For the second year in a row I was invited to show a few pieces of gear at the Outsound New Music Summit event ‘Touch the Gear” where a space is open free to the public, who have the unique opportunity to play with uncommon instruments and ask questions etc. Represented is a cross section of electronic, as well as acoustic instruments, some manufactured by small companies such as the Eurorack modular gear and tabletop synths. There were also one of a kind DIY custom instruments (the tabletop resonating deconstructed banjo was a highlight) and devices utilising open source programming to design custom interfaces and/or sound sources as well as processing.
This event has a great community vibe and it’s always fun to see young kids get excited about these strange inventions. Look up the artists for more info, some have been deeply involved in the underground avante garde music scene for a long time.
Artists included this year:
• L.J. Altvater – tape-loop/effects-pedals
• Hugh Behm-Steinberg – CD turntable and effects
• Amanda Chaudhary – analog modular synthesizer, theremin
• Andrew of Chopstick – Pro One, modular and homemade synthesizers
• Tom Djll – small electronic devices including mixers, filters, effects, pickups, etc.
• R Duck – synthesizer
• Tom Duff – surprises
• Tammy Duplantis – game boys
• Bart Hopkin – invented instruments
• Jeff Klukowski (Alphastare)- modular synthesizers etc.
• David Leikam – Moog Rogue analog synthesizer
• Dania Luck – laptop with midi-controller running super-collider
• Collette McCaslin – percussion, small instruments
• Andy Puls – homemade synthesizer
• Jess Rowland – cell phones and controller
• Gabby Wen – electronics
• Peter Whitehead – invented instruments
Enjoy these 2 brief videos, which, together give a good sense of the diverse items on hand as well as the creativity and innovation of these artists. The first video was created by Amanda Chaudhary of Catsynth : who did some short interviews:
The second video was compiled from a few clips I took. Some walkthrough footage and a couple of brief demos by a few of this years participants:
I’ve been a fan of the early industrial scene and sounds since I was a teenager in the late 80’s early 90’s. Throbbing Gristle were at the forefront and Chris Carter’s synthesizer work has always been largely, if not wholly DIY, and his sounds have always had that edge and grit or ‘gristle’ if you will, that defined the genre.
I always loved that he built his own synths from the beginning and now he has his own line of eurorack style modules, The Gristleizer line.
In the video below you can watch Chris do a short set with his new line of modules that will actually be available to the public. In the video following that is a rig rundown and a chat about the line with a couple of the developers who helped design and build them. From what I can tell, this is just the beginning and there will be more of these to come, very exciting!
These were shot by DivKid who has an excellent youtube channel that covers the modular world in depth. His is an excellent resource for checking out gear demos and modular events around the UK. He also has a way of making this heady topic make sense and he does it in a way that is engaging and unpretentious, go check him out!
Some inspiring words about the liberation of sound and artistic autonomy, cutting out the gatekeepers and getting back to the DIY philosophy and moving away from being contained and controlled by the tools available to everyone…make your own tools and create alternative choices.
Anarchestra is a DIY instrument maker out of Tucson see more instruments in action via youtube: Anarchestra Instruments
Many of you old fart punk rockers out there will remember the days of cut-n-paste collaging in order to create an eye catching and status quo challenging advert for your old band’s basement gigs. Usually containing crude imagery, shocking content in black and white with ‘ransom note’ style text cobbled together from various sources. Many of you will also remember the next level DIY collaged zines that were painstakingly assembled late at night in a 24 hour Kinkos that your buddy worked at…
The content usually involved coverage of a regional or more accurately, ‘micro-regional’ underground music and/or art scene, covering shows and events with occasional short fiction or comics and music reviews. They were xeroxed and collated and stapled manually upon completion and subsequently given away to anyone remotely interested. Seldom did they charge for these. If anything, 25cts or a trade sufficed.
A lot of these ‘rags’ also travelled to other micro-regions via snail mail and this was before the internetz, so this was a lifeline for people seeking out new and exciting happenings in places other than their own. It went hand in hand with the burgeoning DIY music scene as this was also how bands contacted each other as well as venues to put together tours and find places to stay while out on the road, especially in smaller areas off the beaten path where folks didn’t have access to a big city to see shows of any level. Black Flag is a good example of a band that mastered this and in fact blazed a trail that is still used by bands today. Check out Spray Paint the Walls for a more detailed read about how they did it.
These were really small run, handmade and practically ephemeral which makes zines an interesting literary niche that is still going strong to this day.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE ZINE
Some zines that I know from back in the day started out as crudely xeroxed and stapled handmade affairs but eventually evolved into full-on mags with excellent content and credibility. A couple of examples that come to mind are Ugly Things run by Mike Stax out of San Diego Ca. who’s focus is 60’s garage and psych music. His staying power is a result of really thorough sourcing and in depth coverage of really obscure bands. He is really good at finding surviving members of these long forgotten groups and interviewing them at length which usually reveals some fun and interesting behind the scenes happenings we would never hear about anywhere else.
Also very in depth with lengthy articles to get lost in…as you see the early issues were very text heavy.
Early Big Takeovers (circa early 80’s)
Recent Big Takeover
Another example that I hold close is Bomp magazine created and maintained by Greg Shaw who started making zines by hand as early as 1966 with Mojo Navigator, an inspiration for Rolling Stone Magazine. He made Tolkien related mimeographed zines in the 60’s also, a very early representation of zines not music focused. His real legacy though lies in Who Put the Bomp which I’ve mentioned before as one of my old record store bosses Gary Apollo, who recently passed away also worked with Greg for a few years in LA on the magazine. Even the infamous ‘Powerpop Issue’ which looked really polished and professional was all done by hand! Cut-paste for days…
Early Bomp (circa 1971)
I had just read this article the day before in the New York Times: “No, the Internet Has Not Killed the Printed Book, Most People Still Prefer Them” and on our way to the event there were 2 separate people sitting across from us reading books, so as far as I can see, books and printed media are still important to people and if you think otherwise, you’re sadly mistaken and likely missing out on a lot of information you will not find online. It’s also similar to the Record experience in music, the desire to hold something in your hands crafted by artists through painstaking processes to create something significant and tangible which helps drive the experience deeper into your psyche…
This was further driven home when we entered the festival and saw how many people turned out to look at and buy these mostly tiny handmade mags! There were artists, musicians, printmakers, poets and authors, lefties, activists and anarchists and a wide array of items to be had. In addition to xeroxed zines, self published books and underground comics were t-shirts, posters, bags, buttons, some musicians had small run cds, cassettes and even vinyl all DIY and small runs. There were too many artists to mention but I’ve included links where possible and SF Zinefest has it’s own site at sfzinefest.org as well as an instagram and twitter where you can explore and discover a large group of artists both young and not so young! There were some OG’s in the house which leads me into some pics from the event.
First I had to catch up with V.Vale of REsearch Publicatons who is known for his zine Search and Destroy going back to 1977 and his Industrial Culture Handbook and coverage of all things weird and subversive under the REsearch imprint. I purchased this collated, unfolded printing of ‘A Visit From Monte Cazazza’ which I look forward to devouring.
PM Press had a table. The previously mentioned Black flag book Spray Paint The Walls can be obtained through them as well as some other important punk lit.
It was really cool to meet Michelle Cruz Gonzales from the SF all girl band Spitboy who were around from 1990-95. We grabbed her book Spitboy Rule also available through PM Press, but it was nice to be able to get one directly from her and she signed it. This will be a welcome read next to our recently obtained copy of Alice Bags book Violence Girl as these are the voices of xicana women from the old school punk scene, there were very few!
TEAM PRINT SHOP
I also ran into an old friend who worked for a t-shirt print shop I also worked at for awhile in Oakland. He’s since broken off and started his own thing called Team Print Shop
Pretty randomly, I walked past this one table and had to stop because I recognized the curious artwork on the t-shirts first, then the table also had zines with these similar cartoon-like characters in weird homoerotic poses I remembered from some show posters I grabbed from the bulletin board at my band’s rehearsal studio (images below) they were posters for a show that had already passed, so I wasn’t hindering the band’s progress!
Turns out these guys rehearse down the hall from us in Oakland and the band is a bit of an artist collective that release zines under Unity Press and the creator of these weird ass images are by the artist Jeffrey Cheung.
I was also stoked to hear they recorded their debut record in their studio on a 4 track and released to vinyl via the Oakland based label Digital Regress. The DIY ethic instantly endeared them to me and we also have the same name…Jeff’s Rule!
I gave the album a whirl and it’s really good for a 4 track recording! The style is very 90’s indie rock but without the pretentiousness of a lot of that stuff and it also lacked the noisy angst ridden aspect that turns me off to so many of those bands. There are some nice melodies here and simple arrangements and nicely played!
This table caught my eye also but we were on our way out, so I didn’t get a chance to say hi, but here’s a shout out to Bagger43 they had some nice looking stuff and I dug their aesthetic.
There were 2 rooms full of tables and plenty of people milling around!
We walked out of the event quite sated and it was great to see so many people out there just to celebrate the printed word, and of course to support art and artists operating on their own terms! Get off the internet and go read a book now! We came home with plenty of stuff to read and enjoy!
All pics by Jeff K. 2016 (except Bomp, Big Takeover and Ugly Things covers)