Sunday, July 20, 2014

A SPY story - part 2

Without the new gear I'd just purchased, I don't even know if Todd and David would have let me join the band.  But they were broke and equipment poor and I was ready and willing to contribute my gear if it would help me achieve my dream.

They'd been working together for some time and had written at least two original songs, one of which was Ministry 6.  Todd had been reading a novel about British spies and the CIA's English counterpart, the MI 6.  The concept thus inspired their first original song and gave them inspiration for a band name: SPY.

Eventually David Lee moved out from Todd's apartment got his own.  I showed up at his place with Todd one early afternoon, keyboards in tow.  I knocked on the door.  No answer.

We knocked again.  Then again.

Finally lanky Lee opens up, one eye squinted shut to to avoid the "morning" sun, his face twisted up like he was sucking on a lemon slice.  No words came from his mouth.  He just left the door ajar and stumbled back inside.

Todd and I came in and put our stuff on the couch.  From where we stood we could see Lee, over the counter top ledge that separated the living room from the kitchen, rummaging.  As was his habit he was wearing the same outfit he had on the night before, typically his work suit, crumpled from being slept in.

David loaded his pipe, lit it up, took a deep inhale and held it.  He slowly exhaled a few seconds later .  Then he repeated the process.

Finally he spoke.

"So," he said.  "I guess it's time to work on some music."

I took note of the CD cases strewn across the table, some open and laying on the floor.  I spotted a few  of my favorites, like Cabaret Voltaire's C.O.D.E. and Ministry's Twitch, which might have belonged to Todd.







David had several disks from the Waxtrax and Netwerk labels, including a few Skinny Puppy CDs.



We got down to the business of setting up our gear, connecting power sources and MIDI cables between the keyboards and sequencer.  David played a sound and said "sick, isn't it?"  He had an uncanny skill of squeezing ugly sounds out of pretty synthesizers.  He pushed a few buttons to change sounds, and found something that sounded a bit like the opening keyboard part from Van Halen's Jump.  He kept clicking on buttons, moving through the sound menus, assigning LFOs, changing waveforms, twisting knobs and altering settings until the patch sounded like the devil's vagina.

The habit and trend in industrial music at the time was to source audio snippets from old movies, radio programs or from conversations recorded on the street.  These would overlay the music.

A radio preacher from an AM radio broadcast made it onto the SPY track Ressurection.

We were searching the dial for sounds during one session at David's when we took a break to listen to community radio station way down on the left end of the dial, KNON.

KNON was not new to us.  A guy named George had a pretty good show called Chicken Gristle that we would listen to on occasion.


I don't remember the name of the show that was on that afternoon, but the DJ said something that caught our attention.

He was talking about the ongoing fund drive, an event that anyone who has ever listened to public radio knows all about.  The DJ was looking for pledges, and talking about the great lengths he would go to get the listeners to call in.  This is what we heard.

"...in fact, maybe you are a musician or are in a band and you are looking for a bigger audience.  If you will pledge at least $10 right now, I will put you on the air.  That's right.  I don't care what your music sounds like, if you will pledge, you can come down to the studio before the end of my show today and I'll play your music."

Todd raised an eyebrow and said, "Let's do it."  He picked up the phone and promised to pay the ten bucks.   (Honestly and regrettably I don't think we ever paid that pledge.)  Todd jotted down the directions to the studio.

---

A half hour later we were pulling up in front of little run down house in what I considered to be a bad neighborhood.  Paint was peeling off the outside.  We walked up to concrete porch and knocked on the door.



A girl opened.  "What?" she said.

We explained what we'd been promised when pledging and she disappeared inside.  A few minutes later she reappeared.  "Yeah, you can come up."



We shuffled up a creaky staircase and through a door that dumped into a tiny room.  We shook hands with the DJ and his pal and he said he'd put us on next.  He invited us to stand next to the microphone.

"...and keeping with our promise of putting on the air anyone who will pledge, we have with us here a new band.  What are you guys called?"

Todd stood forward to speak on our behalf.  "We're called SPY."

"Tell us a little bit about the song we're going to hear."

I can't remember what Todd said next, but before we knew what was happening the DJ took the cassette, put it into the deck and hit play.  And just like that Ministry 6 was playing on the airwaves.

"Holy shit," Todd said smiling.  The DJ nodded and said it was pretty good.

The phone rang and the DJ answered.  He put his hand over the phone and told us, "It's George from the Chicken Gristle show.  He says he likes your song and wants for you guys to come see him during his show on Saturday."


To be continued


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