74-84 bb odd bands tapes archive home

t a k k i m e d i a

Recording music is all I ever wanted to do. Did I do it right?

Electronic music was my crib language. Even before I began to take lessons on trumpet when I was nine, there was a Harmony acoustic guitar left over from the Great Folk Music Scare of the early '60s, and a wheezy electro-pneumatic reed organ with major and minor chord buttons. I taught myself bass to play in a garage band with some friends when I was twelve. Then one of my trumpet teachers taught me music theory and arranging, which led to playing keyboards. I took a deep dive into music history in high school and was privileged to study composition privately.

Paia modular synth

The Seventies

I was fortunate enough to have a Farfisa Mini-compact organ, a no-name bass, and a Paia modular synthesizer that I built from a kit. I started recording on a mono Norelco-Philips cassette deck, then a JVC stereo open reel deck with "Sound-On-Sound". From here I embarked on a life-long quest for something - ANYTHING - to make up for my Shaggs-like sense of rhythm.

Fragment 74a

1974: Okay, I was a stoner when I was a kid. I could fap away on one or two chords until I ran out of tape. What sounds like guitar is bass recorded at 3 3/4 ips and played back at 7 1/2.

Fragment 74d

1974 again. Double-stop chords on a no-name bass through a Mutron III envelope filter sounds like a reasonable facsimile of a guitar.

Fragment 76a

Finally got my hands on a guitar. Also, some pretty good weed for 1976.

Piece for Trumpet (1977)

My classical trumpet chops meet my contemporary composition game. Recorded with a Shure SM-55 I found in a surplus store on Canal Street in NYC.

Thalassophobia (1977)

Microphone (Shure SM-55) spring reverb, phaser pedal, amp. I was seventeen and thought I was making art. Yes. Yes, I was.


Later on, I called this "Itchy" (there's a better "mix" from the early '80s) but when I recorded it in '77 it didn't have a name. It just took up space on a reel.

Devotions (1978)

Devotions was my big high school senior year project, a twelve-tone piece for soprano and a small ensemble. I checked my voice leading by playing each part on my Farfisa, layered via sound-on-sound on open reel.


The Darkworld Years: Drum Loops

In the early '80s I played bass and lived with a band called The Dark. We had a 4-bedroom apartment in Watertown, Massachusetts with a kitchen big enough to use as a rehearsal space. I would play Clark's drum set, record it on tape (reel-to-reel), and then find one and two bar chunks where the time was not so irregular. Then I'd splice these parts out with a razor blade and splicing block, and tape (adhesive) them into loops. We had a couple of cassette decks and a little 4 channel mixer: I'd record bass with the drum loop and then do cassette-to-cassette overdubs of guitar, keyboards, etc.


Every so often I record something and it comes out like mutant surf rock. It's like when you burp and it tastes nothing at all like anything you've eaten in the last five years. Just like that.


Oh, hey: it's bongo madness. Looped bongo drum overdubs, plus double-speed bass.


Loops weren't just for drums. Even J. Random Czechoslovakian, taped off a shortwave receiver, could be loop fodder.


I got a lot of mileage out of this drum loop.


Something is running through the Paia's ring modulator, I just don't remember what. Possibly a varispeed tape of trumpet. Same with the resonant echoes. Forget how I did that.


A basic track: drum loop and bass, played direct to a cassette.


81L with a guitar overdub, bounced between stereo cassette decks.


Drum loop, bass, and keys.


More mutant surf, with new guitars over 81L.


Most of my recordings sounded like this, a miasma of echo and tape noise, with a drum loop.


Sometimes, though, miasma is just the thing.


Echoed drum loop, bass, synth Frippertronics, and a treated tape. This is peak 1980 Karlo.


I had a third cassette deck, a Radio Shack walkman with varispeed, that I'd use to inject linear tape elements through effects. This was made from vinyl albums, hand rotated, and snippets of TV and shortwave radio.


The Darkworld Years: Let's try this instead...

Bob, the Dark's keyboard player, used my Farfisa organ live. In the kitchen, however, he had a Yamaha CP-30 electronic piano, a MultiMoog, and an electronic metronome that sounded pretty cool through a Mutron Bi-Phase. I forget how we synchronized the metronome with the MultiMoog's LFO but somehow we did it. Most of what I recorded ended up as backing tracks for the Dark's "Personalized Tapes" schtick.


Just an electronic kick, bass, and guitar.


Sync? What sync?


This went nowhere and I never did anything with it.


That simple electronic metronome through a Mutron Bi-Phase sorta gallops along, doesn't it?


A sales seminar cassette processed through ring modulator and echo, on a bed of bass.


The "percussion" is synth through Frippertronics, with more synth and a tape of a TV preacher on top.


Synth Frippertronics over processed drum loops and tape blow-ins.


This became a song, but the B-section is totally different.


I just loved ring modulation back then.


The Darkworld Years: Frippery

In 1979, i saw Robert Fripp do Frippertronics, live at the Kitchen in NYC. Two tape decks sharing one reel of tape, with a feedback loop between decks and crossing channels, resulting in a loooooong stereo delay (like 4 to 6 seconds but it sounds longer). So, as soon as I had an opportunity to borrow another open reel deck like my JVC, I set up my own Frippertronics rig. I played a lot of synth through it (and, once, trumpet), and I was more interested in the rhythmic possibilities, since the echo repeat rate would set a tempo.


I hardly played any guitar through the Frippertronics rig. Mostly keys.


Multi-Moog percussion. I wanted to get something like Bow Wow Wow's Burundi Beat drums.


Frippertronics does lend itself more to long attacks and releases.


Trumpet Frippertronics, 1981. Eat it, Jon Hassell.


Multi-Moog and a Yamaha CP-30.


But yeah, spacy music for pot heads is where Frippertronics excels.


More synth percussion. I think I was intending to cut loops out of this.


I know Moog filters have their own sound, but what about Moog's portamento?


From a table in the Fenway.

During a gap year between bands, I did some straight-to-cassette recordings, mostly with the Paia synth and sequencer, a Boss DR-55 Dr. Rhythm, a Casio VL-Tone, and a Memory Man delay. I still had the old JVC open reel deck, and a Walkman with a variable speed control. The Dr. Rhythm spit out a +5v pulse programmed with the accent track which could trigger the Paia's sequencer in step mode.

ktfrag82a (2).mp3

Ah, the sound of 1982. On top of the DR and the Paia, I'm triggering a stored memory in the VL-Tone using the two blue step keys on the right.


I'd try to match the DR's tempo with the VL-Tone's built-in rhythm box. Try. Sneaked a little trumpet Frippertronics on varispeed tape in there, too.


By the middle of '82, I was playing keys in Skin, but I still played bass.


The only 6-string guitar I had back then was a no-name electric I picked up at Salvation Army for $10. But the days of playing double-speed bass were definitely over.


DR, Paia, and a totally unnecessary Yamaha CS-01 track.


I think the voices at the beginning are interference from two-way radios. Or maybe I added them. Who the fuck knows.


I still had mad splicing skills. This loop was J. Potts, Skin's drummer, from a 1983 session. On top is the intro from a John Cage album. The phrases "the slicing of a carrot" and "ego, taste, self" would reappear in my recordings.



It was time to put away the toys and get some real gear. I bought a Roland Juno-106 and an Oberheim DX drum machine. Still no sequencer, so I played the Juno along with the DX and into a cassette deck. The Juno was a replacement for the Farfisa Mini-Compact I was playing in Skin, and the drum machine, because it could generate and slave to a sync track on a tape deck, was the kernel around which I built my studio. For the time being, I had a synth, a drum machine, and no sequencer, so I played these live to cassette. Love that creamy Roland stereo chorus on the Juno.


I remember playing this for someone, and they said, "When you were a kid growing up, you wished you could emit beams of energy from your fingertips, didn't you?" Fuck, yeah. Didn't everyone?


Yeah, I know. Joe Jackson.


Never mind the whack beat, how about the Juno-106 in unison mode?


What does this button marked "SWING" do?


Something I wrote for a class at Berklee (Modal Harmony and Rehamonization, or Moharm Reharm for short). I probably recorded this the week I got the Juno.


More Juno-106, straight to tape. That chorus...