alt.music.dead-c

Pretty sure this newsgroup is a ghost town. Original Google Groups thread.

Started in June of 1999, the hardest-working band in show business has their own Usenet newsgroup.

CHARTER The newsgroup alt.music.dead-c is intended for discussion of the music of the New Zealand 'rock' band The Dead C. The newsgroup is also designed to facilitate discussion concerning side projects from The Dead C. members Michael Morley, Bruce Russell and Robbie Yeats, including Gate, A Handful of Dust, Wreck Small Speakers on Expensive Stereos, Michael Morley and Bruce Russell's solo work, and the Xpressway, Corpus Hermeticum, Siltbreeze and Metonymic record labels. This newsgroup will not allow the posting of binary files. Formed in 1987, Dead C. members Michael Morley, Bruce Russell and Robbie Yeats are often pegged as forerunners of an entire guitar-based noise genre. By challenging just about every commonly held notion of what a band "should" sound like, they've influenced a large sector of independent music. There has been an increased amount of awareness of the Kiwi group in international music circles over the past few years, with rave reviews in the British music journals NME, Melody Maker and The Wire. With the Dead C.'s largest 'above-ground' article in their 12-year history appearing in the June 1999 issue of the British magazine The Wire, combined with a growing amount of acclaim for Dead C. member Bruce Russell's Corpus Hermeticum record label, interest in The Dead C. has never been greater.

Here are some noteworthy posts...

"It's hard to watch Dead C perform and not laugh, for a variety of reasons. This band has no pretense of virtuosity and by some accounts do not practice much together. They will admit to consistently having a smoke before they perform -- the "muse" (if you think there's one there). This methodology strikes this listener sufficient evidence to condemn the band as simply businessmen qua artists. The embarrassing 'manifestos' in some of the ..Dust packages and the name itself imply an obvious level of lack of commitment, and by this I mean commitment to anything truly artistic or musical. Russell's amusement at anyone in America taking them seriously in the first place is fairly typical. It's just a pity that such cynical operators, what with the deliberate short supply 'instant collectors items', lack of performances on an anything like useful basis if one wanted to have a good look at this band, and carefully controlled PR and fake-idiosyncatic presentation, all geared to allow this band to emerge as somehow 'legendary', have been given the limelight; or perhaps it's that the real musicians were just too obviously not from left field and perhaps trying to hard to be appreciated as musicians to be noticed for the incredible stuff they were doing. For all the rhetoric about "free noise" in New Zealand, you'd be hard pressed to see any members of the Dead C (except Yeats, who's at the pub anyway) supporting local purported "free-noise"; they only go to their own gigs or perhaps Roy's; but then they'll play on the same card with each other, carefully avoiding comparison with "musicians" at all times. The names they drop in the manifestos reveal an awareness of the greater world of music that puts to rest the idea that this is some sort of indigenous naive home-grown culture or musical way. On the contrary, the Dead C have carefully positioned their product and their presence for maximum art/cult impact in the US. There's no actual philosophy behind the music beyond commercial/image considerations when it comes to any of these bands (Gate, Dust ..). Forget the little booklets -- all part of the fun. Unfortunately it's not all just "funny"; the lack of interest in _real_ collaboration with real musicians with some experience around New Zealand is symptomatic of the sort of nauseating art-clique the Dead C have built for themselves that I had hoped rock music had killed in the '60s. Americans wishing to know about "free-noise" should look closer to home for any real invention and be careful about too quickly dismissing what's there as "old" or "jazz". The Dead C and the related projects are at their most annoyingly pretentious and most out of their depth when they attempt to pigeonhole themselves. Magazines that are fanzines obviously closely subsidised and linked with the marketing of this "amazingly new phenomenon in music", magazines like Opprobrium, should be read as if they were pamphlets from a large multi-national record company circulating before the Grammy's. The mutual back-scratching is part of what is known in New Zealand as "export drive". Even Thurston will get bored if he isn't already; but then he did really get very seriously boring some time ago, and probably doesn't want to back-track on one of his own "proclamations". Good luck Americans -- it'll be nice watching the Dead C try to get off their arse for this one... "the party's over when the Dead C start playing." George Gosset, Christchurch, New Zealand

"Interesting comments George. Although I'm hard pressed to see where your dislike of the Dead C stems. I've just been reading the major Wire article about them. Interesting, and certainly they make no pretense. Bruce's comments on his releasing of vinyl for the "hard to find, real gold, collector scum mentality" is nothing if transparently true. As for lack of collaborative efforts. Fair enough I say... they do seem to only work with people they like. i.e. Bruce's collaborations with Omit etc. But who says we require some fucking big socialist-wank improv collective arse-kissing duties going on? I mean, any record label is a vanity thing anyhow... Corpus Hermeticum is intended to release artists chosen by Russell for a) his personal like of.. and b) the ability to make a profit from. You obviously don't seem to see the humor in their publications anyhow. I mean, how the hell do you take the Logopandocy writings in AHoD releases seriously? It's all just bollocks i'm sure. Cynicism is a part of our society. Of all the things you've listed above, i cant see how any of them make the Dead C and their related projects any less substantial. They still remain the most important band we've exported. Despite the fact that others here are pushing the boundaries even further out.See you on alt.music.dead-c then. You've just justified it." from destruKt

"I certainly don't take the attempted humour of those inserts seriouly but I still think the various 'essays' take themselves too seriously. In my outlook, some of the humour is unintentional. As Hamish, noted a lot of local 'fans' take these bands too seriously too. It would be nice to see people taking said 'essays' contents less seriously as well. The other problem is when to stop laughing at\with them and start considering what these guys are saying about New Zealand and about their 'fans' to the rest of the world, which is implicit in the careful self-pigeonholing et al. Same problem that hit Frank Zappa (there's a joke for you)." from George Gosset

"By his own admission they're are just subjects he's interested in. I can't see any pretense in that. The link between the music and the writings is pretty much non-existant... which makes it all the more humourous. I mean even look at the title "The Journal of Vain Erudition"... it seems pretty self depreciating to me. At the same time, while you can't really take it all that seriously, its not some sort of giant in-joke (unlike Zappa)... i think the philosophical interests are fine, but keep them in perspective, their link to the music is vague. I'm thinking about some of the tracks on "Musica Humana"... the Reagan samples... the car drive etc. How can you be po-faced about that sort of shit?" from destruKt

"Indeed, an interesting argument. However, I can't help but think you're taking things a bit too seriously... I believe it is a bit drastic to look at H/Corp and Opprobrium as a money-spinning enterprise in cahoots to bring in the American dollar; these releases still mostly sell in the mid-to-high three figures. Criticism such as "There's no actual philosophy behind the music beyond commercial/image considerations when it comes to any of these bands (Gate, Dust ..)" rings hollow - when you're releasing music on Majora, H/Corp, X/Way, Siltbreeze, etc., the odds are quite good that you're going to have to keep your day job. Dead C. have maintained an almost invisible presence in NZ, so I'm not sure where the "commercial/image considerations" comes into play. "This band has no pretense of virtuosity and by some accounts do not practice much together," but they still managed to perform the greatest display of live "rock" music I've ever seen in San Francisco, 1995. Do they have to have a heavily-regimented practice schedule and try harder at being "professional" musicians to earn one's respect? I've certainly never seen the Dead C. and offshoot projects as anything other than people playing the flipped-out music they love. Bruce's quote "We were laughing hysterically at our first practice, when we realized the three of us could make this particular 'noise' which epitomized everything we'd ever loved about 'music,' and in a sense we haven't stopped laughing yet" really says it all, in my opinion, and I can certainly agree with "They still remain the most important band we've exported. Despite the fact that others here are pushing the boundaries even further out." I for one rank Dead C. up there with greats like The Fall, Can, The Velvet Underground and Captain Beefheart." from Dig Dug

"The idea is that the marketing strategies used could be compared to the Grammy style American system in one small way only, and that is that this is a very organised marketing effort, with small nos. of releases, almost legendary "invisibility" and the other things I listed in the previous posts constituting the marketing. A very different kind of niche marketing I grant you, but well organised to appear a unique artistic/rock phenomenon to be in on (the idea of "this is a one-off" is an old artists trick -- in fact most of these strategies are). It is not inconceivable that re-issues etc. form part of a long term strategy, the initial phase of which is to create the "invisibility" (or "inscrutability, making them both unavailable for analysis most of the time and guaranteeing that "weird underground presence" that I'm sure Can, Beefheart etc enjoyed in their day). Not that I believe they will emerge as deserving the same critical acclaim. I believe they have made sure they will be remembered, but as another "art-rock" strategy. A deliberate strategy. Zappa, not Beefheart, or perhaps the Grateful Dead (my guess), to a different now wealthy bunch of ageing 'stoners'. How far they get, we'll have to wait and see. The key to the strategy is that invisibility -- the lack of easy access to allow the band to become too defined beyond the catalogue of currently available stuff, which itself is oscillated -- again to bring them in and out of focus. You will eventually find yourself buying the whole collection because of the effect lack of supply has on demand. You will want to know. And this is a band well aware of the changing methods of supply and distribution, well aware of the technologies on the horizon that will make your full participation easy, well aware how difficult and ultimately how easy it will be for them to sell their contribution to art/rock to you." from George Gosset

Again referring to this fucking wire article. Russell says "I can export to Europe, America and Japan and my products are seen as exotic wherever they go" i think george is right.. its well organised niche marketing, by their own admission. But where's the evil in that?? i mean god, its not like they're making much of a living off it. If there are anal-retentive collectors and completists out there.. then i say milk them for all they're worth. i'm thinking these other free-noise people are seeing things in a shade of green. do they have too much integrity to rip-off those rock nerds with disposable income? Its capitalism after all baby." from destruKt

"Heard of the Xpressway compilation "Killing Capitalism with Kindness" ? No matter how light-hearted in principle these philosophical tracts might seem, don't forget that Dead C are a very politically correct band -- they are into all the 'right' music' and espouse the liberal sentiments you'd expect their fan base to share. You see once you start assuming there's some acting, posturing and the like going on here, no band that does this could philisophically be better off than the build-up of fans that you casually admit deserve ripping off. The band talks the talk, but .. silence. How far can you really accept what the mouthpiece of any band says once a band is pursuing what I think is this long term strategy ? The arch-seriousness is very annoying for this reason; serious-as-your-life musicians who can articulate anything they can imagine on their chosen instruments. These musicians have been drawn into this via the 'philosophy' (written I might add in the same matter of fact style as the 'straight' reviews Bruce wrote for Opprobrium). Bruce should not be joking when he casually alligns himself with some "free noise" thing that he and Thurston and the boys at Opprobrium have comparatively recently stumbled over. Bruce might fit into his definition of the term, but's it's no joke when this mock-serious posturing appears on the same piece of paper as someone like Ornette Coleman, the guy who put his day job on the line for a form of free expression. And He, Taylor, 'Trane and many others sacrificed unimaginable career prospects in 'straight' music in the name of free expression. Don't get the idea Bruce and co. are doing anything new that many musicians with that real talent for playing instruments have not done better before elsewhere. When one of these real musicians get's re-discovered via the CD re-issue industry, try and imagine the money some future enthusiast forks out in finding that weird little discovery "The Dead C" in the next re-issue revolution. Nice little retirement fund sitting there waiting as music distribution suddenly emerges from out of the carefully protected small volumes of work and makes it possible for you to buy "Dead C -- The Box Set". It's only the free playing spirits of the 20th century that are alive that will reap any benefit out of their obscure experiments on the technology of yesterday. The Dead C are just taking rock through one obvious logical path, but in doing so, collecting themselves, as I've carefully explained, "legendary status", through art-school and media tried-and-trues. Some people have accused Beefheart of similar tactics, but of course "Grow Fins" will settle that one -- don't expect The Dead C to let you get a sniff of anything that doesn't fit with the 'angle' being pursued at the time. "World Peace .." itself a rarities combo revealed just how thin on the ground good music from the band really was. It's almost like they're the next great "studio-only" band when it comes to their releases. I think continued revelations will reveal the band for the hole-in-one outfit it seems to be. Don't expect a deluge of releases; a work in progress would be out of the question As I've said, we'll see how their long-term strategy pans out. I just wish the band would shut up about it, and keep their naive ideas to themselves; real art-rock visitations are rare and remember that the one we're in at the moment is that deluge of fine un-cynically produced music -- music that did not fit the fashionable and critical requirements of its times that is now finally available to us in the CD-fest. Try and keep all the other stuff in reasonable perspective -- there'll be plenty of Dead C re-issue hoopla in the next century. As for them, we'll have to wait for them to think of something they can do now -- witness the degradation in quality over the last series of releases. Doing more of the same would prove them boring, but I wonder can they do anything else ?" from George Gosset

"To look at the Dead C.'s career trajectory as anything resembling a carefully-orchestrated plan for maximum cult impact doesn't ring true at all. Were they supposed to emerge from the womb pressing their music in huge editions? The limited, hand-dubbed nature of the early Dead C. cassettes is simply indicative of the market for this music at that point in time. Even now, what with a respectable amount of international press, a US tour, Sonic Youth endorsements, etc., I wouldn't imagine their recent releases are topping the two thousand pressed mark, nor would I expect their fan base to grow much beyond what it is at right now. Perhaps in 20 years, a DC rediscovery will take place and some "from the vaults" material will hit the racks, but other recent "out there" CD-reissue era "discoveries" such as Tony Conrad, Nihilist Spasm Band, Musica Elettronica Viva, etc. are hardly making the artists anything beyond a modest profit. The World Peace Hope... Shock CD was spotty in parts, admittedly - let's see what on the tracklist of the Flying Nun summer release DR503c..." from Dig Dug

"...look if you want to be butt-fucked by musicians, just buy any top 40 hit. Go buy the Rolling Stones latest.. or go kiss the ass of Bowie or any other washed out old boys hunting down the "big new thing". I really don't give a shit what their strategy is. They're honest about it... money comes into it. But they have to make a living. I'm sure with a little bit of effort they could be another Flying Nun poster band like Garageland or HDU or dare I even say it, Chris Knox. They question is, why didn't they sell out years ago? If they continued to make records along the lines of Eusa Kills, they could be just another lo-fi pop group, and make a hell of a lot more money than they do releasing weird improv records to such a small number of obsessive collectors. ...I'd be very careful when elevating the likes of Coleman or Cecil Taylor to some partheon of free-music gods. Its a totally different kettle of fish. Needless to say we've seen how such musicians can be drawn into the upper-crust educated jazz-fan circles. Look at the amount of corporate $ behind some of Taylor's performances over the last decade. ...Yeah, but we've seen loads of musicians benefit from the reissue/lost works scams. Look at Tony Conrad for instance. It doesn't make the music any less important. As for the "hole in one outfit", where the hell was that hole? Their latest recordings are getting further and further out. In my opinion the likes of Tusk and Repent are the best things the band done. I'm waiting to hear what comes next. ...Come on.. where's this uncynical music? Everything seems to have a touch of cynicism in it these days. What are the other alternatives? The anal academicism of techno and new "electronica"? bah. Most of that stuff isn't even vaguely interesting. As i said... I hold those recent Dead C releases in high esteem... i'm all for it. Bring the noise." from destruKt

"Taylor's rewards have been a long time coming, and, as Braxton says, it's more likely we'll only really tag onto his music [well within] the 21st Century. I sure hope those hands continue to keep doing their thing for a long while ...

but more to your suggestions ..

my whole point here was that Bruce Russell pulled these "free-jazz" guys into his discussions to begin via those little writing spells included mock(?)-manifesto style with the Corpus stuff. I'll grant you "Corpus" and "Manifesto" have unfortunate overtones, but is this a man (in his mind at least) perhaps qualified to have a dig at the arts in general ? I'm ambivalent about the "humour" some posters have _defended_ these writings with. His hobby ? His researches ? Well I imagine he's been reading about the stuff and heard some of the names in the free-jazz arenas, but his reviews were clearly influenced by the records in a way that suggested these were his first exposure to many of these new styles (for him) of such musics. If Opprobriums angle is of the wide-eyed new listener to these musics, concentrating on CDs reviewers didn't have to pay any money for, as if records grow on trees, then I guess that's there prerogative.

There is an embarrassing arrogance though in Bruce Russell's narrow philosophical rants in the "Hand .. Dust" and other releases on his own label of which conveniently, he is his own editor. I took objection to him sticking his neck out and bringing in the different "kettle of fish" you refer to. Read his reviews of "free-jazz" that he gets to review in Opprobrium. It's the same style -- serious as hell at times -- sometimes he's almost _telling_ us what the thing to listen to is. I think there was a deliberate editorial policy in Opprobrium towards getting him to review records he might be able to understand after a while, and getting people with some reasonably long-ish collector (!) and long-term enjoyer (!) of free jazz mentalities for subsequent reviews. However serious he was when he used the words "collector .. scum" in The Wire, he shouldn't have been reviewing records that become peoples long term buddies (or 'sisters' -- Sonic Youth appear to understand this phenomenon) in the first place, in Opprobrium. That Nick Cain (his own editor again) continued to review free jazz material ultimately let the mag. down however -- there's a reciprocal relationship between his arrogant 'word-to-the-wise-guy' style of review (almost bluster) and his prosaic skirting-of-the-subject and full-praise mode styles of review, that reveal the reviews as the reaction of another novice. The concept of spending a lot of time with a free jazz record and allowing himself to become more intimate and friendly (or bored) with it, of even simply being able to correctly classify it over a long (versus short) period of time, these are modes of listening and owning music lost on him. His inability to seperate the latest re-issues from longer-standing records of which he had little awareness because he hadn't been sent them free or read about meant that even he had to admit he needed outside opinions from people with a long standing relationship with the music -- thus experienced listeners and not reviewers had replaced Bruce in the free-jazz review dept. by issue #4. But, Nick still hasn't had long enough time as a mature listener -- selling off half his record collection for his overseas trip means his reviews will still lack that crucial comparative quality that might have eventually replaced the typical "well I really don't know WHAT I can say about this", for which Opprobrium is famous. It's abominable enough that labels, who expect him to bring some wisdom to his reviews even from within the "freebie-jazz-collector" phase of his life are still going to have there "promotional copy only -- not for resale" CDs of limited runs flogged off or given to someone else, as though they still have nowhere but The Wire or Cadence (or Forced Exposure, uh, where is it ?) or Opprobrium to send their releases for a glancing remark, however shallow (compare The Wire -- a number of reviewers, apparently given a month or maybe more to review very few releases each -- perhaps we can trust The Wire reviewers beyond two spins -- or Forced Exposure thats reviewers must be doing something all that time between issues). You would have thought the readers of Opprobrium _were_ record collectors (I did), since the music largely falls within that domain. But my feeling is that of those reviewers both Bruce and Nick view music for it's instant (ie "rock") qualities. For instance, Nick explained a lot of the limitations of "Pulse of the Rooster" by critics darlings Wickham-Smith/Youngs, but stopped short of expressing an actual "don't buy" order, something he's all too happy to do with music from other less fashionable or more well heard genres. That "Pulse .." revealed severe limitations in the mindset or outlook or perhaps simply the aims for that record from W-Smith/Youngs would not have been the thing for Nick to dwell on. Wonder if he's sold it yet ?

Perhaps Nick's too overworked as a reviewer -- compare how many (free) records he must have to contemplate reviewing and therefore must have to listen seriously to in any case (I'm assuming he does) with the number of records a typical paying customer (backbone of the industry) and/or collector such as you or I might process within the same period of time. Overworked, but is he a hack all the same ?

As for the Dead C in The Wire, note the spelling out for listeners benefit of various artistic and political allusions connected to some songs. These were not documented in the initial records -- the "connection" between "Driver UFO" and Lilburn's electronic poem for victims of war, both of which I own -- it was spelt out -- all the hallmarks of those boorish internal references that the artistic elite like to continue coming up with -- wanking over for most people hitherto unknown "high art" from their own record collection; I thought the band were turning there back on all of that. The tagging of "Power" to US Central American policy -- I thought the song had universal resonance and could have been left working just fine -- but no, high art credentials are being sought here. Back to the "people will buy editions of 50" art school stuff that's just SO incompatible with even the best rock.

To be all thing to all people in these days of self-satisfaction based on one's enjoyment of one's own "obscure" taste in the form of a passive, escapist, maybe pot laced record collection -- these guys are onto something."from George Gosset

"Hey all, THIS IS A GRATEFULE DEAD newsgroup or am I wrong?" from Freebird

"Dead wrong, 'fule'."from Gary Robert Kaliflower

"Good one! Although, in all fairness, perhaps Freebird was confusing _Operation of the Sonne_ with _Anthem of the Sun_. Maybe they could call the singles comp _Workingman's C_?"from Dig Dug

"There's no reason to assume this bands music doesn't meet the same fans' requirements, except that its a different group of like minded fans, another generation of people who like well advertised thumbing-the-nose at the conventional "industry" of rock music while openly, in fact spouting (see the Wire interview) the music+drugs line. Fans who get out-of-it while listening to bona-fide out-of-it musicians, both believing they see a new musical communication and undertsanding on the horizon, as nauseating as that sounds. It's like a lot of paradigm-shifting music needs the 'revolutionary trappings' (to avoid, or perhaps instead of the requisite televisation). Let's face it, Gil Scott Heron didn't get the inevitable/eventual exposure that the Grateful Dead did. And the Grateful Dead were never as obnoxious (perhaps they weren't as media aware) and arrogant as either certain aspects of Opprobrium or Bruce Russell's assertions. Also interesting to note that said assertions might be embedded in the music of the Dead C and the Dust Handful making the hitherto unnecessary arrogant assertions of truth in that mock-embarrased or mock-humble tone something the Grateful Dead either didn't do, or did much better. The parallels seem kind'a obvious to me, except that it's only a tepid musical revolution in 1999. Nothing sharper to concentrate the mind on. No serious reasons for young people to get out-of-it beyond the obvious, certainly not something to be glorified. Just cashing in on escapism which once agin is all the rage.from George Gosset, Christchurch, New Zealand

"I begI to differ. Its quite clear from reading FE that the reviewers have barely listened to many of the recordings and would prefer to rely on inane hip-speak and made up words. Nick Cain, not having the musical knowledge to back up his writing ends up relying on unfunny in-jokes and personal jabs against people hes never met who make music he'll never understand.... I don't see whats so clever about Forced Exposure panning things for being popular and raving about things for being obscure.

"Its the new thing" is a much more revealing statement about the origins of the C's musical influence and philosphy than the endless Alber Ayler namechecks. You could say the Dead C picked up on the work the Fall gave up on when Brix joined, by espousing Mark E Smith's anti-musicianship and production values. I thought Bruce Russell did himself a great disservice when he started trying to align himself with free music. When comparing "Tusk" with any AMM album all the C can offer is stoned, undisciplined, thoughtless jamming. But when comparing "DR503" with any Godz album they offer beautiful heartfelt songs with a sense of creativity and home-made experimentalism. I understand that Bruce and Michael may feel silly playing pop music at their age or maybe they don't have the time and energy to push their music anymore. Either way its not going to make me buy an album with a title like "Project for a Revolution in New York" from Hamish Noonan

"We'll have to agree to differ on the merits of Forced Exposure reviews; I believe by in large they had the needed experience as reviewers to go with the music or go off on tangents and make it enjoyable. Perhaps we're thinking of different issues of FE anyway. I think it changed a bit over the years, but I like the reviews that I own of theirs -- pity I don't have all of them. I do agree that Nick's reviews are a pale imitation (if that's where you were putting them -- perhaps he'll understand the music someday, but if he's already sold the CDs, well, you have a point).

I completely agree with you here -- when the hand-crafted stuff of DR503 and some of Trapdoor, some of Harsh '70s is set against what the Dead C would like to call "impov", they're suddenly out of their depth. But perhaps the new stoner-what-the-fuck noise market _is_ "where it's at". My favourite Dead C pieces come from those early releases, before the ball was rolling. Now "It's to do with drugs and breathing and concentration, that and the physical effort of wringing noises out of machinery for prolonged periods of time"(Bruce Russell, The Wire, June '99) looks like just more drugged out jamming slobs. I would have thought their age would have provided more insightful thoughts, less punk-ish and childish and new-age-ish sham talk. What Morley says about gigs -- [what's the point], maybe he's right. If they're going to produce that studio manipulated craft we seem to agree we like, why bother with performance ? But that seems like an admission that this newer drugged improv is going nowhere. Perhaps the band should quit while they're comparatively ahead, split off in what seem to be two clearly different directions and produce some fine music once again. I don't want to sound too negative -- I was always a fan -- but Hamish has nailed the "heads" -- this band has gone off.

Perhaps separate ways will be best, despite dilution of necessary talent (however much diluted right now) at any given sitting. Hamish, I'll get back to you and the group re Lilburn and Driver UFO. I'm still re-listening and deciding, but I don't think it mattered to what I was saying whether the link was discernible or not. My point was that the Lilburn is going to be inaccessible to anyone not from New Zealand and hard enough to track down here anyway, making it an esoteric "high art" reference, not something I thought this revolutionary band were into. Editions of fifty(like limited edition prints), arcane references to philosophers and artists -- very close to some modern art -- art that caters to the cognoscenti, and not your everyday music listener; Morley apparently wanted a real "art band". from George Gossett

"It's strange. While Bruce might align his recent free-er releases with AMM or other stuffy European improvisors (where has he said this anyhow). I still see "Tusk" or "Repent" being closer to the outer boundaries of Sonic Youth or the Swans or Branca or many of Keiji Haino permutations and a multitude of other noise-rock bands... Unfortunately a lot of fairly amazing music has been made by drugged out jamming slobs. In that state, it all sounds so good and revolutionary (revelationary). ....Well i seem to be one of the few thats impressed with where the Dead C are going. It's a far cry from 3 minute punk songs like "Bad Politics". But then I like noise for noise sake.

I saw Lilburn performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra a few months ago. I wasn't moved. But then it wasnt his electronic work. Morley's always had real art bands. He's a "real artist". If you want music for the masses, i mean of course they wont touch the Dead C. They go see the Exponent's play. It's all art-wank, but hey.. its still better than most tepid Flying Nun, NZ rock, NZ pop music. And its still less wanky than seeing a free-jazz group play. from destruKt

: It's strange. While Bruce might align his recent free-er releases with AMM
: or other stuffy European improvisors (where has he said this anyhow). I
: still see "Tusk" or "Repent" being closer to the outer boundaries of Sonic
: Youth or the Swans or Branca or many of Keiji Haino permutations and a
: multitude of other noise-rock bands...
:
: > I completely agree with you here -- when the hand-crafted stuff of DR503
: > and some of Trapdoor, some of Harsh '70s is set against what the Dead C
: > would like to call "impov", they're suddenly out of their depth. But
: > perhaps the new stoner-what-the-fuck noise market _is_ "where it's at".
: > My favourite Dead C pieces come from those early releases, before the
: > ball was rolling. Now "It's to do with drugs and breathing and
: > concentration, that and the physical effort of wringing noises out of
: > machinery for prolonged periods of time"(Bruce Russell, The Wire, June
: > '99) looks like just more drugged out jamming slobs.
:
: Unfortunately a lot of fairly amazing music has been made by drugged out
: jamming slobs. In that state, it all sounds so good and revolutionary
: (revelationary).

There will be occasional lucky accidents, or jams from people who can't
really put a foot wrong with their intrument(s). However I think most
drug-induced music or music played under the influence of drugs fails
in one way or another -- I can see how they might fit into the creative
process, but it's not such an important part of the recipe with people
who're already imaginative, I imagine.

: I saw Lilburn performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra a few months
: ago. I wasn't moved. But then it wasnt his electronic work.
: Morley's always had real art bands. He's a "real artist".
: If you want music for the masses, i mean of course they wont touch the Dead
: C. They go see the Exponent's play.
: It's all art-wank, but hey.. its still better than most tepid Flying Nun, NZ
: rock, NZ pop music. And its still less wanky than seeing a free-jazz group
: play.
:

with regard to this and to answer to what "destruKt" has said elsewhere,
I'll say just this -- that more great noise has emerged out of jazz
musics than out of other genres of music that border on or bring in
noise. Maybe you haven't heard these other musics, including the
so-called "free-jazz". Maybe you hadn't heard Lilburn's music-concrete
electronic work (quite different to any of his orchestral stuff). Maybe
you haven't heard some of the great noise to emerge from with
conventional orchestral classical music for instance, or from a jazz duo
of drummer and piano (just examples).
That is not to say that said great noise works do not exist. Nor is it
to say that some of said great noise music has not already eclipsed
music from some noise outfits based in rock, outfits like the Dead C,
Gate, Dust Handful and many, many others. Of course it has, by in large
-- the movement toward noise from within various music forms has been
something emerging consistently throughout the Twentieth Century, with
"Rock" a relatively recently used genre. So it is fair to say the "rock"
efforts of the Dead C had already been eclipsed even before the bands
conception.
It is The Dead C.s own attempts to align themselves with these various
continuums of noise making be they jazz-based or from wherever else they
mean that I find truly offensive and disrespectful and pretentious. The
use of pitch and other controllable variables (which includes the
compositions of Cage) distinguishes the loose "drugs and concentration"
music of the Dead C very distinctly from these greater forms of noise.
There is simply more to these other musics. Random factors are being
controlled by an intelligent composer in the case of Cage. In most other
cases, complex harmonies and pitches enrich the noise; the classical
composers following on from Stravinsky and Schoenburg for example. Your
posts make it clear that you have not heard the great so-called
"free-jazz" which includes noise, may sound like noise, in fact plays
noise like a musical instrument. If that sort of idea is alien to you
then you are your confining your experiences of noise to the flat gray
garbage that primitive outfits like the Dead C create, using little else
but conveniently feedbacking guitars, elementary rock chords and effects
and sounds that others have made introduced as samples, found sounds,
stuff off tape recorders, juxtaposition in effect, that('s what they)
have been able to come up with -- about as rudimentary as The Exponents
(are you suggesting that the dead c aren't just another band, like the
exponents ?).
You owe it to yourself to go and listen to some of the more enriching
uses of sound out there. And if you think going to a free-jazz gig is
"wanky" you just haven't heard any good free jazz yet, unless, and I
pity you if this is the case, you just can't hear what's going on in
these many higher forms of music (with noise). It's offensive to me that
the Dead C believe themselves to be "improvisers" in the jazz sense.
That said, don't pigeonhole jazz, or classical music for that matter.
Don't rely on the Dead C to tell you anything final about music.
Compared to great 20th century noise, the Dead C just sound boring after
so many listens.
George Gosset
Christchurch
New Zealand

in answer to what "destruKt" has said,
I'll say just this -- that more great noise has emerged out of jazz
musics than out of other genres of music that border on or bring in
noise. Maybe you haven't heard these other musics, including the
so-called "free-jazz". Maybe you hadn't heard Lilburn's music-concrete
electronic work (quite different to any of his orchestral stuff). Maybe
you haven't heard some of the great noise to emerge from with
conventional orchestral classical music for instance, or from a jazz duo
of drummer and piano (just examples).
That is not to say that said great noise works do not exist. Nor is it
to say that some of said great noise music has not already eclipsed
music from some noise outfits based in rock, outfits like the Dead C,
Gate, Dust Handful and many, many others. Of course it has, by in large
-- the movement toward noise from within various music forms has been
something emerging consistently throughout the Twentieth Century, with
"Rock" a relatively recently used genre. So it is fair to say the "rock"
efforts of the Dead C had already been eclipsed even before the bands
conception.
It is The Dead C.s own attempts to align themselves with these various
continuums of noise making be they jazz-based or from wherever else they
mean that I find truly offensive and disrespectful and pretentious. The
use of pitch and other controllable variables (which includes the
compositions of Cage) distinguishes the loose "drugs and concentration"
music of the Dead C very distinctly from these greater forms of noise.

> in answer to what "destruKt" has said,
> I'll say just this -- that more great noise has emerged out of jazz
> musics than out of other genres of music that border on or bring in
> noise. Maybe you haven't heard these other musics, including the
> so-called "free-jazz". Maybe you hadn't heard Lilburn's music-concrete
> electronic work (quite different to any of his orchestral stuff). Maybe
> you haven't heard some of the great noise to emerge from with
> conventional orchestral classical music for instance, or from a jazz duo
> of drummer and piano (just examples).
I've listened extensively to free-jazz (Coleman, Taylor, Sun Ra etc.).
Concrete/electro-acoustics (Parmegaini is one of my favourites. along with
Henry, Stockhausen). And i have heard Lilburns electronic works. I do enjoy
this stuff... but don't consider myself a conneisseur by any strech. However
I don't believe thats relevant. I know what I enjoy and what I don't. I'm
not speaking from ignorance here. However astounding it may be to you that
I'm not a massive free-jazz fan, i've heard enough of it to make that
aesthetic decision.

> That is not to say that said great noise works do not exist. Nor is it
> to say that some of said great noise music has not already eclipsed
> music from some noise outfits based in rock, outfits like the Dead C,
> Gate, Dust Handful and many, many others. Of course it has, by in large
> -- the movement toward noise from within various music forms has been
> something emerging consistently throughout the Twentieth Century, with
> "Rock" a relatively recently used genre. So it is fair to say the "rock"
> efforts of the Dead C had already been eclipsed even before the bands
> conception.
Certainly. People like Branca, Sonic Youth etc took rock to some of its
logical extremes. Even the psychedelic bands of that earlier generation were
doing weird shit. The extended jams of the Grateful Dead, Hendrix's noise
guitar etc. That in no way demeens the music of the Dead C, nor my interest
in it. I'm well aware of how far back theories and practice of "noise music"
go.

> It is The Dead C.s own attempts to align themselves with these various
> continuums of noise making be they jazz-based or from wherever else they
> mean that I find truly offensive and disrespectful and pretentious. The
> use of pitch and other controllable variables (which includes the
> compositions of Cage) distinguishes the loose "drugs and concentration"
> music of the Dead C very distinctly from these greater forms of noise.
> There is simply more to these other musics. Random factors are being
> controlled by an intelligent composer in the case of Cage. In most other
> cases, complex harmonies and pitches enrich the noise; the classical
> composers following on from Stravinsky and Schoenburg for example. Your
> posts make it clear that you have not heard the great so-called
> "free-jazz" which includes noise, may sound like noise, in fact plays
> noise like a musical instrument. If that sort of idea is alien to you
> then you are your confining your experiences of noise to the flat gray
> garbage that primitive outfits like the Dead C create, using little else
> but conveniently feedbacking guitars, elementary rock chords and effects
> and sounds that others have made introduced as samples, found sounds,
> stuff off tape recorders, juxtaposition in effect, that('s what they)
> have been able to come up with -- about as rudimentary as The Exponents
> (are you suggesting that the dead c aren't just another band, like the
> exponents ?).
Even Cage was against the elitist pretensions you're superimposing on some
20th century avant-garde music. In many cases his work pushed towards total
indeterminacy and randomness. It may have been conceptual, but it wasn't
aimed at being outwardly "musical". People like Schoenburg were working in a
classical/romantic/serial tradition, experimenting with it, but it was still
classical music. It means little to me. Likewise as far as Taylor and the
free-jazz people went, they still remained in the context of jazz. Even the
spaced out noises of Sun Ra etc. Very limited... when was the last time
Cecil Taylor used amplified guitars, radios and oscillators? It's still all
sax and piano and voice. Maybe that's why i enjoy Evan Parkers work more...
its more willing to push the envelope.
Musicianship never interested me. Thats because i'm not a musician. The
musique-brut of the Dead C and others in the noise field I find far less
constraining than the massive intellectual dead-weight of jazz or classical.
I do agree that they could be wrong in aligning themselves with those
people... do they really want to become another cog in that linear equation.
Let them stick to noise-rock, at least thats only 30 years old.

> You owe it to yourself to go and listen to some of the more enriching
> uses of sound out there. And if you think going to a free-jazz gig is
> "wanky" you just haven't heard any good free jazz yet, unless, and I
> pity you if this is the case, you just can't hear what's going on in
> these many higher forms of music (with noise). It's offensive to me that
> the Dead C believe themselves to be "improvisers" in the jazz sense.
> That said, don't pigeonhole jazz, or classical music for that matter.
> Don't rely on the Dead C to tell you anything final about music.
> Compared to great 20th century noise, the Dead C just sound boring after
> so many listens.
My flatmate is quite a free-jazz fan. I've listened to loads of it... you
don't seem to be able to accept the fact that someone who has actually
listened to the music might not enjoy it. Why does it seem that in your eyes
jazz is some sort of revelation waiting to convert the ears of the ignorant
children of rock if only they would give it a chance.

If controlled drug use was a compositional factor, then remember what we
are being told now is that the dead c are _now_ improvisers. Their early
stuff may have resembled tailored compositions, and you might be able to
make a case for their later "improvisation" as composition+variables a
la Stockhausen's strict instructions to his player in "The Seven Days"
stuff (conveniently re-visited in the same Wire issue, providing a
healthy contrast between S'.s experiments (control freak that he is),
with the smell and general presence of the Dead C on stage, which I
don't think the Wire quite conveyed). Sure the dead look like they're in
a stupor, but you can hear it as go-with-the-flow-stuff -- any ape can
improvise the way they do, to revisit and old angle on modern art --
it's not that I don't like modern art, more that I prefer the good
stuff, the interesting, challenging, you know, the simply sketches that
have _something_ in it -- it's almost magical and usually very well
executed.
Which comes down to again, another old red herring, virtuosity. These
guys cannot think the sounds they wish to create beyond the obvious
limits of both the rock instruments (for instance the guaranteed
harmonics when guitar strings resonate back to the amps -- this stuff
comes with the machinery) and their own ability to do anything
interesting with the instruments. It is obvious watching them that they
are thinking, but it's like watching a new born foal trying to walk --
they have little real control over what they unleash -- A Cage type
thing to do perhaps, but not very interesting -- Cage was aprox. 1000
times more unpredictable.
To see them on stage, you don't get the feeling they're delicately
crafting anything a la what Hamish had to say about their early music.
Now they're "improvisers" -- they'll have a hard time re-defining that
term, and if they turned up at most "improv" sessions in NY doing what
they call "improvisation" they'd be too loud and might even get beaten
up. That arrogance might have something to do with simply being out of
control.

george

sure, i haven't even heard their stuff. i was just thinking it would be
cool if someone tried hooking musicians up to computer controlled IV drips
and acted as an additional band member (nurse?). john cage was completely
insane, i mean, barking mad & some people probably prefer to be like that
temporarily rather than permenantly. improvisation is just like playing
subconciously composed music & a pretty hopeless endeavor in the context
of HAVING to do it at a certain time. that's why home recording rules, you
can roll out of bed and work something out IMMEDIATELY. this has a lot to
do with laziness, but it works. the "immediacy", the shortness of the time
delay between idea and expression, is analogous to the mechanism of
addiction. ammonia is added to cigarettes & cocaine is free-based such as
to minimize the time-delay between desire and satisfaction. the main
problem with elderly white men performing music, be it classical, jazz, or
"rock", is that it lacks funkiness. thus to overcome the impediment of
their age and race they should start smoking crack cocaine instead of pot.

: Which comes down to again, another old red herring, virtuosity. These

: guys cannot think the sounds they wish to create beyond the obvious
: limits of both the rock instruments (for instance the guaranteed
: harmonics when guitar strings resonate back to the amps -- this stuff
: comes with the machinery) and their own ability to do anything
: interesting with the instruments.
I was recently at the Nihilist Spasm Band's No Music Festival and thought
quite a bit about virtuosity and inprovisation. ALthough I had been
listening to "noise" for years, I had never actually witnessed it
being produced live (apart from when I produce it myself). As it turned
out, enjoyment of an act seemed to have nothing to do with the virtuosity
of the performer... or perhaps the definition of virtuosity also comes
into question here. The first act, Ken Vandermark and Fred Van Hove,
are true masters of their instruments (sax and pipe organ in this case)
and completely mezmorized the audience... as they did when they jammed
on clarinet and accordion the next night. Borbetomagus also put on an
incredible show of pure, brute-force wall o' noise... the contrast was
remarkable as both of these performances included remarkable control
and technique... Vandermark and Van Hove of the more conventional/
musical type, while Borbetomagus drive a musical runaway train that
only they know how to eventually stop... while it is questionable if
there is any music there, they have created something that is uniquely
theirs, different every time, and impressive (like being caught in a
leaky canoe in a thunderstorm). The Nihilist Spasm Band finally, was
the utlimate in the untrained, but very thoroughly practiced
department. Utter cacophony at earplug volume, but fascinating,
hilarious, and unique. I think your best point (and I obviously
disagree with a good number of them), is that a performer should get
soemthing _interesting_ out of the interest... all of these performers
certainly did, but how do you measure their virtuosity?

: it's like watching a new born foal trying to walk --
: they have little real control over what they unleash -- A Cage type
: thing to do perhaps, but not very interesting --
Ah, but what if the chaos is what they are particularly good at producing
and is perhaps funny, frightening, or simply massive enough to be
impressive? (or in the case of the foal, perhaps it is moving).

: Now they're "improvisers" -- they'll have a hard time re-defining that

: term, and if they turned up at most "improv" sessions in NY doing what
: they call "improvisation" they'd be too loud and might even get beaten
: up. That arrogance might have something to do with simply being out of
: control.
Well, Borbebetomagus seem to call themselves "improvisers" (if you pushed
them to make a decision on the matter), and they are loud as hell.....
and in New York for that matter. (perhaps that's why they are so
physically large... to defend themselves from offended NY fans of
"improvisation".)

How's about a guy like Alan Licht? In fact, at No Music, Jim O'Rourke,
who is trained and does seem to improvise, also was one of the less
interesting acts.... until he had some fun in jam sessions...

Anyway, what it came down to was many ways of approaching and executing
"improvisation", and the people that were interesting were, well...
interesting... the people that weren't, weren't. (and there seemed to be
agreement on who was and who wasn't... perhaps it had something to do
with the controlled drug use of the audience...

Hi there.
I've been observing the arguments, particularly between destruKt and George
Gosset. I have to admit that I heavily side with your argument, George,
about the pretentiousness of The Dead C when they make false claims about
their status within the 'free music' scene, making themselves to appear as
more than who they really are. However, when your argument started taking a
turn towards their virtuosity or, rather, lack of virtuosity, I really think
you started to miss the point of The Dead C and, in some ways, the point of
(their) music. Surely, more important than the way in which the sound is
created is the actual sound that comes out. No? Who cares if "any ape can
improvise the way they do?" Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't that the
point of The Dead C to a large extent and, also, 90s free noise? So, you
"prefer the good stuff." Come on! I seriously can't see how, just because
a particular work is "interesting" or "challenging", it is good.

Sorry, I can't pick sarcasm very well but I'll assume, destruKt, that your
comment on Morley being a "real artist" is sarcastic. Admittedly, I have
only heard two Gate albums, The Dew Line and Golden. Upon listening to The
Dew Line, I thought it was alright, not too bad. But when I rescently heard
the second-to-last track from Golden (with Metallica in the background), I
was so embarrassed for Morley, especially with the artistic build up he
gives himself. Yes George, in cases like this, I can see where your anger
stems from. To save myself from contradiction, however, I must emphasise
that I don't regard The Dead C as "real artist(s)" either but, in my
opinion, most of their work does come under the category of "the good stuff"
and, even, important.

Quite simply, it's obvious that The Dead C don't have much virtuosity,
technical ability, artistic vision or whatever else you care to mention in
their music but, as destruKt mentions, "they would be the first to admit
that." And they have, in a way, through the very concept of their music,
"free noise" - no more, no less. The Dead C ARE revolutionary to a certain
extent. Through mindless subconscious expressionism, The Dead C have made
us think and these long arguments are proof of that. Whether we reject them
or praise them, they do make us think. Their downfall, as George points
out, is when they align themselves with certain musical aethetics when, as
mentioned at the top of this paragraph, they simply don't have them. When
this is the case, they are truly "out of their depth." I'm ignorant to
almsot all the musicians George mentioned so, for me to make comparisons
would be out of my depth. But I still feel the right to make judgements on
The Dead C's music (even though I've only heard half their catalogue).
destruKt explains the situation perfectly: "I don't believe thats relevant.
I know what I enjoy and what I don't."

Marc.