considered saying them anyway, as is, and then thought we should say what we were really doing, like “suitcase wheels,” “videocassette rewinding,” and so on. But as I was working on the cover, which has a paperclip rubber cemented to a self-adhesive postcard on the front, and a rubber-stamped Post-It on the back, it occurred to me that the announcements could go even further from referring to instruments and instead be about the entire package, including the cardboard box that copies of the LP would be mailed in. And then we took even more poetic license and went with adhesives exclusively, because there were already so many on the list. I wrestled with the idea of calling the whole thing Paper Clip instead.

Since the “list of ingredients,” as we came to call it, had gotten kind of abstracted from the original, Barbara decided to mimic Viv Stanshall’s intonation as much as possible, just to keep it tied, however tenuously, to the original. We didn’t want it to be heard as mockery or a pisstake. The goal was to be just as peculiar as the original, but in a different way, our way.

You mentioned that you are getting used to “mangling” Barbara’s raw material into GOES material. The ‘Northern Exposure’ and ‘Reverse Atheism material’ don’t really sound mangled to my ears; it’s more the ‘Meat Receiving’ and the newest CD-R, ‘Masters of Atlantis’ (released on the Toronto-based Inyrdisk label) that sound more manipulated and toyed with.
It’s mangled in terms of how different the final product is from what she originally played, maybe not so much how it comes across. But yeah, those albums are manipulation, above all else. Northern Exposure has hardly any; it’s mostly recordings patched together as they are. Reverse Atheism has a lot of manipulation, but it’s song-oriented. We were going for Presents: Singles and Beyond by Olivia Tremor Control meets Negativland’s Escape From Noise.

Is the production process any different to those more song-based releases than it is with the more avant-garde/noisier stuff?
The process is the same. I’ve heard just about every put-down there is about noise and non-musical music. Of course, music has rules and it’s easier to hear when something’s not right, even if you can’t articulate that the singer’s flat or the drumming is off half a beat, or whatever it is that’s making it suck. And when you get into this non-music, there is no tempo, there are no harmonies, or there are and then there aren’t. But that doesn’t mean it’s being assembled without someone making decisions about what goes where, how loud each element is, how long it is, what the overall effect should be, etc., etc. If it seems like a confusing mess, maybe it is, but maybe the reason for that is because intuition and subjective criteria about its creation are hidden from the listener in a way that music rules are not.

I don’t feel that the term “confusing mess” applies to what you guys are doing. Take ‘Masters of Atlantis’ for example; there is clear differentiation into movements within the pieces, like on “California Bag Conspiracy” or “Thesis Nuisance” to name but a couple. There is an interplay between textures (the low groaning vs. sonar pings at the beginning of “Chariots of Fipe”) and even melodies (that low-in-the-mix flute-like section near the end of “Chariots of Fipe”), albeit not in the traditional rock’n’roll or pop music sense. It’s outside of genre, but maybe closest to something like free jazz or classical music; it’s not got the traditional pop structures, but there are structures there if one chooses to reach out and listen deeper. Saying that what you’re doing is a “confusing mess” is just lazy listening in my humble opinion. What’s your take on it?
Confusing messes can be fantastic things. Some have inspired awe and wonder in me. But, yes, you’re right, that’s not what we’re going for, anyway. I wasn’t intending to put words in your mouth, Bryon, or trying to imply the phrase had been used to describe Glands of External Secretion. I was thinking more about the generally dismissive attitude that constantly belittles non-musical music, like Yoko Ono’s non-verbal singing (which to my ears isn’t all that far removed from free jazz alto sax), or Sonic Youth when they toured opening for Neil Young And Crazy Horse. It happens all the time. Not so much to us. We tend to not get notice of any kind.

It could be because of lazy listening, but ultimately the reason is irrelevant. No one’s obligated to like what we do, or what anyone does, for that matter. I like the adventure of figuring out what the deal is with a piece of music I’ve never heard before, but there are lots of times when I don’t need a challenge. I just want to hear something easy and familiar that I can sing along to. And everyone else is entitled to do the same. It’s the full-throated belligerence that sometimes gets to me — the road-rage / sports fan level of insane narcissism that all music must at all times conform to their tastes and mood, and if it doesn’t, IT FUCKING SUCKS AND MUST BE DESTROYED.

Are you still inserting random bits from LPs and radio show excerpts or are you primarily shredding her raw material now?
In Bren’t Lewiis and Glands, I do both, but more so with Bren’t Lewiis. Back in the old days, the A.M. radio was a great resource for found sound and voices. Today, YouTube has kind of replaced that. Not to be a word nazi, but it’s not random. The LPs were consciously chosen, the snippets intentionally lifted, and the sections arranged in a specific order.

Yes, “random” isn’t the correct word. I guess what I was getting at is that I find that there is a continuum in the avant-garde from those who rigidly structure what they are doing, and have complete control over every facet on one side to those who just walk up to their gear, flip it on, and record (their entire oeuvre consists of “happy accidents”) on the other: complete improvisation, so to speak. And there are those in the middle who draft a framework and improvise within it – somewhere in the middle. From what you’ve said previously, wherein you created a score for “Tubular Bells,” and your mention of order and intent behind your work, I imagine that you lean more toward the former, more controlled, side in how you work. Is that correct?
Both Bren’t Lewiis and Glands of External Secretion screw around with freeform sessions where everyone does whatever he or she wants, sometimes listening to others, sometimes not. We’ve released recordings of those as is (Out Patience, Map of Something? and Found On Road, Dead would be examples), but recordings also get picked apart and made into new montages, as on Reverse Atheism, Gloria, A Real Nice Clambake, and Fix It Again, Tony and numerous others. The framework comes after the improvisation rather than acting as a pre-existing boundary for it.

Your engineering background will hate this, but we stop messing with it once we think it sounds good. Regardless of the other variables. My comment about intent may give the false impression that we maniacally obsess. We don’t. But neither is it a bunch of whatever happens to stick to the wall when a diaper gets thrown at it. That was my point.

The “Cosmic Telephone Call…” piece from ‘This Expanding Universe,’ that one always gets me chuckling. That’s I guess what I meant by “radio play” when I described ‘Reverse Atheism’ earlier. Whose idea was that track?
It was Lucian who introduced me to the original by Kali Bahlu. The idea of including an extra bonus solely for mailorder customers, which is what This Expanding Universe is, I got from Chocolate Monk. The rest of the disc is tape loops and straight versions of “Dear God” and “Dig! The Origin Of Man” before I got a hold of them. Doing a cover of “Cosmic Telephone Call” was my idea, but, surprise, I didn’t want to do it as, so I got Earl Kuck to write a modern adaptation that will seem as dated in thirty or forty years as the original does now. Earl and I are the same person, according to the Internet, by the way. Rather than a phone call that brings enlightenment and spiritual solace, in our version it’s a hostilely received distraction. There’s hold muzak and an AC/DC ringtone. Buddha doesn’t speak to a sweetheart hippie; instead he gets an apocalypse-obsessed conspiracy theorist. Heaven is a coffee shop.


Barbara and I have known John Flanagan since the ’80s; he’s a fantastic live theater actor. Plus he never, ever appears to get tired. Always firing on all cylinders. I saw him at SF MOMA around that time, where he’d been cast in John Cage and Kenneth Patchen’s radio play The City Wears A Slouch Hat. He also had a part in a film called Mother Mortar, Father Pestle, which was written and directed by J. Gibbs Chapman, a name some of your readers might recognize from the film Meet The Thinking Fellers. Steve Salmons is a more recent acquaintance, who I met when I was helping out on Matt Mumper’s film The Helper. He has a wonderfully blasé voice, and plays Buddha as nervous and distrustful, but also distracted by his surroundings.

‘Masters of Atlantis’ came out as a CD-R, on Inyrdisk, a label that primarily issues CD-Rs. Do you have a particular affinity for the CD-R format?
No, I like all the formats for their obvious advantages and dislike them for their obvious disadvantages.

Going back to ‘Reverse Atheism,’ on “We Have Control of the Mind,” at first listen I thought it was LBJ doing the “my cosmic mind” text alongside the JFK speech.
I never made that connection before. Good one.

And then I read the liner notes (which include an amazingly-done poster that collects images of all persons responsible — either directly or indirectly — for the record [bizarro world Sgt. Pepper’s??])…
Yes, it’s an homage to the cover of that album. Not sure if it comes across, but it’s supposed to look like a partially completed paint-by-numbers canvas, to go with the theme of predestination. There is only one original word on the entire album, by the way; everything else was written by those who have come before.

The liners led me to look into Daniel Ashwander, “The Will of God,” “Am I Insane?” and the Kooks book by Donna Kossy. You mentioned earlier that you have a special place in your heart for “unknown weirdos.” Does that include so-called kooks like Ashwander?
Oh, yeah, absolutely. Southern accents always get me. The recording of his voice was released by a cassette label called Tray Full Of Lab Mice under the title I’m Jesus Christ And I Will Heal You. He seems to have genuinely suffered and was doing what he could to work through his problems sincerely by recording his home-made radio show and sending it out to people on tape.

If Barbara Manning, Lucian Tielens, Dylan Nyoukis, or — heck — even Michael Morley were to add their two cents to this dialogue that we’re having, what — if anything — do you think they’d say?
Michael would want to know why he gets “heck” and “even” before his name. Dylan would say as much as possible with a thick highland brogue because he knows that Scots accents always get me. I might be able to tell what he was talking about. Lucian would have a stack of books from which to recite carefully considered selections, and I would sit happily and listen for as long as it took to finish every last one. Barbara would laugh quietly to herself for the most part, but then she’d speak up to disagree with something I said, and start laughing some more when she realized that I had not said what she thought I said.

For those Decoder readers who are uninitiated to Bananafish, BuFMS, GOES, Bren’t Lewiis, etc., where would you suggest they dive in and get themselves indoctrinated?
For Bananafish, start with issue number fifteen. It’s still listed at tediumhouse.com with a price of one penny, so the only cost is the postage, which is four bucks or something. Any of your readers who buy this or any issue of Bananafish need only type “decoder” in the Paypal special instructions field, and I’ll include a copy of issue number twelve. It doesn’t include the compact disc, and they’re slightly cockeyed, but still readable.

For BuFMS, Induced Musical Spasticity is the best and only overview, but it’s out-of-print right now. I really love the Give Us This Day Our Swinging Bread seven-inch by Jett Hotcomb and the Talented Hairdos. It’s Christian lounge music and it comes with a flamingo swizzle stick. I know that’s a specialized taste, shall we say, so have a look at tediumhouse.com and see if anything looks good, that’s my advice. If it matters, all BuFMS CDRs are professionally duplicated with artwork printed on them. I’m not just burning them on my laptop and scribbling the title on the disc with a Sharpie. As above, readers who include the word “decoder” and purchase any BuFMS title will also get the Induced Musical Spasticity poster (TV Cheese) and the CD, which has an interview with the original Brenbt and Brent and four episodes of Matt Mumper’s radio play Beor The Friendly Thing.

For Glands of External Secretion, I would say go with the Masters of Atlantis CDR released by Inyrdisk, except that it is now sold out. Sonically, it’s got some of my favorite stuff on it, and the tracks aren’t all eighteen-minute marathons. Absent-Minded Control Freak comes pretty close, so maybe that. And since we’ve spoken about it, the Reverse Atheism 2xLP. Plus it was expensive to make and I’ve got a ton of them sitting here. It already comes with a bonus CDR, which in this case is burned on my laptop. So, how about a copy of the Northern Exposure Will Be Right Back CD for any Decoder readers who order any Glands item and type “decoder.”

So far, I think everyone’s favorite Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble disc has been Rapture Piles. It’s a board tape from a live performance where we used an actual set list. It has a peculiar sound quality and everyone turns in a stellar performance. The Thirteenth Century German Poet (And Who Can Forget Him) CDR is our most recent, and to me is fairly epic for the sheer variety of non-stop skull-crushing WTF it contains. I’m trying to think of what kind of bonus to offer your readers who order a Bren’t Lewiis item, but nothing springs to mind. Let’s go with strips of raw bacon sealed in clear packing tape. You think I’m kidding.