Drums, acoustic and electronic. Lifetime engagement. Begin in early childhood for optimal malleability. Transfer old piano lessons into percussion. Play all styles in search of the hidden, next-level thing. Program drum tracks, program brain. Fuse. Send to Earth.
Adroit, angular movement derives rhythm, dramatizes the state of molecular dislocation, and compels a drummer to drop something eyebrow-raising into the hierarchy of percussion, e-drums and audio samples. These moments are preserved in solo concentration or in combination with other sonic explorers.
Even friendly, supportive audiences are quietly unforgiving, and fret over wasted time. As an artist, there’s a musical boot camp and duty to wade through months or years of throwaways that lead to cogent songwriting, layering and composition of original tracks. Navel-gazing pet projects are time-wasters…you either have the chemistry or you don’t.
In joining or forming bands of varying discipline, we flock with the like-minded who obsess in the studio, seek variation and cultivate their willpower on a formidable test bed. We began with NYC and Jersey, Miami, San Francisco and elsewhere, nationwide US, UK and Europe.
It was an exercise in how to trap lightning, record it under label contract, ally with well-connected management, and produce/engineer/master EPs and an album with alt-rock luminary Mark Kramer of Shimmy Disc + Second Shimmy (Galaxie 500, Sonic Youth, Ween, Yo La Tengo, Urge Overkill, Gwar, Low, Half Japanese, Jon Spencer, “Pulp Fiction” Grammy-winning soundtrack, etc.). Play out live and do this in quantity—enough to place a firmament under the esprit de corps on tour. Land gigs at reputable and scene-making venues with locally-, nationally- and internationally-recognized acts (full listing appears below). Repeat, sparkle and fade until the wheels fall off and it’s dust in the wind.
We quickly discovered how one should never underestimate the intensity of sonic risk-takers who’ve gone far beyond mere dabbling in the New York City arts crucible; adaptation to the logistics of recording, time-defying studio hours, and touring under nascent contracts invoked by indie demos and showcases. Evolving through concerts as the come-up, the headliner and the support for several well-known British and American bands over a blistering two-year span, we obtain proper label-supported distribution through both indie record stores and chains (Tower Records, Virgin, etc.); radio airplay tracked, charted and logged to the guild of ASCAP, as legitimacy needs royalties, taxing and FCC approval.
There were fleeting Top-10 and isolated #1s on indie alt-rock FM stations and college radio (including UC Berkeley, Athens GA, etc.), with 25,000+ albums sold/distributed mostly in the US, UK and Iceland (with transaction data showing they’re still out there, circulating and occasionally trading among collectors).
We produced special vinyl LP editions of techno tracks minted for DJ sets (spun by the likes of Josh Wink, Carlos “Soul Slinger,” Keoki and other NASA DJs, DJ Dara, Sound Factory DJs, Caffeine DJs, etc.), and stargazed through odd bookings with a wide range of bands. There was a crossover sound meshing indie rock with techno, early adopter of a generational shift. This inflamed the sensibilities of NME and Melody Maker (reviews of Dandelion Fire’s music across all media channels were generally mixed). From the outset to the finish, DF’s management was overseen by mastermind and MTV/120Minutes’ legend Matt Pinfield.
Dandelion Fire’s final recording/involvement was a version of Frank Sinatra’s “I Won’t Dance” (the band’s only cover song), produced by Kramer for Grass Records’ (since sold to Wind-Up Records) 2-Disc “Chairman of the Board” tribute album (also released on two translucent blue-vinyl LPs). This was accomplished in collaboration with The Flaming Lips, Girls Against Boys, Lotion, Jawbox, Samiam, Whirling Dervishes, Down by Law, Screeching Weasel and 20+ other indie-rock groups. Before this, we also provided two tracks on a well-received compilation called American Independence — The New York Underground which went out on Eurostar Records (Germany) for release in the European market.
In the 1990s, Dandelion Fire (signed to Kokopop / Shimmy-Disc Records) developed an anthology of about 20 originals and was consistently booked with alternative rock, Manchester-sound, Brit-pop, shoe-gaze and occasionally purely techno groups—essentially approximated by the “120 Minutes” milieu. Along an ambitious audio range the style sought to blend harder indie- and garage-rock gestures of a former age with newer and more fluid expressions of guitar effects processing on the advance guard. There were moments that called for energy-filled floor-movers layered with skip-beats or syncopated bug-out beats containing the rare element “bounce,” infused with dashes of electronics and sonic processing tweaks delivering a slightly psychedelic edge. The sound-scape followed along a similar blueprint as Stone Roses, Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine and Pixies, yet also heavily influenced by Primal Scream, The Smiths, Jane’s Addiction, Sonic Youth, The Cure, New York’s NASA/Liquid Sky techno underground. Geographically, this took us from New Jersey’s alt-rock havens (beginning with New Brunswick and alt-rock jewel WHTG, the seminal station) to New York City’s finest and beyond as the bookings increased. Unfortunately Kokopop Records crashed and burned due to litigation misadventures at the top, and just a mere month or two after completing our debut album. A desired lift-off or crossover moment never quite arrived, and a substantive indie-rock label died, sending all concerned parties scurrying for the cover of day jobs at the salt mine and the repellent resumption of life’s ordinary pursuits.
From 1996 to 2000 I provided drum and percussion tracks to several artists, bands and studio projects in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Northern California. This is also when I began experimenting more with e-drums, beat layering/mixing and production.
In 2003 and 2004, Olympia Center vaguely approximated the sounds of Luna or The Velvet Underground. Its short-lived, detached and mellow countenance surfaced in SF’s SoMa art party circuit, and a clean-sounding four-song EP was produced from a roughly eight-song repertoire.
From 2004 to 2008 Black Box Recorder / What X is Trying to Say came forth as an indie-rock trio with no discernable penchant for label-hunting, yet were able to secure gigs at several fine coastal California venues based on 14 songs, only four of which were properly produced and pressed into an EP. The band played live shows and parties in San Francisco, was booked as a supporting act in Los Angeles and San Diego, and recorded at the Death Star-like Center of the Mile studio in SF’s Mission District using gear that was originally commissioned by George Lucas at Skywalker Sound, before the cinema scene went completely digital.
With all former projects now dissolved, I maintain a dedicated studio in San Francisco and collaborate with various musicians, fill time with solo experimentation and seek future formation under the auspices of a sonic entity dubbed Lights in Satellites.