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Interviews

Jack Dangers: The Mind of Meat Beat Manifesto

By Published: October 24, 2005
AAJ: You're quite the catalyst.

JD: Yeah. It's great, these guys, who were inspirational to begin with, can actually get back and work with each other again. Lawrence is 86. Henry's 80, and they've got more life in them than what I have! They're amazing guys. But yeah, the whole spoken-word thing. I've always been interested in it as a genre; I've got a big collection. So I've always used soundbites and stuff. I remember [hip-hop producer/pioneer] Steinski came around my house once. He was one of the first guys to do that in the early 80s in hip-hop. He'd get little soundbites in there around his beats. Anyway, he was very impressed with my spoken-work section. I've always collected the records, just sort of a natural thing to do. Plus the whole aspect of this CD being part of the Blue Series on Thirsty Ear added that sort of jazz/beatnik/poetry slant, so I just checked through the want ads in these two tracks, and there we go. That's the story for those.

AAJ: The two actual tracks that have those want-ad soundbites—they've got very different instrumentation. "Want Ads One has drumming from King and, I think, your own acoustic bass playing, which sounds great. I know you play bass, but how long have you been playing acoustic bass?

JD: That is actually a sample. That is an Emulator upright acoustic bass patch and I'm playing the keyboard. I suffer from really bad arthritis, so I wouldn't be able to play an upright, to be honest with you. I have to resort to other means.

AAJ: Very convincing patch!

JD: I think so. I think it's a better sound than if I had a real one and miked it myself.

AAJ: "Want Ads Two is a whole different sonic spectrum. There's Taborn on, I think, Fender Rhodes—and some sort of musique concrète washing around that. I am curious how you created those sounds.

JD: Once again, being completely truthful—that's a lot of hiss! [laughing] You know, these really old recordings from 1957! And I managed to disguise that in the first "Want Ads track in an organic way because of the instrumentation. But the other recording was really, really, really hissy. And no matter what I tried to do to get rid of the noise, it just wasn't going. So I more or less smothered it in white noise of seashells, the sea coming in and out on the sand, those sorts of sounds. They were recordings I did and I slammed them in there for audio sweetening purposes. [laughing] One of the tricks of the spoken-word trade. But I like how when you don't know where you're going to go with the track—the track itself is dictating where it's going to go.

AAJ: "Bohemian Grove is another really unique tune.

JD: Yeah, that was my other favorite. That and "Murita Cycles.

AAJ: It's got a sort of Japanese flavor. I can't tell what instrument is playing the melody.

JD: That's an oud. So straightaway it gives you that Middle Eastern feel. Or Asian—Indian music uses similar instruments in a very similar way. Throw into that the bass flute, which I had going through a [Roland] Space Echo, with the Sound on Sound slowed down so that what was coming back [the Space Echo's a seventies device that uses analog tape loops] was like a pitched-down version of the bass flute, but in a very creepy, ethereal way that I thought really worked. So that gives it sort of an Asian wooden flute feel—even though it was a metal flute. But pitched-down, through the Space Echo, it sort of sounds like that.

AAJ:That track has a very composed feel to it. With that one, all the parts seem like they must have been written out. Is it true?

JD: As far as it goes when you're finding sounds. I record a lot of jams I do, and then I go back and spin through them like a deejay would—chuck them through a KAOSS pad delay, stuff like that. So only as much as going through pieces of recordings and seeing what's in key. The sort of music I do, you'd be wasting your time if you sat down and wrote it out in any type of notation, whether it was in normal western notation or some strange graphic equivalent. These programs you use these days do that automatically. Like what Stockhausen would have drawn out—"this is how the wave form should look —well, the computer does that automatically. Those guys were ahead of their time even in writing notation. Anyway, it serves the same purpose; you could print out a desktop picture of a waveform and that's your score. And the vocal recordings in that particular track are all shortwave recordings. I'm a big shortwave buff, so I like recording things. I've got a couple high end shortwave receivers; I can tune in anywhere in the world, and you get some interesting-sounding recordings which already sound effected because it's on shortwave.

AAJ: There's a weirdness that comes through that format; almost anything you hear on shortwave sounds odd. It seems inherent in the format.

JD: Yeah. John Cage was the first to pick up on that in his "Imaginary Landscape series. He did a bunch of shortwave pieces. Because it sounds electronic to begin with.


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