Mini-Mutations: “Very Specific Minutia”
This podcast was recorded in the Lava Lamp Lounge.
This program is sponsored by J Jean Portraits, & Peggy’s Vegan Hot Sauce. For more information about our sponsors, follow the link. We are also now a part of the They Might Be Giants Dial-a-Song Network! This week’s TMBG DAS is, “Door To Door Minotaur.”
NegativNews (band status, new album status), Tania Chen and Jon Leidecker albums: Morton Feldman: Triadic Memories, Live in Japan, Chopping Channel: Health, Chopping Channel: World Release, The Weather Rabbit: More Stupidity, Over The Edge Archive, Movies: Media About Media About Media, How Radio Isn’t Done, impending movie by Leah Gold, Live Performances, Octob-Tour Performances, Live Mutations Disc 1, Live Mutations Disc 2, and Mini-Mutations Bandcamp.
My interview with Tim Maloney
My interview with William Davenport
My interview with Ryan Worsley
My interview with Leah Gold
It’s time to reflect on the Octob-tour, and we need to start by rolling the clock back to the end of What’s This Called? on KPSU. I recorded this track live in my studio, and sent it to Ricardo Wang for the program. On air, Ricardo played it from his phone into the mic in the studio, so there are two versions of the recording. This was created using samples of Ricardo’s program, including bits from the first “What’s This Called?” broadcast on KPSU, and other odds and ends associated with the program. Thanks again Ricardo and KPSU for helping give me some radio love to help ramp things up when things were just getting started.
I was invited to perform over the phone on KDVS to help promote the impending NorCal NoiseFest, on the program “He Hates Music, He Loves Noise,” hosted by Robin Redbeast. I recorded my performance off of my mixer, so there are two versions of the performance, too. Special thanks to Lob Instagon, Denise Chelini, Chopstick, The Stolen Elk, Smite & Collapsist for making this happen.
Our first stop on the tour was at the The Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco, for a gig hosted by Rent Romus. The line-up included Nicotine Mantis, Cellista, War Hippy & Mini-Mutations, all performers that would appear at the NorCal NoiseFest this year. Special thanks to Marla for doing all the driving and handling A/V, Lob for making it happen, Amy & Linda for coming out (and giving me a place to stay), and everyone else for making this a great show.
Rachelle Schmid invited me to perform on KPSU‘s Live Friday program, a show that goes back to the early 2000’s, and one I used to host for a number of years. But this was the first time that I was a guest performer, on this or any other program (outside of calling in). For this show, I invited my friend Red Panda Death March (Joe Peg) to jam along with me, and the results broke down into three separate performances. The sound is not perfect, unfortunately, and there’s some digital distortion on every recording that surfaced. However, I’ve done some re-mixing after the fact to patch things up as best I could, and they don’t sound all that bad in the end. The videos (ironically) have the best sound of all. Special thanks to Vicky & Joe for making this possible.
NorCal NoiseFest is always a lot of fun, and this year was no exception. I’m hoping I can keep making this a tradition, as I had an incredible time, and my performance was great. This recording is from the board, so it sounds better than it did in the room! Special thanks to Lob Instagon, Marla for doing the driving and AV, Andrea for streaming live video and giving me a place to stay, Ninah & Das for filming and including my performance on their episode of UB RADIO SALON, Denise & Chopstick, and everyone else for showing up and having a good time. Same time next year?
All throughout NorCal NoiseFest attendees could pick up a CD of “From The Island of Misfit Noise,” where Mini-Mutations was lucky enough to have this track included. It was a collaboration between Red Panda Death March (Joe Peg) and myself, and it was a pleasure to be included on a collection like this, with so many other incredible artists. This disc is now sold out in physical form… except I have a few copies squirreled away that I may be willing to sell. But otherwise, you’ll have to pick it up here or on the NorCal NoiseFest Bandcamp Page (see the comments), where they are also hosting all the live recordings from all the performances at the fest. This was a fun track to assemble, and I’m happy to share it with you all. (Do I need to mention that Lob helped make this happen?)
I had to cancel one of my radio appearances. (Sorry Phineas Narco, next time?) So to make up for it, I performed this livestream from my cousin’s house, who was letting me stay with her for much of my tour in California. (Thanks again Andrea!) She also supplied the room and the stereo that I used to make this stream possible. This is a reflective, slow-paced performance that I’m quite fond of, and has a mood and a vibe that I really enjoy. This is a board recording, and sounds better that the audio on the stream. I want to pursue more sounds like this, so until I make that happen in the future, this is your chance to hear a new direction for us. Enjoy!
Northwest Notes on KMUZ is dedicated to Northwest artists in a way that few other shows are, so getting a chance to play on the program (hosted by Mick Hickman) was a real treat. I was lucky enough to get to perform three pieces over the course of the two hours program, so in addition to my piece on Kavanaugh that I had prepared, I took another stab at the “Forest Jam” that I did on KPSU, and then a condensed version of the piece I did at NorCal NoiseFest. In addition to the audio, there is super-grainy “security cam” footage of these, which are sort of eerie to look at. Hanging out with Mick is always a treat, and I really enjoyed this radio performance.
I have been a fan of Don Haugen‘s work since I first met him in the ’90’s, but it wasn’t until recently that we reconnected in person, and entertained the idea of collaborating. We had done this once before on my program, but for this tour the idea of doing a performance together was very appealing, and to that end we cooked this gig as a sort of rehearsal for our show at the Cowfish Dance Club the coming weekend. Additionally, it was a good excuse to play on KWVA, where I first cut my radio teeth, and was therefore meaningful to me for other reasons. Special thanks to Don for taking the idea seriously, and Chris Gierig for setting it up and hosting us. (You can see him lurking around in the video.) This was a lot of fun and I can’t wait to do something like it again.
My next stop was an incredibly fun hometown show, at a venue I’d never played at before, and the rainbow flags going in only made me more happy and comfortable. Shotski’s Wood Fired Eats is a pretty huge stage, so a Mini-Mutations gig feels a bit disproportionate, but I did get to share the bill with Katy & the Null Sets(who are always a treat), as well as Motorcoat, who were out on their first tour, also, and that more than made up for my botched recording. Special thanks to Marla for doing the driving and handling the AV, Jared Sheridanand the United Sound Collective for setting it up, and Katy for playing a killer opening set. I’m looking forward to more Shotski’s shows, especially considering how close that place is to my house.
For several years I’ve been a sometimes-performer in the Dead Air Fresheners, and for even longer a behind-the-scenes collaborator, so it made sense to try and work with them on my Portland stop. To this end we performed a livestream from their practice space, where we got to jam out to our hearts content, and have a pretty great time. I had planned two “instrumental” pieces for this tour, where I don’t focus on “vocal” samples, but instead create a soundbed through “painting with sound.” I’m quite fond of doing these, and this one was no exception. Special thanks to Ryan A Ray & Ricardo Wang for making this happen, and Kiisu & Kim for offering me a place to crash out afterwards. Ya’ll are the best.
Chris (Corvallis Experiments in Noise) always manages to assemble some impressive noise shows on zero budget, and so it was incredibly exciting to be a part of this evening, where I could to open for Mark Hosler at Interzone Inc. I have a special fondness for Smokey The Bear, as well as our forests, and so this felt like an important piece to perform, and I think I was among the right crowd to grok what I was trying to say. The line-up was incredibly excellent, including nOiZepHyZiX, The Sabrina SiegelLarge Ensemble, Project Aisle, myself and Mark Hosler, and thanks to the genius booking at Interzone, we where done by 10 PM. Special thanks to Marla & Don for doing all the driving, Jim Whittemore (Luthor Maggot) for the sound reinforcement and table loan, and all the amazing patrons at the Interzone who really love to foster the noise scene. Ya’ll are amazing.
It was certainly a huge accomplishment to play a live gig with Don Haugen in his home town, but to open up for Mark Hosler in Eugene at the Cowfish Dance Club was a delight. This was an incredible show, with an excellent turnout, and well hosted by Shawn Di Fiore, whom I had not seen in far too long. (And my, what an excellent host he was.) Everyone sounded great, there was an excellent crowd, and I had a ton of fun. This set is different than the radio set we did previously, but they are certainly a matched set, and I think we have fun with them. This might have been my favorite show on the tour. Special thanks to Devin & Rachel for offering up their home as a base of operations for the Eugene portions of this tour and in general for being amazing folks, Kim for doing the wrangling and driving, and Chris & Colin for being excellent moral support.
One of the unexpected treats of this tour was getting invited by Marc Time to appear on The Sunday Morning Hangover with Don Haugen & Mark Hosler, to talk about the show at the Cowfish Dance Club, our tours, our music, and other things that come up during the two hour conversation. As a fan of Marc and his show, and incredibly jazzed about opening for Mark at a number of shows, this was a very cool way to spend Sunday Morning. Marc was an excellent and attentive host, and he even played a Mini-Mutations track during the program. You can hear the entire show at the link below. Special thanks to Kim for doing the driving and wrangling. Can’t wait to appear on the show again!
The Space Concert Club is an incredible local venue, and I was incredibly excited to be able to open up a show with Mark Hosler and Don Haugen, all of us doing solo sets. This performance was a refinement of a piece I love performing, “The House That Man Built,” and to have all my friends in town there to watch was a lot of fun. Special thanks to Summer Keightley for the excellent food, Stan Keightley & Taylor Gene Quackenbush for the incredible sound, and Douglas Hoffman for setting the whole thing up. It was an amazing night, and one I’ll never soon forget.
Growing up, Olympia seemed to be where a number of my favorite bands were from, so it seemed like a good idea to try and book a show there on this tour. Ashley Shomo put me in touch with Zach Zinn, who set up a late-night gig for us at Le Voyeur, one of the few places I’ve actually been to before. Sharing the bill with us included r33k (Jason Lazer) and the magnificent Brad Anderson, and all of us performed an intimate show for a discerning Olympia audience. I’d been considering unleashing this piece about microdosing at some point on the tour, and the more I thought about it, Olympia was perfect for just such a thing. Special thanks to Brad Anderson for going above and beyond the call of duty, and giving me a ride all the way to SeaTac after the show. He had no good reason to do so, especially considering he’d already purchased a fair amount of merch, too. You are a champion, Brad, pure and simple.
Probably the wildest show on the tour was the 24-Hour Art Show at the Alternative Library in Bellingham. This event combined music, performance and a number of other things to create an atmosphere of decadent acquiescence to all things creative, and to that end Forrest Friends and I developed a presentation where our two sets blended into each other to create an hour-long presentation… beginning at about 2 AM. On the heels of having seen Mark earlier in the night, and the ominous storm that we had to drive in to get there and back, it was curious that I wanted to perform a séance on this night. But there we have it. Special thanks to Futureman for setting the whole thing up, Garrison for doing a monumental amount of driving that night in the wind and rain, and everyone who was dancing to a wild Houdini cut-up at such an hour.
I’ve been a fan of Arvo Zylo‘s work ever since Bob Bucko Jr clued me in, so being invited to contribute a track to a No Part of It release was very exciting to me. “Pussification” contains music about or inspired by cats, released by a wide range of artists, and being on a comp with Fhtagn and Forrest Friends just felt right for an early Mini-Mutations release. At one point, Arvo referred to me as, “The Mr. Rogers of Noise,” and I let that steer my inspiration while I made this track, which was recorded over an afternoon between prepping for this tour. I have a handful of these discs for sale, Arvo has them too, and you can always pick it up form nopartofit.bandcamp.com.
While opening for a member of Negativland on several stops on this tour was very excellent, this show with Blood Rhythms, Sacred Signs, Marcus Price & Blevin Blectum was not only good enough to get a write-up in The Stranger, but was good enough for Mark to check out on his night off. As we were in prime Halloween territory for this evening, I wanted to do a little Vincent Price / Nathanial Hawthorne mash-up, and while it wasn’t my strongest performance, it was certainly a lot of fun, and very well received, too. There was no streaming live video of this performance (unfortunately), but Matt Orefice shot a brief clip, which I used and mixed with all of my “traveling” footage from the tour, which you can see in the video (linked below). This show was incredible, and could not have happened without Garrison Heck and the excellent staff at Gallery 1412, who put it all together. A massive thank you goes out to Tanner for the ride into Seattle, and my cousin Brandy, who offered up a place to stay while in Washington, making this part of the tour possible. Thanks again!
With the last day of the tour being on Halloween, and knowing my own particular inclinations, it was obvious that I needed to do a ghost story for this final show. So I dusted off a couple of Halloween treats and did my best to represent the holiday on this exciting bill at the Re-bar Seattle. Talk about a silly dream line-up: The Weatherman (Buddy Runyan) DJing for an hour, myself doing a set, Mark Hosler AND The Weatherman performing together (for the first time in 18 years!), and then a massive closing set by Monster Planet, which included all of us jamming together. This was an incredible night, with an excellent crowd, and could not have happened without the incredible help of Marla, who made this entire tour possible. It was also amazing to meet Cindy Reichel and Leah Gold, and in general have the kind of Halloween few people get. Check the links below for sound and video. This was the end, the climax, and the incredible come-down for the tour, all in one night.
Here’s the raw numbers for those who like playing that game:
Releases: 5 CDs, 1 Cassette, & 2 Compilations Tracks, all in preparation for the tour. The CDs contained bonus tracks not available on Bandcamp or elsewhere online. (The Bandcamp versions had bonus tracks not on the CDs.) The Cassette was not available in any other format (or for download) anywhere else. 2 of those CDs were of “ancillary” material that were not strictly Mini-Mutations. (1 MKU release, one “spoken word” release.) All “self-released” by WTBC Radio In Beautiful Anywhere, Anywhen.
Octob-Tour: 10 Live Performances in 9 Cities across 3 states. 7 Radio Broadcast Appearances. 2 Live Webstreams, 1 Podcast
Collaborations: 4 (Red Panda Death March / Joe Peg, Don Haugen, Dead Air Fresheners & Monster Planet, which included Buddy Runyan & Mark Hosler)
Screw-Ups: I had to cancel two gigs due to transportations issues. Both were “made up.”
The unsung hero of this tour is none other than Marla, who went above and beyond by doing a tremendous amount of the driving, by doing a tremendous amount of the moral support, AND by handling a tremendous amount of the A/V responsibilities. This tour just wouldn’t be possible and wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t been into the idea, and while I might have been theoretically capable of doing the tour on my own, having her there at so many of the shows really made this something that I could pull off. Runner up is certainly a tie between Brad Anderson & Garrison Heck, who each did Herculean Shifts driving in Washington (during storms, no less). Thank you, everyone. (But Marla more, for obvious reasons.)
Housing is the #1 expense while on the road, and if it weren’t for the various people who were willing to put me up in the month of October, then this tour would have also been incredibly difficult to pull off. A massive and very huge thank you goes out to: Amy in SF, Andrea in Sacramento, Linda in Oakland, Kiisu & Kim in PDX, Devin in Eugene, and Brandy in SeaTac, who all opened up their homes to me smelling like the inside of a tour van and begging for the use of a shower, laundry, and a flat space to stretch out for a few hours. All of you are owed more than I can adequately compensate for as a meager artist, and I can only say that ya’ll are amazing.
There’s a ton of people I’m sure I’m forgetting – perhaps Amtrak & Greyhound need a shoutout? – but I’ll close by saying: to everyone who came to a show, to everyone who picked up some swag, to everyone who helped me out, and to everyone who even remotely enjoyed some aspect of Mini-Mutations: thank you. Ya’ll are amazing. For reals.
FAQ & Final Thoughts on the Octob-tour:
The question I’ve gotten the most on tour was: Who Did The Booking? Who set up your shows? Who did you work with? How did you get these shows?
The answer is, unfortunately, boring: I set up the tour myself. I called, messaged, and e-mailed people who were setting up and / or booking at the venues, and cold-called most of them. A few I knew from other stuff. In a few cases, I contacted friends in relevant cities and asked for a show. And, once a few things got strung together, the holes began to fill in themselves. In two cases, I was asked to play a show. But I think that was largely due to the momentum of the acts I was opening for, and not so much due to my “draw” as an “act.”
So, to reiterate: I looked up phone numbers and e-mails, and I cold-contacted people And many said yes. If you’re wondering how to make a tour happen, or how to book a show, now you know how I did it. I didn’t know most of the people booking the shows, and in a few cases, the people booking didn’t even ask to hear my music. So you don’t even need a demo or a Soundcloud page or anything. Just enthusiasm, and a willingness to have most of your phone calls and e-mails unreturned.
While most of the “shows” were in bars, two were in art galleries, and those two were excellent performances and shows, and at each of made a fair amount of money, too. (Compared to the bar shows, where I rarely made anything.) I feel like this is food for thought. While the radio gigs universally did not pay, I enjoy seeing radio stations and playing on the air so much that those are almost like vacation stops for me. I will say that, personally, I like being able to get a drink for free after I play, and you don’t get that if the show isn’t in a bar. And some of my favorite shows were in bars. But the success of the shows that were not in bars has really given me pause when considering my next move.
I should probably recognize my privilege here. I’m a white, middle-aged male, who had financial resources I could lean on in emergencies and who what a support network of family and friends to help make it all work out. And, I’ve been working as an artist for 25 years, so I had cultivated a couple of contacts in that time. Full disclosure: I leaned on that financial resource a few times, to procure transportation on short notice. But I tried to remain as self-sustaining as possible, making as few excessive purchases as possible. All of that said, I did have advantages working in my favor; even in a weird neighborhood in a strange city, I can usually get a car to pick me up and drop me off without any trouble.
On that note: I had a largely uneventful tour. Early on I had two cock-ups, one involving transportation, and another where the gig fell apart after a car was broken into. But aside from those problems, the worst thing I had to deal with were the long bus and train rides between gigs. Occasionally I slept on uncomfortable couches or floors, but nearly all my creature comforts were met, even when I was away from home for long periods of time. So touring was fairly easy for me. But aside from asking politely and being willing to inconvenience myself, I hardly had to go out of my way to get everything done. Certainly, buses, trains, and Lyft will get you everywhere in this country.
There wasn’t exactly much “press” for the shows. I think Eugene covered Mark, and Seattle covered him and Blevim, but any mention of Mini-Mutations was limited. In spite of that, I got a pretty great response from people online, and I think live streaming the performances helped. In spite of all of this, my favorite responses to my work came from my cousin Andrea, who said that I was, “woke as fuck,” and from Arvo, who described me as, “a cartoon character come to life.” I got may other positive responses throughout the tour, and it seemed like people generally liked what I did. But those comments will certainly stick with me.
While on the road I met a very different kind of America than I do while I’m in my hometown, or on the Inter-Web-A-Tron, for that matter. I met people who were smart, savvy, woke, and excited about music. People engaged with the performances, asked questions and inquired about what I was doing, and I made money for the work that I was doing. (Not much, but a little.) I met humanity largely at their best, where nearly every club I performed at flew a rainbow flag, and the ones that didn’t were queer friendly and incredibly progressive. I was overwhelmed with gifts of food, music, art, and great conversation. Most importantly, I met people who were not white dudes, I was exposed to a number of ideas and points of view, and I gained a new sense of how artists should relate to the world at large in 2019.
It is a lot to take in, but compare this to the kinds of things we encounter in the Oregon Mid-Valley: racism and sexism, Red State thinking, small and unfunded art / music scenes, and a general suspicion of anyone who looks or acts differently. Oregon might be “Blue” due to a few key cities, but most of the state is dark Red. It was certainly cultural whiplash to go from San Francisco, to Seattle, and then back home. I met more strangers on the road that were willing to give me a wad of cash and drive me 150 miles to my next gig than I do when I’m at home, and while that certainly has to do with the size and density of big cities, it has been something to consider what I do next.
Strangely enough, the city that I had the hardest time getting a show in was Portland, the supposed “music town” in our state where I booked shows for almost 15 years. Contrast that to my hometown, where I was able to get two gigs (and a radio spot) fairly quickly, and Salem is not exactly known for “experimental” music. So there are always exceptions to everything.
I had a lovely time traveling, and in many ways this was an extended creative vacation. (Or, at least, cost the same.) Who knows if this will happen again, but I will say that I really enjoyed it, and wouldn’t mind taking another swing at it. Who knows? We shall see…
Some thoughts on the “two-disc set” audio document of the Octob-tour:
One of the central concepts behind Mini-Mutations was that I wanted to bring the ideas of Mid-Valley Mutations to a live audience at a venue, instead of on the radio. (MVM itself is my interpretation of Don Joyce’s incredible Over The Edge radio program.) With that in mind, I set out a number of ground rules for what this project would be: sample heavy, as live-mixed & mutated as possible, and lastly, lets try not to repeat ourselves. It was a pretty lofty goal, certainly, and perhaps even unattainable. But it wasn’t something I was gonna back down from, and to that end, I approached the Octob-tour with that same intention: let me create a series of shows that are enjoyable each on their own, but are each completely different. All of this planning was building up to a climax with a huge Halloween performance in Seattle.
“Ambitious” is probably the wrong word for it, but however one could refer to it, I was determined to make sure that each show and performance was unique. For a variety of reasons, I did accomplish that, and I’m proud of the results.
In this collection of 43 recordings, you can now hear all of the Octob-tour performances… AND, every live performance by Mini-Mutations since it’s inception. (One from before the group had a name, and several from before the name was shortened to something less ego-centric.) This is everything that was documented, everything that survived, and everything else that could be found from other sources. It’s a massive amount of audio, and in its own way, tells a story. In spite of a few technical shortcomings & fidelity issues, it is a collection of which I’m very proud.
Mini-Mutations is many things, and in this collection, you can hear nearly all of them. This includes my collaborations (w/ Red Panda Death March / Joe Peg, Semi-Colin, Don Haugen, The Dead Air Fresheners, Forrest Friends, Monster Planet & The Black Noise Orchestra), all the solo performances, all the radio guest appearances… essentially, everything that wasn’t broadcast on Mid-Valley Mutations. Going back to the summer of 2017, this turned out to be an excellent document of this project.
Disc 1 includes everything leading up to the Octob-tour, and the first two stops. (Plus a bonus track from one of the compilation tracks released in October.)
Disc 2 includes the remaining performances from the Octob-tour, and a couple of bonus bits that relate to the tour. (Plus a bonus track from the other compilation track released in October.)
Each of these performances are different, with a couple of exceptions. (Here and there I did a second take on a theme, or repeated a piece with a new interpretation.) I put a lot of care and thought into each of these, and I think it comes across in these recordings.
You can pick up each individual performance for a very small amount. Buying one disc allows you to pick up over forty dollars of recordings for a cheaper, nominal fee. If you want to support Mini-Mutations, and help us recoup the costs of the tour, please consider picking up something from these collections.
You can also still pick up all our releases that we had on the tour, too. So please, help a mutation out.