My love affair with my 4-track forced me to drop out of college. The year was 1998, I was studying to be something and then all of the sudden I wasn’t. I remember very clearly sitting at a desk about to take my Geology midterm exam when it occurred to me that I didn’t really belong there. The first question on the test was “What is an aquifer?”. I considered it for a moment and then I wrote “I don’t care” in the blank, took my paper to the front of the class and turned it in. The professor looked at me quizzically and I just smiled and walked out. I went home and called my girlfriend.
“I think I just dropped out of college,” I said.
“Yeah, I just turned in my unfinished exam and walked out. I don’t plan on going back.”
She told me that it was a bad decision and that I should reconsider but I was steadfast. I didn’t know why but I felt in my heart of hearts that college just wasn’t for me and that my true education was going to be somehow tied to that little 4-track machine I just bought a few weeks ago. I literally couldn’t think of anything else. I would sit in class and write love letters to the damned thing instead of taking notes. I had definitely crossed the line from mere preoccupation into deep obsession so I figured hey, if I was going to be obsessed I might as well go all in.
For the next few months I frantically recorded everything I could and gradually I started to get better and better at using all of the 4-track’s limitations and idiosyncrasies to my advantage. I let some friends hear my songs and they encouraged me to keep going. I was introduced to the music of The Residents, Renaldo and the Loaf, Boredoms, Frank Zappa and Ween and they all inspired me to push my limits even further out into the left field. The Pod, Lumpy Gravy and Songs for Swinging Larvae became my holy books and my primitive bedroom studio became my church.
After amassing hours of tape I culled it down to the best bits and dubbed some copies for my friends. The first collection was called Elves in Heat and, much like the aforementioned Lumpy Gravy, it consisted of two sidelong tape collages mixing songs with bizarre audio experiments. Shortly thereafter, I completed another collection called Negative Reinforcement and circulated that one among my friends as well. Over time, I moved onto other endeavors and the whole Pilesar thing became more of a side project as I tried to work on my more “serious” music. It wasn’t long before my first two tapes were buried and forgotten under all the newer material I was making.
Fast forward to 2007. For the last several years I had been putting my music up all over the internet and I finally decided to start my own official website where I could consolidate all of my output in one place. It was at this point I remembered the Elves… and Negative Reinforcement material and thought it’d be fun to make it all available for release. As I listened back to the tapes however I realized that much of the music was just too bad or embarrassing for me to let out into the wild so I spent some time compiling my favorite parts and cutting out the icky bits. I also added a few overdubs here and there and in the end came up with a new collection that contained songs from my first two tapes plus a few other odds and ends that had been previous unreleased in any official capacity. I got the tunes mastered, made some artwork and then posted the resulting album on my site as a new version of Negative Reinforcement.
This version stayed online for a period of several months before I decided to take it down. I hated the artwork and still felt a little unsure about whether or not I wanted people to hear it. So, again, I locked the album away in the vault and tried to forget about it. No such luck.
So here we are seven years later and after remastering the audio and making new cover art I decided to unleash this collection on the world one more time. I must admit that in some ways I’m still quite embarrassed by this music. It’s chaotic and the humor is at times extremely juvenile. It’s dissonant and atonal and occasionally it can even get quite disturbing. For example, there’s a song called “Necropedofecalpheliac” that I’ve mercifully hidden somewhere on the album where hopefully no one will hear it. You can look for it if you wish but I have no idea why you’d want to! It’s a little in-joke between me and my brother but I could see how someone else might hear the tune and be creeped out by it.
You may be asking yourself at this point why I’d even offer to put this out if I have so many issues with it but the answer is quite simple. This music, as flawed and bizarre as it is, was simply a joy to make. It represents one of the most exciting and inspired periods of my musical development and I think it offers a keen insight into where I came from and where I may be going in the future. To this day, I still use a lot of the tricks and techniques that I learned back in 1998 and to me that’s reason enough to share it again. At times, the music sounds exactly like what it is: some dumb kid mucking around with some equipment that he has no clue how to operate. But at other times I honestly feel like there’s something there that transcends all that. There is an honesty and untamed enthusiasm that permeates throughout and it’s an atmosphere that I have been struggling to capture ever since. I will admit that this music will not be for everyone. There’s some salty language and if you’re the type to get easily offended you may want to steer clear. With all that said however, I do think there’s something here to be enjoyed and if you’re feeling adventurous I invite you to give it a listen.
Negative Reinforcement FREE Download
Since I’m already scraping the bottom of the barrel, I decided to release a couple of other archival recordings. The first one is called The Pressures of Need and was a collaboration between myself and my friend Mike Coleman (Karakul). I’ve also released this before but this is a brand new version with extra songs and new artwork. Like Negative Reinforcement above, this album isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s just as out there and crazy but the songs are longer and slightly more focused if you believe it.
The second one is called Subuniversal (parts 1-3) and it’s a 17+ minute experimental tape collage/drone piece that I made back in 2009. I had it floating around on my hard drive for a while and I finally decided to put it out for all to hear. Enjoy!