It seems like the distant past to me, what amounts to about two and a half weeks ago. It was a Friday afternoon, and my daughter and I had been in Los Angeles for a little more than a day. Zinnia brought us to Catasonic studios, where 5 was recording his duo, The Walking Faces. He had also graciously decided to block off a couple of hours of his studio time to record a sequel to GUSTY WINDS may exist, and album the two of us had recorded years earlier, when he was in Seattle. That particular album had been recorded in 2005 on my first visit to Seattle. I hadn’t seen 5 in several years, and I wrote most of the structure and form of that piece on the flight out. Once I was there, we went to the studio and I taught it to the band (Underground Weather), most of whom I had only met that day. It was an interesting experiment, one that I still enjoy listening to from time to time.
You see, 5 and I had been experimenting with controlled sonic chaos for years. Our band Bruce had been formed with the idea that we would not have “songs” but sonic soundscapes, ones that we might revisit, but largely predicated on the emotions and vibrations of the time, place, the specific moment really, that we were playing. While this isn’t entirely what we ended up doing with that project, it was something we tried to do as much as we could. All of the performances of Bruce were played with that in mind, so we were basically a new and different band every time we got together and played. Practice was always interesting, because we were never really practicing, at least not for the benefit of muscle memorizing the material that we were performing. What we were really practicing was a shamanistic ritual of reading the moment, channeling the energy of the space into sounds that we could make with our instruments. It isn’t as though it was or is a new idea, as many of the masters before us have done this well. Our inspirations came from all sorts of places, Ayler, Coltrane, Coleman, Davis, Ribot, the list is really endless.
It is this very ideal that I am continually drawn to. I can’t remove that from my musical ability, as I managed to firmly entrench this ideal into my soul. In a way, I am broken, because even when I try to be a more structured player (whatever that actually is), I can’t help but thwart my attempts to achieve it. So it goes.
So GUSTY WINDS may exist was, at that time, my attempt to “compose” some of that chaos and capture it in a recording. I wanted specific ideas to flow through the improvisation, as well as some melodic coherence. There is a story there, and although I no longer have my notes and can’t tell you the specific story, you can hear and feel it. I imagine that it is a different story for every listener, but it was intended to behave that way.
Enter my recent foray into Los Angeles. 5 had gone to SWSX with Zinnia and on his return trip saw the existential signs of New Mexico that declare “Dust Storms May Exist, use caution.” He also new I was coming in a couple of weeks, so he recommended that we record a new album. A sequel, of sorts. I had decided that this time around, I would prepare for this with a little more time, but rather than worry too much about melodic content, I would focus on rhythmic content. I spent my time at home experimenting with as many rhythmic ideas that I could improvise, catching most of them with the voice recorder on my phone, so that I could go through and pick my favorites. GUSTY WINDS had been completely improvised in one long take, I wasn’t going to do that with DUST STORMS. I had written four or five basic grooves and rhythms that I wanted to use, and decided what order they would go in based on what I thought was the best flow. I also intended for there to be some seriously unscripted noise to happen in certain places around those ideas. There was talk of having more than just 5, Patrick, and myself play on this, but we weren’t sure that it would be anyone else until that day.
So, what actually happened is that we recorded three takes of my main rhythmic idea as a trio, with 5 on his Walking Faces setup (which is quite complex involving lots of effects and two amps), Patrick on drums, and me on bass. I had wanted this particular section to be about three to five minutes in length, but the third take got away from us. It was beautiful. I think it was about twenty-five minutes in length originally. It basically is the entire first track of the album, but I chopped the ending off and used that in the last track.
We were then joined in the studio by B. Kray, who took up the bass guitar, and Sheridan Riley (drums for Avi Buffalo, guitar and sing for Peg), who was going to be making percussion noises that were being melted through various electronic devices. The next piece recorded ended up being track four, although I had originally planned for this to be track three. It was also a basic chord and rhythm idea that came out, more or less, exactly as I had envisioned it.
The next bit recorded was the second track, which in my master plan was supposed to be the final track. Due to the way that it came out (which is partly my fault for not explaining the feeling that I wanted conveyed properly) it didn’t sound like the ending I wanted. Still, it is an interesting collection of sounds, and captures the ridiculous-ness of that moment well.
Finally, we recorded the centerpiece, track three, Dust Storms Do Exist. Without telling anyone what I was looking for, I played as though a dust storm was actually happening in the studio. I attempted to convey that concept sonically to everyone else in the studio. It is a little frightening for me to listen to at times, because I let myself go completely. It was a sonic abandon, and any sense of self that I had been freed from its mortal chains, as I was to become a dust storm. At least, that was what I tried to do. The problem is, of course, that I have never seen or experienced a dust storm. It more or less worked as I wanted it to anyway.
The final track of the album is actually a conglomeration of two takes and a false start, the first and the last take of the trio work. The first take is “enhanced” by a false start of the third take, which started out much better than the first take. So I erased the opening bars of the first take and replaced them with the false start looped a bit. I added the end of the third take to the end of the first take. Because I am basically a sloppy editor, I threw sound effects and noises over the sloppy edits, because I liked how they sounded. The noise in the middle covering the fade out from the first take to the fade in of the third take is actually a radio station that came through 5’s amp when he turned on some effect.
I am pleased with the end result. It is a more emotionally charged piece that GUSTY WINDS may exist. It actually smacks me around when I listen to it, which can be rough at times, but in the end, while I didn’t follow my original plan exactly, it came out the way I wanted it to. So if you haven’t listened to it already, go do it now!