Sunday, April 26, 2009



conducted by Simon Reynolds


early life

I come from a small family that migrated from Dayton,
Ohio to southeastern Pennsylvania in 1960. I had a
largely forgettable and sheltered childhood, spent
primarily in silent contemplation, alone in my room,
drawing pictures and listening to the most esoteric
edges of rock and roll music. My eyes weren't opened
to the world until 1970-72, the two years I spent
under the influence of Alan Goldstein who taught
sculpture, and my mentor and spiritual advisor Marion
Anderson, in the Bucks County Community College fine
arts department. Knowing them started the spark to
carry me creatively through a third year at another
school which was less than desirable. Trenton State
was a teachers' college that nobody seemed to want to
be at and that included me. I was waiting out the war,
and the draft, and fine tuning my skills in
performance art to the utter disdain of staff and
students alike. I had a course of independent study in
painting where I did things like "paintings to be
walked through".

More than anything else at the time,
I was inspired by Yoko Ono's book "Grapefruit". (Also,
her album "Plastic Ono Band" which I shall refer to
later). I was fortunate in meeting teacher Ned Gibby,
who helped me to find out more about
fluxus, performance art, earthworks, minimalism, and
other assorted New York eccentricities by introducing
me to various publications including Avalanche
magazine, and I exposed myself to the New York art
subculture by absorbing every issue I could get my
hands on.

new york city

The next year the government did away with the draft,
and my tuition money had run out anyway, so I got a
job at a local branch of Waldenbooks. I met David
Ebony (Eganey) one day at work when we started up a
conversation over the publication of "The Louds: An
American Family", a book documenting the PBS-TV series
about the demise of a California family that fell
apart before the eyes of millions of television
viewers. One particular point of interest to us both
about the show was the outrageously flamboyant
character of Lance Loud and clips we had seen of New
York's Greenwich Village scene including bits about
Warhol and The Factory and Interview Magazine. We got
to be great friends, having in common, a particular
fondness for all things odd, and artful, and musical.

That year for Christmas, he gave me two
albums--"Shirley Temple's Greatest Hits" and Alice
Cooper's "Killer". At some point, David had picked up
a copy of "Rock Scene" magazine which told about The
New York Dolls and an exciting new band called
Television, and Patti Smith. The only previous
knowledge I had of Patti Smith was her liner notes on
the album cover for Edgar Winter's "White Trash" and
in Todd Rundgren's album package for "A Wizard, A True
Star" wherein she had printed a poem on a band-aid.
Wayne (later Jayne) County had a column in "Rock
Scene" and wrote constantly on a number of topics
ranging from Max's Kansas City, to his/her fanaticism
over Dusty Springfield and the Dave Clark Five, to
fashion tips on the use of makeup, and accessorizing
with ripped up nylons and toilet paper rolls and other
odd bits of found and discarded clothing and objects.

In the Spring of 1975, in the pursuit of a career in
art, and through the constant support and
encouragement of my friend David, I moved to New York
to find an apartment in Greenwich Village.
David shared a Bleecker Street apartment with me,
coming up on weekends while he finished school, before
moving to the city permanently in the summer

the new york art scene

In 1975 and 1976 I became involved in the Soho and
Tribeca art worlds, and in particular, the performance
art scene. My first performance in New York City, was
an impromptu street piece on West Broadway, on a hot
night in July of 1975. It consisted of abstract dance
gestures and smashing and throwing barriers behind me
made of water-filled plastic bags to the haunting
musical accompaniment of David playing a recorder.
The second was at Charlotte Moorman's "12th Annual
Avant Garde Festival", September 27, 1975, amidst
dozens of other artists' performances, exhibits and
works. I mapped out a perimeter on the Floyd Bennett
airfield runway with a stick of chalk and took several
objects including a toy piano and a blanket with me to
live in a self-imposed cage like an asylum inmate for
the day. "The Death of Sparrow Hart" was a persona I
took on, part bird, part autistic child, dancing and
sobbing and pecking at the piano, hiding under a
blanket and so on. David went his own way equipped
with a map of the world and a pair of scissors selling
countries to passersby for nickels and quarters. We
had a fun life in New York going to art shows and
openings on Saturdays, meeting well-known and
not-so-well-known people including the father of
correspondence art, Ray Johnson, who later introduced
me to Andy Warhol and other art luminaries. I was
often seen wearing an endless variety of sunglasses
and clip-on child's plastic earrings from my
thrift-shop collections of bad taste collectibles.
David often wore neckties and pearls and chains and
brooches and rings. As a pair, out in public, we met a
lot of interesting people. David met Susan
Springfield (Beschta) at an art opening one night on
West Broadway and began a discussion on music. Susan,
was doing photographs at the time, making gigantic
photo-blowups of daisies, and doing self-portraits
which showed her being progressively beaten black and
blue. We started hanging out together, the three of
us, going to CBGB's and Micky Ruskin's Ocean Club down
on Chambers Street (Mickey had previously opened the
famous Max's Kansas City and the Ninth Circle, then
the Local. The Ocean Club was the "in" hangout of its
time where the art world met the rest of the world and
one could often see celebs from Andy Warhol to John
Belushi schmoozing there).

My first formally advertised, solo performance
occurred on January 29th, 1976, in the storefront
space of Stefan Eins' 3 Mercer Street Store. It was a
gender-bending, exercise in self-confrontation
entitled "Mommy, Me, Bandage", with garish makeup, and
props like bevelled mirrors and apron strings, and
scissors, and a cutout of a 1950's illustration of a
stereotypical nurse, and dozens of miniature sexless
plastic baby dolls which encrusted my body, attached
by adhesive tape. The apron strings were cut, the
nurse's head snipped off and taped to the mirror, then
the dolls were removed, one by one, to cover and
conceal my reflection in the mirror. All this was done
to a tape I had made from an old found-sound phono
booth record, on which two young girls sang and
giggled their way through a song, which stuck and
repeated and skipped and droned in various speeds, the
maniacal tune "Tell Me Why I Love You So" giving the
whole tableau an unnerving "dark theater" psychodrama
edge. In the week that followed, it received a praise
review by Mark Savitt for the Soho Weekly News (Soho's
then alternative to the Village Voice). Susan
Springfield had taken a photograph which they had used
for the review (this photo of my body covered in dolls
was used later in Toronto's File Magazine and made
into a postcard for a boxed set of artists' postcards
put out by Vancouver's Image Bank).

The same issue of the Soho Weekly News had an article on Wayne County.
David and I went to see Wayne's performance shortly
thereafter at a place called Mother's on 23rd Street,
where he/she sang songs about being fucked by the
devil, and simulated sex with a toilet plunger. He
wore a wig made up of about twenty wigs on an armature
which trailed to the floor and was decorated with
toilet paper rolls and wrappers. We also saw Wayne at
Max's one night where we hand-delivered a love-gift of
a flame-retardent polka-dot paper dress in a
gift-wrapped box, which we had found in some discount
shop on Canal Street.

We were going to art events at the Fine Arts Building
on Franklin Street and Varick which housed Artist's
Space. We also hung out a lot at the Ocean Club where
a strange variety of performances seemed to be taking
place, jazz, rock, country, etc. We saw the
three-piece version of Talking Heads (before Jerry
Harrison), solo John Cale, the original Cramps (with
Miriam Linna on drums), Television, Patti Smith, the
Screws, the Roches and others. Some artists had
resident studios in the Fine Arts building and David
got one and opened up a gallery where Diego Cortez,
among others, showed his work. I had a brief
pre-holiday installation there with tapes of Taiwanese
pop music set against the sound of clattering and
shattering dishes and glass windchimes. There was a
miniature silver metallic Christmas tree with blue
lighting, and dozens of antique butter knives
suspended from the wall with blades dipped in
luminescent paint, and a slide projection on faded
Agfa film depicting a pastel-colored, blur-smeared,
grinning housewife, proudly displaying her holiday
dinnerware while wearing kimono pajamas. Talking Heads
came in to have a look while my show was there.
Serious purveyors of "serious art" at the time were:
Diego Cortez, Julia Heyward a.k.a. Duka Delight,
Laurie Anderson (whose appearance at that time
approximated a matronly Anne Waldman with pageboy
hairdo), Philip Glass, Charlemagne Palestine, Ralston
Farina, Willoughby Sharp, and many others. I suppose
you could hardly consider these artists "serious" when
you think about it, their stuff was very cutting edge
and utterly unsellable, often playful, and even
sometimes comical to an extent, still, they took it
quite seriously. Nobody had yet left the art scene for
rock music, least of all, me, for fear of not having
my art taken seriously. But David and Susan were very
keen on Patti Smith, and David groomed Susan towards
the idea of the two of them starting a band together.
He played piano and she would play guitar. They
drafted her friend Jane Fire to play drums. He had me
cut Susan's long tresses into a short punk cut, the
first I can recall in the Village, and way before
anybody on St. Marks started doing weird stuff with
their hair. She took guitar lessons, and couldn't sing
or play, but had the drive to want to try. She and
David both had incredible charisma and managed to
build a band around their efforts which made its way
onto the roster of regular performing bands at
CBGB's--The Erasers was the name they gave the band
after the title of an Alain Robbe-Grillet novel. They
were making contacts all the time. Susan was sleeping
with Ivan Kral, then Lenny Kaye (both of Patti Smith
Group), then Richard Hell with whom she settled in for
a long time. Originally, the Erasers also included
Jane's babyfaced boyfriend Donald on bass, but when he
and Jane broke up, he left and was replaced by Chris
Spedding's girlfriend Jody. They had a second
guitarist too, but I can't remember his name. Two of
their most popular tunes were "Maybe" (their cover of
an old Chantels song) and "Marc In Leather" a song
Susan wrote about her fantasy of a photograph of gay
porn star Peter Berlin who she mistook for Mark 10
1/2" Stevens of "Deep Throat" fame.

At some point during appearances at clubs or perhaps
hanging out at Duane Street's Barnabus Rex bar where I
met James Chance, I did a performance at Artists'
Space called "Nursing Is An Art". It was sort of a
combination of dance and gesture execution and lecture
set to a slide show of x-rays and contorted body
poses. I remember meeting Lydia Lunch with James
Chance one night on Canal Street. She complimented me
on my announcement card for the Artists' Space
performance which showed a stylish 1940's nurse
preparing an enormous syringe. Lydia told me about the
band that she and James were starting called The
Scabs. Some time later with the band's name changed to
Teenage Jesus & The Jerks, they debuted on one of
CBGB's band audition nights. I was blown away. I was
so moved by the intensity, yet simplicity of what she
was doing, that my emotions got the better of me and I
cried. I ran backstage after the set to show her my
tears (the best compliment I could think of).

I had longed for the opportunity of making music myself but
had no musical training other than a handful of guitar
lessons, and I wanted to play keyboard, but assumed it
was outside my capabilities. David had sold me his old
Vox electric piano when he had found another more to
his liking, and I bought an old amp from filmmaker
Amos Poe, who had once been in a band with Ivan Kral
and was now selling off what he could to supply his
film habit (I was later to appear in his film The
Foreigner, alongside actors like Debbie Harry). David
told me that lessons were not the way to go with
learning the piano. He said the best way to learn was
to sit at the keyboard for hours a day, every day,
just banging away, and sooner or later I would come to
a method of my own device. He was right. However, I
was impatient and my time limited. I couldn't read or
write music and developed a crude method of
remembering tunes by abbreviated hieroglyphic symbols
scribbled on index cards. I couldn't do much more than
repeat 5 note sequences over and over alternated
against a two or three note bridge. The repetition in
the work of Philip Glass and of Marty Rev from
Suicide, and the even more minimal simplicity of the
structures Lydia was using for her tunes in the CBGB's
and Max's club circuit, opened the gate for me and
said okay, you can do it too. Now, it's okay. I began
rehearsing with Alan Vega's (of Suicide) girlfriend,
Anne DeLeon, and her friend Johnny (Dynell), in a
basement in Chelsea the summer of Sam and the big
blackout. (I remember that night. We were rehearsing
when the power went. We made our way through a city of
darkness and silence, down to the village where David
McDermott and his roommate, stood in vintage 1920's
clothes, on the corner of Bleecker and Christopher
Streets, with a handcranked Victrola, playing old 78's
to entertain passersby in the darkened city. Pinned on
the storefront wall next to them was a handscrawled
sign that read "1928". It was a Twilight Zone moment,
the only sound you could hear for blocks around was
the sound of the music from that old spring-driven
record player.) rehearsals with Anne and Johnny came
to nought.


One night at CBGB's I asked Lydia if she needed a
keyboard player in The Jerks and she said no, why
didn't I start my own band? I asked if she knew of
anybody on my wavelength interested in starting a
band. She had two suggestions--the first was a pair of
14 year old sisters who were The Jerks' roadies and
didn't play anything or have any instruments; the
other choice was Arto Lindsay who was closer to my age
and did have a guitar. I talked to Arto and we hit it
off and started working together. Teenage Jesus and
Mars were the two bands at the time that were
"off-the-wall" and different from anyone else around.
There were a group of art and music hangers-on who
became the audience supporting these bands at their
gigs by spreading the word and the applause to insure
that they would continue to be booked by CBGB's Hilly
Kristal and Max's booking skeptics who were reluctant
to book anything more unusual than the tried and true
"3 chord rock" groups like the Ramones or something
patently pallatable to the neighborhood scene like The
Shirts. Terry Ork, who had put out the first
Television 7" single "Little Johnny Jewel" on his own
Ork records, was booking new bands at Max's the last
weekend of each month, and during August, he told Arto
he'd heard about his new band, and offered us a date
at the end of September. We said sure.

We had been rehearsing with Gordon Stevenson and his
wife Mirielle Cervenka (little sister of Exene of X)
in their Tribeca loft, where they made jewelry out of
plastic chains and trinkets, like bundles of miniature
plastic fruits, or dice, or skulls, for boutiques like
Reminiscence. Gordon played bass. I had gone with him
on a day trip to Long Island to buy some kid's
unwanted electric bass. Mirielle wrote the lyrics and
sang. Arto played guitar and I played keyboards. We
didn't have a drummer. When Gordon and Mirielle heard
that we had a gig in less than a month, they freaked.
Mirielle was shy and Gordon felt inadequate. They both
jumped ship. Arto and I decided to hold onto the
opportunity while we looked around for someone else to
fill out our sound. We went to the loft where Lydia
was rehearsing. James had already begun his split with
Lydia concentrating more on the Contortions as Lydia
increasingly limited James' song-offerings in The
Jerks repertoire with each new gig. Adele Bertei and
Pat Place, and filmmaker James Nares, were in James'
new lineup and they shared Lydia's rehearsal space.
Lydia had a Japanese bassist named Reck in her band

along with Bradley Field on drums. Lydia on guitar
and vocals completed the trio. The only one hanging
around the rehearsal loft that wasn't in a band was
Reck's Japanese girlfriend Ikue. Arto wanted her to be
our drummer. I was reluctant, for a number of reasons.
The first was that she had played violin and had no
experience on drums. The second was that she didn't
own any drums. The third was that she didn't speak
enough English for us to communicate and manage to
build a 20 minute set of songs in less than 30 days.
And the fourth was that her visa was expiring and she
was planning to leave the country 8 days after our
scheduled gig. All this overwhelmed me. It seemed like
the odds were too much against us. Working with her
seemed like a Herculean task considering we hardly
knew what we were doing, let alone trying to
communicate our uneducated efforts, in a foreign
language, to someone who planned to abandon us within
days after our first gig, and we had to come up with
eight or so songs within something like 28 days. And
what about the equipment? She did have one thing going
for her. She was interested in working with us. Arto
managed to talk Nancy Arlen of Mars into letting us
use her drums for Ikue to rehearse on and to play the
gig. I think we were co-billed with Mars that night
which made things easier. I remember how we came up
with the band's name DNA. We were sitting in Phebe's
restaurant on the Bowery between sets of some bands at
CBGB's. We tossed around lots of names. Arto and I
couldn't agree on any of them and Ikue didn't really
understand our debate. Arto was friends with, and a
major fan of, Mars, who had just written a new song
called "DNA", which sounded like a million little
crazed ants running across the surface of the moon. I
liked the song as well as the title, and thought it
might suit us for the name of our band (I had been
pursuing medical and science references in my art and
performance endeavors). Suggesting that we use it as a
band name might lead Arto to consider it an hommage to
his favorite band, and end my stalemate with him over
the decision on a name. I stated my case along these
lines. DNA is a 3-letter acronym representing the
combination of molecular strands which make up and
feature characteristics distinguishing one living
thing from another. Arto comes from a culture in
Brazil, Ikue, a different culture in Japan, and I,
from a third culture in an American suburb in Ohio.
Three cultures, three individuals with different
characteristics, three letters combined into one new
combination revealing the blend of our peculiar mix.
DNA spelled backwards is AND; Arto AND Ikue AND Robin
combined are DNA. Besides that it refers to Mars' best
song. Arto seemed to appreciate this. He tried to
explain the concept to Ikue. She seemed to understand
(we did a lot of communicating through drawings and
sign language). She gave her okay and we became known
as DNA.

My favorite album and musical inspiraton of
the previous eight years was Yoko Ono's Plastic Ono
Band. A wild album a decade or more ahead of its time,
I considered it the true precursor to the new school
of bands like Teenage Jesus and Mars. It played the
tight driving organized rhythm section of Klaus
Voorman on bass and Ringo on drums against the
seemingly emotionally chaotic and disorganized guitar
of John Lennon and vocal of Yoko Ono; a constant
struggle of order against chaos. This was what I
wanted of DNA. As we were a trio, the balance was
achieved, metaphorically, more like a seesaw, with
Arto supplying the chaotic bursts and uncontrolled
explosion of emotion, while I countered with tight,
cold, controlled, confined, suppressed emotions and
patterns, both of us balanced on Ikue's fulcrum, which
weaved in and out of the two extremes, like a juggler
juggling fire in one hand and water in the other, and
managing to make steam, without extinguishing either
fire or water.

The success of our debut gig at Max's Kansas City
postponed Ikue's departure and began months of gigs
pairing the four bands-DNA, Mars, Teenage Jesus & The
Jerks, and The Contortions on bills with one another
and other experimenters who were up and coming, or in,
from out of town, like Devo. This signalled the start
of, what Lydia coined in an interview as, "The No
Wave" with a myriad of generations of bands to follow,
as well as generations of new clubs opening up to the
possibility of bands playing original material, rather
than the Bleecker Street scene of clubs pushing "top
40" cover bands. Other artists and artists' friends
began to pursue an interest in rock music and playing
in bands. Within the year Artists' Space held a
weeklong display of new bands in concert, at their
space down on Franklin St. in the Fine Arts Building.
The week boasted a number of new bands, culminating
in the Friday and Saturday double-bills of the four
bands that started it all. John Rockwell of The Times
had taken some interest and reviewed us in his paper.
He had also encouraged Brian Eno to check out these
new bands. This lead to the "No New York" album
project in which he tried to capture the phenenomenon
quickly before it transformed into something else, or
burned out altogether. The album was originally slated
for release on Island Records but word has it that
when the record company heard the mastertapes, they
were so horrified at this financial blunder, that they
tried to hush the already contracted, and paid for,
project, by releasing it on their minor sub-label,
Antilles, so as not to call too much attention to it.

The bands involved in the project continued for a
while then branched off in different directions. Mars
played a number of gigs getting stranger and noisier
and more experimental with each new concert, finally
abandoning their electric guitars for trumpet,
clarinet and bassoon. When they reached the height of
cacaphony, they retired from the music scene
altogether claiming they had reached their pinnacle.
Lydia played in various projects from Teenage Jesus to
Beirut Slump (with New York filmmaker Vivienne Dick
and siblings Liz and Bobby Swope), then Eight-Eyed
Spy, 13:13 and a number of other projects including
solo albums, readings and so on. James Chance worked
with the Contortions then changed his name to James
White and revised the band to James White & The

DNA played and rehearsed the same tunes for
about a year, and I was getting really tired of them.
I assumed that starting from nowhere technically, we
would evolve into a trio building on proficiency
towards new material in new directions. Rehearsals
were unbearable. We played the same songs over and
over and they never sounded the same twice. It was
frustrating. Arto was exerting some influence on Ikue
to get her to free herself up more on the drums, and I
felt that the dynamic shift in the sound then became
offbalanced. I felt myself struggling, indeed
floundering, to maintain the driving rhythm to rein in
the songs. And, we weren't writing new material. I
expressed my displeasure and began looking for
musical alternatives.


Q/ Tell me about Ivan Kral

Ivan Kral was in the Patti Smith Group early on. I
can't remember what he played (guitar/bass?). You can
probably research this online. He was also a close
friend of filmmaker Amos Poe and did the soundtrack
for his film "The Foreigner" which I acted a couple of
bit parts in and recently found available online as a
DVD. (It's got a great acapella Debbie Harry vignette
as a chanteuse in a soho alleyway). According to a
recent online search, he was apparently born in
Czechoslovakia and recently returned there to renew
his musical career with a number of albums in Czech.

Q/ Tell me about Terry Ork

I didn't know Terry Ork very well. As I recall, he
was a stout scruffy little guy with immensely
thick-lensed glasses, a dense wild prickly brown beard
and out of control curly hair who always appeard
stoned and unkempt, but pleasant nonetheless. He was
on the scene when I met him at Max's booking dates for
a special event night in September. Picture a
vision-impaired hedgehog, or Mole from "Wind In The
Willows".... The Ork Records
label consisted of business partners Terry Ork and
Charles Ball. I don't know the history behind Ork
Records.... I also do't know what Charles Ball's participation in it
was. I don't even know whether they had more than one
release, but I don't recall any other than the first
Television single "Little Johnny Jewel". And at the
time, this was the only fledgling Independent Record
Label I had run across, perhaps the first in a whole
upcoming tidal wave industry.

Q/ Tell me some more about Charles Ball?

Charles Ball was the corporate face of Ork Records.
He was a relatively handsome, benign looking
middle-class golden boy with an unadventurous wardrobe
of tan and maroon sweaters and blazers and a
conservative haircut to match his gold wristwatch. His
musical interests leaned more in the direction of Van
Morrison, Bruce Springsteen, Lou Reed and the Modern
Lovers than the noisy "no wave" stuff that he became
identified with. I don't really understand what appeal
it had for him, but I'm glad it did. He once confided
to me that I was added to the roster of Lust/Unlust
musicians largely because I was the only act his
live-in girlfriend liked. Her name was Joanna
(something, I forget) and she was in great part
responsible financially and clerically for keeping the
business end of Lust/Unlust afloat through her
paychecks from her dependable day job and her after
hours assistance to Charles with bookkeeping and
mailings. They had a respectable-looking upscale
apartment on a prime block of St. Mark's Place next
door to the church which later housed the famous Club
57, future scene of prose and poetry readings,
performance art, theme event nights, and limited run,
underground, off-off Broadway theatricals featuring
Ann Magnuson, John Sex and a horde of others. ... I don't
know what happened between
Charles and Terry prior to his leaving Ork Records to
start his own Production Company, which is really what
Lust/Unlust was. He tagged his records with that, but
let the artists choose the names for their labels so
it looked like he had a whole stable of different
record labels to his credit. I believe his first three
singles were (Lydia Lunch's) Teenage Jesus & The
Jerks-Orphans/The Closet; DNA-You & You/Little Ants;
Teenage Jesus & The Jerks-Baby Doll/Freud In Flop. My
single after leaving DNA, r.l.crutchfield's Dark
Day-Hands In The Dark/Invisible Man, was I believe the
fourth single (it may have been the third).

Q/ What was Arto like?

Arto was likeable and intelligent with a wide range
of interests that seemed to have little to do with the
no wave. The music he was listening to, was jazz,
Brazilian artists, funk like Bootsy Collins, and R&B
artists like Marvin Gaye and Al Green. He talked in
visual terms of pulling sound ideas from sources like
these. Visually Arto was a nerd and a geek holding
down a day job selling ad space at the Village Voice
until he quit and devoted his full efforts to working
the scene and taking advantage of free meals and
boarding by his friends, particularly Mark Cunningham
and Connie Burg of Mars... He wasn't an angry young man
like others on
the scene and there was no pretension visually either.
He wore lived-in pants and secondhand-looking
sweaters, simple button-down shirts and horn-rimmed
glasses. He made the guys from Devo look stylin'. He
looked like a cross between the nerdy geek character
of Anthony Michael Hall in the John Hughes movie
"Sixteen Candles", and Ray Bolger's Scarecrow's
dancing scenes from the "Wizard of Oz". Someone once
compared him to a sort of a psychotic Barney Fife (the
wiry, thin, yet nervous deputy sidekick of TV's old
Andy Griffith Show). He had brilliant ideas, but
wasn't particularly easy to work with. Musically, I
guess I didn't take him too seriously, as we were all
coming from a place of talked-up abstract theory and
ideas without hands-on musical experience. During my
year with DNA, Ikue and I seemed to be starting to
develop a musical consistency and proficiency at
playing our new instruments that I never saw happen in
Arto's guitarwork. It remained as "first-time guitar
approach" sounding as the day he first picked up an
electric guitar. His playing danced in and out of the
rhythm without making any attempt to deal with tune or
melody, but we didn't really have command of a rhythm
to dance in and out of yet. I remember him using an
electric guitar tuner to tune his 12-string
Dan-electro electric guitar despite the fact that
sonically it didn't seem to matter what notes he hit,
it was all squeak and squawk.

Q/ How did you guys manage to communicate with Ikue?

As far as communicating with Ikue, a lot of it was
diagram and gesture. She had a rudimentary
understanding of English, even though she couldn't
really speak it so much (or at least didn't think she
could). Arto might have to act out in charade what he
wanted to do, shuffling and shaking his arms to a
certain beat or gesturing for a pause or tempo change.
A lot of it was describing an image to emulate, like,
"Okay, this bit should sound like a drunk coming down
a flight of stairs at the end of a long night out."

Q/ Tell me some more about Mars

Mars (originally named China until an Elton John
Rocket Records label band by that name forced them to
change theirs to Mars) was, as far as I can recall,
the first "no wave" band, before the term was coined.
The closest thing I can think of that preceded them
was some of the stranger Velvet Underground
experiments. I don't know much about their history.
Nancy was the eldest member of the band,
younger-looking than her actual age, she kept the fact
hidden that she was a good decade older than her
cohorts. She was a serious sculptor working with
plastic resins, and was a confidante of Sumner Crane.
I believe that Connie and Mark and Arto all went to
the same college in St. Petersburg Florida. Mark and
Nancy were the rhythmic mainstay of Mars while Sumner
and Connie traded on weird vocal affectations and
guitar play involving tempo changes, overtones and
feedback. Their sound was hallucinogenically textural
with a beat and psychotic episodes of vocal wailings
and mumblings.

Q/ What can you recall about the Artists Space Festival of 1978?

I don't remember how the Artists Space week came
about. The four bands paired off for the weekend spots
had been playing clubs pretty consistently for months:
Friday night DNA and Mars; Saturday night Teenage
Jesus & The Jerks and The Contortions (James
Chance/White had once been an early member of TJ&TJ).
Many of the others (The Gynecologists (Nina Canal's
band), The Communists, The Static (Glenn Branca's
band), Jules' Baptiste's Red Decade, Tone Death (Rhys
Chatham's band), Theoretical Girls (Jeffrey Lohn's
band), Daily Life (Barbara Ess's band before Y Pants),
Boris Policeband [I'm not certain I'm recalling this
lineup exactly but I may be able to find out, or you
can do some more online research) were relative
newcomers or holding onto arts venues in preference to
the tacky greasy dives like CBGB's. The event was
well-attended, mostly by Soho art types interested in
the new crossover between art and pop music and many
were bandmembers checking out what each other were
doing and being supportive. Brian Eno and New York Times
writer John Rockwell attended at least one of the
weekend sessions which turned into the No New York
album project. (I think it was the night we played
with Mars; or maybe we played with the Contortions. I
may have the pairings wrong way round. That seems more
likely as TJ and Mars were the elder bands more likely
to earn a Saturday night spot).

Q/ What was Brian Eno like to work with and as a person?

Many of the people involved projected contempt and
distrust over his perceived elitism, and their concern
over the divisions of money. I recall a debated
meeting at his 8th Street sublet over whether the
royalties should be divided by band or by bandmember:
DNA and Teenage Jesus each had three bandmembers while
The Contortions had six. I was very impressed by his
actions and his behavior which was supportive,
concerned, and professional. Still, it was a big
incongruous, as if Philip Glass went over to England
and asked Johnny Rotten to record a record with him.

Q/ Tell me some more about Nina Canal and Ut

When I first saw the Gynecologists, I felt Rhys
Chatham was their weakest link. He was already
pursuing interests in overtones and volume which he
carried on into his next project Tone Death. The other
Gynecologists were Nina Canal and Robert Appleton,
both British. Their guitar and bass mix had the odd
tug of reggae to its playing, but the minimalism of a
Young Marble Giants with strange melodic choices to
the riffs. I think Rhys was replaced by a third member
named Charlie who played drums, but then left and I
think that's when I was looking for projects outside
of DNA and approached them to become their new drummer
(or maybe Charlie and I were auditioning for the same
bit and he got it). We had a couple of rehearsals and
it didn't really work out for me. I wasn't adding to
their sound in a substantial way and I believe Robert
was feeling like calling it quits. In any event, they
did split up shortly after. It's too bad really 'cause
they and Mars were my favorite bands despite the
inspirational impact Teenage Jesus had had on me. I
never understood Ut at all and felt it was beneath
Nina's talents. She had a great emotionally compelling
voice along the lines of The Slits and The Raincoats,
amazing guitar abilities and interesting songwriting
ideas. But she also had a tight rapport with the three
other women in the band, which I believe was to its
musical detriment. They all played less competently
than she and they all decided to play musical chairs
on the instruments for different songs so each of them
would share the experience of trying a hand at each
task. This made for tediously time-consuming concerts
while each one shifted place onstage and retuned and
adjusted each instrument for each song. A fifteen
minute set could take an hour to play. It often looked
like she was overlooking her own musical frustration
by trading off in favor of the joy of playing with her

Q/ How did you get to know Tuxedomoon?

I met the members of Tuxedomoon when we both
played at the M-80 festival in Minneapolis. We had
this immediate affinity, musicwise, fashionwise,
conceptually. Tuxedomoon, Judy Nylon and Dark Day were
definitely the darker forces at the festival playing
mysteriously melodramatic music and dressed in black.
All the others were more rock, or funk, or angry, or
loud. The airplane hangar we were playing in was very
echoey and most of the bands reverberated like musical
mush. The sparser, artier ones like us cut through the
atmosphere of the large space enhanced by the echo
with single-note keyboard patterns or soaring violins
and soprano saxophone.

Q/ Tell me some more about this Moondog cat

Moondog was the pseudonym of an oddball blind
street musician (self-named after a dog he had who
howled at the moon) whose history was a mystery to me
(revealed in the liner notes of his Columbia album;
blinded in his youth by fireworks), but he was
well-known in midtown New York City throughout the
'60s for standing on a streetcorner dressed in a
Viking outfit complete with horned helmet peddling his
poems and playing cyclical rounds of his own
compositions on harp and glockenspiel with shakers,
rattles and hand drums assisted by his daughter and a
couple of friends. Someone at Columbia Records gave
him a shot and signed him for two albums in the late
'60s. Both have been reissued on a single CD. His
music, odd in the way Nico's persona was, was of a
different time. It was refreshingly primitive. The
closest comparison one might make to his music is some
of Penguin Cafe Orchestra or Dead Can Dance, both of
which came along much, much later, and neither of
which really does him justice. My "Darkest Before
Dawn" CD comes much, much closer at paying a tribute
to his sound, medieval-sounding pagan instruments
playing tuneful rhythmic rounds.


dark day - phase one

We had done a 7" single with Charles Ball's label
Lust/Unlust prior to the "No New York" album and
Charles expressed interest in continuing working with
me beyond DNA. Charles had once been partners with
Terry Ork of Ork Records and now ran his own label. I
had a couple of song ideas but couldn't get together a
group of musicians willing to commit to a band. I
managed to get Nina Canal from The Gynecologists (and
later Ut) on guitar, and Nancy Arlen of Mars on drums,
to assist me with several rehearsals and a recording
session for one project. We recorded the single for
Charles who was allowing his acts to name their labels
at the time under the umbrella of the Lust/Unlust
Production company. I was going to name my label on
the single, Dark Day Records. But I couldn't come up
with a name for the group, and I didn't want it to be
just my name. I liked the sound of Dark Day better
than any of the other names I was coming up with, so
that became the name of the band. The single got some
promising reviews in the local rock newspapers and
Charles was interested in following it with an album.
I had made additional attempts to find new musicians
through friends and acquaintances to join the project,
as Nancy and Nina weren't interested.

dark day - phase two

Our first concert as Dark Day was played at The Mudd
Club, with Nina filling in at the last minute on
drums. Phil Kline was the guitarist, friend of
writer/coworker Luc Sante at the bookstore where I
worked. He was also best friends with Jim Jarmusch
and was pursuing an interest in film music. David
Rosenblum played bass. He was a coworker of mine,
interested in pursuing his own musical directions with
a band more into jazz-fusion. At the first Dark Day
gig, Wim Mertens, (later with a productive musical
career of his own) approached us about performing in
Europe for the Belgian radio. Charles Ball made the
arrangements, having been abroad previously with
Suicide. A friend of a friend in our rehearsal space
recommended to us a drummer named Barry Friar, who
joined the project and began rehearsing with us. David
departed to form his own band but continued to share a
rehearsal space with us. A "New, Now, No Wave" music
festival was being arranged in Minneapolis and we were
among the New York bands asked to play. Having only
played a couple of gigs so far, and only to audiences
of under a hundred, we would now be in a stadium, on a
stage, playing to several thousand. It was all
happening fast, and a bit overwhelming. We went to
Belgium to play in Leuven, and on the same trip did
gigs in Amsterdam, coinciding with a New York poetry
festival there (where we hung out with Kathy Acker),
and Rotterdam where we rescued Adele Bertei from being
stranded in Holland, and returned with her to the
states. We recorded our first album, "Exterminating
Angel" with Steven Brown (from Tuxedomoon whom we'd
met in Minneapolis at the festival) guesting on
soprano sax on one track. New York photographer Jimmy
De Sana did the photoportrait for the album cover. My
close friend and coworker Jack Zaloga did the design
and photos for the inner sleeve with the lyric sheet.

The album was released. Time passed. My friend Jack,
who was doing a lot of drug experimentation at the
time, disappeared for days on end, and, finally,
turned up about a week later, in the East River.
Charles wanted to release a 12" single from the album
about three months after the album's release to boost
its sales. I was reluctant about the idea,
particularly since he wanted to release the slowest
song on the album at a time when people were putting
their upbeat numbers on 12" and releasing them in
advance of an album rather than after the fact. I
finally agreed to a compromise. He could put what he
wanted on the A side, if I could do what I wanted with
the B side. I went back into the studio with the
master tapes, flipped them over and played them
backwards altering track assignments, speed and reverb
effects, and riding the faders in and out, to create 6
short "exterminations" of the original songs. These, I
dedicated to my departed friend Jack. Of my early work
that survives, this ep is probably the thing with
which I remain most pleased.

Q/ Tell me some more about the Exterminations project

Charles Ball had the debatable idea of putting out
a promotional 12" for the first Dark Day album
"Exterminating Angel" after the album's release
instead of preceding it. And instead of choosing an
upbeat club-oriented dance-type song as others were
doing, he chose the most dirge-like song on the album,
it's closer "Trapped". I fought tooth and nail in
disagreement with him over its release, and he was to
meet me at the studio in finalizing some work for the
flipside when he was called away and had to be late.
The time was already booked and rather than watch the
engineers sit and twiddle their thumbs, I talked them
into allowing me to play at the board with the tapes
flipped over in reverse fashion, selecting the best
bits from each song on the album, bathing them in a
wall of echo, and riding the faders in and out to
create six undoings (new mixes) of the original songs.
I was thrilled with the results and persuaded Charles
to allow me to use this material for the B-side, if I
agreed to give in on his decision for the A-side. At
about that time, a close friend of mine had gone
missing and his body turned up a week later in the
East River. His death remains a mystery, but in light
of his demise, I dedicated the six songs
(Exterminations) to him creating a sense of closure on
the Dark Day of that time, taking time off to grieve,
to rest, and to rethink, only to regroup later with
different musicians and a different sound.

Dark Day continued to
play a number of gigs locally at CBGB's, Max's Kansas
City, Hurrah's, Tier 3, The Mudd Club, and even a gig
at Tracks with Jim Jarmusch guesting on synthesizer
and Peter Principle (from Tuxedomoon) on bass. Then I
became despondent. New songs weren't forthcoming. Phil
wanted to continue gigging for the extra income. The
only money he and Barry made from Dark Day was what we
made doing concerts. I didn't enjoy live gigs and
preferred studio work. Phil became involved in his own
project, the DelByzanteens.... We drifted apart.

dark day - phase three

Charles suggested a new album and began looking for a
studio. I was all for it, but Phil and Barry had gone
on to pursue stuff more profitable to their own
interests. I decided to start over. I acquired a new
keyboard and began working with a new acquaintance,
Bill Sack. Dark Day was now a two-man all-keyboard
project. We did a few concerts including being the
first amplified rock band to ever play at the Pyramid
Lounge (before they installed soundproofing), and
recorded, depending on how you looked at it, a very
long ep, or a very short album. But gigs were hard to
do live, as we'd overdubbed all the studio tracks
between just the two of us, and there was no way to
deliver that sound live. Plus, I couldn't sing and
play these songs at the same time, due to my own
musical limitations. We completed the album, but
Charles' creditors were after him, and the album
remained tied up in the studio when he skipped town.

One of his major distributors decided, with my
reluctant approval (under pressure from the studio),
to bail the tapes out of the studio and release them
on his own label, Plexus Records, which had released
some American pressings of Japanese bands including
some solo Riuchi Sakamoto albums. But, much as I
feared, Plexus gave us no support whatsoever, and
didn't know how to represent us. The album had only
about 1,000 copies to its first, and last pressing,
and without promotion of any kind, disappeared into
the void of the bargain bins.

dark day - phase four

Some time passed and I made new acquaintances of
percussionist, Brian Bendlin (who helped produce early
Linda Smith efforts and shared a band, The Woods,
with her), cellist, Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer (also of
The Woods, now gaining an audience with "Y'all"), and
a recorder player, Shawn McQuate (who did dance works
and shows of his outrageous clothing designs, with Ann
Magnusson, before drugs took over his life).

This developed into the next phase of Dark Day, a sort
of acoustic chamber ensemble performing cyclical,
pagan-sounding, instrumental works I had composed,
which featured rattles, bells and drums, inspired by
my early musical influence, the legendary Moondog. We
played some concerts locally at parties and clubs and
a Pagan street festival, and recorded some tracks in
Wharton Tiers' Fun City studio, for what I hoped would
lead to a next album, despite not having a label. The
songs were finished up several years later at Brian's
home studio, after the band had dispersed, where I
added several new numbers with Brian's help. With the
addition of two solo pieces I had recorded at the
Institute For Audio Research, I decided to release the
album myself, on my own label, on compact disc in
1989. I was unprepared for the business end of the
music business and had trouble finding shops and
distributors willing to carry the disc unless they
took it on consignment. I got ripped off, with few
paying their bills. Disheartened by the unpleasant
experience of the "business" of music, and despondent
about the lack of "art" in the music business, I
retired from music, until an outside opportunity
should present itself, if ever that should happen


In the fall of 1997, Dirk Ivens of Daft Records wrote
me a letter from Belgium expressing interest in
re-releasing my old material on CD. Between us, we
assembled a compilation "Dark Day: Collected 1979-82"
which appeared in Europe a few months later.

dark day in the new millenium

In September, 1999, I finished recording an album of
new material, "Strange Clockwork", using computer
technology to help me construct pieces in a process of
polyrhythmic layering techniques. This material, which
has been compared to Steve Reich and Stereolab, still
in search of a label, is available only by mail order
as a CDR. In the winter of 2000, quirky film director
Errol Morris contacted me about using "Wheel
Whirl-Thing" from "Darkest Before Dawn" for the
opening and closing credits of an episode of his Bravo
TV series "First Person". He also commissioned new
music and used a percussion-free mix of "The Laugh's
On You" from "Strange Clockwork" for the episode
airing on April 19th entitled "In The Kingdom Of The
Unabomber", an interview with
psychologist/writer/penpal of the Unabomber, Gary
Greenberg. Besides airing on Bravo network in the
United States, it aired on England's Channel Four and
elsewhere around the world.

In August of 2000, Dark Day's 5th album of original
music "Loon" is released. The subtitle is "the mental
health project" and its assembly was an exercise in
exorcising some of the demons of the psychiatric
world--delusion and sleep disorder. A sort of sonic
brain massage to help me deal better with the little
difficulties in the details of my day-to-day living,
it sounds like Philip Glass meets the Addams Family.

I press on in my 49th year with a new album under the
moniker darkdayrobin entitled "The Happy Little
Oysters." Following in the vein of Dark Day's last
several albums, the material is multi-layered,
rhythmically cyclical music with infectiously pop
melodies and a sinister edge.

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