ROBERT POSS: Distortion Is Truth (CD Liner Notes)

In the beginning there was Burl Ives, Camelot, The Bangalorey Man, Pete Seeger, and the overture from West Side Story. My electric guitar obsession started in 1964 -- with the look of Rickenbacker, Hofner, Gibson, Gretsch, Vox and Fender. I started playing bass in 1968. I think I had started to play "lead" guitar by the time I, a rabid fan, met Mike Bloomfield backstage one night in Buffalo, New York. He gave me some good advice about keeping it simple. It was the rich, complex simplicity of the blues that had the strongest pull. And along the way came the musical/spiritual guidance/inspiration of Ledbetter, McDaniel, Morganfield, Butterfield, the almost Biblical importance of Albert King's guitar playing, the stately grandeur of Mick Taylor's legato lead melodies and the anarchic yet perfectly poised fretwork of Johnny Thunders on a good night. I loved the Stones' Satanic/Banquet of mellotron pedal points and shehnais droning like tape loop tamburas -- as if Charlie Watts had been a tabla player, and Nicky Hopkins had been listening to Steve Reich -- while Keith and Brian repeated their rhythm and slide guitar mantras. I loved the way recorded music could have the aural equivalent of geologic layers of sediment, crystal, stone and fossil; I loved the sonic density of mysterious, half heard overdubs and subliminal musical suggestion....

Later there was the Clash in that first fleeting moment of glory -- or was it allegory -- and Pink Flag-waving Mission of Burma and Gang of Four and the connections I came to feel, often with the help of Susan Stenger, existed between Fred Rzewski and Fugazi, Tom Verlaine, Sam Lay, Joseph Conrad, LaMonte Young, Chuck Berry and David Tudor, David Bowie, Julius Eastman, Blind Boy Fuller, Garth Hudson, Javanese gamelan, Patti Smith, Poly Styrene, Bollywood pop, the Standells, the Kinks, Ma Rainey, Joan Jett and the lives of Ava Gardner and Malcolm Lowry, not to mention the magical syntax of Zimmerman/Osterberg or the fractured poetics and overloaded mic pre's of Mark E. Smith or Willie Dixon.

Alvin Lucier stuttering the standing waves in a tape loop room changed my life in 1974; I never heard "silence" the same way again. Nicolas Collins added his pea soup fog of phase-shifted feedback, tutored me in the history and mysteries of musical electronics, and played me recordings of "In C," "It's Gonna Rain," and "Violin Phase." Phill Niblock's dense sonics filled the room with a palpable ocean of radiant energy -- a soundtrack for flowing blood and beating hearts; turn one's head a few degrees and the universe shifts. Years later, after my blues/punk sojourn in Tot Rocket (three 7-inch records) and Western Eyes (one LP), Rhys Chatham graciously showed me the way back to the essential, to grabbing the guitar by its roots in order to worship at the alter of its overtones. We toured Germany by bus.

What later became Band Of Susans started in 1985 as my own solo experiment -- three layered looping delays, a drum machine and a new take on riffing, distortion, controlled feedback and the architecture of rock guitar. I enlisted some close friends and we formed a band. In 1987, music journalists and colleagues would scratch their heads or roll their eyes when Susan and I mentioned John Cage or Rhys Chatham or Phill Niblock or Christian Wolff. We offered touchstones; they wanted Blarney. I think John Peel probably understood it all.

In 1989, Leo Fender took Band Of Susans out to lunch; he had our Love Agenda poster on his office wall. For me that moment was twenty years in the making, a private audience with the Pope after years of devotion in the wilderness.

Band Of Susans broke up in 1995. We never quite got the hair and makeup part right -- we could not take a good band photo to save our lives -- nor did we strike the requisite underground hipster poses socially or intellectually, but we put more electric guitar on record than any band before or since. We followed our own musical instincts and they served us well....

Until recently I had nearly forgotten what it felt like to manipulate, trigger, sample and hold cascading oscillators, gates and resonant filters like I had first done in the mid- 1970's (musical experimentation and patchcord macrame on a keyboardless Arp 2600, along with four-channel skipping record repeat pieces and putting contact microphones on pocket watches, electric motors and water fountains). Now, spending time once again in the thicket of patchcords and the blinking lights of temperamental analog modules is like a reunion with a long-lost lover...or pet.

So, now is now. This CD represents facets of my recent musical interests, some of which catch the light more than others, and is also a kind of retrospective of my post- B.O.S. experimentation and performance. Ultimately, it's just another dream in which I stand before you at the end of the term -- with a long history, a wealth of experience, but somehow still naked and unprepared.

- Robert Poss September 2002
HOME | DIT Notes | Robert Poss - DIT and CCB Press Quotes