Interview- Ju Suk Reet Meate (for The Wire)

What were some of your first musical projects and performances? At 9 years old in 1961, I co-wrote and recorded original songs and skits on my Craig 212 3″ Reel Tape with a chrome stick-shift lever, this was very exciting new technology. For the next 10 years or so, my obsessions about original music and such waned. Not being from a musical family, I was Luckily singed up for Band and started playing (with out much success) the trumpet. In January of 1972 myself and a friend Spent 2 days in his parents garage, recording our album. We were both musically challenged but we experimented wildly, using multiple Tape decks. Several tracks from this session have appeared as Smegma or Ju Suk Reet Meate, notably “Dying Cows…” from” Pigs for Lepers”. In the smegma years certainly the 15-piece Smegma including, Tom Recchion, Ace and Deuce and others, assembled in 1975 to perform among others, my composition ” My Life as a Grade B Movie”. A 27 min version is on the “I Am Not Artist” VOD Box. An auspicious resting place for a concert that was mostly attended by our parents, and a few friends. How did Smegma come together? To explain how smegma came together first requires a lesson on conditions of the time. Pasadena 1973 Once only a few years back this place was a wonder, famous the world over for its stunning Craftsman Style homes, wide tree covered streets and a true city with interesting people, W.C. Fields died there, etc As with most cities in the states the inner core had gone to hell, Drunks, Porno shops and theaters, Thrift stores, the Notorious “Crips” Gang was starting here at the same time, we had many competing Biker Groups such as the Chosen Few, and the Brothers Free. Worrying about getting drafted or hassled by drunks or Cops was part of the mix. The Free Press Bookstore and a new recorded store Poo-Bah Records stood as Beacons and or anchors of what Underground/weirdo We were in shock about our culture, Music, that had inspired all of us growing up, seemed suddenly stilted, fake, or just too fussed over. Emerging prog had at first seemed promising, but … and one by one our musical heroes let us down, poor Brian Wilson, even Captain Beefheart!! Good thing Sun Ra was going strong then, but he had put a curse on LA and did not play from 1971-1978 or so. So we were a bunch of mostly unemployed misfits from the Suburbs, who moved into a big old house in the worst part of the city. A year or so earlier Dennis Duck and I had tried to play The Drums and Electric Bass respectively, but the results were shockingly poor. But somehow our musical obsessions woke up, Dennis was practicing the drums in his room, and several of us started jamming there while he was at work. Ricky Reets Hubba-Hubba was our first (short lived) group. We had a couple of hot shot guitar players, Dennis was developing an amazing song writing capability that exploded later with The Human Hands, but I immediately was dissatisfied with working with musicians. The whole Idea was scraped. But the Jams kept on happening and one day after jamming on the theme of “Cat Cheese” we had a informal naming session, on nov.23 1973 I recall Jerry Bishop (later LAFMS president) suggesting Smegma and the rest is history. I think we liked the name because it sounded like Magma, and the Python/Firesign reference. In the States the vast majority of people had NO IDEA what it meant, and still don’t. That has added much to the elusive charm of the Smegma mystique. So from then on, we were a Band. The other Main Musical Characters 1973 Pasadena – besides Dennis were, songwriting collaborator Cheez-it Ritz with whom we “wrote such classics as ” Son of Geek (the tale of a circus sideshow freak who’s radioactive baby grows to gigantic size) and “Bub”. Chuck-o-Fats essential from the start, was largely responsible for Smegma’s Jumping headfirst into the 1978 punk (and co-writing Mutant Baby, Going rancid, Beauty school, and Flashcards. and getting back to our R&R roots. Amazon bamby who besides unusual flute playing, reinvented drumming, often added that impossible extra. Not to mention the first person to join the group, Ace a early master at the inappropriate catch phrase and saxophone stylings. How important was Poo-bah Records as a lightning rod for fans of underground and leftfield music? Can you give us an idea of what the store was like back then? Can you recall your first meeting with Tom Recchion? Can you remember first hearing Le Forte Four? What was your reaction? The importance of Poo-Bah Records at least to Smegma/LAFMS cannot be overstated. Pasadena was fairly isolated from most of the Hip West Side LA Scene even then so Poo- Bah stood out. In the basement of a shabby restaurant and next to a Hard-Core Gay Adult theater, the main store area was small but there was a another room in back that always had a Water bed, Bong, Musical instruments scattered about backlight posters, all the essentials for the times. I will always remember Tom Recchion demanding that I buy these records I knew nothing about for 2$ , Insisting I would never regret it . Two I remember are the first Move on Zonophone, and The Madcap Laughs by Sid Barrett. They are treasured today! I did not here the LP Bikini T, S. until shortly after moving north but I was immediately struck with the similar Non-Musical/personal aspects. Was there/is there an overall LAFMS aesthetic? Is it possible to describe it? LAFMS=Playfulness regarding the very concept of what is Music. Inclusion of personal/amateur/noise/silence/silliness. What was your first impression of Doo-Dooettes? Airway? I had been Jamming at 35 S. Raymond with the Doo Dooettes gang, and sat in with Tom, Dennis And Rick Potts at a early live performance at Beyond Baroque in 1978. I thought they were the cat’s pajamas! Oddly enough the first time I saw airway, was while playing with them at the LAFMS 24hr Telethon in 2009. What was the LA of the early-70s like? How did it contribute to the birth and affect the development of the LAFMS? Did the LAFMS inherit anything from the LA freak scene around Zappa, Wild Man Fischer, Beefheart et al? Growing up in the LA area you can get used to the idea that besides being a big Corporate Media city, LA has a incredible history of Cults, Health food Nuts, Experimenters and Outsiders of all types. Zappa and Beefheart got us excited are we were hell bent on taking the road less traveled. How about improvisation, how aware were you of improvising as a form of musical practice, i.e. coming out of jazz, free jazz etc, or was it much more instinctive than that? Improvisation is one of those trick words, for example in the Jazz tradition it means variations on a theme in a strict Idiomatic style.’ Free Improvisation we heard in Cecil Taylor, Derek Bailey, and Sun Ra for example and that we went crazy over. But even that music was from the past. We were hoping for something new. “New Suburban Primitive Music ” as we later referred to it, involved a lot reckless “improvisation” due to incompetence regarding recording and playing Music. Did you feel a connection to rock music, did you feel you were furthering modes/ideas/styles that came out of the late 60s rock revolution or did you feel more like overthrowing it altogether? Was there any relationship between late 60s head culture and your own experiments in community? We really felt betrayed by what rock music had become, older forms such as Rhythm&Blues, Do-Wop, Rockabilly, Southern Gospel all seemed to have a touch of the cry of the human spirit, or something real. Rick has spoken of the 1975 gig in the ballroom above Poo-Bah as the birthday of the LAFMS, can you recall the specifics of the show, were you there, can you recall it? What was your first encounter with Ace and Deuce? Ace and Deuce- early 1972, I had gone to Poo-Bah Records and was looking at the 10 cent! bin, when Tom rushed over with a scrawny blond kid and a taller mysterious looking gent and says” He went to the Capt. Beefheart show at the Pasadena Civic” they had desperately wanted to but because of age, work or whatever they did not. So I told them as best I could about the ,Still to this day, the most outrageous, Intense, Beautifully unique Rock show I ever saw. “Lick my decals off baby” had just come out and Drumbo was in fine form with the help of Art Tripp who was playing Marimba. Every time the captain would get out his bass clarinet or soprano sax, which was often, a few more hippies would run for the exits. This was my first Rock Concert!!!! Soon we Jammed at another friend of ace’s Rick Snyder’s Pad (Midnight Hat size Snider of C>B>’s last band of the 80’s) even before smegma had started. That room in the back of Poo-Bah’s was, I hear ,the first jamming place for ace and duce. How did you become involved in LAFMS? Were you asked to join or what? What were the reasons for being part of the society? When many of us moved to Portland in 1975, we were ignorant of LAFMS but within months I got “Bikini Tennis Shoes” and heard about ID Art #2 the pay for time DYI concept for making an LP. Since we already knew several key people and I was spending Weeks at a time bumming about LA jamming with old pals as much as possible often in the Raymond Bldg. or L-44 studios in Alhambra meeting Chip, and Rick and Joe Potts.. During this period 75-78 I meet and played with Just about the whole gang. I was struck at the silliness and “inside Jokes” no one knew of L-44. But I was blow away by the shared LP concept and helped organize so much participation in ID Art we were collectively the largest contributors. And we did the same for Blorp – Esette . and when we put our first LP Glamour Girl out, instead of Pigface Records I got permission to put it out on LAFMS. Just to solidify the connection for all time. So who all lived in the Raymond Building? Did you go there much? What was the atmosphere like there? Do you see the various LAFMS groups as having very separate identities or as blurring the lines as members came and went? For example, were some groups more about tape composition, some more about electronics and post-production, some more about the live jam? What was what and who was who? What, to you, was the concept of free music in the LAFMS name? I always took The Free Music in LAFMS to be half pun or a rallying cry to free music from status Quo oppressive crap There seems to be a scientific American hobbyist ethos with the LAFMS, making your own instruments etc do you see any connections between what you do and the musician-inventors like Harry Partch, Harry Bertoia et al? It also seems to tie-in with garage band traditions but also classic 50s/60s garage hobbies, building your own monster kits, your own hot rods. You told me once that you thought Smegma were more of a rock band whereas the rest of the LAFMS were more art house how accurate do you think that is? How does that manifest itself? Airway sound pretty rocking. As for Smegma, 1No one went to art school ,or ever shown any previous music aptitude. 2 band lives together in a house for many years. 3 Plays live gigs almost every year for 37 years in a row for a total of about 140 so far. 4 Has irregularly but steadily recorded and put out LP, Cass and 45 etc non-stop since 1979. 5 we have always used multiple Musical Idioms such as Free jazz, Rock, folk, primitive, strange voices, etc. as part of our voice. 6 in 1976 we were more free Jazz and loops then when the 1978 punk rock scene hit Portland. With Brads(then D.K.)’s help we played Scary Rock again and so forth.. Smegma is a different kind of duck because we were not subjected to the pressures of living in LA so we could “Vout” as Slim Gaillard might have said. you know, grow moss. “Arthouse” ? Probably not . Not my area of expertise . Yes ,Airway does indeed rock ,dang hard . How important was the concept of unmusicianship of music made by non-musicians how was this liberating and how central is it to the sound of the LAFMS? Were there particular inspirations for this approach, these were lean years before punk huh? Or is that a myth? Music by Non-Musicians is the essential thread between LAFMS and Smegma. The lean musical years seemed real then , although we were finding out about Marion Brown, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Edgar Varese, Penderecki, that used non-Musical sounds in music. but nothing felt contemporary to us. How do you feel now that the LAFMS ethos had percolated so far and so deep into the contemporary underground, did you ever think you would see that? What happened to your involvement with LAFMS in the end, did it fizzle out, deliberately terminate, did you remain members? I realize that it survived as a designation through the 80s/90s and beyond but it seemed more diffuse, even more under the radar? Did you make new alliances during that time? well from 82-95 or so we did not know of any LAFMS activity. as soon as any activity was detected we have done everything possible to be involved . Can you recount any particular key LAFMS actions or performances? What were typical audiences like? Did LAFMS have a contemporary ‘following’? Were people into it or was it oppositional or confusing for audiences back then? What in your mind are the quintessential LAFMS documents? How do you feel about the upcoming retrospective festival? Do you see it as a reformation or more like a continuation of what you were doing? Some non-LAFMS groups are also playing, do you feel they have much in common with your aesthetic, for instance the Japanese noise groups Hijokaidan and Incapacitants? this festival is a continuation and a culmination of 37 years of effort and I am lucky to have 2 current projects to present that are both new and timeless. The link with Japanese noise groups is not obvious . They tend to be so Singular and Pure of concept and we are so messy. But it is a spiritual bond and hard to describe


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