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Music Production: Maurice Rickard
08/16/2003 Maurice Rickard: Live at Re: PULSE, Kiva Han

Announcement
I'll be opening for Cotton Casino from Japanese psych-improv-rockers Acid Mothers Temple. Also on the bill will be the last area performance of Holocaust (he's accepted a job with PETA--congratulations, Kerry!), and Entropy Man.

I've become reasonably disenchanted with what I was playing on tour, so I'm planning on doing something a little bit different. Oddly, it looks like my rig will begin expanding again, as I'll be using the submixer and will reintroduce some pedals back into the setup. And maybe I'll mic some stuff, too. It all may have some detectable entertainment value; I dunno. So come out and see for yourself.

Kiva Han Coffeehouse, Forbes Avenue & Craig Street, Oakland, Pittsburgh. All ages, $5, 8PM sharp, baby.

Report
Well this was a hard-to-interpret evening. A few nights before, I had some time to try out a new idea for my setup, and it went quite well. I went with a more Unindicted Co-Conspirators kind of setup--going through the Yamaha submixer instead of the M-Audio DMP3, and putting the PowerBook in as an effects loop, as opposed to being the only option for the signal. I also added the Line6 delay as the other effects loop. And instead of returning the loops in the actual return, I brought them into unused channels. This meant that I could route the return from either loop into the other loop, or feed it back into itself, and in my rehearsal Thursday night, I found that the feedback of PowerBook into itself was quite beautiful. I was excited.

I'd hoped to do a piece using Bidule, as a kind of shout-out to Xanopticon, who introduced the software to me when I was on tour. In my experiments with Bidule, however, I couldn't get it to process live audio--it turned out I was going about it wrongly--until I'd heard from the guy who keeps the FAQ. So I had the method, but hadn't spent enough quality time with it to do exactly what I wanted to do with it. But hey, I figured I could drop it in at the end of some piece and have it contribute.

The afternoon of the show (after spending much of the day on an intractable data problem for work), I set up to rehearse this setup again, and mess with Bidule some more. In the actual event, this rehearsal...just wasn't as good as Thursday night. In fact, it kind of sucked. Something was off, particularly in the feedback realm. I couldn't get the beautiful, complex tones I was getting during the first rehearsal. At this point, there was little I could do about it, so I got ready for the show, loaded up the car, headed over to Whole Foods for some Umi sushi, and then cruised down to Kiva Han.

I was quite surprised to see the glass wall that faces the street covered with newspaper. This was not a good thing. This was true only of the right-hand performance room, however, not the left side with the cappuccino machines and the cash register, so I went in and asked if they were, in fact, having the show. Manny was in the house, and yes, the show was happening. Manny'd gotten tired of people hanging outside, and looking in at the show without paying, so he hung newspaper. All righty, then. Also, for something different, we would be setting up by the now-newspapered glass wall, with the speakers to our right, facing perpendicularly to the direction we were facing. this was to become a problem.

I set up in the far corner, and then Andy (Vorpal) came in. It was good to see him again--he'd done some very enjoyable sets at Club Cafe. I learned a few days before that Andy was added to the bill because Kerry had already left town for PETA. Entropy Man, which was actually a couple of guys, came in and set up a large number of pedals; I moved my rig to the center to give them room. Bill and Cotton showed up, too, and unloaded their vast array of pedals, a Theremin, a guitar, and a bass, along with some other toys. We wouldn't have room to set up fully simultaneously, but it'd work out.

There wasn't much in the way of audience at first, so we just hung out for a while. As I was outside chatting with Andy and his posse, I saw Ben Cox, coming down the street, a pleasant surprise as I hadn't expected him to make it. We hung outside chatting for a little while, and I gave Ben a tutorial for my digital cameral. Then it was time for Andy to get started, and turned in a very nice IDM set for forty or so minutes. In some spots, he got very quiet, almost lowercase; some other pieces ended abruptly in a way that suggested software issues, but the endings worked well nonetheless. It was enjoyable, but I was in a bit of a weird mood--I was eager to get going and not lose my edge before playing.

After Andy was finished, the audience collectively went outside to recover from the heat, so there was a bit of a gap before I could start. Finally I went outside and rounded people up for the set. I found myself dealing with an unusual amount of hum, probably from my orientation in the room, but I began, this time with pick percussion and harmonics for a decidedly lowercase feel. I added a few volume swells, and then planned to add some further clicks by turning on my mic, and inadvertently hit the audience with a blast of feedback. I hadn't soundchecked the mic with the PA--duh. The mic was routed into the PowerBook, so those blasts were around for a while, but at least the ring modulation created a melody, and people thought it was deliberate. I routed the PowerBook's output back to the input, and blurred the feedback a little, which wasn't a bad effect against the drones I brought in. Having reduced the mic's gain, I finally did the switch clicking for percussion against the pick sounds, going between that kind of thing and the volume swells for most of the rest of the piece. I did ultimately play with the delays for some variation before ending with a pile of some short swells. Something of a sadly restricted sonic palette on this 10-minute piece. Nonetheless, there was some applause, although at some point some people walked out. (Some others took their places, however.)

I changed my ring modulator and delay settings for the next one, and started on the long volume swell drone. I'd mistakenly entered a delay value into one of the ring mod settings, and ended up with this high-pitched buzz for the drone, but it did have a nice effect. This one began rather ominous, and I played around with sending the PowerBook to the Line6 for looping and reversal before bringing in some radio interference. When I tried feeding the PowerBook back into itself, I struggled to keep it from howling, but I did have some nice edge-of-feedback tones while I played with the delay times. In anticipation of our trip to DC in a couple days, I brought in a Thonked sample of the Metro for atmosphere, which worked well in this dark drony thing I had going. For variety, I again resorted to some granularity and delay manipulation, and then went into drones and civil defense samples for the delay-manipulated drone and feedback climax. This one went over pretty well.

As I was announcing the last piece, Manny got on the mic to announce the next act, and I had to tell him I wasn't finished. I started this time with pure PowerBook feedback, trying to develop the tones I'd worked with during rehearsal, but instead having to contend with high-pitched slapback feedback due to my having the delay mix at less than 100% delayed. While annoying at the time, in retrospect it has a kind of lowercase charm, especially with the delay manipulation. I gradually brought in some guitar, but then went back to the feedback, which was a mistake, as it cut off any development I had going, and introduced an element of tedium. I started a Bidule patch, which had sounded rather cool on percussion samples, but was kind of lame on guitar. The next problem was that having Bidule and Girl open at the same time brought the PowerBook UI to a complete crawl, so while audio processing was still going on, it took me a while to quit from Bidule...and while I was trying to do that, pretty much all that was happening in the audio domain was fade-out--yet more tedium. Finally I ended it with more feedback and delay manipulation.

Ben bought a Guitar Clouds disc, which was nice of him, and we all moved outside for some air. Entropy Man was up next, although I lingered outside as it was getting quite stuffy in Kiva Han. At one point, though, I heard a crashing sound from the performance room, and rushed in to see what had happened; apparently Entropy Man struck by moving my mic stand, causing the mic to seek a lower energy level by sliding out of the clamp and hitting the floor, denting the ball. Damn. It's a cheap mic, but I've had it for years and always tried to keep it in good shape. I can probably push it out, though. I did hang out to listen to their set of interesting harsh noise made by assorted effects pedals, but I couldn't bring myself to go in. Ben moved on, while I hung outside with the other audience members and with Bill, Cotton, and Manny; it started to rain and we huddled under the awnings. Entropy Man's set was short, and soon we were ready for the main event.

Bill asked if I minded Cotton using my mic, which I didn't, although I mentioned that I'd be happy if there were no mic-eating (after all, I'd just been on tour with Girl Talk), which it turned out there wouldn't be. They set up their vast array of pedals, Bill's guitar and bass, and Cotton's Big Briar Theremin, and asked for volunteers to operate the DV camera. No one seemed to be coming forward, so while I was hoping to get my notes down about my own set, I volunteered and stood near the doorway with the camera. Their set was quite spacy and hypnotic, and it's hard for me to remember how long it was--time did seem to suspend. Cotton played Theremin as though she were dancing with it or swimming toward it, and she contributed some processed vocal drones and screams, while Bill used the guitar and (alternately) bass as noisemakers through the pedals. Most strikingly, he used two walkie-talkies to throw vocal noise through the guitar and bass pickups. As Cotton played, the Theremin tilted on the stand's ball joint until the body was vertical; this seemed to amuse her.

I tried to keep the camera steady and reasonably tight on them, although I did do some slow zooms to move between closeups and tight group shots, as well as compensating for their motions (kind of a rebellion against the usual pomo shakycam method). At one point I realized that I was aching a bit from being in the same position throughout the set, and shifted. It was kind of weird being in the same room with them, but also watching the set on the camera's LCD monitor. Ultimately the battery died, so I took up the slack with my digital camera, and was able to watch more of the show without the intermediation. Quite enjoyable.

We hung out for a bit afterwards, chatting and swapping CDs. Good stuff, great people, and apparently they'll be back in town in October, last I heard. So good connections were made, although my performance was less than ideal. At least I have some clues as to what the actual problems were.

Contact:

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