February 13, 2014, is the official release date for my 33 1/3 book on Aphex Twin's 1994 album Selected Ambient Works Volume II, available at Amazon (including Kindle) and via your local bookstore. • F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #sound-art, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

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tag: comics

Do You Want Punk or Do You Want the Truth?

I wrote the introduction to a 58-artist Minutemen tribute comic

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The talented artist Warren Craghead, whose comics I edited a million years ago, recently published a small book — “a drawn tribute” — in which 58 artists drew the 48 songs from the now 30-years-old album Double Nickels on the Dime by the Minutemen. The contributors included several other artists whose work I have edited in the past — among them Gabrielle Gamboa, John Porcellino, and Dean Westerfield — and such talented folks as Josh Bayer, Marc Bell, Luke Ramsey, and Sarah Boyts Yoder, just to name a few. Craghead invited me to write the collection’s introduction. I was tempted, of course, to connect mini-comics and self-published art to the “econo” mode of the Minutemen, but in the end I took another route, based more directly on my own experience of the music when it was first released. Here is the text of my introduction:

“Do You Want Punk or Do You Want the Truth?”

I never saw the Minutemen play live, but I did get to witness Mike Watt carry the flame in the years that immediately followed their tragic, premature dissolution.

I started college a few months after the album Double Nickels on the Dime was released. Double Nickels was something of a soundtrack to that first year of school. While the dormitory quad echoed with dueling boomboxes — there was an ongoing rivalry between recent live releases by Bruce Springsteen and Talking Heads — the college radio station was more partial to the Minutemen. Those taut, ever so brief songs that populate the album popped up regularly on the radio, like public service announcements: short, direct, impassioned. The title of the album’s “#1 Hit Song” might have been intended as a jokey self-defeatism, but on college radio it was something of a fact.

And then, well into the first semester of my second year at college, the Minutemen’s legendary singer and guitarist, D. Boon, passed away. I happened to attend school where Kira, of Black Flag, was originally from, and she’d recently returned to town. She and Watt, in the process of recuperating from losing Boon, formed a group called Dos, which as the name suggests consisted just of their two basses. Seeing Dos perform live off campus was the first time I ever saw Watt play in person. It was a very disorienting experience, because the rollicking, intense, chaotic sound that I recognized from the Minutemen was, in the form of Dos, funneled into something far more meditative and reflective, more subtle and remote. If the Minutemen were like funky beatnik Woody Guthries, Dos was as if Johann Sebastian Bach had hooked a pickup to a cello.

And to be frank, at barely 18 years of age, I had found Double Nickels on the Dime extremely befuddling at first. Like with many records that would later become favorites — Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II — I was by no means immediately smitten. It was less love at first listen than it was an immersive, confounding experience that I felt a strong desire to wrestle with. Unlike with Brew or SAW2, the Minutemen’s Double Nickels on the Dime isn’t something I ever really managed to wrestle to the ground. Instead, I simply managed to come to grips with it, to make peace with its intensity. To this day the pummeling language, the short songs, the changes of sonic environment — live audience here, tiny garage there — all combine into a persistently formidable listen. We all make our way into a record this intense in our own ways. It was, really, only through the musical language of Dos that I came to begin to understand Double Nickels on the Dime, to appreciate the individual instrumental lines, to recognize the play between guitar and bass, bass and drum, and to hear Boon’s booming innuendos and admonishments as one among many rumbling forces in the fierce assembly.

Pick up a copy of the book at doublenickelsforever.tumblr.com.

This first appeared in the December 2, 2014, edition of the free Disquiet email newsletter: tinyletter.com/disquiet.

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Two Recent Talks

Sound art at CCA + "music comics" at the Academy of Art

I gave two talks recently in San Francisco. The first, on October 23, was part of Chris Kallmyer’s course at the California College of Art. The second, on November 11, was a standalone event at the Academy of Art.

The one for Kallmyer’s course, which is about sound as an artistic medium, was a chronology of my work in sound, starting in 2006 and running up to the present. That initial year, 2006, a decade after the launch of Disquiet.com, was, in retrospect, a big transition year for me. That was the year I put together the Our Lives in the Bush of Disquiet compilation, as a response to the open call for remixes that Brian Eno and David Byrne created to commemorate the 25th anniversary of their classic My Life in the Bush of Ghosts album. I then connected the dots from Our Lives in the Bush of Disquiet through a subsequent series of compilations I put together, all of which involved me asking musicians to respond to a specific compositional prompt — for example to defend Susan Philipsz in Lowlands: A Sigh Collective, to refute Megan McArdle in Despite the Downturn. Those 2010 projects led to a loosening of the curatorial method in the 2011 Insta/gr/ambient compilation, which was broader minded, and had about twice as many members as the earlier projects, and that in turn led to the far more open-ended Disquiet Junto, which as of this writing is finishing its 151st weekly project. In between I touched on the 2009 piece I had at the gallery Crewest in Los Angeles, the 2012 project of putting together a score for the exhibit Rob Walker curated at Apex Art in Manhattan, and my piece at a Dubai art gallery at the start of this year, and brought things into the present with the exhibit I currently have at the San Jose Museum of Art (more on which here at Disquiet.com shortly). I don’t think I’d ever really done a talk before in which all those things were connected as one continuum. It was very enjoyable to walk through, and Kallmyer’s students were curious, thoughtful, and intelligent.

The talk I gave at the Academy of Art was an overview of the work that went into the four comics I edited recently for Red Bull Music Academy (MF DOOM, DJ Krush, Can / Damo Suzuki, Isao Tomita). In the talk, I began back in 1992, when I started editing the comics at Pulse! magazine for what would turn out to be a decade, and then my half decade at Viz, the manga publisher. The Red Bull Music Academy comics combined those two periods, in that the comics drew creators from both Japan and North America. In preparation for the talk I had a bit of a realization about a question I’ve been asked regularly since 1992: “How do you edit comics?” I’ve long struggled with detailed explanations of what it means to edit a comic, and developed this theory about how people who can’t draw can have a tendency to read too much into how complex drawing is, when for someone who can draw a rough illustration is about as much effort as a paragraph is for a good writer. But I now think the question “How do you edit comics?” may have at its root a more simple misunderstanding. When a lot of people hear the word “edit” they think it means, at most, “copyedit,” and they are confused by how you can “copyedit” a picture. In the talk I gave at the Academy of Art I explained that true editing is, ultimately, a form of creative direction, whether or not pictures are involved. Anyhow, the opportunity to talk about comics at the Academy of Art (which is where I’ve taught my sound course for five semesters so far) was very enjoyable, and it was organized by Cameron Maddux.

Many thanks to Kallmyer and Maddux for the opportunities.

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Tomita, the Manga

The fourth comic in my series for Red Bull Music Academy's Tokyo festival

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Now online is the fourth and final comic in the series that I’ve been editing for Red Bull Music Academy’s 2014 Tokyo festival. Titled “Switched On” it is an overview of the life and career of synthesizer master Isao Tomita, with a story cowritten by Jordan Ferguson and Yuko Ichijo and drawn by Ichijo. As with the previous three comics in the series, there is light animation. I’m especially pleased with this one because it is as distinct from the others as they are from each other, and because Ichijo managed to use Japanese and English side by side, with the exception of the narration that appears at the bottom of each page.

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As with the other manga in the four-comic series, the one about DJ Krush, I co-edited this with Hideki Egami, long the editor of Shogakukan’s Ikki magazine. The other previous two were Can and MF Doom.

Ferguson wrote the recent 33 1/3 book about J. Dilla’s album Donuts. And here is Ichijo’s biography:

Yuko Ichijo is a cartoonist from Miyagi, Japan. After completing her study at Musashino Art University’s faculty of graphic design, she received honorable mention at the 159th Young Jump Best New Comer of the Month Awards in ’92 with Fujiyu Nikki (Inconvenient Diary), which led her to debut on the Young Jump magazine. Since then she has published numerous comics, and her latest series called Ahou Ressha is currently been published by Shogaku-kan Publishing up to the third volume.

The Tomita manga is in English at redbullmusicacademy.com and in Japanese at redbullmusicacademy.jp.

Oh, in related news there’s a great lecture by Tomita on the RBMA site.

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When Damo Met Can

The third comic in the series I'm editing for Red Bull Music Academy

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The third comic in the series I’m editing for Red Bull Music Academy is now online. The series is timed to RBMA’s annual, city-centric festival, which this year takes place all over Tokyo. It’s by writer Zack Soto (Study Group Comics) and illustrator Connor Willumsen (Treasure Island). The comic, “When Damo Met Can,” presents the period when Damo Suzuki was recruited as the lead singer of the German rock band Can. (In related news, the 33 1/3 series book on Can’s Tago Mago, written by Alan Warner, is being published this month. The timing is a nice coincidence.) Willumsen lends incredible detail, period feel, and psychedelic immersion to Soto’s story, which draws from band anecdotes and drops in some sly references.

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The original, English-language version of the comic is at redbullmusicacademy.com, and the Japanese translation, with lettering by Haruhisa Nakata (“The Tree of Maüreca,” Levius), is at redbullmusicacademy.jp.

The first two comics in the series were on MF Doom and DJ Krush.

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MF Doom + DJ Krush + Comics + Manga

A series I'm editing for Red Bull Music Academy's Tokyo festival

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I initiated and have been editing a series of three-page comics and manga for Red Bull Music Academy to coincide with its Toyko festival, which is underway right now. The first in the Red Bull Music Academy series tells the story of “The Rise of MF Doom” (detail above) through the lens of classic comics like, naturally, The Fantastic Four, with art by Dean Haspiel (Billy Dogma, The Fox, Batman) and a script by Gabe Soria (Batman ’66, and Life Sucks with Jessica Abel), supported by Allen Passalaqua on colors and Vito Delsante on lettering.

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The second RBMA piece (detail above), created by manga-ka (or manga creator) Haruhisa Nakata (“The Tree of Maüreca,” Levius) focuses on one of my favorite Japanese musicians, DJ Krush. The story takes Krush’s early childhood habit of making new toys out of spare parts and connects it to his making music from pre-existing recordings. Titled “Building It,” the manga is based on an interview that Krush did specifically for the RBMA series. I co-edited the Krush manga with Hideki Egami, who was long the editor of the excellent manga magazine Ikki, known for such series as Daisuke Igarashi’s Children of the Sea, Iou Kuroda’s Sexy Voice and Robo (I wrote an essay that appears in the English edition of the manga), and Taiyō Matsumoto’s No. 5 and Sunny. Egami generously accepted my invitation to help on the Japanese side of this international project. All the RBMA comics are appearing online in English and Japanese, and each features light elements of animation. The crew has coalesced in a great way, with Nakata taking the time to assist by lettering in Japanese some of the English-language comics, and Delsante assisting on some of the English versions of the manga.

For background, I edited the comics in the music magazine Pulse!, published by Tower Records, from 1992 to 2002, and later worked for half a decade at Viz, the U.S.-based publisher of manga in translation, and it’s been great to bring those experiences together. At Viz I worked with folks like Jessica Abel, Ed Brubaker, Barry McGee, and Adrian Tomine early in their careers, and with folks like Dan DeCarlo, Justin Green, Peter Kuper, and P. Craig Russell further along in theirs. Full index of the Pulse! comics here.

There is more to come in this Red Bull Music Academy series. Watch it unfold at redbullmusicacademy.com in English and redbullmusicacademy.jp in Japanese.

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