-page 15-19- NEGATIVLAND: No Other Possibility Interview by William Davenport and Tamara F. with Don Joyce, Ian Allen, Mark Hosler, and Chris Grigg (the fifth member of Negativland David Wills was not present).
UNSOUND: What prompted you to make your first record? [ may 80 jh ]
MARK HOSLER: I guess I'm the only one who can answer that because Don and Ian were not around then.
IAN ALLEN; I found it in a record store. It was very close to what I wanted to be doing, so I called Mark up on the phone, that was about three months after it was released.
MH: It was Richard, David, and I, although Richard (Lyons) is no longer directly involved with Negativland, he does the Over The Edge show and is working on our video. Also Peter Dayton was making a certain amount of contributions... Chris did some things too. We just thought that it would be a neat idea. The independent music scene wasn't very big, and we were totally unaware of it as well. It was kind of strange that we thought of doing it, we thought we might be able to sell 500 of them over the next three years in the Bay Area, but they sold right away. Joe Carducci* (*Joe Carducci is now with SST Records) from Systematic found out about it, called us on the phone and took 100 copies.
We were flabbergasted. A week later he said, "We shipped them to Holland, and Germany and Australia," and we were just blown out of our seats. We had no idea that this network existed. Another reason for doing the album was that I took it as a challenge to complete it before my last year of high school; to have done this thing that hardly anybody does at that age. To be honest about it, none of us had this clearly developed aesthetic about what we were doing, it was really some sort of a sense that we had, and a lot of clarity and understanding was developed by doing it more and more and thinking about it over time.
US: Do you consider your content as being autobiographical?
IA: Not directly, Negativland's approach is to use a wide range of possibilities.
MH: I really felt strongly about my experiences, and I think that "A Big 10-8 Place" [oct 83 jh ] dealt with that as far as I care to do. I am not going to give myself a brain transplant and become a different person, but I am not interested in dealing with that anymore. It has been explored in the first three records, and I want to move on.
DON JOYCE: It sounds kind of scary... but it's not negative,though.
MH: That's true, it's scary out there, it's strange out there, but at the same time it is home to me, it is where I grew up. I can understand why people want to be in the suburbs. I hope that that comes through, and to some people it seems like it does.
MH: It was never calculated, though.
DJ: But the result is kind of scary about something that nobody thinks is scary. (referring to the first side of "A Big 10-8 Place")
MH: But the intent of that piece on the first side is that of a journey, although it may be so convoluted that people might not perceive it. After the introduction of the theme song, the 'stupid, stupid' song, Ian and I kept dissecting the remaining side -- you come in on a Bart train, you enter, you arrive there and you get out and you are with the kids and the mom looking around, and the kids somehow end up far away from the mom, and the dad seems to be wandering around and he's gone out of his mind, and the kids are being threatened by somebody. It's all really abstracted, but there's this idea of it all being unclear ... who's really hurting who? The kids are in distress, but is it a complete stranger or is it the father that is threatening them?
There is also the whole 'jammer' idea in there as another side concept who perhaps are the people who are hurting the kids. None of that is clear, and all those elements, those little bits of talking, were thought about real carefully. But as far as the picture you can make out of it, that's a puzzle for you to put together if you care to. There will be no finished answer.
US: Do you think you've made positive or negative statements about suburban America?
MH: I always get a little disappointed or depressed when I hear people saying, "You guys are just about how fucked-up everything is, because I don't think that at all.
A large part of "A Big 10-8 Place" is about how I think of life in general, but what I decided to do was instead of trying to make a broad statement, was to focus on something specific and that I was familiar with. For me that was Concord and the suburbs, a microcosm that could be seen as a macrocosm. I liked being able to present it as a real place that does exist. All those comments about it being scary are about how Contra Costa County in the 60's was one of the most ideal places that you could move to.
It's outside beautiful San Francisco, a prime suburb and nice valley ... and now it seems that everything is going wrong, like the pollution, I can remember 14 years ago you could see Mt. Diablo mountain clearly and now everyday it's just brown haze. Now there's more highrises in the Concord area, and you see more street people wandering around than you'd see in San Francisco and Berkeley, it's really falling apart. You go into stores and more and more parents seem to be going, "God damn you fuck'in kid!", and hitting them.
US: Although Contra Costa still has the image of the all-American dream.
MH: It's getting all covered up now. I can hardly recognize it any more.
US: What is the next record about?
MH: The idea of the title of one of the new pieces is "Escape from Noise," and it's a way of indicating where we are going.
US: Are the themes changing?
DJ: We are getting more specific and more discreet.
US: Will there be songs?
MH: Every record has had a real song on it, but this is what most people would call songs.
US: With a beat?
MH: It sounds like a mixture of 10-8 Place meets pop music meets movie soundtracks. That doesn't say anything about the concepts though, that's just the sound description.
IA: We are not a suburban band. You're not going to hear anymore tales of suburban surreality.
DJ: I think that we are an idea band. We are really inspired and stimulated by ideas. We don't get up and say, "I've got to make music!". It's more like, "Have I got a good idea or don't I?".
US: Do you see the visual and audio as being the equivalent? The visual being the packaging, live shows, and the records..?
MH: In "A Big 10-8 Place" we worked hard to make the visual style and information consistent with the record.
IA: As far as creating the shows or doing the packages, it's all the same. Live show, in fact, are not equivalent in a sense because we treat this very differently from the records. They are an extension of Negativland, but they are not something that we are playing off of our records. We've created more material for live shows than for records.
DK: Twice as much.
CHRIS GRIGG: Almost every live show is built out of completely new material.
MH: Somebody said to me once, "You guys are so predictably unpredictable!"
DJ: I think that people have a hard time with it because they want to attach themselves to a human decision.
CG: I'm not sure if I agree with you about the randomness because anytime you make anything, you're dealing on a certain level of complexity. You have to expect that the people who are going to see it have a similar level of understanding. Some won't, and they might experience what you're doing as random -- they might miss it.
MH: It took almost three years to do the "Big 10-8 Place", and that was for a variety of reasons. One reason was that I wanted it to be really good, I wanted to sit on ideas for a long time. To give six months to a big section and then to go back into it. I forgot how hard I worked on something, and how important it was to me, and I could go back into it and rip it apart, saying "I don't care how hard you worked on it, it just has to go." Or Ian would say that and vice versa.
US: Isn't that just because you'd change your mind?
MH: Well, I'd come up with this great idea, and a few months later I would think that it was not a great idea. It really needs this, this, and this -- and I'd add more and more. What I find is real interesting about recording, the actual process of recording, is that you've got these different tracks, or in the case of 10-8 Place we are intersplicing bits of tape, but it's so plastic that time is real interesting in how it is so compressed. I'll work on this track and labor for this one sound for twelve hours, but it's actually just one sound with ten other things going on, and it lasts for thirty seconds and it sounds really great by itself If I have a bunch of them one after another and they just keep coming, the effect to me is like a transcending effect. The moments in recording when I get really excited is when I have done something that I couldn't think of myself.
US: Are you happy with the final results?
MH: That's the idea, to be happy. I'm still really happy and think that it is a classic record...
IA: I think the record is a great thing on its own, but Chris and I do software and the only limits you have when building them is that finally you can't pack any more information into the size of the computer.
CG: Or else you finally need to do something else in a larger context of what you were trying to do...
IA: But until that point you're working on this living thing and all good music is like a living thing. That's why a really good band can go around and play the same music for years and years and if it is really alive to them, it doesn't become stale. Negativland music, to us, is at the level of that liveness. It's not this linear thing. The reason why I brought up software was because I had this feeling last week, we are about to release something where I work, that instead of selling this frozen final product and having to go through the distributors, I wish at least in the future that people can have telephone access to the latest version software.
So that I'd really like something like "A Big 10-8 Place" with all that activity in it, but never finished, never frozen. In a way I don't like records because what I like about software is that it is very alive, it's interacting with the person who is using it, and so I would like something at the level of complexity of the "Big 10-8 Place", but instead of being in awe of it you would be conversing with it. It's too bad that we had to develop its complexities and then freeze it on a record.
"When I was in high school I made films before I started making sounds -- I wanted to grow up and be a big time film director. I started getting into listening to movie tracks and it dawned on me how many people it took to make movies, and how when ideas got filtered through so many minds that they lost all their original substance, etc.....Also I was listening to records that were made by one guy who played every instrument and that was one of the things that really attracted me to recording." MARK
"If what you are doing is not obvious and it appears random, a lot of people are not going to care for it, because there doesn't seem to be any human decisions involved." DON
"I read an interview with Huey Lewis where he said he felt that he is a product of the sixties and is reeking change on society by his happy songs. We went into the record stores with something that is very different; a Negativland record just sort of jumps from the bins -- it's about twice as thick. It's a strange thing to be in a record store." IAN
NEGATIVELAND: A BIG 10-8 PLACE. FIGURED OUT AND DESIGNED BY MARK AND IAN. WRITTEN BY MARK, IAN AND DAVID MADE BY MARK WITH IAN AND DAVID.
FOR THEIR CONTRIBUTIONS (TO THIS PROJECT, OUR LIVE PERFORMANCES AND OUR RADIO SHOW) WE'D LIKE TO THANK RICHARD LYONS, PETER E. DAYTON, CHRIS GRIGG, PYKE ALLEN, DON JOYCE, PHIL FREIHOFNER, LAUREN AND MARKS DAD FOR THE WHISTLING SOLO ON 'FOUR FINGERS.'
"180-G" IS NARRATED BY DAVID.
FIRST SIDE: THEME FROM A BIG 10-8 PLACE, A BIG 10-8 PLACE PART ONE.
SECOND SIDE: INTRODUCTION, FOUR FINGERS, A BIG 10-8 PLACE PART TWO (180-G)
SEELAND RECORDS IS STILL AT BOX 54 CONCORD, CA 94522 AND AT 415-653-9651. LEAVE YOUR NAME AND ADDRESS.
THE BEST WAY TO LISTEN TO THIS RECORD (ESPECIALLY THE FIRST SIDE) IS HEADPHONES AND SPEAKERS AT THE SAME TIME. VERY LOUD. BUT AT LEAST USE YOUR HEADPHONES.
NEGATIVLAND'S live coverage of President Reagan's Inaugural Address. 9:00 AM, January 21, 1985. KPFA FM 94.1
The live satellite feed of the President's Inaugural Address from Washington is the sound foundation for a live radio mix by Negativland. As the President speaks, we will be using the KPFA studios to simultaneously present a multi-channeled display of media conduits, designed to assist your perception of information management. BODY ENGLISH is a unique merging of two forms of illusionistic activity, (Art and Politics), which, in real-time, habitually repel each other. Tune in when turfs collide.
NEW CASSETTE from NEGATIVLAND
JAMCOM '84 A C-60 document from the first INTERNATIONAL JAMMER CONVENTION. Edited from a live, five hour broadcast on "Over The Edge" KPFA FM, Berkeley, California. REAL-TIME DUB...$8.00 Price includes postage Make checks payable to: Seeland Records Box 54 Concord, Ca 94522
IN THE WORKS: 4th LP and a feature Length video. HAVE A NEW YEAR!
"The president's inaugural speech comes live on the satellites; Body English was a live mix that focused on the media's role in such events. We had all these people playing the roles of reporters, and I was the anchor person. We covered up the president with all the surround world of Media. It's the concept that media makes meaning." Don Joyce (note: Body English was written by John Rieger, Don Joyce, and Ian Allen)
Oct.-1983, "A Big 10-8 Place"
*each record has a different handmade cover.
Contact: Negativland c/o Seeland Records Box 54 Concord, CA 94522 USA
Typed by Cheryl Vega 3-20-95