My favorite session was one of the most unusual. I don't think it ended up being one of my favorites to listen to afterwards, but at the time it was pretty amazing. We were working with a local DJ at the time, in addition to several of the usual Cast of Thousands, and his gear required extra space. We were used to setting everything up in the control room of a studio at the station where we would netcast live, and there just wasn't enough room for all of us, so we had to spread the six of us out over three different studios. The DJ, whose name escapes me now, was set up in one studio, with a traditional turntable set up. I was in the control room of that studio, on two minidisc players, along with Gregg Boullosa on sampler and effects, Corey Hansen on turntables and cd players and Jayme Halbritter on two additional turntables. We could hear the DJ, but he could not hear us. Our combined mix was then sent down to the broadcast studio where one of the original Cast of Thousands, Amirali Raissnia, was adding another layer of sound before sending it out over the internet. He had two turntables, three cd players and two minidisc players at his disposal, although I doubt he tried juggling all of them at once. We had no idea what he was adding to the mix, so he was the only participant who had any idea what kind of sound we were making as a whole. That had to be our most unusual performance arrangement.
Amirali was a DJ at Radio K at the time, and my roommate. He and Jayme, who was a photographer with Amirali at the Minnesota Daily, were the original group which joined me to improvise live with the playback gear. There was one prior participant, however, although he didn't join me live in the studio until later. The very first live gig I was ever invited to do was at The Weisman Art Museum, with Danny Sigelman. He'd been invited to spin between bands at a show there and invited me to participate. So you could say Danny (DJ The Sandpeople) was the first of the Cast of Thousands.
Aside from playing at one of our cities more notable art museums, there were a few other memorable aspects to this first performance. The bands we were playing with were well on their way to making big names for themselves locally and have since gone on to get national attention. Folk rocker Mason Jennings performed some memorable renditions of tracks off of his debut album, and The Rhyme Sayers Collective performed admirably as well.
We went on right after Slug and DJ Abilities had had their turn, and I guess Abilities saw Danny's turntables and assumed we were going to do a more traditional turntable set. As a joke (I have to assume), Abilities finished his set with a record which challenged us to a DJ battle. He scratched the words 'You.. You... Wanna.. Battle... Bat.. Bat... Battle' while looking over at us with a look I remember as menacing (but I was pretty nervous about playing in front of people at all that night - he could have been smiling and waving and I would have been trembling). All Danny and I could do was smile and shake our heads at the award winning turntablist - we weren't about to accept the challenge to battle with DJ Abilities.
Danny can be credited for inspiring the Cast of Thousands, now that I think of it. He'd liked the record I had just released (Escape Mechanism) and encouraged me to work on a way to play out live. I had no real interest, having never even thought about it, but he insisted that I join him that evening at the Weisman, which forced me to think about how I would do it live. So when I started doing Some Assembly Required a few months later, I made the second hour of the show into a place for live improvised media collage.
Gregg Boullosa and Corey Hansen started coming on the show about midway into the first year. It eventually boiled down to where Gregg and Corey would come in one week and Amirali and Jayme would come in the next, alternating every other week. I don't think either grouping was better than the other, although each group did have its own style. It was always fun and some good recordings usually resulted from the sessions, regardless of who was in the studio.
I played out live with Gregg and Corey as Cast of Thousands with Escape Mechanism. The only change was when a friend of mine, Andy Levi, joined us for one or two shows, as backup CD player. Other players, in the studio, included Vince Voelz, who was better known around Minneapolis as a rotating member of the improvisational jazz ensemble, The Jazztronauts. He manned the turntables one evening. Tim Stone, who has been a friend since high school joined us one night on a trip back from his new home in Germany. Radio K's program director, Angie Simonson, joined us one evening, as well as Paul Harding, the host of Radio K International. Danny Sigelman even rejoined the mix at one point. I'm sure there were one or two other guests over the course of that two and a half year period, but they're not springing to mind at the moment.
The tracks on the live CD are live improvised media collage from most of the live shows that we did around the Twin Cities area over the past two and a half years. We were fortunate enough to have been asked to play such notable art venues as The Soap Factory, The Walker Art Center, The Rogue Buddha Art Gallery and The Weisman Art Museum. The The Oak Street Cinema, The Loring and The First Avenue Mainroom also played host to Cast of Thousands with Escape Mechanism, and we'd like to say thank you to each and every one of the venues, as well as the organizers and audiences, for making it worth our short lived effort to show Twin Cities residents just how far you can push your home stereo equipment. As I've said before, it was a lot of fun.
Read about the source material.