Monday, May 6, 2013

Massacre Live in Japan

Crossover reached on 4/27/13, the first of two shows in the freejazzrocknoiseworldmusic club GARDEN in the ward of Shimokitazawa in the city of Tokyo, Japan.  Out of mind, out of robot conditioned reflexes, out of social identity, out of time, into space, soundandvision traveling at or faster than the speed of electricity and of light.  Fly velocity adoration out of the night of Pan into an unknown nameless land.

 In this case – seen the territory before but never like this – the Oscillation Overthruster  crossing the border through matter was the band MASSACRE: Fred Frith, electric guitar, Bill Laswell, electric bass, Charles Hayward, drums, melodica, vocal - as they’re known before crossover when words still communicate, still make sense.


Noun: An act of complete destruction.  In this case, the complete destruction of external/internal manipulative CONTROLS and involuntary programming.  
A method of defiance.
Good riddance robot mind. 
Solve coagula.
No more water but fire this time,
Central sacrament of the Eleusian Mysteries sans psychotropic plant essences.

 Strike, strike the Master Chord!
Draw, draw, the Flaming Sword!
Crowned Child and Conquering Lord ...
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          In the Jim Joycean/Qabalistic language of imagery:


E = The Star (tarot)  
R = The Sun   
C = The Chariot ( ie vehicle)
A = The Fool 
MASS =   

1. A coherent body of matter with no definite shape.
2.  Physics:  A property of matter equal to the measure of an object’s resistance to changes in either the speed or direction of its motion.  
3. An area of unified light, shade, or color in a painting.  
4. The sacrament of the Eucharist.
5.  A musical setting of certain parts of the Mass especially the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei.
6.  Verb: Assemble or cause to assemble into a mass or as one body.
7.  Adjective: relating to, done by, or affecting large numbers of people or things. 
Usage sample:  By degrees, as their eyes got the right focus, they saw an immense towering mass that seemed snowy white.     The Lair of the White Worm by Bram Stoker  
(courtesy of the free online dictionary)

Fred gave me the new Massacre cd, Love Me Tender, before the soundcheck in the Garden.  Highlights of two track board mixes from 3 previous concerts played, mixed and recorded in Moers, Germany, Zurich Switzerland, and Ferrara, Italy.  Compiled by Fred and San Francisco’s finest alternative audio engineer, Myles Boisen.  Released on John Zorn’s Tzadick label.

Song titles ( from WRITING IS AN AID TO MEMORY by Lyn Hejinian) :                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
1.  Bright Blue                           
2.  Dot in the Prison                                                                                  
3.  Rosy Good Shook  
4.  Shadow When Omitted  
5.  In Search of the Nervous System                                                                                                     
6.  History Fictions 
7.  Between Roof and Bird
8.  Shoe Often Repeated                                    
9.  The North Reaches to the Ankle                                                                              
10. Madness is Medicine
11. Chapter Amber

It worked its magic on me from the very first listen.  Third day in Japan and jet lag remains strong.  Mostly sleepless, only resting 2-3 hours a night.  Not fully awake, not asleep, some uncomfortable zombie-like stretched out zone in between.  Walking outside feeling both hot and cold. Played  Love Me Tender through the headphones and the world, or at least my perception of it, turns on.  Feel some semblance of coherence for the first time on this trip when not mixing.  Also inspired writing.

Every positive current, direction, or manifestation needs resistance to that direction, ask any electrical circuit if you don’t believe me.  The resistance to Massacre came this time from the promoters, ironically the same people who brought us to Japan.  The transportation was poorly handled.  At the last minute I was informed I would not get picked up from the airport but was told to catch a bus then walk 4 blocks carrying luggage through the densely crowded Shinjuku streets to the hotel.  
Bill ended up hiring a car costing about $500 out of pocket for the round-trip.  I caught a ride with him going back to the airport, he arrived in Japan the day before I did.  After the shows the promoters didn’t bother to ask how I was getting back.

Later, about an hour before the second show, the two promoters flipped out, yelled and insulted our bass tech, Araki, and his friend Shunichi Akatsuka, a legendary, highly respected recording engineer who had rescued Bill from novice engineers at Kings Road studio in Tokyo for a duet project with drummer/percussionist Hideo Yamaki.  They were upset because he wasn't officially on the guest list.  Later they apologized.

Araki seems as highly respected as a professional instrument technician.  Showing up to work at the Tokyo Jazz Festival. for instance, he's greeted warmly by Herbie Hancock and Marcus Miller.  I can testify to his impeccable taste in work apparel.  We both wore the same obscure Tokyo Rotation 4 t-shirt the second night. An unspoken informal technician's uniform.

Upon hearing about the status of the white-haired, gnomish Mr. Akatsuka, a sort of Japanese Eddie Kramer, I introduced myself to him, which, in the absence of a common spoken language consists of a hand shake and exchange of presence.  He smiled and said, "good sound, good sound!"

The resistance the promoters put up didn't slow anything down in the long run, instead it pushed the invocation further to the crossover point.

* * * * * * 
 Driving down from Ashland, Oregon like a phoenix rising already feeling elevated 36,000 feet which I would literally go to the next day on the plane.  Visa and passport secured from the Japanese consulate in downtown San Francisco.  Fresh cool air gusting through noisy crowded streets.  Everything feels very alive. The edge of transition overseas sparking the neurons.  Next day at SFO   I picked up a contemporary autohaigography minutes before boarding - more on that later - down the stairs to the gate, crossing the threshold into the plane I felt here to go.  My body travelled over the ocean, across the world, and I went with it too.

Checking into the Century Tower South, in the room for less than 5 minutes when a call comes through inviting me to dinner.   Spaced from the 11 hour flight, 90 minute bus ride and encumbered walk through people packed streets, I couldn't find the key just used to get in door.  Quickly turned the room upside down before remembering it in the slot by the door.  Isn't funny how you always find lost things in the last place you look?

 Met Bill, his son Aman, and Yoko Yamabe on the 20th floor lobbyBill gave me a copy of C.G. Jung's The Red Book, his recently published experimental journal that contains many of his  significant dreams and their interpretationsJoined Fred and Bantu, one of the best Thai restaurants on this planet and a favorite haunt of ours.  Though completely exhausted upon returning, I was up at 3:30 am after a great lucid dream recording John Lennon.  He was quite pleasant and engaging to work with, not the acerbic character of his popular image.  It felt quite real - thank-you Thai spices!  Wondered if it might have been inspired by a contact high of sorts from a dvd I brought, The U.S. vs John Lennon, though I hadn't viewed it yet.  Those kinds of dreams are infrequent for meConsidered that Jung's dream book might have also been a catalyst.

Played the video while eating prana.  Two points in the picture stood out worth relating here.  First, while All You Need Is Love plays, Lennon's voice over says, " We didn't say it (ie the 60s) was the answer, just the glimpse of a possibility and responsibility."  

The second point demonstrates the power of music to transform the world.  John Lennon was asked to perform at a benefit concert for activist John Sinclair who had been sentenced to 9 years in prison for giving 2 joints to an undercover narc.  Sinclair's release from prison while appealing the conviction was denied by the Michigan State Parole Board the day before the benefit.  John and Yoko headlined the concert and debuted the song John Sinclair that sang of his plight.  The day after the sold out show, The State Board reconvened in a special unscheduled meeting and released Sinclair from prison.

After the film, I opened the curtains and breathed in the Japanese sunrise streaming in through the 34th floor window's panaoramic view.

* * * * * * 
 The Garden is a small club with a big sound.  The 300 capacity venue was packed both nights Massacre played.  Tickets were expensive, about $75 each.

The PA had exactly enough headroom to get the clean loud SPL I needed.  The Yamaha PM5D mixer is a good mixer for a digital one.  Good dynamics, clean transparent eq, ergonomically easy enough to get around in to mix quickly.  The built in generic efx were wisely supplemented with a TC D TWO Delay and a Yamaha SPX 2000.  An old school 32 band Klark Technic EQ set the house curve.  Of course, I brought my secret weapon, the Peavy Kosmos Subharmonic Synthesizer.

House PA technician Yuki Miyoshi had everything in place with typical Japanese efficiency.  He was professional, attentive and easy to work with.  The mics were my old school favorites for live sound - SM 57s and 58s, AKG 451 for condensors.  He st me up to record  the stereo board mix both onto a CDR and to Pro Tools for a back-up.

The second Massacre concert seemed to pick up from where the first one left off.  The beginning of the first night ramped up more slowly to the crossover point ( MASS-ACRE or MAS SACRE). The second seemed much closer right from the start.

Fred Frith plays guitar like no one else I've ever seen.   At times, it's an instrument of conveyance from one dimension into another.  Robert Fripp is someone else who can do that with his guitar playing but in a completely different way.  Fred has a leveled out music stand that serves as a small table for a variety of different things he can use to strike the guitar strings:  a violin bow, a paint brush, different size chains, an ebow resonater, dragon's teeth, various scrapers, a minature candelabra, scarves and other unidentifiable string vibraters.

One of Bill's pedals has a chorus of harmonies setting that sounds like the continent of Asia, to me.  On the second show he had it on and was using a slide on his bass.  For a second Fred played something with it and the band reminded me of Bill's classic solo album, Hear No Evil

Charles incorporates 3 deep sounding frame drums into drum his kit that have African sounding overtones.  Sometimes he gets these heavy trance grooves going that has all the power and magic of African drumming - another age-old method of shifting through extra-dimensional membranes.  

Quite an extraordinary musical peak experience was reached in the second set of the second night.  The heavens opened up the skies and sang.  Fred and Charles exchanged a look of eternal recognition.  Afterwards Charles was heard to say, " We broke through a few barriers,it broke the code, went to another place, another level, beyond mathematics."

All Massacre's compositions are done in the moment they play them.  Titles are named after the fact.  The musicians plan absolutely nothing in advance except that they'll show up in the same place at the same time to play.  Most people call this improvised music, but speaking about this concert Bill said, "For me there is no such thing as improvisation.  I play my repertoire.  I play a museum here, a battlefield there, a library, a vinyard, an inland sea here, a mountain pass there etc.  Most of the time it's something to aim for but this time it really translated.  That's very rare.  Sometimes it happens on the duet shows with Zorn."

I experience it as the three instruments fusing/cohering into one mass soundscape in motion that transcends human agency and time ... out of time, out of body, out of mind and into space.  This Massacre mass sound wave form feels very alive in a VALIS kind of way.  That's what I amplify and broadcast as a live sound engineer.

Toshinori Kondo and his son Kuta dropped in during the first set and visited backstage at the intermission giving their seals of approval before disappearing into the night some time during the second set.  A German film director, Werner Pencil (?) who had done a film with Fred called Step Across the Border was in the dressing room afterwards describing the music as a step across the border.

For some reason, maybe to provide a good segue for this blog, Charles mentioned that he'd seen Jimi Hendrix blow The Who off of the stage at a small club in London several thousand years ago.  It reminded me of one of the best stories in Patti Smith's book, Just Kids.  

I bought this book just prior to the flight to Japan.  Had passed on it previously but while working up in Oregon with 100 Watt Mind I noticed a photo of Patti Smith on the dash of Brynna Dean's car that reminded me of the cab drivers in India with photos of holy men on their dashboards.  I picked it up in the Terminal bookstore and randomly opened it to a page where she's talking about someone I knew and worked with, Sandy Pearlman, who put Blue Oyster Cult together and had also produced the second Clash record.  So I got the book -  excellent decision!

She talks about sitting on the stairs at the entrance during the official opening celebration for Jimi Hendrix's Electric Lady recording studio too shy to go in.  Hendrix sat down and told her he was shy too: " He spent a little time with me on the stairs and told me his vision of what he wanted to do with the studio.  He dreamed of amassing musicians from all over the world in Woodstock and they would sit in a field in a circle and play and play.  It didn't matter what key or tempo or what melody, they would keep on playing through their discordance until they found a common language.  Eventually they would record this abstract universal language of music in his new studio - the language of peace, you dig?  I did."

Somewhere Hendrix sees Massacre realizing this language way beyond his wildest expectations.





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