Jay T. Yamamoto interviewed by Hal McGee
Getting tapes from Jay T. Yamamoto was a special event for me. For one thing, I only had a few home taper friends in Hawaii and there was a certain aura, almost like the feeling of getting something from another country for some reason to me. Much of Jay’s output was harsh, white hot noise. His blasts of power had dynamics though and a personal flavor that is hard to define. Below, you can read a long interview done by Hal McGee. My thanks to them both for this in depth look at a fascinating outside artist.
Listen to some of Jay’s music
( thanks to Hal for the links)
Jay did vocals for the band VCM, also with Brian Albug ( mixing), Chris Martin ( bass), Jim Wyman ( lead guitar and Ron Yamamoto ( drums).
Jay T. Yamamoto interviewed by Hal McGee
From 1992 to 2001 you released about 80 cassettes on your JTY Tapes label of what I consider to be highly unique and personal hometaper cassette audio art. Nobody else sounds like JTY. Why did you stop? What changes caused you to want to stop releasing tapes? And what have you been doing in the 12 years since?
First was lack of recording equipment. Because of how I record—pressing different buttons, switching between tape/cd/radio functions, and physically manipulating the tapes while they are playing/recording, and extensive pause-button tape editing—-I tend to break my tapedecks quite frequently. At some point I just didn’t bother with replacing broken equipment and was left with nothing to record/dub with. I also started to lose interest in the noise scene—not just noise but really music in general. I haven’t really kept up with any new music since about 2001 (with the exception of The Dirty Three til about 2006-7). With the loss of interest in music came a renewed interest in classic horror fiction (e.g. Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, H.R. Wakefield…) which came from seeking out writers mentioned in H.P. Lovecraft’s “Supernatural Horror in Literature”. This became much easier when I started buying books online and my extensive reading left time for little else. Then at some point I became a hardcore otaku, but the less said about that the better. And most importantly I thought a mysterious disappearance and reappearance years later would add to the mystique of my work.
What were your earliest musical/sound experiences which had an impact on you? Did movie soundtracks factor in? What kind of music did you listen to growing up, as a teen?
When I was around 9 or 10 I liked to play with the pause button on the family VCR, with this I “composed” my first “song”—a recording of a Bob Dylan video edited so that he repeatedly sang “come baby-baby-baby” (years later I found out this song was “Emotionally Yours”). But my dad made me stop out of fear I’d break the VCR. This killed my experimental music “career” which wouldn’t get started again til the first Jay & Stuart tapes in ’91. Sometime in the early-mid 80s I watched a Christian TV special about the evils of “Satanic” rock music. On it the host played the “prayer” section of the Pink Floyd song “Sheep.” This got me interested in Pink Floyd and I started listening to the local classic rock station (98 Rock). Back then my favorites were Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Alan Parsons Project, The Doors and AC/DC. Then I started watching 120 Minutes on MTV and that got me hooked on alternative rock. Stuff like Talking Heads, Bauhaus, The Cure… were the weirdest music I ever heard at the time. I was also heavily into R.E.M., The Replacements, XTC, The Smiths/Morrissey, Joy Division/New Order, Midnight Oil, …all the great 80s alternative stuff. Then I started listening to club-industrial (Ministry, NIN, Skinny Puppy, KMFDM) and from there my tastes gravitated to the early industrial bands (Throbbing Gristle, Einsteurzende Neubauten, Cabaret Voltaire, Nurse With Wound, S.P.K.) which were my major influences when I started recording. I clearly remember the first old-school industrial album I bought: Cabaret Voltaire “The Voice of America”. The collage-style cover art fascinated me and there was a member who was credited with just playing “tapes and electronics” which appealed to the non-musician in me (although I “played” clarinet in high school band I mostly just faked it and I never really learned how to read music.) I just had to have that album. Except for the “Tetsuo: The Iron Man” soundtrack, movie soundtracks never had a big impact in me, mostly because I’m just not a huge movie guy.
Was high school band your first formal or “organized” musical/noisical activity? Tell me about Rock Works. What is it/was it and how did it lead to other things?
High School band was my first musical activity though it didn’t have much impact on the music I was to later do.Rock Works was (is still?) a sort of music tutorial class that emphasized group playing. They had about 3 studio rooms in Kailua. At the time I was involved it was run by Brian Albus and Bruce B. Bolos.
Originally the ones joining were my brother Ron and a couple of other friends, but when the one who was supposed to play keyboards dropped out I joined as the replacement. Our first band in ’91 was called Kickin’ Mellow Groove (I think Brian came up with the name) and consisted of me (keyboards/vocals), my brother (guitar/vocals), his friend Reed (bass/vocals), and a girl whose name I don’t recall on drums. This lineup performed in one Rock Works group show (our songs were covers of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven”, Morrissey’s “Ouija Board” and one other.)After that the girl quit and Bruce B. Bolos became our drummer and main instructor. Reed also quit and was replaced by a series of different bassists. And Ron’s friend Jim Wyman joined as a second guitarist/vocalist. This was especially significant for my own music because Jim’s girlfriend’s sister, Julia Gilman, would later become very active in the noise scene. Bruce was also involved in experimental music (more improv based) though I didn’t know it til after we left Rock Works.
During this period we had a kind of laid-back lite-alternative rock sound. At this time I also started recording with my cousin Stuart Hayashi, as Jay & Stuart, as sort of an outlet for the kind of music I was more interested in doing. Then around mid-‘92 Chris Martin, who was involved with Rock Works since at least ’89 as a member of an 80s metal cover band called Night Rage, joined on bass. While working on songs for the Summer ’92 Rock Works show (King Missile’s “Cheesecake Truck”, Killing Joke’s “Money is Not Our God”, and “Valerie Loves Me” by Material Issue) we started to develop a more pseudo-punk sound. This is also how we got our new name VCM (Valerie’s Cheesecake Money, from the songs we were doing). Incidentally King Missile was the only band that all members of VCM liked. Later Frank Guertler joined on drums while Bruce remained as our instructor.
At this time we started getting excluded from Rock Works group shows, so for our summer ’93 performance we decided to play a prank: during our first or second song all members except Frank suddenly put down our instruments and started playing cards in the middle of the stage while Frank played a drum solo. Then when our allotted time ran out we went back to our instruments and played more songs, going overtime. Although Bruce thought this was funny, it really pissed Brian off and we were officially banned from further Rock Works performances, so we all quit, and continued practicing at either Jim’s or Frank’s houses.
At this time time Julia, her sister and another girl named Julia formed the VCM Information Society for the purpose of promoting the band, which included distributing a cassette single of our version of “Cheesecake Truck” (one of which went to the guy from King Missile.) They also did their own music which I released on JTY Tapes. This is also how I became involved with the wider noise/hometaper scene, since it seems like Julia might also have been giving out copies of my solo tapes, which at that time were only recorded for my own entertainment, though I did give copies to members of VCM. This is how I came in contact with Emil Hagstrom (Cock ESP), and Xome. My early “best of” tape on Noise Taiwan also came about through Julia.
The first five cassettes listed in the JTY Tapes catalogue are by Jay & Stuart. Tell me about the early Jay & Stuart tapes: why, how, and when they were recorded. How did they relate to the Rock Works and VCM experiences and did they overlap in time?
Jay & Stuart started when I recorded my cousin Stuart and myself fooling around with my Casio CT-680 keyboard. When we played back the tape it totally cracked us up so we decided to record more til we finally had a full tape which we called “Jay’s Greatest Hits” as a joke. The basic format for Jay & Stuart was Stuart would select a preprogrammed rhythm and chord sequence on the Casio over which he would improvise vocals while he and I improvised on the keyboard. Occasionally I would randomly play records, the TV, radio, and prepared tapes. We also had this small sound effects toy called the “echo killer” which we used a lot. We recorded all our material on recycled tapes with a handheld tape recorder.
When Zan Hoffman heard one of these tapes he asked if we were both 14 at the time because it sounded like a couple of 14-year-olds messing with a tape recorder. I told him he was half right since at the time I was 18 and Stuart was 10, our average age was 14. We had one tape, “Lost”, that started out as typical Jay & Stuart until Stuart spots some cockroaches outside my window—then the rest of the tape becomes a “documentary” of us hunting roaches with water guns.
From late ’91 throughout ’92 we recorded 5 complete tapes, and based on some tapes I recently found in storage I believe there was an unfinished tape that was intended as JTY Tape #006.
These were solely for our own entertainment and not intended to be heard by anyone else. On the last of our early period tapes we recorded a song called “Batu” which I consider a transitional song between Jay & Stuart and my solo stuff. “Batu” was different in that instead of pure improvisation, Stuart and I improvised over a structure that I prepared beforehand.
My interest in doing more structured material contributed to our temporary “breakup” and for all of ’93 I focused on solo tapes.
These recordings are related to my Rock Works experience in that they provided an outlet that was closer to the type of music that I really wanted to do. If I had the opportunity to do experimental/ noise music in a band setting, I don’t think I would have ever recorded my solo tapes.
One of my favorite tracks on “Jay & Stuart: Untitled” is “Japanese Monster Ratings”. I always chuckle every time I listen to it. Japanese Monsters is just one of many themes that you addressed or treated in your JTY label cassette releases. Others, such parodies of classic rock and “serious noise”, manga, the lo-fi aesthetic, and pornography, we will discuss later, but for now, how did Japanese giant monsters factor into and inspire your noise recordings?
Although we were both into kaiju (Japanese giant monsters), early on most of the kaiju references came from Stuart. In addition to the “Monster Ratings” song we did a song about “Godzilla vs the Smog Monster” on our first tape, and there was another monster or alien invasion song on another tape.
The kaiju influence really became prominent with the tapes we did as King Creature. The first King Creature tape started out as a new Jay & Stuart recording, but instead of recording directly onto a handheld cassette recorder like we usually did, I plugged the handheld into my stereo’s microphone jack and got a harsh, feedback-heavy sound. The heavy noise-based sound was so different from our previous material that we decided to release it under a different name. We settled on King Creature which we got from an episode of the original Ultraman (the “Gomora” Episodes 26 and 27): it was the nickname of a kid who was a huge fan of monsters. We wanted a kaiju-based name to match the destructive sound of the noise. Our first song “Ear Destroyah” was named after a Godzilla monster. At first I used the King Creature name for just our more noise-based stuff, but with our second and third full-length tapes the kaiju influence became much more obvious. Both Stuart and I are huge Ultraman fans, but Stuart’s more of a Godzilla guy, while I’m more of a Gamera guy (became a fan through Mystery Science Theater 3000). And Dada is both my favorite art movement and my favorite Ultraman monster (Episode 28).
At what point did you start the JTY Tapes label? When and why did you make a conscious decision to start a label?
The tape numbers were originally just for personal use to keep track of the tapes I recorded. The numbering system started with #007 “Indispensable Untruths” the first that was given to other people (members of VCM—since it was around Xmas time, on a whim I decided to give them copies of this tape as a Xmas gift.). “Kollapsing New Music” was the first tape recorded with the intention of giving it out to others. There was never a conscious decision to treat JTY Tapes as a label, it’s just that as the circle of people who got my tapes grew larger, what started as a numbering system for my own convenience became a label by default.
Many of your JTY Tapes cassette covers (especially those from earlier releases) have hand-drawn cover art in a comics style. Julia Gilman’s scans of some of your comics from 1996 seem to show that you had a fairly large cast of comics characters
Prof. Glasses Face on that page looks a lot like one of the characters on the cover of Jay & Stuart: Untitled (1992). When did you start doing comics and what part did they play in connection with your audio art and noise?
Although my first JTY Comic was an ad for my “Noise” tape, there’s really no connection between JTY Comics and JTY Tapes, other than technique in that I have extremely minimal musical ability (although I was in high school band I can’t read music and I struggle with chords and scales) and knowledge of how to record things properly and I have absolutely no artistic ability at all—all my comics were drawn free-hand; stuff like penciling, inking, and the like are completely alien to me. And there’s also a William S. Burroughs connection: a guy in a Burroughs mask appears in one of my comics and there’s also a Burroughs influence on my music—not so much his writings, but his “Nothing Here But the Recordings” album. The thing is I’ve only read about it, but I’ve never heard it. I’d always be on the lookout for it whenever I went record shopping and although I eventually found some spoken-word CDs from Burroughs I could never find “Nothing Here…” But the idea of what the album could possibly sound like always fascinated me and when I started doing my own recordings I’d make these tape experiments based on what I thought the Burroughs album might sound like. So I’d say that “Nothing Here…” is the most influential album that I never heard.
You made heavy use of religious programming from TV and radio on many of your tapes. The opening track, “Deus Irae”, of your first solo tape, “Indispensable Untruths”, consists of a recording of a preacher delivering a fiery sermon combined with rumbling noise gunk. What caused you to use so much of this kind of material in your recordings? Was it a reaction to growing up in a religious family or community? Maybe there was just a lot of that kind of programming on Hawaiian radio and you found it to be readily available sound source fodder? One can assume that you used religious programming in an ironic fashion or as negative commentary?
I used to watch a lot of public access TV back then (my favorites were “Sleepless” an experimental comedy movie show, and anything from Rod Martin—a guy who made cheesy musical productions) and a lot of it was religious programming. I really liked choral music and would often record it when it came on for possible use on my own tapes. Preachers, I think, are always a great voice source, with their flair for un-ironic dramatic intensity. My use of these sounds were simply because I liked how they sounded. I’ve had absolutely no religious upbringing and no religious beliefs at all. I think this is why I can appreciate these religious sound sources for their pure sonic quality, without any kind of baggage.
Tell me about the history of “Indispensable Untruths” and how it was constructed. It seems to be a collection of your earliest solo tracks and sound experiments of many different styles and treatments (collage, field recordings, keyboard jams, etc.) from various times. Later tapes of yours often have a conceptual theme or frame for the entire work. I notice from the j-card that it was recorded “Spring/Summer/Fall 1992”, which means that some of this material was recorded during the same time period as the early Jay & Stuart tapes. The tape title itself seems to be a riff on the religious theme we discussed above. Plus I can also see from album covers pasted onto the cassette cover layout that the music on “Indispensable” was influenced by the likes of Snoop Doggy Dogg, Frank Sinatra, Gloria Estefan, and “The Lion King”.
Unlike my later tapes most of the material for “Indispensable Untruths” wasn’t recorded with a solo tape in mind. While recording with Stuart in 1992 we started using more pre-recorded tapes in our songs. This got me wanting to do stuff that was more structured, and more based on noise and pure sound so I began recording songs on my own on the side. As I started accumulating more material I got the idea to gather the pieces all together for a solo tape. Most of it was recorded from late-Summer to maybe about early December. The earliest material on the tape are the keyboard jams and most of the voice sample parts, which were originally recorded with the intention of using them on my Jay & Stuart recordings. When I gave the tape to the other members of VCM they were surprised because I was musically the least involved member of the band, though when they heard it I suppose they kinda got that we just had very different ideas of what music should sound like. The title is a riff on Richard H. Kirk’s “Disposable Half-Truths” (I wish I could say I have the cassette version, but I’m a latecomer who got it on CD). As for the influences, I think I was just goofing around and included music that had nothing to do with my own.
I have listened three times to a digital dub that I made of Brian Noring’s personal copy of your “Kollapsing New Music” cassette from 1993, and I can definitely hear a progression in development of techniques and concepts from the previous tape, “Indispensable Untruths”. In the info sheet that accompanied the cassette you list the instruments and sound sources for each track, which I found interesting, plus there is a list of about 40 inspirations and influences ranging from talk show hosts to early industrial music artists, Burroughs, Can, Cage, Stockhausen (whose “Gesang der Jünglinge is sampled on the last track), and lots more. Plus of course the tape title is a riff on Einstürzende Neubauten. There are two “Suburban Environmental Recordings”; a rather pleasant Casio keyboard piece; a handful of electroacoustic compositions with taped treatments of recordings of doors, balloon, boiling water, clock, etc.; and several tracks of loopy, layered, repetitive tape collage works. In an interview with Fujui Wang you listed you listed your instruments/gear of that time period as “a Toshiba stereo system with a Panasonic portable CD player attached to it, a medium sized Casio tape player, two Panasonic walkman type recorders and a Panasonic microcassette recorder.” Please talk about how “Kollapsing” was conceived and constructed, and describe or give examples of how you recorded a track such as “Love Theme From Living Larger And Stiffer” (or any other track or tracks from that era).
My main influence back then was late 70s/early80s industrial music—from there I got interested in early musique concrète/electronic music. I also started to really get into Japanese noise at this time, which I discovered through Animals 8 Them, which was a section in a record/comic/book store called Jelly’s, in which some of the workers imported various weird CDs and tapes and sold them on consignment. I eventually got to know one of the buyers, Billy Craven, when he told me that I was one of the only people who consistently bought their stuff. Later when he learned that I also did my own noise music he contributed some of his own recordings for my use.
On “Kollapsing” my music started to get more organized (though “They Put a Cylendrical Thing…” was pure improvisation).
My basic “composition” technique was to record the basic sounds I wanted to use on my handheld, or make a collage style recording on my handheld or main tapedeck, and play them back on my various tape players while sometimes “playing” other objects while recording everything on my handheld.
For example in “The Doors” I played two recordings of squeaking doors in my house while rubbing a wet balloon.With “Love Theme…” I think I recorded the basic “vocal” track first and during the main track recording I randomly made sounds with various objects including a notebook, the radio, clotheshangers, the window, and prepared tapes. Most of the taped voices I used came from daytime talk shows—Stuart and I used to love watching these shows to laugh at the stupidity of the guests.
Some songs (“The Pressure Connection”, “Section 2…”, and “Stockhaus End”) make use of tapes I recorded earlier in ’92—these early recordings are some of the Burroughs-influenced recordings I mentioned previously.
With “Kollapsing” my early repetitive tape collage style started to become defined, in which I would take a small number of sound sources, throw them together and repeat them to mind-numbing effect.
You seem to have a difficult, possibly sado-masochistic relationship with your audience. In 1994 in the booklet that accompanied “Lo-Fi” you wrote: “I want to completely alienate my audience. I work at generating negative reactions in my listeners, boredom, disappointment, confusion, disgust, impatience, irritation, anger…” Also, you seem to have a desire to inflict pain on your audience, perhaps for some kind of instructive purpose. In the booklet you quoted Harlan Ellison: “I will send them more pain than ever before …To give them pain, that they may know pleasure.” I am thinking also of your early 1994 cassette, “Listen With Pain”, the cover of which bears an illustration of a naked woman with exaggerated features writhing in pain as she is tormented by demons. In your 1999 JTY Tapes Catalogue you stated “All tapes available by trade only”, so we can assume that your audience consists of other audio artists. Why, for what reasons did you form this special relationship with your listeners? Were your cassette releases love/hate torture devices?
Part of it is an acknowledgment that the type of music that I do will always have a very small, select audience, even amongst noise/experimental fans. A lot of it was a reaction to the lo-fi rock fad that was current at the time, with bands like Pavement and so on. I remember thinking this isn’t lo-fi at all. That really cemented my lo-fi aesthetic and I set out to do “real” lo-fi music that would generate the kind of feelings that “real” lo-fi would give to “normal” people. The early 90s was also a time when a lot of underground music from the 80s was becoming mainstream, so I was trying to do a type of music that was so sonically unpleasant that it would never be embraced by the mainstream.
Exactly how small was that “very small, select audience”? More to the point, did you keep track of how many tapes you sent out over the eight or nine years from 1991 to 2000? Which tape releases did you send out the most copies of? Any idea of the numbers? Later on you did limited edition releases, such as The Library Of Porn cassette series (which were done in editions of 30).
I never really kept track of how many of which tapes I sent out. I think I averaged about 5-15 for any given tape, though during my most active period (around ’95-‘97) it probably went as high as 20 or a little more. I’ve always primarily recorded my music for my own entertainment—getting any kind of recognition for it was never a priority for me. If other people happened to like what I do it was a nice bonus, but if they hated it that was fine too. The editions of 30 were a reference to my “Lo-Fi” tape.
The thing I admired most about you and Brian Noring is that you guys did your cassettes primarily and purely for the love and fun of it. If it pleased you, you did it. I have a lot of fun listening to your tapes. They are personal and casual and when I listen to one of your tapes I feel like I’m getting to spend an hour with you. I appreciate the playful, sarcastic, often self-deprecating nature of so many of your tapes. You poked fun at everybody, it seems, including “serious noise”. Did you draw criticism for the humor you injected into your works? Does humor belong in noise?
I’m thinking of a quote from the info sheet that accompanied your “Songs From The Magic Bean” cassette (JTY 049, 1996):
“Not Quite As Serious as Some May Like”
In the U.S.A. there are a lot of noise and experimental artists, but it seems like most of them don’t take it very seriously. Many noise artists seem to be recording noise because it seems easy and they just make tapes and send them around without putting much effort into it. – Mason Jones, Noise No. 10
I probably traded tapes with Brian Noring most extensively—so much so that I think a little bit of an EHI influence crept into in a some of my ambient stuff from the late 90s. I don’t recall ever getting any criticism for the humor in my works. As much as I love noise as a pure art form, there’s just something inherently funny about it. There’s a sort of absurdist humor to the idea that people are dedicating their entire musical efforts to creating it, people are going out of their way to collect recordings of it, and taking the time to go out to see others perform it. So I’ve always approached my own works with this in mind, a kind of self-awareness and embracing of the absurdity of what I was doing. Violent Onsen Geisha and The Gerogerigegege were huge influences for their humorous take on noise. Early Negativland was also influential for their playful, free-form approach to sound experiments (though I thought later albums with their emphasis on “message” were much less effective.) The liner notes on some later tapes where I’d write comments/info. on individual songs were a sort of parody of classical electronic/musique concrète albums where they’d always give detailed information on the music. I included that quote because it’s the exact opposite of my own musical/noise philosphy. “Seriousness”, “effort”, whether anyone else likes or gets what you’re doing…none of that matters. As long as you like it and have fun doing it then it’s all good.
The first cassette that you released in 1994, “Listen With Pain” (JTY 012), consists of two side-long tracks: “A Dirty Fish” and “Force The Hand Of Fate”. Did you do any other tape albums that consisted of side-long tracks? I don’t recall any that I know of off hand. The album really isn’t all that painful, and I’m not even sure that I would consider it “noise”. In fact, on repeated listens I have heard lots of details. It’s more like musique concrète, albeit lo-fi. Were you familiar with Pierre Schaeffer, Pierre Henry, Luc Ferrari, etc.? I hear lots of pre-recorded tape sounds of a wide variety being manipulated in real-time. Can you tell me a little more about how you constructed these two pieces? We have talked about the gear that you used in this time period. Did you ever use outboard effects, such as delay, reverb, etc.? What are the titles references to? Where did you get the cover illustration? This is the earliest JTY tape that I own in which you affixed the cover graphic to the outside of the cassette shell, rather than using a standard j-card insert like usual. And one last thing: the tape is dedicated to Manson Family member Leslie Van Houten. Any special reason?
Oh! Hahahaha, yet one more thing about “Listen With Pain”. You used taped laughter on “Force The Hand Of Fate”. It sounds like it came from the exact same laugh track that Debbie Jaffe used on 60 Minutes Of Laughter (1982).
Previous to “Listen With Pain” the Jay & Stuart “Lost” tape had two side-long tracks, though those were more of a document of random events than actual songs—it started out as a typical Jay & Stuart tape until Stuart saw some roaches crawling outside my window. Then it becomes a sort of “documentary” of us going outside and “hunting” the roaches. Schaeffer and Henry were huge influences at that time; the first two songs on “Kollapsing….” were a reference to Henry’s “Variations on a Door and a Sigh”.“A Dirty Fish” was essentially recorded live—I’d switch tapes and records on my tape players and turntable while “playing” some glass plates and part of a metal shelf live. I also played some tapes through my keyboard amp. Sound sources included Turkish Dervishes from the “Myths 4” compilation, Balinese music from an LP whose title I can’t remember, choral and Hare Krishna music recorded from public access TV, tapes of me on the keyboard, bathwater and my voice repeating the song title, and storm interference on my radio reception.“Force The Hand Of Fate” was about 5 different songs that I edited together into one sidelong song to match the other side. Stuart helped in assembling “Force….” and he performs the breathing sounds near the beginning of the song and the voice at the end. The cover was taken from a comic anthology called “Taboo”, I think the artist was S. Clay Wilson.“A Dirty Fish” was a reference to The Hafler Trio’s “A Thirsty Fish” (a significant influence on the tape, along with the aforementioned musique concrète and “Force The Hand Of Fate “ was a reference to Psychic TV’s “Force The Hand Of Chance” and the movie “Manos: The Hands of Fate”, which was one of my and Stuart’s favorite movies (we saw it on MST3K.) We especially liked the character Torgo and I did a cover of his theme-song on another tape (“Institutional Music For Institutionalized People.)During the recording of an earlier version of “A Dirty Fish” a documentary on the Manson family which included a lengthy segment at the end on how Leslie Van Houten reformed herself in prison, was playing on the TV in the background (though inaudible on the recording.)The laughter on “Force…” does sound like the same one on “60 Minutes…”. It came from an old sound effects record whose title I don’t recall, so it could very well be the same laugh track. It’s cool that our early tapes have this connection.
I was fortunate enough to be able to locate a used copy of “Lo-Fi”, your release on Fujui Wang’s Noise label in Taiwan. “Lo-Fi” is a 50-minute cassette compilation of tracks from your “Listen With Pain”, “Anti-Personnel Muzak”, “Kollapsing New Music”, and “Lo-Fi Nation” cassettes; plus it comes with a booklet containing a highly informative interview with you, a recommended reading list, and a JTY comic. How did this release come about? When was it issued? On the back of the booklet it says “The First Noise Maker from Hawaii”. Was this true? Maybe so in terms of “noise”, but certainly there were other people before you in Hawaii who made experimental music? I am thinking of Bruce B. Bolos as one possibility. Who chose the title “Lo-Fi”? You or Fujui?
“Lo-Fi” came about through Julia sending Fujui some of my tapes. The song selections and tape title were done by Fujui. I think it was released sometime in early ’95. As far as other noise artists from Hawaii goes there was a guy named Tom Dudas who recorded as Black Museum—it’s possible that he was recording/releasing noise before me, though all I really know about him is that he did a noise/experimental music show on KTUH (the local college radio station) that Julia later took over. And for experimental music in general Bruce B. Bolos was active long before me. And except for Julia I haven’t come across any others while I was active in the 90s—most of the local underground music scene at the time was punk, though there were a few club-industrial type bands.
In his interview Fujui asked several questions that I would have asked in this interview, but to my mind he left out one key question:“Why lo-fi?”
*Your instrument list above consists solely of consumer grade devices. The use of consumer audio gear was nothing new of course. The hometapers and cassette artists of the 1980s made extensive use of this same type of gear, but I don’t recall anyone in the 1980s cassette scene actively embracing a lo-fi aesthetic. The goal for most people then was to sound as good as possible within the limits of the cassette medium in which most of us worked. In the 1990s, hometapers like you and Brian Noring were not afraid to let your lo-fi flag fly, and in fact wore lo-fi as a kind of badge of honor. In personal conversation you told me that your employment of lo-fi sound originated out of necessity, but it is obvious that you embraced it as a full-fledged aesthetic practice. You have numerous album and track titles that refer to lo-fi and album concepts that address it. What was it about lo-fi sound that you found appealing (other than your above-stated reactions against so-called “lo-fi” bands) and what does it say about your attitudes toward and interactions with technology? I’m thinking also about “Tetsuo: The Iron Man”, Shinya Tsukamoto’s bizarre 1989 technofetishist cyberpunk nightmare film in which man and machine merge. Do you feel any affinity with the main character of that film?*
A burning question to which I’ve been wanting to know the answer for a long time: What does your middle initial, “T.”, stand for?
Part of it was that was the equipment I had when starting out, and part of it was a reaction against the “lo-fi” bands of the 90s. This was also influenced by John Cage and Brian Eno. Both have made comments to the effect that they intended to make music that could be listened to as part of the overall sonic environment, so that incidental extra-musical sounds in the listening environment could be heard as part of the music. I decided to apply a similar idea to my music so that sounds inherent in the lo-fi recording process—tape hiss, the electronic hum of tape recorders, the sound of tape recorders being turned on/off—would be considered as part of the music. When going through my archival recordings recently I found an aborted attempt at making a song from the sounds of my amp and an empty tapedeck being turned on and off. I’m also really bad with technology so I’ll stick with what’s easiest for me to use, and have no interest in any kind of complex electronic gear. I’m a sort of luddite when it comes to hi-tech stuff—I’m probably one of the few people left who only uses his cell phone as a phone. Although “Tetsuo…” is one of my favorite movies and inspired an alias that I use, I don’t feel any particular affinity with the main character. My middle name is Tetsuya, hence my alias Tetsuya The Lo-Fi Man.
Most of your tape releases that I have were dubbed onto TDK-D Normal Bias cassettes. Any particular reason that you used that brand and formulation of tape? Where did you buy them?
In the 1980s most of us used High Bias tapes for the best possible sound quality. In those days if somebody sent a tape release on a Normal Bias tape we assumed that they really didn’t care very much about their music. Then, when I made contact with mid-1990s era hometapers like you and Noring, I was surprised that use of Normal Bias tape was commonplace. Once, during a visit to Noring I questioned him about why he would use Normals instead of Highs, and he pointed to the plastic wrapper on a Maxell Normal Bias tape and said, “See, it says here: Great for everyday recording”—which was all the convincing I needed.
Where did you go to get your photocopy covers printed?
I bought my blank tapes mostly at Tower Records. The TDK packs had the most tapes for the least amount of money. I occasionally used High Bias tapes but I really couldn’t tell the difference—I think my sound sources are such that it doesn’t matter what kind of tapes I use. Up til ’94 or so I did almost all of my recording on recycled tapes and even up to the late 90s I’d still record master copies of some songs on recycled tapes. “Great for everyday recording” is a great answer—I think I’ll go with that too. I did most of my photocopy covers at either the Aiea Public Library, or the main Public Library in Honolulu. Though for double-sided covers I’d use Aiea Copy Center.
*I have been listening to “TETSUYA THE LO-FI MAN VS. RADIO FREE HAWAII or More Noise & Muzak from the Not-Yet-Ready-For Commercial-Radio Jay T. Yamamoto”, and it seems to be a highly-structured and -conceptualized album (or at least with a theme that unites the entire album). The cover appears to be a modified version of a Radio Free Hawaii 102.7 FM ballot of some sort. The short description of the tape in your Fall ’96 Catalog says “Destroy The Enemy!” What is the story of you and RFH and this tape? It is an interesting collection of electroacoustic tape manipulations of various daily sounds (alarm clock) and stuff from radio and TV and records, answering machine messages, “needle destruction”, etc. — interspersed with mangled, damaged Radio Free Hawaii samples.*
I suppose you could call it my first “concept” album—structured as a sort of imaginary radio broadcast. Overall it was a sort of refinement of the types of music I was doing at the time. My next two tapes were attempts at trying different things: ambient/keyboard music (“in a blandscape”) and pure noise (“Bruit Non Stop”).
Radio Free Hawaii was around from the early to mid 90s. Their playlist was determined by songs voted on ballots like the one I modified for the cover. They were never nearly as bad as other local commercial radio stations (they’d maybe play one to three good songs every hour)—but in the end you can’t trust the musical tastes of the general public. My real frustration with RFH was that it was an interesting concept with lots of potential that was wasted because the majority of its listeners wanted to hear crap.
On “Tetsuya vs. RFH” I recognize Stuart’s voice on “Suburban Environmental Recording #11”, and the bit about the guy asking about why nobody ever plays any “Cornet Music” is funny. Who is that guy? Where’d you get that tape source? One of the funniest tracks is “MC 900 Foot Jesus Sucks”. Whose voice was that on I what presume was an answering machine tape?
What she says about MC 900 Foot Jesus is echoed in the title of the next tape in the JTY Tapes Catalog that I own (JTY 029), “Jay T. Yamamoto Is Really A Lo-Fi Noise Hack; but I’m Sorry, He Sucks. I Would not Posess or want to Posess Anything from that Fool.”
“Lo-Fi Noise Hack” is listed in your Fall ’96 Catalog, but not in your 1999 Catalog. In the ’96 Catalog you wrote: If you’re too cheap to get the entire Jay T. Yamamoto collection, you might want to get this so-called “best of” tape instead.
It seems like you issued numerous “best of” tapes over the years. Why was that? And why did you retract/discontinue many of them later?
“Cornet Music” is one of several songs that uses tapes that Julia gave me. The voice is T.L. Gilman, who I think is her dad. The voice on “Happy To See You” is either Julia or her sister Jessica and the talking voice on “She Just kept Screaming” is her mom. Some of the original recordings of these might have been on Julia’s “Extraneous” tape. I think the voice on “MC 900 Foot Jesus Sucks” might have been a Radio Free Hawaii DJ or maybe someone calling in to the station. I can’t recall any particular reason why I made my “best-of” tapes. In one of my favorite “Kids In The Hall” (Stuart and I were huge KITH freaks) a record store clerk denounces “greatest hits” and “best-of” albums as something for “housewives”, so I think that might have influenced me in wanting some “best-of” tapes in my discography. I don’t remember why I discontinued them—could be I just lost the master tapes.
As you have said above, your next two tapes in 1995 after “Lo-Fi Noise Hack”, were attempts at trying different things, ambient keyboard and pure noise. What is the connection in your early work between these two seemingly different approaches? And tell me what “in a blandscape” (JTY Tape #030) was all about, what the concept was. It seems to be an important tape, because you did a “blandscape II” tape, and your later work is strewn with lots of ambient stuff. Am I right that at least the title of the album was inspired by John Cage (and perhaps the CD with Stephen Drury on piano)?
At that time I think I was getting tired of working in my tape-collage style, so I did “in a blandscape” as a sort of exercise to try to find a new style and to re-think how I recorded/constructed music. Previous to “blandscape” I used very little keyboards in my tapes, but I wanted to try using them more, as a faster sound source than my “prepared-tapes”. So “blandscape” was pretty much an experiment with how much I can do with keyboards. Yes, one of the influences was the “In A Landscape” CD. Though the main influence was Brian Eno’s instrumental work, “Music For Films”, “Music For Airports” and the instrumental parts of “Another Green World” in particular. While working on it was interesting, overall I considered “blandscape” a failure and recorded “Bruit Non Stop” as a sort of reaction to it. However, I had fun working in the ambient/keyboard-based style and would continue using it in later tapes.
In personal conversation you have said that “part of my early repetitious tape style was an attempt to create something at least structurally similar to ambient music.”
“in a blandscape” was a reaction to your earlier tape collage style, and “Bruit” is a reaction to “blandscape”. So how did your approach to creating the tracks on “Bruit”, which you have called an attempt at noise, differ from your earlier tape collage methods?
The reason I ask is that you have explained in detail above how you used your gear and materials to create your repetition-based collage works. How, for example, did you use/manipulate your gear to create a track like “White Light/White Noise”? or “Feedback of JTY”?
“Bruit Non Stop” is one of my favorite JTY tapes. It is interesting that the first track on the tape refers back to “in a blandscape”. Is the title “Bruit Non Stop” a reference to Kraftwerk’s song “Musique Non Stop” from their “Electric Cafe” album?
On “Bruit Non Stop” for the most part I was trying to go for a more “pure” noise style, just pure sound for the sake of sound. On earlier tapes most of my tracks were built up from layers of prepared tapes, but on “Bruit” I started using a more improv approach. “Feedback of JTY” is basically an improvisation for two toy walkie-talkies and a handheld recorder plugged into my stereo’s microphone jack. I also started using real-time physical manipulation of tapedecks (“White Light/White Noise” which uses recordings of a broken Velvet Underground CD) and using my keyboard as a noise-producing source often by running it through my stereo’s mic jack (“Techno-Insect Death Song ”, “Tit Fucker’s Delight”, “But What Ends…” all of which are keyboard improvs.)
Yes the title is a reference to Kraftwerk’s “Musique Non Stop”; Except for “Techno Insect Death Song” which is a continuation of the last song on “blandscape“ all the song titles are references to artists that I was really into at the time:
“Shouting at the Tape Recorder” = “Shouting at the Ground” (Zoviet France)
“Tit Fucker’s Delight” = “Rapper’s Delight” (Sugarhill Gang)
“All Doors Open (And Close)” = “All Gates Open” (Can)
“White Light/White Noise” = “White Light/White Heat” (Velvet Underground)
“Feedback of JTY” = “Feedback of N.M.S.” (Incapacitants)
“But What Ends When the Cymbals Shatter” = “But What Ends When The Symbols Shatter” (Death In June)
Did you construct the “in a blandscape” and “Bruit Non Stop” albums in a different manner than your earlier albums? Were these two albums recorded directly to cassette on your tapedeck, or to handheld cassette? Were these albums and all of the ones before them mono? Were the pieces on these albums solely one-shot improvisations or were they built up out of layers and mixes of improvised parts? These two albums seem pivotal in the sense that they seem to be a break of sorts with past methods, and a development toward a new way of doing things. How and when did you discover the method of plugging your keyboard into the microphone jack to get a heavily-distorted sound?
I was still using my handheld for master recording so the construction (recording different parts individually and playing them back on different tape-players at the same time) was similar to my earlier tapes and they were in mono too. I think “Feedback of JTY” might have been one take, but everything else was built up from two to three different improvisations.
I discovered the mic-jack plug-in method accidentally when I was trying to get more volume when recording the insect effects on my keyboard; I didn’t want to use my amp which was too loud so I plugged it directly into my stereo system which distorted it into a completely different sound. From here on my keyboard started to became one of my main sources of noise.
This period was pretty much the blueprint for most of my subsequent tapes—a mix of a some musique concrète, some pure noise, and some ambient/keyboard stuff. Though on my next two tapes, “Electro-Acoustic Nonsense” and “33 1/3 RPM Performance”, I was still aimlessly noodling around, trying to find some direction. Nothing really came together till “A Splitting Earache”, when I started using the 2-track boombox recording method.
INTERVIEW QUESTION #23 — in four parts —
1.“Bruit Non Stop” came with special packaging: the tape was inside a padded kraft paper envelope with the front artwork and titles/credits panels glued onto the two sides of the envelope. Was this your first cassette release not in a standard cassette case? I know that “Listen With Pain” and “Christmas Eve Of Destruction” came in regular plastic cassette cases with the cover art glued to the outside of the case, rather than inserted inside the case like usual. Was there any special reason that you decided to use this packaging scheme for “Bruit”? The image of George Wallace on the front is notable.
2.There is still some tape collage and musique concrète on “Bruit Non Stop”. In addition to manipulation of a Velvet Underground CD on one track, it seems like “All Doors Open (And Close)” is a remix or re-working of the material from “The Doors” on the “Kollapsing New Music” cassette.
3.You said above that these tracks were built up out of two or three improvisations which were then played back at the same time on two or three players and captured/mastered on your handheld recorder. This of course means that you took into account that the layers would not be directly coordinated or synchronized to fit together in time in the same way that they could have been on a multi-track recorder; so this means that you consciously allowed an additional element of chance, almost bordering on arbitrary combining, which still in a way amounts to simultaneist collage. Is this right? I’m assuming that this was the case throughout the first four years of your solo tape collage recordings, up through these more improv-based, but still layered works.
4.Before we touch on the “Electro-Acoustic Nonsense” and “33 1/3 RPM Performance” tapes and then move on to what I consider to be your most fertile period of 1996-1997, I would like to get a detailed description of the process by which you put together a master tape for an album and then dubbed copies. I get the idea that you recorded master tracks for separate pieces onto a handful or numerous different blank or recycled tapes and then transferred these to one tape which would become a cassette dubbing master. Am I right? Or were there times when you purposely recorded master tracks onto one tape with the intent of it being a master tape?
1. The first copies (limited edition of 5) of “Kollapsing New Music” were packaged in recycled CD longboxes. And there was a boxed set reissue of the first three or four Jay & Stuart tapes with an exclusive tape of previously unreleased solo material called “Wreckage In A Box” that was packaged in a recycled cigar box that was hand-decorated by Stuart and me. This was a limited edition of one made as a Christmas present for VCM bassist Chris Martin because he was interested in hearing my tapes with Stuart. But “Bruit Non Stop” was my first standard-edition tape in non-standard packaging. The joke about politicians is perhaps too obvious but the Wallace image was so great I had to use it.
2. “All Doors…” and “White Light….” were throwbacks to my earlier style. Though the tape-manipulations on “White Light…” were totally random, so I think you could consider it improvised musique concrète.
3. Yes the element of chance with not being able to sync things perfectly was in all of my early handheld-recorded works basically from the delay with having to turn on each tape player one by one but since most of it was extremely repetitious I don’t think it made that much of a difference. To some extent the element of non-synced chance was in my 2-track works as well. Though with my early stuff I almost always had a clear idea of what I wanted any particular song to sound like. I wouldn’t really start getting into “arbitrary combining” till my 2-track period.
4. The majority of my solo tape masters were constructed from separate tracks recorded on various different tapes. Early on these were all recycled tapes, but when I got into the tape-trading scene I’d sometimes use new tapes since I was more likely to have some lying around. There were a handful of tapes where I recorded directly onto what became the master copy. These include “Listen With Pain”, where I had two versions of “A Dirty Fish”, and recorded “Force The Hand…” directly onto the B-side of my preferred version; and “Bruit Non Stop”, where I had two versions of “Techno-Insect Death Song”, and recorded the master tape onto my preferred version.
I listened to “Electro-Acoustic Nonsense” and “33 1/3 RPM Performance”, and I do get the sense that, as you suggested, they were transitional works. Still, there are some fun and enjoyable moments, especially on the latter tape. Tell me about the “33 1/3 RPM Performance” piece. I thought it was a good listen. Not so sure, though, that Paul and Art would like your version of their song at the end of Side A. I’m curious about “Live at the Smooth Jazz Cafe” on Side B. Did you perform it in front of a live audience? What was their reaction? What was the occasion? I gather that First Night was a regular event in Honolulu that has fallen by the wayside.
“33 1/3 RPM Performance” was a continuation of my cut-up style songs (“A Question Of”, “Stockhaus End”); it was inspired by John Cage’s tape music and my conception of what Burrough’s “Nothing Here…” might have sounded like. For the sound sources I used about 12-16 LPs, mostly sound effect records and compilations of electronic music. This was a collaboration with Stuart who selected and switched out the records while I did the recording and editing. The second song was the result of “33 1/3” being recorded on a recycled 20-something minute tape and me being too lazy to record something to fill out the rest of the side. The “live” in “Live at the Smooth Jazz Café” was a joke, though it is “live” in the sense that it’s a one-take live mix. For “Live at the…” I played some tapes through my amp and for some parts recorded with my handheld at a distance from the sound sources in an attempt to get a bootleg-like sound. It’s pretty much an improvised mix of materials I recorded for an aborted late-‘95 tape.
My side of “Electro-Acoustic Nonsense” was also mostly an improvised mix of leftover materials from previous tapes. I wouldn’t have released it if Chris Martin (who’s on the other side of the split tape) hadn’t given me his own material to release. His side seems to be out-takes from his “No More Cheesecake For You” tape that he was working on with Bruce B. Bolos at Rock Works. For some reason he included a Jimi Hendrix song at the end so I mixed in some random interruptions in order to make it an “original” song.
*“A Splitting Earache” (JTY 036, released in January 1996), your split tape with Mammal Holiday (Julia Gilman), was a turning point in terms of your technical approach to sound creation, and was, in a sense, a gateway to your massive output of 1996 and 1997. On the second track on the tape, “JTY’s First Adventure in Stereophonic Sound”, I can feel and hear the difference in your sound. Even the tape hum/hiss on this track, the sound before the music starts, sounds different! Tell me how that track and that side of music was recorded. Classic stuff! In the cassette j-card info you wrote: “JTY thanks Billy Craven who contributed some of the recordings used in A2, Walter Alter whose article in Electronic Cottage #2 made A2’s sound possable, and Hal McGee who gave me that issue of Electronic Cottage.”*
In the beginning of the year, after my frustrations with the aborted tape that ended up as “Live at the Smooth Jazz Café” I went back to a more ambient/keyboard style. Then when I read through the “Electronic Cottage” that you gave me, I got the idea to hook up my boombox to the CD plugs in my stereo. While experimenting with recording this way I accidently found that my boombox could play two tapes at once and did JTY’s First Adventure…” as a test recording. The intro to the song was planned out but most of it was a random mix of samples from tapes, records and radio and some keyboard sounds and improv that I did to test how they sounded when recorded this way. When recording this way I’d basically record two tapes separately paying attention to time to determine when I wanted certain sounds to sync and the overall length of the song. Then I would sync the two tapes on the boombox. Occasionally I’d sync two 2-track tapes to make a 4-track recording. I liked how it turned out so I re-recorded some of the other songs I was working on on my 2-track boombox. The main reason for the “massive output” that followed was out of all the recording methods I used, I had the most fun with the 2-track boombox—for me it was the perfect balance between chance and control. I think this was the first tape that Billy Craven contributed to—he’d occasionally give me materials to use in my tapes, mostly pre-existing recordings but sometimes he’d give me recordings he made himself as in “First Acid Trip”.
Looking back over the first four years of your hometaping activities it seems that nearly every song and album title, liner notes, and even “subject matter” of the songs refers to something else outside the tapes themselves to a staggering degree — movies and TV shows, popular and experimental music, sci fi, pornography, etc. — but always with sarcastic, inverted, satirical, playful twists and variations on the original subjects. Often the connections between the references and the actual music on the tapes is not clear or direct. I’m wondering to what extent your use of outside references was meant to be commentary on those subjects; or is it all obtuse and tangential for the sake of it in a fun way? We’ve talked about “riffing” and Mystery Science Theater 3000. It seems like your tapes are constantly poking fun at lots of things (stuff you think is stupid like AND stuff you admire), yourself included. This is what makes your tapes so much fun to listen to. There’s a lot going on — in the music itself, in the art and cover, accompanying texts, etc. — but it’s often not clear what it all adds up to, and I’m not real sure that the listener is supposed to know for sure.
That’s something I never really noticed until going over my stuff again for this interview. Some of it was in-jokes for people familiar with the music I like, such as my minimalized “cover” of Current 93’s “Jesus Wept” and my song titles on “Listen With Pain” and “Bruit Non Stop”, but I think most of it was unconscious in the sense that I wasn’t trying to present any kind of unified artistic vision or philosophy. I was just writing and recording things that were amusing to me. There was most likely some influence from MST3K which was my favorite current TV show at the time (and I think Stuart’s as well)—one of my favorite jokes from the show was during a scene when a character is playing a recording of an electronic tone one of the comments went something like “He’s listening to John Cage’s greatest hits.” And some of it probably came from the fact that most of my songs consisted of re-contextualized mixes of existing recordings. I remember some comedian describing the 90s as essentially an ironic commentary on itself and previous decades. In that sense you could say my work was very 90s. Looking back on it now, these early works are an interesting snapshot of the stuff I was watching and listening to at the time.
Something else I’ve noticed…
Your obsessions, references, themes and subjects often deal with scale/dimensions — the sizes of things — and distortions, aberrations, mutations, and transformations of scale and size.
– Giant Japanese Monsters (Gamera and Godzilla and other Kaiju) who often were born, awakened, or transformed due to nuclear/atomic explosions and pollution.
– Ultraman, whose usual form is a regular-size human, but who grows to the size of kaiju in order to do battle with them.
– “Tetsuo: The Iron Man” was a film in “The Regular-Size Monsters Series” – a man transmutes to a horrid human-machine hybrid. And the themes of early Industrial Music, as discussed in “The Industrial Culture Handbook”.
– LO fi versus HI fi
– Fantastical distortions of the human form – giants, dwarves, Siamese twins, etc., as in “Freaks: We Who Are Not As Others”.
– Underage sex, and sex between minors and adults – sexual interaction between, within and among age groups that society has deemed transgressive, as addressed for example in your songs “10-19” and “11-17”.
– Sexual organ extremism – huge breasts in numerous tape cover graphics, and in the liner notes of “Home Taper Offences” stories about a foreskin large enough to cover a fist and about an “abnormally large” clitoris.
It’s all about what most people have decided is “normal”, the best, etc. and what is not normal. And the standards of what is normal are, as we know, often arbitrary.
“Offences” was your first full-length album after the discovery of the stereo boombox mix technique and your re-contextualization, warping, and mutations of pre-existent music take on new even more fantastical shapes and dimensions. From here on out things in JTY Land just keep getting weirder and weirder and more fucked-up aggravating laugh out loud funny!
That’s another thing (scale/dimensions, distortions…) that was unintentional. I’ve been a Kaiju fan since I was about 3 or 4. Back then I had a huge collection of Ultraman (and similar shows) books and soundtrack LPs. I also had a collection of Ultraman and Godzilla Bullmark vinyl figures most of which I gave to Stuart before I started high school, though I did manage to keep a few of my favorites (like Twin Tail, Kendoros, and Gandar) I’ve been working on rebuilding my collection with newer versions, since the Bullmark originals are ridiculously expensive now. I didn’t realize I mentioned the “Freaks…” book in my works, although it was a minor side-interest of mine, I’m not sure how much influence it had on my music (aside of general “freakishness” of sound). The “number” series (“10-19”, “11-17” and one or two others) came about when I found I could do similar songs when going through my talk-show recording archives. I consider them songs about the destruction of the human gene pool. As far as sex themes go my major influence was Andrea Dworkin: for aesthetic reasons rather than for her politics/philosophy.
Yes the standards of “normality” are arbitrary and relativistic, and you cannot have “normal” without the “abnormal”, just like how standards of “beauty” are meaningless without “ugliness”. The liner notes for the “Love Themes” side of “Home Taper Offences” were arbitrarily chosen to give the songs a conceptual unity that wasn’t there. The first three songs were experiments with using broken tape-recorders and boomboxes—-since they all sounded so similar I grouped them together and recorded one additional song in the same style. And on the first side you can see the stylistic mix that would remain typical for me for the rest of the 90s. “HTO” was always a favorite of mine because of the sense of excitement I had when recording it. The greater degree of control made it easier for me to make the recorded music match my conception of the music, yet having to sync separate tapes left enough to chance to keep the process interesting. It’s probably my most “inspired” tape.
Did you release everything that you recorded? Did you ever record several tracks for an album and then chose what you considered the best tracks for the album and left some out? I use almost everything that I record because to a great extent I consider my tape releases to be documentation of my audio art activities. Some things seem to work better than others, but this is of course purely subjective. As far as I’m concerned there are no failures.
I think I released almost everything. Generally I’d compile a master tape once I think I have enough songs—sometimes there’s maybe one or two songs left out. Starting with “Woodstock at the Spahn Ranch” in ’94 I made collections of these unreleased songs in order to preserve them before they got erased during the recording of newer material; as an obsessive record collector I always liked hearing these kinds of “unreleased” recordings so it was fun doing something similar myself. I have at least two lost tapes: “The 46-Minute Tape Cut Up” which was a collection of my early Burroughs-influenced tape experiments (some of which was released on “Woodstock”), and a “tribute” to Syd Barrett called “Making It Clear That I’m Not Here”, which I scrapped, though some material from this tape was recycled for “Christmas Eve Of Destruction”.
According to the liner notes of “Home Taper Offences”, Tetsuya the Lo-Fi Man is credited with producing and engineering the album. Next we find him as a member of a trio called Juvenile Twat Yanker, along with Mr. Liverfish and The Legendary Breakfast Jack, on the next three JTY tapes on which you appear. The first Juvenile Twat Yanker tape is called “Immature Ejaculation”, and it’s a one-sided cassette because “we were too lazy to record a B-side”. With winning track titles like “Shoot Your Funk Like Lo-Fi Junk”, “Music for Stimulation of Orgasm in Prepubescent Boys”, and “Fucking The Neighbors’ Kids” one would think of this as a lasting JTY classic, and yet it doesn’t appear in your 1999 catalog. By the way, I think that this is the first JTY tape that I own that is on a Maxell tape — not TDK.
I sort of got the idea for Juvenile Twat Yanker from The Hafler Trio who had one imaginary member, so I wanted to have a band consisting entirely of imaginary members. Liverfish was a character from a story that Stuart and I wrote sometime in the late 80s; and The Legendary Breakfast Jack was the host of an imaginary radio show that I recorded in ’90 or ’91, which I think consisted mostly of parodies of advice call-in shows, bible readings, and The L.B.J. abusing his co-host Frankie The Elf (tape now lost). My concept for this project was a gonzo noise band. The music was mostly distorted keyboard improvisations—usually I’d watch something random on TV and improvise a “soundtrack” to what I was watching or listen to a CD on headphones and improvise to that. Sometimes I’d turn the recording volume off so I wouldn’t be able to hear what I’m playing. Occasionally I’d add random tape and turntable manipulations. Some of the song titles were parodies of the “extreme” subject matter in power electronics. Originally I planned on changing the name based on my initials for each release, like with S.P.K. but I was lazy and kept the Juvenile Twat Yanker name. Later I added “Pamela’s Mouth” to the name after seeing an episode of “Night Gallery” called “Pamela’s Voice” that perfectly described the effect of my Juvenile Twat Yanker recordings—a sort of endless sound hell.
To what extent has your ethnic heritage influenced/inspired your audio art and noise? Also, will you tell me a little about your family and its background?
I can’t say my ethnic heritage had any kind of influence on my noise/art, aside from Kaiju and Japanese Noise fandom. Overall I’m not a fan of the whole “ethnic/racial identity” thing in the arts. Though one reviewer of my split tape with Theo Goodman claimed to hear an “Asian influence” in my works. However, being from Hawaii, I did develop a slight interest in Martin Denny because of his influence on early industrial artists (NON and TG in particular), and ended up doing a handful of “homages” to him, the first being “The Annoying Sounds Of Juvenile Twat Yanker”, which was improvised while listening to Martin Denny songs—also the cover and liner notes of the tape were a parody of Denny’s “Exotica” LP. I also did a trio of songs based of Denny’s works: “Electrotiki Ambience (firecracker mix)”, “Hawaiian Ambience and Exotica Chic vis a vis Martin Denny’s ‘Quiet Village’”, and “Power Exotica Jamm” which were also responses to the hipster lounge revival that was going on at the same time. And there was “Rainbow Exotitronica” which references Martin Denny and Merzbow. Nothing really notable about my family—just an average American middle-class family like you’d find anywhere else, though my ancestors’ immigrating to Hawaii has put me in the unique position of one of the few noise artists from Hawaii.
On the cover of “The Joy Of Throbbing Youth (JTY au Printemps)” by Juvenile Twat Yanker, you listed unauthorized appearances on three of the five tracks by 101 Strings, J-Pop duo Wink, pianist Aldo Ciccolini playing one of Erik Satie’s “Gymnopédies”, and one-hit wonder Starland Vocal Band’s “Afternoon Delight”. Were these examples of what you described above, where you would improvise while listening to a CD on headphones?
“Joy” is dedicated to Na Leo Pilimihana for getting their song “Friends” banned by the Board Of Education. Na Leo is an Hawaiian Christian pop group, right? How did their song get banned?*
Yes those songs contain sections where I’m improvising to the aforementioned songs/artists. When doing the final mix of those songs I randomly mixed in parts of what I was improvising to. The improvisation methods employed in my Juvenile Twat Yanker recordings were an attempt to get me to play music as if I were someone else.The Na Leo song got banned because of the word “lord”, but I think the students sang it anyways.
I laughed my ass off when, toward the end of the 30-minute Side B of “Annoying”, “Buzz Bin Bust”, it became apparent that you were jamming along with Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana”! I also laughed when I heard Prince’s song “When Doves Cry” at the end of Side A of The “Meoneotantritological Recordings”, but it seems like something different is going on there, that maybe it was at the end of a tape of a radio show that you recorded over.
I like how the tapes that you recycled poke through in places on your cassette releases. Earlier this year you sent to me eight tapes in a hand-decorated box called “Wreckage In A Box II”. Some are obviously 4-track tapes and others (you told me) were tapes that you combined with other tapes to make songs. In “Wreckage” there are taped-over cassettes by Cheap Trick, Andrew Ridgeley, del Amitri, Jethro Tull (two), and Pebbles – plus there are a couple of Normal Bias Maxells. Were these tapes that were part of your personal listening collection, or did you buy them on super cheap discount specifically for the purpose of recording on? You mentioned early on that Tull was an early favorite.
*Just out of curiosity, how many non- experimental/noise tapes and discs were in your collection?*
I used “Copacabana” because of the imaginary nightclub theme of the tape. I used the name “Smooth Jazz Café” because at that time smooth jazz was probably the uncoolest music around—you couldn’t even like it ironically. “When Doves Cry” was from a recording I did of “Friday Night Videos” in the 80s—back then I think my favorite videos were by Prince and ZZ Top.
The cassette singles were super-cheap cut-outs—I bought them with the intention of releasing cassette singles by recycling them, but I ended up only doing one cassette single (by Chris Martin).
The Jethro Tull tapes were from my own collection: I have all their albums up to “Catfish Rising”, all on vinyl except for “Catfish”. Tull is a really underrated band—unfairly hated for winning the Heavy metal Grammy over Metallica, but the truth is “Crest Of A Knave” was a much better album than “…And Justice For All”. And there is NOTHING more METAL than a band that uses a flute as its lead instrument winning a Best Heavy Metal Grammy. Metallica has never recorded and most likely will never record any album as Great as “Aqualung”, “Thick As A Brick”, “Heavy Horses”, “Minstrel In The Gallery” or any number of Tull classics. The one thing in Metallica’s favor is they recorded a song about Cthulhu. But once Tull does a song about Cthulhu they will completely destroy Metallica.
I think about a little less than 1/2 or so of my collection is non-experimental/noise, mostly from the 80s when I was into alternative rock. Lots of stuff like Joy Division/New Order, XTC, REM, The Replacements, Midnight Oil, Robyn Hitchcock, Ramones, Depeche Mode, The The, The Smiths/Morrissey, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Jam, The Clash, Black Flag, Bad Brains, The Pogues, Circle Jerks, Nick Cave/Birthday Party, Talking Heads, Bauhaus/Peter Murphy/Love & Rockets, The Cure, as well as some classic rock like The Doors, Alan Parsons Project, VU/Lou Reed/John Cale, David Bowie and Roxy Music. And there’s the borderline-experimental club-industrial stuff like Skinny Puppy, Ministry, Tackhead, KMFDM, etc…
After three tape albums as Juvenile Twat Yanker you did a tape as Jay T. Yamamoto, and “Meoneotantritological Recordings” is one of my personal favorites that I have studied. It’s loaded with variety, different textures and sound treatments. Some of it is even very melodic and highly structured/composed-sounding. The first side seems to be dominated by keyboard sounds, and not all of it with your plugged into the mic jack distortion. Also, there is some tape manipulation, including what sounds like tape speed effects. Over on the second side you are in full musique concrète tape collage mode – with keyboards, minimal electronics, and bits & pieces & fragments from radio, TV, tapes, records in a flowing cut-up stream of sound images that has an improvisational feeling, with never a dull moment (except where it’s supposed to be dull). How did working on the three tapes under the Juvenile Twat Yanker moniker affect the way you approached “Meoneo”?
“Meoneotantritological Recordings” was my tribute to “serious” sound experiment artists. After the low-brow nature of the Juvenile Twat Yanker tapes I wanted to do something more structured and “serious”. As a joke I included a lengthy warning about the “extreme” nature of sounds on the tape, then opened with a bunch of dinky little keyboard pieces—most of them were recorded with a Korg or Yamaha (I forget the type and model number) mini-keyboard that had a built-in record function. I borrowed the keyboard from my ex-neighbor Casey who was in a heavy metal band called Broken Man at that time. “My Screechy Boyfriend” was a parody of 50s/60s serious/academic electronic music. “Slow Motion Dream Sequence” was an experiment with slowed-down tapes—the “vocal” is me reading part of a pornographic story (I don’t remember the title or author). The two songs were arbitrarily grouped together. “The Dark Age of Low Fidelity” was conceived as a lo-fi musique concrète epic—a chaotic mix of samples, radio, keyboard noise jams, and field recordings. The effect I was aiming for in the lengthy middle section, a mostly random/improvised mix, was a radio station on acid. The ambient sections at the beginning and end (which were more “composed”) were tacked on to give some feeling of structure to the song. The parenthetical titles were taken from a story that Stuart wrote sometime in the 80s—I thought there was something oddly evocative in the misspelt sections.
On the cover of “Swingin’ Dada Dumpster Tunes”, why did the stick figure man push the stick figure woman off the cliff? The picture shows her in mid-plunge to her doom. She doesn’t look happy. And she’s pointlessly yelling for help. The man has a smile on his face. The sea beast waiting in the water looks happy about the prospect of an easy meal. And the sun is shining cheerfully in the sky.
The picture was chosen to show that the cover is disposable—at the time I was obsessed with the idea that art and entertainment in general was becoming more and more disposable. I don’t remember where I got that picture from…probably some zine since I was doing a lot of zine trades back then.
I’ve really enjoyed listening again to the “Swingin’ Dada Dumpster Tunes” double tape set. It seems very cohesive in its own way, and to me at least it holds my interest throughout. Was there a central theme or set of themes upon which you conceived and constructed the tapes and booklet? How were you exposed to Dada and who were some of your favorite Dada artists?
“Swingin’ Dada…” was recorded at the peak of my burst of increased activity in ’96. There was no real theme to the tape (at the time I was pretty much just recording non-stop till I finally got around two tapes worth of material)—or any meaning to the title which I came up with at the last minute after putting together the master tapes. In the late early 90s I was vaguely aware of Dada through industrial artists like Nurse With Wound, Merzbow and Cabaret Voltaire, but I never really got more into it til one day while looking through the cutout bin at Jelly’s I found a CD of sound poetry called “Flux de Bouche” by Jaap Blonk for 2 dollars. It was the stunning cover, with repeated pictures of Jaap Blonk making all these crazy faces that made me think I have to buy this CD. Most of “Flux de Bouche” was original compositions by Blonk, but he also had adaptions of sound poems by Hugo Ball and Tristan Tzara. It was this CD that made me want to check out the Dada movement in more detail. Of the Dada artists my favorite was Hannah Höch, who was a big influence on my own visual style. I also liked Man Ray, though I think he’s more associated with surrealism. But overall I was more interested in Dada as an anti-art statement than in the art itself. And the Dada in the title was also a reference to my Ultraman fandom.
As usual the main influence on “Swingin’ Dada…” was classic musique concrète, electronic, and industrial music. I was really into The Hafler Trio at the time and several songs have a direct Hafler Trio influence: “Amplification Exercise No.1”, and the mid sections of “Smell My Ganja” were influenced by the “research” style recordings on Hafler Trio’s “Bang-An Open Letter”, while “The JTY Tapes Manifesto” was a sort of parody of the Hafler Trio’s spoken-word songs in which they describe their “musical theory” over a musique concrète noise soundtrack (“Two Ways Of Saying Three”, “Alternation, Perception and Resistance”). Stuart’s spoken word part on “Manifesto” was completely improvised—I just played him the backing tape I made and gave him some vague instruction like “talk about lo-fi” or something to that effect. Another song has a strong TAGC influence (“Emergency Broadcast Performance”). There’s also one of my few dream-influenced songs (“Theme from the Mangled Man”), and two songs that were intended for a Juvenile Twat Yanker tape (“Full Metal Johnson” and “Chunk Humper’s Connection”). “Dedicated to Chris Martin” was based on a Rock Works poster that Chris gave me. The poster had pictures of all the Rock Works bands from 1989 including Chris’s Night Rage and several bands that Bruce B. Bolos was in (High Risk [BUB], Don’t A.S.K., Zenophobia). For the song I did a keyboard jam and tape collage using the band names and pictures in the Rock Works poster as a “score”—the method was completely nonsensical. The “Nonesuch Guide to Electronic Music” by Beaver & Krause was the inspiration for my “Young Persons’ Guide…” I knew I had a record demonstrating electronic fx, but I couldn’t remember the title and who it was by. By the way, whenever I list some piece of electronic equipment like potentiometer or oscillator or anything like that, it usually means I’m using samples from this record. At the time I thought of “Swingin” Dada…” as a fairly good tape bloated to a 2 tape set by a lot of throwaway material—but over the years I’ve come to like it.
The first track on the second tape of the “Swingin’ Dada” set is titled “Happiness is a Broken Tape Deck”. Your liner note comment was: “Actually, I’m frustrated by my broken recording equipment, but I’m trying to make the best of it.” You commented early in the interview about how you wore your recording gear out from tape manipulations/abuse. Are you referring here to the double tape deck of your Hitachi stereo system? The deck you used to make tape dubs? How/when did you replace the broken tape deck? Or did you have a back-up?
Actually both my dubbing decks (the Toshiba and Aiwa) were working at the time. I was referring more to my Casio boombox and some handhelds (which I used for the “Love Themes” half of “Hometaper Offences”). I just chose “Tape Deck” for the title because I thought it sounded better. Broken equipment didn’t really became a big factor in my music until “Hometaper Entertainment System.”
My favorite track on “Swingin’ Dada” is “A Young Person’s Guide To Electronic Music”. In the cassette liner notes you wrote that it was originally intended for your “Fruits Of The Spirit” compilation (JTY #037). What was the idea behind it and how did you construct it?
Back then I would always look through the used classical LP section at Jelly’s and buy anything identified as electronic music or musique concrète or that listed electronics or magnetic tapes as instruments. I found a lot of great stuff this way: Pierre Henry, Pierre Schaeffer, Morton Subotnick, Tod Dockstader, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Iannis Xenakis. I also bought a lot of electronic compilation LPs. Vladimir Ussachevsky was one of my favorites, so I ended up with a lot of compilations with the Columbia-Princeton group of electronic composers. My favorite was a 2-LP set compiled by Pierre Henry called “Electronic Music/Musique Concrète”. I wanted to do a parody of these compilations. “A Young Person’s Guide….” was intended as a sort of mock introduction to “serious” electronic music to lead off the comp. Only Black Museum followed my instructions for the intended compilation, so I changed it to an anything goes compilation; and when the track became too long to be included on the compilation I recorded a different song for it. For both versions of “Young Person’s Guide…” I copied the format of Beaver & Krause’s “Nonesuch Guide to Electronic Music” that demonstrated various electronic music effects. I took electronic music terms from the LP’s liner notes then gave my own imaginary or completely nonsensical versions of them. For the second version I scrambled the names of some of the effects.
After “Swingin’ Dada” in your catalog, next is “Public Displays Of Disaffection” by Juvenile Twat Yanker, (JTY #048). This was apparently the last Juvenile Twat Yanker tape, so that project operated only in 1996? Next in the catalog are “Songs From The Magic Bean” by Jay T, Yamamoto, and a King Creature tape — both of which we’ll discuss upcoming. After that it looks like all of your solo works were released under your own name, except for JTY #051, “Music For Leisure And Relaxation” by Tetsuya The Lo-Fi Man (which I unfortunately do not have in my collection). And that tape is the only release that is actually under that name in your catalog.
There is sort of one more: “The Pornodelic Acoustics Research Recordings” which consists of “remixed” material from aborted Juvenile Twat Yanker and King Creature tapes. But “Public Displays…” is the last true Juvenile Twat Yanker tape. The cover material was a porn manga given to me by a girl who I did tape/zine trades with named Lisa (who did a zine called “Inferno” with a friend who I never met). She sent it to me with a note saying something like “whenever I see porn I think JTY so I’m giving this to you.” I think she also sent me an issue of “Playboy” or “Penthouse” that she reviewed in her zine. The Juvenile Twat Yanker project basically stopped because in ’97 my recording pace started slowing down and I got more interested in doing more “composed” material. “Music For…” was basically a collection of simulated locked grooves—an effect I frequently used in my recordings. I’d set the needle on my record player a little too high so it’s not completely in the groove and it skips. “Music For” was originally recorded for my own archives for possible use in future tapes, but I decided to release it as a sort of rip-off of Non’s “Pagan Muzak”. Because of its incomplete nature I released it under a different name [than my own].
Oh, I had totally forgotten that I have a copy of “The Pornodelic Acoustics Research Recordings”.“Songs From The Magic Bean” (JTY Tape #49) is another one of my favorite Jay T. Yamamoto tapes. It’s well-executed, and there’s lots of variety, with melodic and ambient keyboard jams to rugged noise excursions to electroacoustic tape collages. And it seems to me that this is the best-sounding JTY tape so far. Sure, it’s still definitely lo-fi, but each of the elements in the sound mixes are clear and distinct and there’s a nicely-defined stereo separation. It also sometimes seems like there’s more going on in the mixes. This pre-dates your use of 4-track cassette recorder, right? And of course, I have to ask where the title came from.
“Magic Bean” is sort of my “forgotten” tape. When I looked through my catalogue at the start of the interview I had no idea what it was. Even when I found the liner notes (the master tape is lost) I still had only very vague memories of it. I think this was due to it coming at the end of my prolific recording activity for the first 2/3 or so of the year. I think I started experimenting more with doing 4-track mixes at this time, which I made by synching two 2-track tapes. I first used a 4-track (which I borrowed from Chris Martin) for “Possesion”, but I didn’t regularly use one till I got my own in late ’98. I have no memory of what the title refers to—it’s possible that I just made up some arbitrary silly-sounding title at the last minute.
Jay & Stuart returned under a new name and with a new sound on JTY Tape #50 King Creature: Ear Destroyah. Two 30-minute side-long tracks of relentless lo-fi electronic noise. This might be the noisiest JTY tape so far. One of my tapedecks stopped working and finally died while I was playing “Ear Destroyah”. I had to rescue the tape by prying open the jammed door of the Tascam cassette deck. Tapedeck Destroyah!
The first King Creature tape started as a Jay & Stuart tape but because of how we recorded it (plugging my handheld into my stereo’s mic jack while recording) it turned out extremely noisy so we released it under the King Creature name, which we got from an episode of “Ultraman”. Both songs are improvisations: I think “Animal Poems…” is one take, while “Ear Destroyah” combines two improvisations. Later King Creature tapes are a mix of improvisations and tape editing and manipulations. At this point we didn’t have a full on Kaiju theme going on — although we got “Destroyah” from a Godzilla movie, “Animal Poems For Children” is me and Stuart reading from a book of animal poems for children (I don’t remember the author or title.) The King Creature parts on “Pornodelic Acoustics…” and a split with Jay & Stuart (listed in my catalog but unreleased) also had no Kaiju theme. My 2-track boombox broke down during the recording of King Creature’s “It Came from Monster Island”, so we have a song called “Tapedeck Destroyah”.
“The Pornodelic Acoustic Research Recordings” is a hard and crunchy 60 minutes of textural noise. I think it is interesting that King Creature and Juvenile Twat Yanker come together on this compilation of sorts, both re-mixed by Jay T. Yamamoto. Also, notably, the hand-constructed cover is put together out of pages from porno magazines, which means that each cover is one of a kind. And the black and white photocopy inserts consist of collages of pics from sex mags combined with traffic scenes, cityscapes, industrial sites, etc. This seems to foreshadow The Library Of Porn tapes which came later in 1997. It is the kind of question that I have asked numerous times in this interview, but what are the connections between the porn images and the sounds? Sometimes the images of the sex organs are so huge in scale that they seem almost like kaiju! This is most evident in the image of the bare-breasted woman who sits open-legged with her pubis exposed, as she smiles down on tiny Lilliputian people milling about under and between her arched legs.
“Pornodelic” started out as material that I recorded for a Juvenile Twat Yanker tape and Stuart and I recorded for a King Creature tape. I didn’t feel like doing full tapes for either so I mixed the materials into two sides of a split tape. I also mixed in some heavily tape-manipulated porn samples. The tape is a parody of the whole sex magick scene as well as TAGC’s “Iso-Erotic Calibrations” and Hafler Trio’s “Fuck” and “Masturbatorium”. The inserts were supposed to be my idea of a Dadaist porn magazine. The porn influence on my work is mostly from Andrea Dworkin’s book “Pornography: Men Possessing Women”. The influence is not from her politics/[philosophy, but rather her writing style: crazy and obsessional, yet at the same time cold and clinical. In a way it reminded me of some of J.G. Ballard’s more experimental stuff from the late 60s and 70s.
*In the 28th interview question I asked if you released everything that you recorded and it seems obvious now that you probably did. It seems like you were constantly throughout the 1990s compiling, re-compiling, re-configuring and re-mixing leftovers, odds & sounds, fragments, and bits & pieces. This is especially evident on “Out-takes, Mistakes, Re-mixes, & Unfinished Business” (JTY Tapes #053). It’s amazing how even your outtakes and remixes of discarded materials sound good! This album gathers up lots of interesting loose bits – keyboard stuff, ambient, blandscapes, Meoneotantritologicals, tape collage, noisy bits, an alternate version of “Young Person’s Guide…”, etc. – and gives the listener quite a lot of different stuff to savor.*
As a record collector I always liked hearing out-takes/unreleased material—there’s something interesting about hearing these things that were not meant for release. Although at first I did these collections (eventually four in total) to preserve material that would have been lost because I was constantly recycling tapes. These out-takes collections ended up being some of my favorite tapes—because of their nature there’s more variety than my usual tapes and it was fun going through my backlog of archival tapes looking for whole unreleased songs or interesting fragments.
JTY Tapes #056 is a cassette that hard and harsh noise lovers in 2013 would probably admire. Why did you title it “Pointless”?
“pointless” was based on the idea of noise and ambient music being pretty much the same thing, with their emphasis on repetitious tones and textures. The title is based on a review I read somewhere (I think it was Tower Record’s “Pulse” magazine) that described ambient music as something like “pointless music that takes a long time getting nowhere”. Brian Eno’s “Discreet Music” and “Thursday Afternoon” were my models for this tape.
In the Spring and Summer of 1997 you produced an eight-volume series of cassette releases by you and other artists called “The Library Of Porn”. All of these tapes came with one of a kind handmade artwork constructed out of pages from porn magazines. You had used pornographic images and themes in numerous JTY Tapes releases prior to this but you had never treated these themes in as much detail before. Porn was obviously a theme that you took a great interest in to deal with it with this much intensity and focus. I notice that you did not assign JTY Tapes catalog numbers to these releases. Why not?
The “Possession” tape was inspired by and dedicated to the anti-porn feminist Andrea Dworkin. I forget exactly how I came across her works—I think I must have seen her in some talk show or something like that. Dworkin was one of the most “unique” personalities to come out of the Feminist movement. It was her writing style that drew me to her works. More than just about anyone else, she really articulated an aesthetic of porn, obsessionally and clinically reducing it to a sort of geometric equation or formula to which the answer is always rape and violence. In her writings on porn, you really get the idea that Dworkin’s interpretation of porn is actually a reflection of her own disturbed and warped psychological landscape. Despite being anti-porn, Dworkin must have viewed more porn, more intensely and obsessionally, than even the most hardcore porn freak. At the time J.G. Ballard was one of my favorite writers, and Dworkin’s writings reminded me a lot of J.G. Ballard’s “experimental” stuff (“Atrocity Exhibition” and “Crash” especially). The packaging of “Possession” was intended as a parody of “deluxe” limited edition releases, so since it was a “special” release I didn’t include it in my normal cataloging system. The “Library Of Porn” wasn’t intended to be a series, but it somehow just turned out that way.
The Library Of Porn tapes are also notable because these are the first tapes that I got from you that were dubbed onto High Bias tapes.
Tell me about the other artists who contributed to The Library Of Porn series, how you arranged their involvement, any criteria, suggestions, directives on conceptualization, you gave them for inclusion in the series, etc. — Dick I-Rectus, Powerslug, Iain Paxon, Cock E.S.P., The Violet Grind. The Library Of Porn Vol. VI is a split called “Swing Swing Swing” by Jay T. Yamamoto and Brian Noring recording under his Mildew moniker.
Your side of the tape, “Hard Action Mood Muzak for Red Hot Swingers” mostly consists of pleasant almost pastoral, ambient, toy-like and lounge-y Casio keyboard pieces, which sound very composed. The third track, “Bath-House Rock”, launches full tilt into scraping churning noise texture, but it’s the most abrasive track on the side. One of the keyboard pieces mixes in some sex tape sounds and there’s some collage work toward the end of the side which include sex sounds. The Mildew side contains three pleasantly meandering free form Casio keyboard and guitar instrumentals by Noring, which seem to fit nicely with what came before on the tape. But there’s no indication I can hear of anything having to do with porn…
The High Bias tapes were part of the “special” edition parody. The L.O.P. was never meant to be a series (the Vol.I in the title was meant as a joke), but Bruce B. Bolos recorded the Dick I Rectus tape which was inspired by my “Possession” tape so I released it as Vol.II. Cock E.S.P.‘s tape was also a direct response to “Possession”. Except for Mildew (The “Swing Swing Swing” tape was inspired by the Dick Morris sex scandal, so I think I told Brian the tape had a swingers scene theme) I never gave any instructions/directions for the other tapes in this series. I don’t exactly remember how the other tapes came to be part of the L.O.P. series. Powerslug was a noise side project of David Miller/ECE; I released about 3 Powerslug tapes, so I think I might’ve included one as part of the L.O.P. for variety. I think the Iain Paxon tape came about when I asked him for a contribution to a comp (either “Kill Lies All” or “Comedy Noise Fiesta”) I was doing and he sent me a whole tape instead. For the Violet Grind tape I think Gary Ransford and I were discussing sex magick in industrial/noise music in our correspondence so I think that might have eventually become the inspiration for that tape. On my side of “Swing….” , for the most part I was going for a cheesy 70s porn kind of feel, since it seemed like the 70s were the golden age of the swingers scene.
Your plan to go for a cheesy 70s porn kind of feeling seems to be nicely realized on the seventh volume of The Library of Porn, “Jay T. Yamamoto presents: Hardcore Themes” – of course in unexpected or oblique ways! Even though they bear titles like “Pique the Prurient Interest”, “Puffy Poon”, and “Double Load of Splooge” all of the tracks are very pleasant, melodic, gentle, seemingly harmless, perhaps even innocuous Casio keyboard ditties. It almost has a toy-music Tiki lounge feel to it! The liner notes state that the “tape is intended as an alternative soundtrack to any existing hardcore film.” Plus they warn against listening to the tape “without the proper visual stimulation.” I have to admit that I can imagine that watching a pornographic film with this tape as the soundtrack would be an odd experience to say the least. But I suppose you couldn’t go wrong with inspirations like T.A.G.C. and The Hafler Trio… I might have to admit that “Hardcore Themes” is my favorite JTY tape of all of the ones I’ve listened to while doing research for this interview.
Yes, “Hardcore Themes” was a direct offshoot of “Swing Swing Swing”. The “Hardcore” in the title was meant to be ironic—since at the time a lot of the noise scene seemed to be moving in a more “hardcore” and “extreme” direction I decided to do something completely opposite in terms of sound for my own “hardcore” tape. While it’s not a direct pastiche of 70s porn soundtracks, I was going for the same general cheap/cheesey feel (which I consider a good thing) for “Hardcore Themes”. Coil’s “Commercial Music” (some short melodic synth pieces supposedly intended for use in commercials) was also an influence, as were the “sex research” recordings of T.A.G.C. and The Hafler Trio (at least conceptually.) Most of the songs were composed while watching clips of 70s and 80s porn. All the song titles came from various stories or letters in porn magazines.
“Purchase-Play-Dispose” by Jay T. Yamamoto (JTY Tapes #58, 1997) is another of my favorites in your catalog. The cover design and concept are funny as hell! It looks like a tampon disposal bag that’s been modified to say “Sanitary Bag For Independent Cassette Disposal”. The final piece on the tape is called “Press The Record and Erase This Piece-Of-Shit-Tape”. So, once again you address the theme of disposability of art/music/cassettes. The question could be posed: “Why do it? Why bother?” But my guess would be that it’s all for the enjoyment of making tapes! This is one of those JTY tapes that filled with lots of variety – Casio keyboard jams, noise workouts, and electroacoustic tape collage musique concrete. Sounds like you really gave your tape recorders some serious abuse on “A Stuttering Nervous Tape Wreck”. I love the track titles, which include “Concrete Noise Collapse”, “Aleatory Pretension Jam”, “Hometaper Bachelor Tape Ambience”, Nothing Here But The Background Static”, “Dada Marie’s Chant to the Tape Recorder Caravan”, “The Great Hometaper Sell-Out”, “Electrotiki Ambience”, more. You seemed especially inspired on this tape.
“Purchase-Play-Dispose” was partially a response to the commercialization of previously “underground” or “alternative” forms of music that was happening throughout the 90s, industrial music in particular (you could say that industrial music was officially “dead” by this time.) “Concrete Noise Collapse” and “The Great Hometaper Sellout” specifically address the commercialization of Noise as the logical endpoint of the commercialization of Industrial music. It’s interesting that you noted the song titles; “P-P-P” contains several songs (“The Great Hometaper Sellout”, “Hometaper Bachelor Pad Ambience”, “Aleatory Pretension Jam”, “Gothic-Industrial Night At Rendezvous”) in which I came up with a song title first, then recorded a song to match the title—something which I very rarely do. “Aleatory Pretension Jam” was a parody of music that uses complex chance procedures in its composition (e.g. John Cage) — it was “composed” using random reviews of industrial/noise music from various ‘zines as a “score”. As with the similarly “composed” “Dedicated to Chris Martin” the method was completely nonsensical. “A Stuttering Nervous Tape Wreck” was a cut-up style collage of tape manipulated noises from my keyboard, further altered by physically manipulating the tapedecks during recording. This song was inspired by John Cage’s “Williams Mix”. “Hometaper Bachelor Pad Ambience” and “Elektrotiki Ambience” were my noise versions of Bachelor Pad and Lounge Muzak, which were going through a hipster revival at the time. “Dada Marie’s Chant to the Tape Recorder Caravan” was a recording (From “Believe It Or Not”) of Marie Osmond reading a Hugo Ball poem which I cut into smaller sections in which Marie Osmond’s readings are followed by my tape-collage interpretation of the text. “Press The Record And Erase This Piece-of-Shit Tape” (title inspired by Bauhaus’ “Press the Eject And Give Me the Tape”) was a collage of unused portions of “…Tape Wreck” and “Dada Marie” along with fragments of unfinished songs, including the aborted title track which was meant to be a tape-collage of pop songs.
Jumping ahead to 1998, I’d like to talk about “Dadasonic Sound System”, a solo release, JTY Tapes #070, which is a two-cassette set, and is another one of your outtakes odds & sods albums – this one collects oddities from 1994 up through ’98. There is a lot to listen to here, and again the variety level is high. The two double-sided liner notes sheets are funny and are commentaries on pointlessness, disappointment, malfunctions, dysfunction, what could have been, selling out, boredom, things aren’t what they seem, etc.
Examples and gems: – Have any of these “extreme” frequency recordings ever really caused anyone’s speakers to get fucked up? Mine still sounds fine, but then I mostly listen to lo-fi noise shit, so I probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. – Improvised noise for prepared tapes and a bunch of malfunctioning boomboxes. – the audience will attempt to kill dancing insects with inappropriate devices such as mouse traps, elephant guns, fishing poles, etc. – “No Drum/No Bass” is a reflection on how “electronica” became cool and fashionable after two decades of being ignored and ridiculed. – A song about drifting into an unconscious state due to … ordeals such as waiting in a long line, stuck in traffic, or listening to a multiple tape set that should have been edited down into a C30. – Crawling away from what was possibly the worst tow hours of your music-listening life. – New-age is music that takes a long time getting nowhere.
No doubt my favorite piece on the album is “Lobotomy for Rosemary (1-Track Mix)” – ‘Ever notice how most childrens’ entertainment seems to treat children as if they’re retards? Given the current state of human intelligence, perhaps it’s only natural.’ It reminds me of “A Young Person’s Guide to Electronic Music”. Rosemary, “your talking friend”, asks questions such as ‘what color is grass?’ and ‘what kind of noise does a duck make?’ – and you answer with obtuse tape fragments and electroacoustic manipulations. ‘Have mommy and daddy ever had to spank you?
“Dadasonic Sound System” was some new stuff recorded in early ’98 along with songs from an aborted late ’97 tape and some miscellaneous older stuff. “E-Wrecktronica Tone Test“ (have any of these extreme frequency recordings…) was a parody of bands that claim to use “extreme” speaker-destroying frequencies in their recordings. It was supposed to sound like music coming through unimaginably destroyed speakers. “Rapid Insemination”(Improvised noise for prepared tapes…) was a live tape jam I did while listening to Pigface’s song “Insemination”. “Dance for Metallic Insects” (The audience will attempt to kill….) was a parody of pretentious performance art pieces. “No Drum/No Bass” was a commentary on how music critics were hyping up these 90s techno subgenres (e.g. electronica, Drum & Bass, illbient, etc…) as the “cutting edge” of electronic music, when it was all just plain old club music. The three ambient songs( “Somewhere Nowhere + Elsewhere”, “Green Tea/Plankton Sea” ) are more conventionally ambient versions of my “Pointless” experiments. “Lobotomy for Rosemary” was a follow-up to “Dada Marie…” I used the same composition technique: a fragment of the spoken text followed by my tape-music interpretation of the text. I really wish I could remember what record the spoken word section is from—I think it might have been some record Julia gave me. The ’97/‘98 material was rounded out by some Jay & Stuart and King Creature songs and alternate versions of a couple songs I did for some E.F. Tapes compilations.
The beginning seconds of “Hometaper Entertainment Center” I think gives a foretaste of what’s to come. It sounds like amplified tape background noise. Throughout the 60 minute tape I can hear that this is one of your crustiest, rawest, most lo-fi tapes yet, but I can also hear that it is a continuation and further development of the themes you had been working on. The two side-long tracks seem to be constructed of several recordings pasted together one after the other. What’s the story behind the title of Side 1, “Gremlins Wrecked My Tapedeck”? In some ways the whole tape sounds like things falling apart, breaking down. And is the title of Side 2 a riff on Current 93? That track contains a particularly satisfying junk metal percussion section.
The reason “Hometaper Entertainment System” sounded the way it did was because of my broken 2-track Boombox recorder. I couldn’t mix the songs the way I wanted to so I just edited together all the unfinished fragments into two sidelong tracks, which included some sections recorded directly onto my handheld recorder. The keyboard section at the beginning of “How to Destroy…” and the section near the end where I improvise “vocals” over various noises (a parody of John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s “Cambridge 1969”—their “Unfinished Music” albums were big influences on this tape) were specifically recorded for the tape to fill in time. Most of the sounds were the result of my broken equipment rather than any deliberate tape/noise manipulations or effects—the whole tape is literally a document of my recording equipment “falling apart and breaking down.” While the whole thing made for a frustrating recording experience I think it resulted in one of my most unusual and unique-sounding tapes. The title “Gremlins Wrecked My Tapedeck” was just a description of the state of my recording equipment—I mentioned gremlins because one of my favorite episodes of “Twilight Zone” is the one where William Shatner sees a gremlin wrecking the airplane he’s riding on. The title “How to Destroy Consensus Reality” was based on Coil’s “How To Destroy Angels”—it was also inspired by an essay by Philip K. Dick, I forget the title or where it was from (maybe an intro to one of his story collections) but it was one of his typical “What is reality?” things. I made one last attempt to use my 2-track boombox recording the next King Creature tape, during which it finally broke down to the point of becoming completely unusable.
There is a lot of material that we have not covered, such as your compilations, and releases on the JTY Tapes label by other artists. I hope that interested readers will investigate JTY Tapes further and in-depth. Are there any other things that you would like to specifically comment on before we close? What does the future hold for JTY Tapes? Do you have plans to reissue your past releases?
One soon to be “notable” tape is “EXVCM”, the split I did with Chris Martin, because I’m doing a cover of his song “You (Desperation)” for my forthcoming “comeback” tape. Stuart was with me when I was copying Chris’s master tape for my dubbing copy and when that song came on we both started cracking up because of how weird and psychotic it sounded—completely unlike anything else he ever did. We were both joking that maybe he was going to become a stalker or something like that. I really wish we could have performed the song with VCM since Chris was the band’s main songwriter. I was going to do a cover of “You” for my aborted 2001 tape, but only got as far as transcribing some of the lyrics. I’m not reissuing any of my old tapes and I won’t be keeping a back catalog of any future tapes, because I plan on only being semi-active in the hometaping scene. As was the case when I first started, I’ve taken up recording again purely for my own enjoyment.
Jay T. Yamamoto: The Complete Discography w/ Related Recordings
JAY T. YAMAMOTO
early music video cut-ups (lost)
The 46-Minute Tape Cut-Up (lost or accidentally erased)
Kollapsing New Music (the music revolution will be terminated)
Disposable Nonsense to Endurance-Defying Crap
The Jay T. Yamamoto Lo-Fi Experience(compilation)
JAY & STUART
Jay’s Greatest Hits (annoying music for annoying people
The Song That Was Way Too Long
The Songs That Made Me Insane
The Best Of Jay & Stuart (compilation)
The Return Of The Songs That Were Way Too Long (work in progress)
VALERIE’S CHEESECAKE MONEY
Cheesecake Is God (Kerplunk Records)
Live At The House Of Chris
Strokin’ Blues (cassette single)
Dave Is Gay (cassette single)
VCM’s Greatest Hits (compilation)
VCM Home Video (Kerplunk Records)
various practice tapes
Various (justifiably) unreleased tapes
WITHOUT INFLUENCE (the VCM drummer, Frank’s, other band)