MKJ: How did this monkey deal get started?
BD: Well, I believe there were two events in my childhood that laid the seed for this project and also pretty much shaped the rest of life up until this point. The first was when I was six. My parents were going out to see a movie and lucky for me they must not have been able to find a sitter so they took me along. The name of the movie was Forbidden Planet and it was my first movie experience.
MKJ: Oh yeah, I remember...The robot shocks the monkey...
BD: It's not the monkeys that matter. Since this was all so new and incredible I entered an alternate state of consciousness and became imprinted with three things that became obsessions. robots, interstellar travel, and Theremin music. Oh, and I still can't get Anne Francis's skinny-dipping scene out of my head.
MKJ: The Theremin. That's that thing with the antennas sticking out of it and you wave your hands around in the air and it makes that eerie woo woo sound.
BD:It's also on the soundtrack of many other SCI-FI films, like The Day the Earth Stood Still. If you start listening for it, you'll soon begin to hear it all over the place. The soundtrack for Forbidden Planet was composed and performed by Louis and Be Be Barron--early electronic musicians/experimenters. Be Be Barron--I love that name! The Theremin was the sound of the Krell; a civilization that once inhabited the planet Altair 4. They were, technology-wise, thousands of years ahead of us stupid earthlings--Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Their science was developed to the point that each individual's will and desire could be physically manifested instantly. Unfortunately they could not control their subconscious thoughts. So they wound up killing each other in gruesome, hideous ways.
MKJ: A likely story.
BD: Can anyone control that which they are not conscious of? On the other hand, some people will tell you that it is the very act of trying to control every little thing that causes pain and suffering. I guess it depends on if you feel the subconscious is inherently good or inherently evil.
MKJ: Well, okay. Which is it?
BD: Me? I just like the way the Theremin sounds, robots and Anne Francis. The second incident to have a major impact on my life was when my mother let me stay up late on a school night to watch the Tonight Show. I can't remember who the host was back then. The guest that night was Salvador Dali. Now here was a guy who looked like no one I had ever seen before, acted like no one I had ever seen before, and was ranting and raving in some incomprehensible unknown language. His paintings looked as though he had employed some kind of Krell technology. And yet, he was respected and admired by all. Not only that, it also seemed that being a lunatic paid extremely well.
MKJ: I liked his moustache.
BD: Now here was a guy that seemed to have the complete freedom to be as nuts as you could ever want to be. Obviously no one was telling him what was good art and what was bad art--everything he did was not just good-- it was perfect--and it was perfect for only one reason--he was Dali!
MKJ: Dali drew inspiration from the subconscious and Forbidden Planet was about the subconscious running amok. Do monkeys have a subconscious?
BD: No, and I'll explain later. As a young adult, I attended a music workshop at Michigan State. Teaching the workshop were members of the Free Jazz group, The Art Ensemble of Chicago. This was the first chance I got to observe how improvisational music "worked". Also around this time, I saw Sun Ra and his Solar Arkestra in a club in Detroit. These musicians and Dali shared at least one characteristic-- They seemed to be having the time of their lives.
MKJ: What do you mean by Free Jazz?
BD: Okay, you caught me. There is something called Free Jazz and it most likely has some kind of formal definition, but I wouldn't know what that would be. To me it just means music that you make up free from any pre-conceptions about what music is supposed to sound like. It doesn't necessarily mean you purposely avoid traditional musical conventions--it just means you don't restrict yourself to using only those conventions. While I'm coming clean, I might as well admit that this form of music is especially appealing to me because I am so slow and clumsy that learning conventional music techniques is out of the question. Not that there's anything wrong with studying music and mastering an instrument in the formal way. I would if I could and I have tremendous respect for anyone who can or makes an attempt..
MKJ: If you don't use traditional techniques, what do you use?
BD: About 50% is pure luck and the other 50% is pure chance. Really that's not true. That's my ultimate goal. A certain portion of the time, I stubbornly insist on forcing my will upon the music. For me that's never a good idea. Ultimately, the music would just pass through me like I wasn't there. Coming from wherever it comes from--into the air where I can hear it. But usually somewhere in between those two points I manage to put my self in the way and block it.
MKJ: Well if you get in the way, why don't you just stay home and watch TV?
BD: Then I wouldn't hear the music. When it's going through you it sounds a little different than when it just being played at you. A real master plays music that goes through himself and the audience, ears become optional at that point. I have tried various stochastic, or chance methods of composition, like throwing dice to determine what note to play next, etc. But just the fact that I am employing any type of plan seems to shade things.
MKJ: Still, it sounds like it takes less skill to just move out of the way and merely allow things to happen than it does to dig in the trenches and make everything happen yourself.
BD: If it takes skill or talent, you can count me out! But I find it difficult and nearly impossible to move out of the way. It's somewhat like trying not to think about a rhinoceros. I have to be in some kind of trance state. I don't start channeling Elvis or anything like that. It's just concentrating on something in such a way that you become totally focused. As I begin to concentrate, I lose more and more awareness of the things happening around me and my relationship to these things and then somehow it changes to where I am more aware of everything than I was when I started. However this awareness is different, it's like I have a feeling of being more connected or sensitive to everything.
MKJ: Hmmm...Sounds pretty New Age are you Yanni?
BD: No, but I know where you can buy a monkey.
MKJ: I guess it's safe to assume you don't own any Yanni albums.
BD: I've got nothing against the guy--I just can't pass up a cheap joke at some else's expense. However I do sometimes get the feeling that over the years people have switched from listening to music--to listening to marketing.
MKJ: Can monkeys go into a trance, or, since you claimed that they lack a subconscious, is that not possible?
BD: I was lying. I just don't think of what people call the subconscious as being what some people think of the subconscious as being.
MKJ: Easy for you to say.
BD: I like to think of that part of reality of which we, or, as far as we know, no one else is aware of as not the subconscious but an alternative reality or universe that is adjacent to the one we all live in. The difference is that I consider the universe next door as just as real and valid as ours, not just dark corner of someone's consciousness.
MKJ: Yeah...I saw that episode of Star Trek, too.
BD: Let's take dreams. People say a dream is our subconscious talking to us. I say that when we dream we are peering into these adjacent universes that surround us and these dream events are actually taking place in that universe. Even the creepy scary dreams are true--somewhere.
MKJ: Before we drift out beyond too many universes maybe we should get back to monkeys or music.
BD: I am saying that there is no such thing as creating music, or anything else. Everything already pre-existed in another universe and then was transported here, to our universe where it is new to us.
MKJ: Aren't there barriers or inter-universal border guards to keep things from being smuggled out?
BD: No, in fact there are no walls, fences, or even a line painted across a highway. Each universe is fully integrated into its adjacent universe via n-demensional geomtery and there's constant traffic going back and forth. We just call it different things like dreams, imagination, art , music, movement, etc.
MKJ: What do you mean--movement?
BD: All movement is impossible. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that movement in the way we ordinarily conceptualize it is impossible.
MKJ: Wait a sec. Look--my hand is waving.
BD: That's just a moose pulling a rabbit out of hat. It's all an illusion. Objects do not move within a universe, like I said, that is impossible. It's your point of view which travels between separate and distinct universes. It looks like your hand is moving from side to side, but it's really just your point of view in a universe where your hand is in one position moving to a universe where your hand is in a different position. It's something a kin to the persistence of vision that makes it look like it is actually moving.
MKJ: Even if I knew what you're talking about, would it make any difference to anybody or anything if what you are claiming is true or not?
BD: No. That's the beauty of it. Anyway, when I'm improvising music I am really just cracking open a window of consciousness that allows some that music from our noisy neighbors in the universe next-door to seep through.
MKJ: I see. Now do you think you could tell me how this free jazz monkey deal got started?
BD: When I referred to the music as Free Jazz earlier I want to make it clear that I was talking about The Art Ensemble of Chicago and Sun Ra--not the music I play. I don't put myself in that category. It makes it sound like I actually know some music theory or something. Anyway it's extremely important to assign one's personal style of music to one of the established music categories, like pop/rock, easy listening, or new age, so that people will know where to find your album in the record store. If you're not associated with something that people are familiar with, then they just wind up scratching their heads and start getting irritated.
MKJ: Okay, in what section do I find your albums?
BD: Your best bet would be to check the dumpster out back. It is not new age because it refuses to be non-challenging. I don't like avant garde--that sounds too elitist and intellectual. I think the most apt is experimental/improvisational. In fact, in my performances at the Electronic Music Festival I wore a white lab coat. I like that as a stage persona--a wacky mad scientist of sound. Both The Art Ensemble of Chicago and Sun Ra wear cool get up. And another great and transcendent costumed band that changed my life when I saw them play at the UNL Student Union in the 70's--Parliament/Funkadelic! I think a costume makes the music more accessible by keeping the audience occupied while the sounds sneak up on them.
MKJ: Is that when you started performing--at the Electronic Music Festivals?
BD: I put on a show in the mid 70's--must of been after seeing Sun Ra. Some folks I knew were planning on entertaining some dignitaries from out of town. I volunteered to provide some music. Then I went around to all my friends and acquaintances that claimed that they couldn't play any type of musical instrument and pleaded with them to join my new band. The more they protested that they couldn't do it--the more pressure I applied to them. Eventually I got a half-dozen brave individuals to join me on stage. I randomly assigned instruments to them but didn't allow them to practice with them. You realize I just used the word them three times in one sentence? Nor did have any kind of rehearsal. Besides musicians I also had dancers and someone to read a poem. After the performance, I was shocked by the number of people who said they actually enjoyed it. That was the one thing I wasn't expecting to happen. This was my first clue that I might actually be on to something.Now jumping ahead to the 90's--There was a Theremin/Moog demonstration in Antelope Park. It was a beautiful day and little kids were going nuts dancing to these crazy electronic sounds. I wished there could be more events like that.
And, miraculously there were. In September was the first Nebraska Electronic Music Festival featuring several local musicians in a five hour concert. When I heard that there was another festival in November I knew I had to be a part of it. What amazed me the most was that a community the size of Lincoln could be home to more than dozen unique acts of the experimental kind. I loved watching these acts and stealing every idea possible from them.
Infinite Monkeys has performed in Antelope Park in 1997, 1998,2000,2001 and 2002 and in Stransky Park in 2001 and 2002.
MKJ: This is good point to wrap up the interview. Got any last words about alternative universes? I wouldn't be surprised if you told me this entire interview--me included--leaked from another world into your imagination.
BD: I wouldn't tell you that.Further reflections on Infinite Monkeys