Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Video: Uneasy Chairs, Vanessa Skantze & Adam Levitt

Thanks to Jason Lazer for the video of the recent set at Teatro de la Psychomachia of Uneasy Chairs with Vanessa Skantze and Adam Levitt. This was definitely one of my favorite sets I've done having wanted to collaborate with Vanessa and Adam for a long time. I especially had wanted to collaborate with a dancer, specifically Butoh and Vanessa is incredible.



Sunday, September 11, 2016


I have sat in twice on guitar with FHTAGN this month, first in the basement of Creative Blueprint and second at The Chapel, both working with the same elements. Each performer had audio of animal sounds playing on headphones and accompanied and interpreted with their respective instruments. Towards the end of the recording, at least on my audio, Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On played which we were to sing along with if we chose to. 

Both spaces had great acoustics, Creative Blueprint with echoey concrete surfaces with a low ceiling and the beautiful Chapel with wood surfaces, open windows and a giant open space. Any chance I get to play the Chapel I try to jump on, I especially love that space. 

With the musicians spread apart, each recording captures well the spacial aspect of FHTAGN performances and the ambience of both spaces. "You Guys Like Swarms Of Things, Right?" is from the Creative Blueprint session and "Simultaneous Translation" is from The Chapel session. Both are streaming/downloadable free from FHTAGN's bandcamp. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

At Freeway Park

Blake DeGraw, Uneasy Chairs and Ryosuke Kiyasu...photo by Valerie Ann.

When Ryosuke Kiyasu was in Seattle, he wanted to do a performance in a public space. At first he had wanted to do something solo but then decided a collaborative performance with Seattle improvisers would be fun. Luckily, I know many excellent local improvisers who are always always down to play, time permitting. 

After trying to figure out a good place to play, Wilson Shook suggested Freeway Park for a great setting with interesting spaces and it turned out to be a perfect spot. I only had to stress on picking up a new snare head for Ryosuke at Guitar Center (he destroyed the new one at the previous night's show), picking him and Kae up from Teatro where they stayed the night, finding them some food as well as parking before getting to the park...all of which I accomplished.

Improvisers that came out were myself, Wilson Shook, Blake DeGraw, Chloe Wicks, Garrison Heck, Adam Levitt, Kalan Sherrard, David Tabakian and Vanessa Skantze performed Butoh as well.

There was a nice turn out and it was beautiful weather.

Kalan set fire to a toy piano after playing it a bit and it served as an unintentional timer for the performance in a way as we basically played until it was  reduced to ashes, about 30 minutes. There was no interference with our performance or the burning toy piano surprisingly. 

The performers moved around frequently in the area we were occupying, creating a nice spatial effect that can be heard on the recording. 

Apparently, a man came by and "blessed himself" as Wilson described with the burning toy piano flames and smoke, which I sadly missed. 

This was definitely one of my favorite performances with a group ever. 

Kalan, Uneasy Chairs and Garrison with flaming toy piano.

Vanessa Skantze and Adam Levitt.

Kalan cleaning up the ashes. 

With: Adam Levitt & Vanessa Skantze

I had been meaning to collaborate with both Adam Levitt and Vanessa Skantze for quite some time individually but both times I had something set up something occurred to where it didn't happen. When I was setting up the solo snare show in Seattle for Ryosuke Kiyasu, it seemed like the perfect time for this to happen as a trio as a supporting set, Adam on saxophone and electronics and Vanessa as a Butoh performer. 

I've long wanted to collaborate with a Butoh performer. Hard, aggressive noise seems like a natural parter to it in my mind and our performance was definitely harsh and unrelenting noise. 

Afterwards, a woman I spoke to likened it to an exorcism, a Satanic sexual ritual and Rosemary's Baby. I'm okay with that. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Ryosuke Kiyasu in the Pacific Northwest

I had mentioned in a previous post  how I came to be exposed to Ryosuke Kiyasu's solo drum performances. I still can't quite quite grasp how I went from watching a YouTube video of his performances a few months ago to catching SETE STAR SEPT live, to playing shows with and driving him and Kae up and down I-5, around Portland, Olympia and Seattle. I almost thought it couldn't be possible awhile back, a surreal dream. 

I do have fellow improviser Kyle Stant to thank for connecting me with Kiyasu and giving me the opportunity to organize the Seattle show and play in the Portland show.  But, again, the experience was very magical for me and a reminder as to how things can come to be through belief, imagination and saying "yes", despite whatever is happening in life. 

I met Kiyasu and Kae at ANTIBORDERFEST 2 in Georgetown and their short and brutal SETE STAR SEPT set was completely ferocious, a word that I seemed to use repeatedly regarding their performances as well as Kiyasu's solo snare drum sets. They are two of the most mellow and sweetest people ever but once it's time to play, fucking hell, it's TOTAL DESTRUCTION. I have seen all of Kiyasu's solo snare sets I think on YouTube and I believe his Portland and Seattle sets were probably the most aggressive I've seen, Seattle's being especially primal and unhinged. 

Kiyasu likes to play solo out in the streets and I stopped in Olympia briefly en route to Portland so they could sell records and get coffee and Kiyasu performed a short solo set near the Artesian well downtown, which the locals loved. In Portland with members of Fiasco  and Smegma and myself and others, we played near Powell's books as well as a small downtown park, where Jerry Soga of Fiasco got screamed at by a local while we played. In Seattle with Kiyasu, I played at Freeway Park with (forgive me if I missed someone) Adam Levitt, Wilson Shook, Blake DeGraw, Chole Wicks, Garrison Heck, Kalan Sherrard, along with Vanessa Skantze performing Butoh as a toy piano set on fire burned to ashes slowly courtesy of Kalan. 

On the drives it was great to hear stories of Kiyasu's life as a musician and improviser and what's it's like in the Tokyo experimental and improvised music scenes. He's an extremely dedicated artist and spends half his year touring all over the world, playing with and associating with some of the best. When he is not, he's reading books and drinking coffee. 

At the end of their stay, I dropped off Kiyasu and Kae at SeaTac airport as they headed to Alaska to continue their tour. I was very sad to see them go having spent 4 amazing days sharing their company, experiencing amazing music and having a great adventure. It was great to hear how much they enjoyed the Portland and Seattle shows, the outdoor sets, the other musicians and especially to hear Kae say how these performances were "life changing" for her. They were both very impressed with the quality of improvisers they were exposed to while here in the Pacific Northwest, which meant a lot to me.  

Special thanks again to Kyle Stant and also to Emma Bourdeau for being great hosts at their home in Portland. Extra super thanks to Vanessa Skantze for graciously hosting the Seattle show at Teatro de la Psychomachia and having Kyle, Kiyasu and Kae as overnight guests. Thanks to Wilson Shook for suggesting Freeway Park in Seattle as an outdoor performance spot, it was perfect. Also thanks to the Seattle show performers Driftwood Orchestra, Kalan Sherrard, Greg Kelley, Wilson Shook, Andrew Scott Young as well as Adam Levitt and Vanessa Skantze for collaborating on our set that night, which was incredible for me. The feedback from the night was overwhelmingly positive regarding the line up and performances. There was lots of video and audio recorded, so more to come. 

For Uneasy Chairs, these shows and performances were all-time high points. I got one of the biggest compliments ever from Doug Theirault in Portland, dryly saying something like, "I haven't heard guitar that good since...well, I don't know when." Fuck yes. I was very happy with my Portland and Seattle shows and the public space collaborations, each being well attended and received, as well as experiences I'll never forget. Seeing Kiyasu and Kae freak out and give me excited support after my sets, unbelievable, surreal. Extreme thanks to both of them. 

This year continues to be personally extremely challenging and I've had a hard time imagining continuing to play shows or do anything at times, but playing and experiencing music with really amazing people really is, I don't know...magic, or something... 

How did I fit all this in my car?!

Getting new sticks in Olympia.

At Artesian Well in Olympia.

Tour posters by Kyle and Emma

Kiyasu and Kae with Kyle Stant and Emma Bourdeau in Portland.

Blake DeGraw, Uneasy Chairs with Kiyasu at Freeway Park..photo by Valerie Ann.

Kalan Sherrard, Garrison Heck and Uneasy Chairs at Freeway Park...photo by Max Clotfelter.

Parting gift from Kiyasu.

Gift from Kiyasu and Kae, Japanese fan.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

I'm Dreaming Of A White Painting

This weekend, I recorded a couple of solo tracks with the Micro Granny 2 again. Distorted, droning and mostly done on auto-pilot as in setting a sound and letting it do it's thing, sometimes slipping out of droning and doing strange glitchy sounds and at random. Minimal editing. Sometimes I'm not even in the room when these sounds are being made. Sometimes I'm doing the dishes or having a conversation. Lately, things are very dark and cold, even in the summertime and these recordings remind me of that. 

Very few people are bothering to listen to my recordings, I can tell. Yet, I am compelled to continue at times to make them. They reaffirm my existence perhaps or a way for me to say hello to myself. A document that I was here. 

The title of these tracks refer to a dream I had of creating a white painting in my dream using different shades of white with some old and some new paints, various qualities. I mentioned it to Naya Olsoon, a person on a Carl Jung related forum I follow and she responded,"that's a good release and an understanding you have the power to free yourself from any set of circumstances no matter how real they seem (or are :)) by taking radical responsibility for how you perceive them (short of extreme violation of course). I thought that was an awesome response and a sign of hope and empowerment, no matter how small in my limited scope of awareness at the moment. 

Another quote by Naya that was a follow up that I think is brilliant and beautiful:

"Your sound is your anchor. It will only amplify more as you expand and grow. Pain/dark/silence/intensity, as you well know, as much as Joy/light/sound/relief help you gain your resonance. Keep sounding to keep sane and so you can tune (or not) into others.

I told these things to someone the other day. I think they apply here too --

Think resonance and sound more than words. Both male and female can sound their beautiful voices just for the sake of it, content and consequence less important. Just the fact you're doing it is beautiful however the tone comes out, whether sad or mad or shrill or chill. It's nice there is a sound at all coming from both at the same time. Enjoy them, embrace them, hold them while they speak. They deserve to resonate as do we all. 

Your resonance, sound, voice are more important than your words and having the self-love to stay put, rather than hide and flee or shut up, so that it can be heard, and more importantly felt, by anyone nearby when it rings, chimes, reverberates. This is what makes such beautiful harmonies.  This is one of the best ways we can love.

I think though we can feel when we're in that pocket and the sound we're making rings true/harmoniously and when it doesn't. When we jump the gun, although it may cause some dissonance (or awkward ;)) for ourself or others, we see/fell the shadow we haven't integrated yet and can pivot back to our inner work to get more feels we've flubbed up, that the overall resonance is more important than vetting each of the words themselves. We can be compassionate with ourselves for trying to sing at all when before we might have screamed so loudly or whispered so softly that no one could even hear (which hurts people way more than the singing out of tune)."

Monday, August 1, 2016

Uneasy Chairs: August Shows

August 14th and 15th I have two exciting back to back shows in Portland and Seattle opening for Ryosuke Kiyasu. Ryosuke plays with SETE STAR SEPT, Kiyasu Orchestra as well as Fushitsuhafeaturing of course Keiji Haino. These opportunities came to me via my connection to Kyle Stant from Fiasco Free Improvisation down in Portland and our mutual musical interests. 

I had been woefully ignorant of Ryosuke's music and performances until a few months ago when I somehow ran across this video: 

I was instantly taken by his performance for obvious reasons, drawing a connection to my improvised guitar performances of the last few years. There is also this amazing performance with Li Jianhong from earlier this year, which is a cool connection as I had put out the split lathe cut awhile back too with him:

I wouldn't have thought for a moment that I'd have the opportunity to catch a live performance much less be on the same bill. It's going to be a highlight of a pretty cool year of live performances for Uneasy ChairsBecause of circumstances, I'm not sure of live shows after these for Uneasy Chairs. Who knows, we'll see. Hard to make plans right now. Definitely will be reporting back on these shows and documenting, which include some other very radical performers indeed!