THE LUDDITE DANCE MACHINE
Listen to THE LUDDITE DANCE MACHINE here. (Band introduction at the beginning kindly provided by Joey Buttons.)
THE LUDDITE DANCE MACHINE was a short-lived “free rock” trio that I started in 2005 featuring myself on guitar along with jazz musicians BRANDON BRUNIUS on bass and EVAN HOWARD on drums (now a member of the NY rock band Deadbeat Darling.) Why was it short-lived? Well, because I practiced so many hours for our inaugural performance (advertised in the above photo) that I developed a severe case of tendonitis in my left index finger, which just happens to be the most important finger for a right-handed guitarist. Three ibuprofen got me through the show, but after that I couldn’t play guitar for a solid six months. For about a year after that I could play for no more than 15-20 minutes at a time. The next year I could play for about 30 minutes before the pain was too much. All in all, it took about seven years to heal. It was still bothering me during my first years with Socrates Johnson and TESTAVERDE, but not enough to make me avoid playing in the bands. Let’s say that I learned a painful and frustrating lesson about physically overextending myself.
Regarding the music, I’m going to talk about what we did for our only performance:
The concept of the band was to combine aspects of free jazz, rock, and contemporary “classical” composition techniques. I have to admit that I was heavily influenced at the time by Nels Cline’s electric guitar version of John Coltrane’s classic free jazz album “Interstellar Space” (with Gregg Bendian on drums.) We had one meeting/rehearsal where we sketched out a loose framework for improvisation with several ‘guideposts’ to follow for the 45 minute set, such as guitar goes crazy here, everyone gets quiet here, drum solo here, etc. My idea, as the guitarist, was to create a few musical motifs during the performance (there’s a Coltrane theme in there too,) and each time I brought one back it was to be a variation, meaning that I would have to keep a mental inventory of everything I had played while playing it. Also, several sections of the piece were about the sound shapes/angles rather than tonal melody. While creating these sounds I would strive for a sense of balance in the shape of the musical line, as well as in the context of the overall piece. I was conscious of contrasting loud/soft, clean/dirty, fast/slow, tonal/atonal. Also there was an awareness of using a variety of tones and sounds throughout for dramatic and compositional effect, including a short section where I play a controlled feedback melody (by the way, my guitar doesn’t have a vibrato/whammy bar.) Overall I think the performance was a success, and I was very disappointed that we could not continue to perform and refine these ideas due to my injury.
There was a digital mini-disc recording made that night but it was lost after the Katrina chaos. I have extracted the audio from a video of the show, which is why it sounds distorted and lo-fi. But you can hear what is going on well enough, and I actually like how it sounds in this age of uberdigitalclarity (I just made up that word, neato huh?)
The title of this piece is “Down the Coast/Through Los Angeles.” I imagined the first 8 minutes of the piece, where I play solo, as driving down the beautiful California Highway 1, then turning eastward into the city when the music starts to get crazy and passing through the varied landscapes of the largest metropolis in America.