Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Some Assembly Required: XMAS special MIX

Merry Christmas, from Some Assembly Required!
I couldn't wait to get started on the podcast, so I threw together a little XMAS MIX of the tracks I'm playing here in Minneapolis, on Christmas Eve, and am putting it up as a podcast. Enjoy!

Some Assembly Required: XMAS special MIX

This is about fifty one minutes of pure sound collage, with a definite Christmas theme. Its the only holiday I still get kind of romantic about, so excuse me for being a strict agnostic who still enjoys what is generally considered to be a religious holiday. This is a mix of tracks which I'm playing here in Minneapolis this Saturday (Christmas Eve), on Radio K - and since the ninth quarter of the show was just sent out to syndicating stations, and since I included the XMAS episode in the package, there's a small chance that some of the syndicating stations will also find time to work it into their schedules, as well. But its definitely airing this Saturday (December 24, 2005), here in Minneapolis, on Radio K. You can tune in on the internet, if you're not within range, at - or, if you're in the Twin Cities, just tune in to 770 on the AM dial (or 106.5 FM and/or 100.7 FM if you're within very specific neighborhoods to the South and West of downtown Minneapolis. There's more information at Radio K's website...)

Stay tuned! First thing in January, 2006: We'll be starting our official podcast. The plan all along has been to upload a new (old) episode of Some Assembly Required every week, starting with the last episode of the 2nd year in syndication (episode 104), and work our way backward to episode one, within exactly two years. A major undertaking which, like all large projects, won't happen unless we just start and see if we can get to our destination. I chose January 2006 as the starting point, and we're already listed on iTunes, so stay tuned as I learn how to do this, as we go along. I'll be trying to get the show listed on as many Podcast Directories as possible, and uploading a new (old) episode every week.

In the meantime, enjoy this DJ Mix of Christmas collage - Tape Manipulations, Digital Deconstructions and Turntable Creations ...of the "yule-tide" persuasion. Check it out and drop us a line - there's contact info at our official website:

here's a list of the sound collage artists in the christmas mix, in order: DJ John – “The Christmas massacre of Charlie Brown" * John Oswald – “White” * Corporal Blossom – “The Christmas song (chestnuts)” * Corporal Blossom - “Little drummer boy” * Escape Mechanism – “Elf song” * Dummy Run – “Jolly holiday” * The Evolution Control Committee - “The Christmas wrong” * No-L – “Have yourself a merry little Christmas” * Cassetteboy - “XFM Christmas cut up” * Diffusion – “dnbchristmas” * Lovecraft Technologies – “Frosty the snowman” * Poj Masta - “Santar Klaws” * Mr. Fab and The RIAA – “Santa's acid hawaiian space disco” * Corporal Blossom – “White Christmas”

Thanks for listening, and Happy Holidays!
Jon Nelson

Saturday, November 26, 2005

November 25, 2005: New post

Tomorrow's a brand new episode, and here's the playlist:

01 Lecture On Nothing – “Get A Job”
02 CCC – “Stand by me”
03 DJ VU – “Strength and wisdom”
04 DJ Ruthless – “Flat Chested”
05 Doug Michael – “Before Sundown”
06 DJ Shadow – “What Does Your Soul Look Like (Part 4)”
07 Twink – “Yippee Skippee”
08 DJ Cal (Calle Hansson) – “Nona Drove All Night”
09 Jukebaritone – “What are you scared of”
10 Public Works – “Mortal mind”
11 Mag Wheels – “Kill noise”
12 Steve Fisk – “Ragged Old Flag”
13 The Bran Flakes – “Poncherello”
14 Negativland – “Bite Back”

I've been working on some new material this past month, as Escape Mechanism. The past four episodes (today's episode included) were produced at once, a month ago, to give me some time to focus on it. I'm barely meeting the deadline as it is, and now I've got to produce a new episode for next week.

...No, I'm not expecting anyone to care, but I can complain anyway, can't I? I do work nearly full time, after all, at a "day job" which happens to be a night job, but it's all the same. Anyway, I guess the point was - in spite of having completed the last four episodes en masse, I'm really quite proud of the mixes, especially in these last two episodes. I hope you're able to check them out. Diversity, being the key. Something I've really been focusing on this year.

Nothing much new to report, except that I'm trying to stay on top of the blog, while really looking into podcasting. You may be surprised to find that the host/producer behind a show like Some Assembly Required is actually something of a techno-phobe, and so while I've been absorbing a lot of data these past few weeks, in the hopes of starting a podcast in the new year, I'm actually reeling at all the information, so much of which is quite tech-specific (meaning: I don't get it).

I'll figure it out. If anyone cares. In the meantime, check out this week's episode, and look forward to a full length interview with Jason Forrest, whose SAR interview has been getting the finishing touch for awhile now. Its set to air soon.

ok. thanks for listening!
Jon Nelson

Sunday, November 20, 2005

November 19, 2005: Feedback


okay back to blogging...

I've been getting a lot more phone calls and emails than usual, which is nice. Although, of course, the feedback hasn't been ALL positive. In among the kudos are the occasional, 'hey, I love the tape cut-ups but hate the turntablism,' or 'love the turntablism but hate the mashups,' or 'love the mashups, but hate the...'. You get the idea.

The show is pretty broad in its focus, after you jump the initial hurdle anyway. While the main rule can be a pretty challenging limitation to have for a radio show (that it has to be a primarily sample-based composition, to be aired on Some Assembly Required), the fact is that’s pretty much the only rule. It’s difficult to program a show with such a limiting precept, but the fact is there aren’t too many further limitations, beyond that - meaning I can play anything from any genre (as long as it follows that first rule).

Anyway, most of the criticism has been pretty constructive. Even if I disagree with what the caller/emailer is saying, I can at least listen to and understand where they're coming from; and it’s often educational. Except for the phone call I got today: My first "F" you phone call (I'll keep this clean, for the kids...). Someone called, in direct response to "Bandscan of Terror" by Department of Corrections (nice job guys!), which was, I'll admit, a pretty inflamatory anti-GWBush cut-up, and shouted, from what I can remember (but this was it in a nutshell), "I don't have a microphone (and a radio show) to express my opinion, so I'm just calling to say "F-YOU!"


I was going to go on a rant about how the caller should have realized that his response wasn't going to change my opinion on anything - and how in fact, if anything, such a hateful response would more than likely reinforce it, but then I realized the irony -- as pieces like the one I played today are probably (one would assume) created with the hope of changing opinions as well, and yet fail (largely) for the same reason. Furiously anti-Bush sound collages are not going to make a dent when it comes to convincing those who voted for him that they should have done otherwise - all they accomplish, in regards to that demographic, is the same thing this irate caller did for me: re-establish the "fact" that those on the "other side" are completely out of touch.

So what's being accomplished, exactly? Nothing but good old fashioned preaching to the choir, I guess. And the occasional extremely pissed off conservative - which isn't going to do anybody any good. Now, you can argue that preaching to the choir is a grand gesture, on the basis of uniting the community, which is essential and important, of course, but I can’t help but wonder how much more powerful that community might be, if more thought were given to how it were viewed by the (voting) public at large...

I first started thinking about this back in November, during the last presidential election. I had just played a fairly anti-bush collage - and gotten a call. The individual was respectful and straightforward in his response, which was simply to express his fear that this type of thing just makes liberals look bad. I politely argued the right of the piece as a work of art, and swallowed the fact that I could understand where he was coming from...

(I created this image as a logo for my sound collage label, Recombinations, but it makes sense here for its references to sound collage and power struggle...)

It's fun to make fun of Bush. Let's face it - it's easy. Like shooting fish in a barrel. But even a large percentage of those who voted for him will laugh at the jokes. So, beyond preaching to the choir (which is, obviously, extremely gratifying), what's the objective? The fact is - that caller had an interesting point. The far right isn't listening to the 5 1/2 minute collage about what an idiot Bush is, anymore than they're listening to anyone else not speaking their language. And in the long run, are we hurting the cause more than helping, when we repeatedly bash the establishment on that level?

It's just a thought. I know, a lot of listeners to the show are going to be irritated by how serious I'm being about this. And when you look at it from the artistic perspective - so what? Its amusing. Its creative. It makes a point. So, just play it and quit your philosophizing, right? Well, no. I believe we should live thoughtfully (and deliberately), so I'm forced to think about things like this. Actually, this reminds me a lot of the kinds of questions I started to ask myself toward the end of my short lived 'punk phase' - and you can bet I was a particularly self-righteous punk - alienating way more people than I ever positively influenced (which was one of the goals, at least by my interpretation, of being punk). What I really started to wonder then, was how in the world is any of this nonsense actually changing the world in any positive way? Because beyond the creative side, which is often brilliant, sometimes obvious (and occasionally hilarious) - what real difference are we making?

I don't know the answers. I'm just asking questions. Like everyone else. Well, not everyone else, unfortunately - but you get the idea. I'm going to continue to play the political collage, and I'll probably get a hothead phone call every once in awhile. I'm wondering more now, though - what IS a better (more productive) way to make positive change in the world? Hopefully we'll all be thinking about it...

...I started writing this last week, but never posted it. It bothered me how seriously I was taking the whole subject (yes, even after I defended myself for doing just that). So, I let it sit awhile. I was wondering if I really could play any more of the political sound collage, based on my own, oh-so-sober conclusions. What I’ve decided since then, is to put the focus on the show, rather than the politics, and to hope that we’re all (liberal and conservative) rational enough to just take it all with a grain of salt - and of course I’m going to keep playing it. The whole point is to play creative examples of appropriation across all genres - including policital cut-ups.

Besides - this is an art show. It’s entertainment. If I worry too much about the far reaching impact of every single sample, then I’ll be limiting the show even further than it was to begin with. I couldn’t play anything, if I really thought about all the people who might potentially be offended. The piece was witty, and creatively assembled. So, I’m going to argue that, in addition to being a political statement, it was also a fine bit of comedy. And we need to laugh even more than ever these days. It’s true we need to be aware of the impact we’re having on our culture, but its also true that we need to step away from it every once in awhile, and laugh. And with that, I’m choosing to move on… (cue: sound of soapbox flying).

A big thanks to the caller who rang, literally five seconds after the angry phone call, to say how much they liked that week’s show! Talk about really needing some encouragement and getting it at just the right moment. You may not realize it, but your calls and emails really make a big difference to me – Thanks, caller!

And thanks for listening,
Jon Nelson

Friday, November 18, 2005

2002 Sound Unseen: People Like Us

I spent too much time working on those last posts and so, of course, burned out on blogging when I was done. Thus, its been about two weeks since last I wrote. I'm not going to post the playlists for the two weeks I missed, as I can just as easily send you to the playlists page at the Some Assembly Required website. Or actually, that should be: it would be even easier to just send you there. yeah.

Anyway, onwards: More history. The next big show I was a part of was again with Sound Unseen. In 2002, I was asked if I'd like to put together another show, and suggested People Like Us. Fortunately for everyone, folks were eager to make that happen, so Vicki Bennett was flown in from London and made a presentation at the Walker Art Center. Her performance reminded me of The Tape-beatles, in that she was manipulating a live video collage, in time to her sound collage composition. It was funny and surreal, as is most of Vicki's work. In fact, one of the standouts from the interview I did with her on Some Assembly Required was where she said she frankly wasn't as concerned with being associated with Plunderphonics and the appropriation-based "sound collage movement," as she was intrigued by the idea of being compared to the surrealists. A thought I had often had myself, but wouldn't have been courageous enough to say. But why not? It makes total sense.

(The photo is of Vicki Bennett, from the People Like Us website - I can't find any of my own!)

It was a very well attended show at the Walker, and Ms. Bennett was quite at ease with the crowd. We'd wanted her to be a part of the previous year's extravaganza, along with one or two other performers who also couldn't make it, but for one reason or another, it hadn't worked out. Good luck for us in 2002, though! Actually - it almost didn't happen, if I recall correctly (In fact, only after visiting her site, to see if she had a photo from our event - no - and seeing her post about being here, did I remember the trouble we had getting her into the country)...

The previous year's Sound Unseen went on as planned, though it fell within weeks of 9/11. Remarkably, a vast majority of our artists were able to take their scheduled flights, and arrive in time to perform. A full year later, however - and the assumption is that this had something to do with security having been tightened, post 9/11 - the Walker had to have their lawyers intervene on behalf of Sound Unseen, due to passport complications with Ms. Bennett. So, yes, we were quite fortunate she was available to perform for us, and then, again, lucky to have been able to jump through all the hoops of red tape necessary to actually get her into the country.

Anyway, the day after her performance, I took Vicki to the Mall of America where we reveled in the crass consumerism of others, and sneered politely when not walking in shocked silence at just the terrible mall-ness of it all. I moved back to minneapolis around the same time this mega sized mall was built and can say with confidence that I could count on two hands the number of times I've gone. And nearly all of those trips were to see a movie. really!

Anyway, it was nice to get to hang out a bit, after having seen her show. I don't think I've ever seen anyone sell as many CDs as she did at her performance at the Walker - there was literally a line to buy! hmmm, speaking of consumerism... no, of course its a very different thing, isn't it? Supporting an artist you admire can't be compared to senseless buying, as one does when "shopping," and I was happy to see so many fans get to meet the person behind People Like Us, and take home one of her CDs.

The tragedy is I have no photos of this meeting! Unlike the super short question and answer session the previous year, Vicki was given luxurious amounts of time both to make her presentation AND engage with a very appreciative and critical audience. I was so excited just to be there that I didn't even think to take a picture. I know Nate Johnson took a picture or two, when the three of us met for coffee in stadium village one evening, but I can't find copies anywhere, if there are any to be found. oh well. Instead, here's the picture which accompanied a little blurb about her in the City Pages that week. I can't believe I can't do better than this. Oh well, this is why I love blogging - I can come back later and edit this post with a new photo, once I've found those snapshots that Nate took.

Until next time...
thanks for reading!
Jon Nelson

Saturday, November 05, 2005

2001 Sound Unseen - IV


The last bit of business, with regards to re-telling the story of Some Assembly Required's involvement with 2001's Sound Unseen, is to tell the story of Minneapolis Summit. This post might have made more sense at the Escape Mechanism blog, but I don't have an Escape Mechanism blog. My only other excuse for telling the story here is that the resulting recording was originally intended to be aired on Some Assembly Required, but then we all got bigger ideas...

Somewhere in between Wobbly's performance with John Oswald, and my performance with The Tape-beatles, for the 2001 Sound Unseen underground, film and music festival, I invited anyone with an interest in an improv session to join me in the studios at Radio K, where I was producing the show at the time. Wet Gate had not yet arrived, and while Oswald had expressed an interest in bringing his saxaphone, it was agreed that the improvising to be done was to be of the recycled-media variety (though I sometimes wonder what the CD might have sounded like with John Oswald on saxaphone!). We wanted to wait until Wet Gate were in town, but Wobbly would have been gone by then, and it wasn't clear if there would have been enough time, based on everyone's schedules, so Lloyd Dunn and John Heck (The Tape-beatles), Steev Hise, Jon Leidecker (Wobbly) and myself (Escape Mechanism) all got together to play.

Everyone's pictured here. The photos of (top to bottom) John Heck and Lloyd Dunn (The Tape-beatles), Jon Leidecker (Wobbly), Steev Hise, and myself (Escape Mechanism) are all taken from the official Minneapolis Summit website...

I remember the day quite well. The Tape-beatles put together a little website for the resulting CD, where they got to tell their memories of the event, so this is my opportunity, I guess. I was the Production Director at Radio K, at the time, and was pretty knowledgable about how to write and produce underwriting announcements and promotional spots, but when it came to how to set up a live "band," as it were, in Studio One (which was technically one of my duties as PD), I was pretty lost. Of course, as I had done the inviting, everyone was pretty much looking to me to guide them as they set up their equipment, and I eventually had to go and find our station engineer, Larry Oberg, who saved the day, without complaint, by answering some basic questions about the set-up of the room.

I was used to playing with two mini-disc recorders (with Gregg Boullosa and Corey Hansen on samplers and turntables), when we would be asked to play out live (as Cast of Thousands with Escape Mechanism), so I just set up those same units, with a stack of mini-discs, at the ready. Wobbly's set-up was the same one used at his performance at the Bryant Lake Bowl (later that night), while Steev, Heck and Dunn all used their laptops as instruments. We'd all done similar performances in the past, with a variety of different set-ups, so this was no giant step for any of us; but I have to say, having heard a lot of such recordings, that the results were definitely above average.

We boiled the session down to about three takes (one long and two short) and spent a couple months after the festival, emailing little changes and mailing CDs around the world. We eventually decided to submit an edit of the longer piece to Staalplaat for consideration, and were excited when they decided to put it out. The Tape-beatles were in charge of the album art, and Steev and Wobbly did most of the final edits. I basically just sat back and watched, with my fingers crossed, hoping someone would want to do something with it. After having contributed my input to the actual recording, while successfully (or: miraculously) engineering the session, I just breathed a big sigh of relief and trusted them to take care of it from there. Of course, they did a fantastic job.

A funny story, which the rest of the guys probably don't know, about the recording of the session: As we were setting up, Radio K was having a manager's meeting in the main office. As a student staff member, I was expected to be at the meeting, and since a number of people had seen me in the building, I couldn't exactly call in sick. So, I made it down to the meeting, a bit late, and very distracted, and received a lot of dirty looks from people who didn't know, or understand, that I was right in the middle of a once in a lifetime recording session with some of my favorite sound collage artists, from around the world. I had to make a decision about who I was going to annoy more - should I leave the guys down in the studio, wondering where I am, or do I bail on the meeting, making a bad impression on my bosses and co-workers? I ended up excusing myself early, to tend to the mix. It was a risk, but I was very excited to be working with Wobbly, the Tape-beatles and Steev Hise.

The disc is available at the Tape-beatles website (of course I've sold and/or given away all of my copies by now), and there's lots more information at the official Minneapolis Summit website, where there's MUCH more information and photographs (and sound files) - should this post not contain enough info for you...

Alright, next post: People Like Us, and Sound Unseen: 2002!
thanks for reading,
jon nelson

2001 Sound Unseen - III


The final night of performances at 2001's Sound Unseen...

We had a day off after Oswald and Wobbly's show and I can't remember if I did anything at all that day. I'm sure there were a lot of great films to be watched at Sound Unseen and thats what we were all doing. We'd spent the afternoon prior to Monday evening's show, in the studio, recording a live mix, improvised together - but I'll save that story for the next post.

Wet Gate arrived the day of their show, and Steev Hise opened for them at the Bryant Lake Bowl, Wednesday, October 3rd. The photo is of Steev performing in front of a live projection of the computer screen he's using to monitor his manipulation of the various hardware/software which he uses to perform. Steev's work is often as much about the tools he uses (many of which he created himself), as it is about the message (not to mention the joy of listening). At the time of this performance, Steev was performing with something he calls The Syntagm Engine, which is, as he says on his website, "an attempt to solve the following problem: How does one combine a performative practice of non-idiomatic free improvisation with an aesthetic of critical sound collage (critical in the sense of detournement, the removal of a piece of culture from its original context and its placement in a new context with the purpose of commenting on or critiquing that material or its origins)?"

Can you tell Steev was a Cultural Studies major? I can, but maybe that's because I was, as well. I finally stopped changing majors when I hit on the CSCL department at the University of Minnesota, which was a pretty nice way to round out my long career as a college student. Anyway...

Steev is the sysadmin of, by the way. I have no idea what sysadmin means, except that you see "sysadmin" used a lot more than "Systems Administrator," which is what I assume it stands for. Regardless, the site he administrates is awesome. is a website dedicated to recycled culture, which Some Assembly Required and most of my recycled art projects have been pretty closely associated with for more than a few years now. I think the first Escape Mechanism website was hosted there in 1999, so thats about six years anyway. The photo is not from his performance at Sound Unseen; its from his performance at Electrofringe 2001, in Australia. It looks exactly like what I remember though, from his opening set for Wet Gate, so I stole it from his page at Detritus, and used it here.

There's no photo that would really do Wet Gate's performance justice. They have the same problem with audio recordings from their live performances. You really have to see the explosion of light, color and sound, recycled from the film they're simultaneously projecting/manipulating, in person, or you're not really going to get it. Not really. Wet Gate went on after Steev, with their three film projectors looking very reminiscent of the Tape-beatles set up on Sunday, but once the peformance began the differences became quite clear. For one thing, while the Tape-beatles were "performing," in the sense that they were physically monitoring and manipulating the speed at which the film was projected (in order to keep the three screenings playing approximately in time with another), when Wet Gate performed with their sixteen millimeter film reels, they were literally creating something new right there in front of you - improvising as much with the projected light, as with the images on the film, at the same time they were manipulating the soundtracks to the same source material (using small samplers, connected to the projectors). It was nice to start the series with the Tape-beatles, and end with Wet Gate, for this reason. Here were two groups, whose film projectors were often used to define them, proving that it was how they chose to use those machines, along with their choices of projected sounds and images, which really defined their work as individual artists.

It was a beautiful close to a wonderful series of Plunderphonic events, and I was really really proud to have been a part of it. The next day at the Walker Art Center, Kembrew McLeod led a little discussion with The Tape-beatles, Wet Gate and Steev Hise, and all I can remember is that it was absurdly short. The group had only just started to warm up to the idea of having a discussion on a stage, when someone stepped in and said ok, thats all the time we have. There couldn't have been more than a 1/2 hour between their introductions and their thank-you's. But who can complain? We'd had three great evenings of excellent performances by six very different groups, united in their re-use of previously existing audio and video/film, and at least one very good recording resulted from having gathered so many like minds in Minneapolis. I will tell that story next.

By the way - now's a good time to say thanks to Nate Johnson for asking me to organize the shows! I really can't thank him enough for giving me that opportunity. Thanks Nate!

and thanks for reading!
Jon Nelson

Friday, November 04, 2005

2001 Sound Unseen - II


Back to the Plunderphonics section of the 2001 Sound Unseen underground film and music festival...

Its all coming back to me now. I've organized a few shows since, and its not really as exciting as it used to be, but that first one - three days at the Oak Street and Bryant Lake Bowl, meeting so many artists I admired - was really very exciting. I had taken about a week off of work and just spent the entire time arranging shows or hanging out with the artists. I just wish I had taken more pictures!

After the Tape-beatles performance at the Oak Street on Sunday, October 30th, we were all pretty excited to see Wobbly perform with John Oswald at the Bryant Lake Bowl - the next day. I pretty much knew exactly what to expect from Wobbly, having played his live recordings on Some Assembly Required, but I had no idea what John Oswald was going to bring to the table.

Plunderphonics is Oswald's term, by the way, pretty much exclusively. Though of course, like so many words, its becoming a part of the vernacular (like xerox, or bandaid, which were originally words used to describe specific products - we now use these terms to describe many similar products). We had a very interesting email dialogue about the history and definition of the term, in preparation for his appearance at the festival - and he did give us permission to use it as loosely as it was applied to this series: as an umbrella title for what all the sound collage artists (Tape-beatles, Escape Mechanism, John Oswald, Wobbly, Wet Gate and Steev Hise) were doing.

It makes sense, from the perspective of plunder=to appropriate, and phonics=sounds, as we all are all taking (appropriating) sounds from the media environment, to create new compositions. Historically, however, as Steev Hise put it so well in his introduction to the Plunderphonic section of that year's festival, "Plunderphonics," as John Oswald intended the word to describe his own work, refers to creations which utilize obvious "sonic quotes" from the previously recorded work of ONE specific artist at a time. So, say I sample three or four seconds from each of the 12 tracks found on DJ Food's "Kaleidoscope." The resulting sound collage would be "Plunderphonic." However, if I took that collage and added samples from the Avalanches, Big City Orchestra and Cut Chemist, the resulting work would be a composition which Oswald referred to as POLYplunderphonic - as it samples from more than one artists work.

I'm sure Oswald must feel honored to have his term used to describe the entire "movement," as it were. He's not the first to create this type of work, but he's certainly one of the most recognized names associated with it - which is why we were all so pleased to be peforming with him in the festival. I was particularly happy to have been able to arrange for Wobbly to perform on the same stage with him on Monday, November 1st, as the album Wobbly had just released ("Wild Why"), he had told me, was in fact inspired by Oswald and his album "Funky X." (It makes even more sense if you spell "Why," as "Y"). (sorry if that was pretty obvious!)

That night, Oswald took the stage first, and we were all treated to a rather dramatic presentation on Plunderphonics, by way of versions of his 1993 release, Plexure. The theater was almost completely dark as he lectured, and a very subtly evolving projection of a photocollage shifted silently behind him as he alternately spoke, answered questions and presented examples of his work. Wobbly went on right afterward, with the polar opposite of Oswald's presentation, in tone. Brightly lit and at a break neck pace, he pounded through a spectacular performance of his Wild Why composition, using three small commercial samplers, whose blinking "red buttons" were fondly admired by the Tape-beatles, et al, after the show.

There was a feeling of revelrie afterwards, as The Tape-beatles, Wobbly, John Oswald, Steev Hise and myself (joined by Kevin Karpinski, who had been shooting footage of the festival) took to the lanes next door at the Bryant Lake Bowl (the theater space and lanes are all part of the same small complex on Lake Street, here in Minneapolis). Some of us bowled barefoot, and we all drank beer, completely oblivious to the fact that the ball rack was slowly, but surely, overflowing. It turned out someone was sampling a new ball with every throw! How appropriate. Here are some photos, taken by the Tape-beatles, of our bowling match. I was the only one trying, apparently, as the scorecard seems to indicate.

Two events down, two to go (from 2001's Sound Unseen). Tune in next time. Thanks for reading!
Jon Nelson

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

2001 Sound Unseen - I

Ok, so back to a little history of the show...
I mentioned Mark Hosler came to Minneapolis to give his lecture/film presentation on Negativland in 2005. I've tried to bring a sound collage artist of note to the Twin Cites at least once a year, and have sponsored a few related events along the way as well. It all started in 2001, with the 2nd Annual Sound Unseen Underground Film and Music Festival. Nate Johnson (the festival's founder) contacted me in 2001, to ask me to curate a section of his festival. He was very interested in Plunderphonics, and the artists I play on Some Assembly Required and wanted me to put together a sort of side-show for his 2nd annual festival and, of course, I was more than happy to oblige.

So, in September of 2001, we presented the world premier of the Tape-beatles expanded cinema performance for "Good Times." Escape Mechanism opened the show with our final performance as Cast of Thousands with Escape Mechanism. That was a huge thrill. There were an awful lot of people at the Oak Street Cinema that night (including John Oswald - who would make an appearance later that week). "Good Times" was breathtaking and the crowd really dug it. It was an awesome way to kick off the Plunderphonics section of the festival, and it even made the City Pages A-List, that week.

I'm going to see if I can't finally figure out how to move photos into position around specific comments with this post, even if it appears that there is no way to title them... This is a photo apparently taken by the Tape-beatles, at the Oak Street Cinema, of the three film projectors utilized in their Polyvision, or Expanded Cinema, presentation of Good Times. Did I mention it was the world premier? Yeah, we were pretty proud of that fact.

So, Lloyd Dunn and John Heck each flew to Minneapolis with all of their gear from Prague, where they are currently living (They're both originally from Iowa, just one state away from Minnesota - a fact noted with chagrin, by Nate, when going over the travel budget!). Oswald had flown in from Canada that day (Sunday), basically just in time to see the show, but Dunn and Heck had arrived the day before, along with Jon Leidecker (Wobbly) from California, and all three of them joined me on Some Assembly Required. That was the first time I'd ever done a live interview with an artist (or group of artists). I nearly always pre-record and edit the many interviews I've done with sound collage artists for the show. So that was a very exciting weekend for me. I'd known Lloyd Dunn and Jon Leidecker for some time prior to the event, but this was the first chance I'd had to meet them in person.

Actually, thats not true - I forgot about a road trip I took to Chicago to see the Tape-beatles at the Empty Bottle. I'd gotten notice that they were performing nearby (My old stomping grounds are only about 6-8 hours away, depending on how strictly you follow the posted speed limits), and decided to go and see them perform. It was a smoky bar, but well attended and it was pretty cool to see, I think it was Grand Delusion, live, as presented by the band themselves. I literally drove down, saw the show and went right back up to Minneapolis. I suppose thats pretty common for people who live to see shows, but I rarely do something like that. I didn't even have time to look up any old cohorts. The only person I saw was a guy named Eric, who used to be projectionist at the Music Box Theater, where we both worked back when I lived there. No surprise to see someone so serious about film at such an event!

While they projected onto a large white bedsheet at the Empty Bottle, their performance at the Oak Street marked the first time they'd ever given a film presentation in an actual movie theater. A nearly sold-out show, in late September, with the smell of fresh popped popcorn... Gregg, Corey and I having just wrapped up our final set as a band... I remember sitting there watching the show and feeling very happy. Some of my favorite memories are in old movie theaters like the Oak Street. Dunn, Heck, Leidecker, Oswald and I all went out for pizza after the show, with some friends of theirs, to Pizza Luce on Lyndale Avenue. Good Times, indeed!

Oswald and Leidecker were to take the stage next, at the Bryant Lake Bowl, the very next day... But, I think I'll move on to the other shows in another post. I think I've gone on long enough for this one. thanks for reading!
jon nelson

Saturday, October 29, 2005

October 29, 2005: Halloween

Going to a halloween party tonight and I don't have a costume yet. Since I will be working at the restaurant all evening and going to the party right afterward, I thought I might just go as a waiter, but everyone says thats dumb. My other idea was to don a black wig, dig up my old leather jacket and combat boots, and go as myself when I was age 18. Everyone said that was stupid, too. I guess I just have terrible ideas for costumes! I never really liked halloween all that much anyway. I'm more of a Christmas kind of guy - sans most of the overtly religious overtones, of course, like the good little secular humanist that I am.

(The photo, by the way, is of Radio K's on-air CD library - I can't figure out how to caption the photos!)

Here's the playlist for this week's episode, airing here in Minneapolis on Radio K (AM 770, 106.5 FM, 100.7 FM and - jeez, did I forget any frequencies there?) This won't air in syndication for a little while. I think the syndicating stations are gearing up for the interview episode with The Bran Flakes but they're not all on the same schedule, so its going to be different, station to station. anyway, here's what folks in the Twin Cities heard this week on Some Assembly Required:

01 Avalanches – “Since I left you”
02 Lecture on Nothing – “Strap it on”
03 Dsico – “Block rockin’ woman”
04 Silica Gel –“Personal dream”
05 Cast of Thousands w/ Escape Mechanism – “Lets talk (Q and A)”
06 John Schnall – “God”
07 DJ Cal – “Wicked whatever”
08 Myeck Waters – “The strangest story”
09 DJ Jester & the Gellm – “Filipinofist”
10 DJ Talkback – “The return of scratching”
11 John Oswald – “Open”
12 Osymyso – “Girls and boys”
13 Splatt – “Caution: rafall”
14 Twink – “Three blind mice”
15 Steinski – “Relax”

I think my favorite thing this week was the mashup, "Wicked Whatever" by DJ Cal. Chris Isaak serenaded by Shakira = very nice.

In other news - Heather wrote from Louisiana, where she listens to Some Assembly Required on KRVS (Lafayette, LA) to let us know about a special event/opportunity for collage artists, as advertised in ARTNET Magazine:

OPEN CALL FOR ANTI-COPYRIGHT "ISLAND" IN SPAIN: Artists are invited to submit works to Copilandia, a "public art intervention" sponsored by the Centro de Arte de Sevilla for the Spanish cultural festival, "Seville, between Cultures," Dec. 28, 2005-Jan. 12, 2006. Setting up as a "copyright free island" in the city’s Guadalquivir River, Copilandia is loaded with
copiers, computers, a sound system and art materials and promises to multiply and disseminate all the submissions in order to promote "the free circulation of art and ideas."

The project is spearheaded by the art group Gratis, founded in 1994 by Victoria Gil, Kirby Gookin, Federico Guzmán and Robin Kahn and dedicated to promoting "the dissolution of intellectual property as an art medium." Send your easily reproduced prints, photos sculpture, painting, mail art, poetry, music video and photography, in analog or digital form, to Kahn and Gookin at 114 Mercer Street, #9, New York, N.Y. 10012, or by email to

Thanks Heather! Sounds like something worth checking out.
Gonna leave you with that. Thanks for the calls this week. Very nice to know you're out there listening!
Jon Nelson

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Retropost - PART V

10/26/05 - Part V

Alright! Last retro-post. From here it will all be fresh and current. Well, until its been sitting in the archives for a couple of weeks, and then it will read just like this. Way old news. Reading this post I recall the other reason I stopped posting to my as yet uncreated blog. I was seriously scrambling to find the money and time to keep the show going at all. Things have never been exactly all that profitable at Post Consumer Productions, but over this past summer they were downright scary. But I write all about it here...

(June 25, 2005)
Ok, so much for my dedication to this blog. Its been three weeks since I posted, and the fact of the matter is I haven’t ACTUALLY posted any of these messages yet. I’m getting up the nerve. My plan is to post a month or two’s worth all at once and then post weekly from there. Yeah, I have a plan. Right.

So the reason I’ve been distracted from the world of blogging…
I work a lot. My friends think I’m aloof (or just anti-social). They’re partially right. I do tend to keep to myself, but the fact is I work EVERY day. I haven’t had a day off (I swear to god) in months and months (not counting sick days – which happen all too often, because I work too much). At the moment, since producing an experimental radio show doesn’t necessarily pay the bills, I wait tables for a living. In order to crawl out of a bit of debt (just one of the more pressing piles, mind you – I don’t even want to think about what I owe for all that college I was told it was necessary to slog my way through), I recently scheduled myself for several weeks of double shifts at both of the restaurants where I currently work. It served its purpose, but man… 14 hour days, nearly seven days a week… and on top of that producing the show AND preparing for the next batch of episodes… Lets put it this way – I’m currently only working seven days a week, one shift per day. That feels like a vacation by comparison.

So, the other distraction was that our main underwriter wasn’t responding to phone calls, and I've since had to abandon hope that they ever would. A bit unsettling, as we relied on them to get the show out to all the stations which feature Some Assembly Required on their program schedules. I have a hard time believing they just dropped us, because they've been such a great supporter in the past - I like to believe that they would have given us some notice. Anyway, I'm not going to say the name of the company in question, because I don't want to make them look bad, but those of you who know who I'm talking about - if you have any idea what happened to them, I'd love to hear from you.

So, I’d been so focused on finding a solution to the burning problem (double entendre!) and just producing each week's episodes, and when I finally found a solution - my own CD burner! - in fact I didn’t even have enough to send out. There were enough episodes, but some of them were intended for later broadcast and couldn’t go out just yet, and there are some details to scheduling and etc, so the long and the short of it is that I had to quick produce two more episodes to round out the batch and then burn them all to CD and mail them off and etc... I guess this is kind of boring, but just imagine me at home in an un-airconditioned apartment, in an extremely uncharacteristically hot June in Minneapolis, after working several double shifts, scrambling to get extra episodes produced… if I sound a little out of it these next few months (in syndication), you now know why. I was going out of my mind!

So on top of all that! I’m also organizing two fundraisers for the show (thing have gotten extremely tight around here lately, and I love this show too much to just give it up). So I’ve been working with a couple of local venues and talking with artists and performing artists and whatnot, trying to put together shows which relate to the program and will pack the house. Lets hope. If you’re in Minneapolis, or nearby – reserve July 30th for a special show at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis. We’ve got local hip hop artists DJ Nikoless and his partner Plain Ole Bil, both of whom are members of the very prolific group of artists known as the Rhymesayer’s Collective, along with turntablist Andrew Broder, known for his work with the group FOG, right alongside DJ Lori Barbero, who is known for her work with the punk band Babes in Toyland – all coming together to perform on TURNTABLES alone, for the 2005 Festival of Appropriation, which is doubling as a fundraiser for Some Assembly Required. This is going to be an awesome show and you should definitely come down.

The visual art portion of the showcase (after all, the Festival of Appropriation has historically been just a VISUAL art show, and has only recently expanded to include performances) are all members of the Rosalux Artists Collective, of which I’ve recently become a member. I’ve asked past and present members of the Gallery to come and exhibit their works of collage, assemblage and mixed media. Confirmed at this writing are: John Alspach, Tara Costello, Jennifer Davis, John Diebel, Lucy Grantz, Scott Neff, Jonathan Nelson (thats me!), Kate Pabst, Amy Rice, Michael Sweere, Kate Van Cleve and Dave Whannel. This should be an excellent show in and of itself! With the performing artists, this is going to be the strongest Festival yet. I’m super excited…

There’s other stuff in the works. I’m too tired to go into it right now. Suffice it to say, this is going to be a busy summer. I really appreciate all the phone calls I’ve been getting lately, here in Minneapolis, in the studios of Radio K. Its great to know people appreciate the show! Please show your support by coming down to the Festival of Appropriation on July 30th.

So this has been kind of a boring post. All business. Okay lets personalize it a bit. I can’t think of anything. yikes. Okay I read the wrong liner today on the show which resulted in the shattering of my worst fear (that noone’s listening) - the phone lit up for about five minutes with people calling to say did I realize the date of the event I’d just announced had already passed? And some of them also said how much they liked the show. I should do that every Saturday. Here’s today’s playlist:

01 Basement Clash – “Magnificent Romeo”
02 Christian Marclay – Frederic Chopin”
03 Kid Koala – “Basin street blues”
04 Akufen – “Jeep sex”
05 RX Music – “Sunday bloody Sunday”
06 Lenlow – “Last night”
07 Osymyso – “Monkey to camel”
08 Jason Forrest – “Satan cries again”
09 Antediluvian Rocking Horse – “The third ore bit”
10 Dsico – “I want boys”
11 The Tape-beatles – “Concern about”
12 Lovecraft Technologies – “Frosty the snowman”
13 DJ Danger Mouse – “99 problems”

What can I say about this playlist – RXMusic is amazing. Is that really all Bush samples? If it is, I want to cry. It sounds as if they’ve plundered, word for word, from GW Bush speeches - all the necessary nouns, verbs, pronouns, etc to string together a cover song of U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday as sung/spoken/rapped by George W. Bush. If someone can confirm that this is 100% the case then I will be complete in my awe of this feat. This is amazing. I’m also a big new fan of Akufen. I’ve had their CD for awhile and it just didn’t grab me at first. It finally hit home recently. Brilliant. Jason Forrest is also amazing. I’ve got an interview with him coming up very soon on SAR. Stay tuned for that. Love that Frosty the Snowman track. Can’t say enough about the Grey Album (DJ Danger Mouse). Big fan of Antediluvian Rocking Horse. I met Kid Koala at a show we sponsored at First Avenue awhile back. He’s really laid back and cool. Very down to earth. That was nice. Lets see – Osymyso. Very cool – like to interview him eventually. Dsico is one of the first mashups artists to convince me that the genre was worth paying attention to (I know – how is it that I needed to be convinced??). Lenlow’s “Last night” is great. I really like their “Chocolate Cake Revisited” as well. Played that last week. Can’t go wrong with Christian Marclay and the Tape-beatles - keeping it real! There, I gave everyone a mention. I won’t do this every post. I promise. Okay I guess I’m done personalizing this. Did you actually read this far? YOU ARE HARDCORE.

Thanks for listening!
Jon Nelson

Retropost - PART IV

10/26/05 - Part IV

After writing three posts in a row, I seemed to lose inter est in writing a blog (probably because I was having trouble figuring out how to set up a blog account at the site I was originally intending to work with) and skipped a couple of weeks before posting the next one. I'll slip this short message in then, to remind you, if you're reading this, that if you're reading this to see what the playlists are from week to week, and I missed a week (or two) - you can go to the Some Assembly Required website to see the playlists from this week, all the way back to a couple of years ago. They're all there, along with a hefty links page, which I try to stay on top of. Feel free to get in contact with me to tell me about outdated links, or to suggest new ones, etc etc.
Thanks for listening!
Jon Nelson

Retropost - PART III

10/26/05 - Part III

Here's the third (of 4, or 5) unpublished blog posts, written prior to actually having a blog to post to...

(June 4, 2005)
Here’s this week’s playlist:

01 Negativland – “Escape From Noise”
02 Messer Chups - “Learning To Control Myself”
03 DJ BMC – “Country inferno”
04 Mr Dibbs – “Judeas Transmission”
05 Big Apple Productions – “Genius At Work”
06 DJ Shadow – “Would You Buy A War From This Man”
07 John Schnall –“Everything's Falling Down”
08 Kid Koala – “Stompin' At Le Savoi”
09 Jeff Sconce – “Joy Sinatra”
10 Lecture On Nothing – “It Means Nothing To You”
11 Myeck Waters - “Another Bible story adventure”
12 Unknown – “Closer to da club (50 inch nails)”
13 Negativland – “Happy Hero: The Remedia Megamix”

Ironic that I mentioned Negativland in my last post, and then this week played two tracks by them, making specific comments about having not given them the attention they deserve, as I actually produced this episode last week, at the same time as last week’s episode, and in one of my breaks acknowledged the fact that I hadn’t really played an awful lot of tracks by Negativland in the first two years of syndication. What I didn’t mention was why…

Although of course I’m a fan of their work, I specifically remember making a conscious decision to focus the show on a broad range of appropriation-based artists, and to give as much exposure as possible to artists who hadn’t made as large a name for themselves. Negativland, I figured, didn’t need the exposure so much, and so of course I’d play them but not as much as other artists. This was an issue, I felt, especially in the beginning, because the library was so small back then, by comparison. I remember I had built this wooden box with hinges and a clasp, and would haul it to and from the studio every week (I was the production director at Radio K at the time, so I didn’t have to haul it far – my office was just down the hallway - but it was pretty heavy). Since about 25% of the library were Negativland CDs, I was concerned that I’d rely on those CDs too often, so I made an effort to limit how much I played them.

Anyway - I’ve made similar decisions about other CDs. For instance, I try not to play more than two mashup artists a week – I don’t want the program to turn into a bastard pop show. I intend for SAR to stay focused broadly on the art of appropriation, across all genres. Anyway – I mentioned that I’d be going back over my playlists and determining what and who I’d been playing, trying to even things out a bit, now that the library has more than doubled. I’m excited about this third year. I think the mix should really be evening out. Turntable creations will mean more musique concret AND hip hop artists, tape manipulations/digital deconstructions will be an even broader spectrum of experimental, cut-ups and even pop music (including mashups, which I hadn’t even heard of when the show first started). Overall, I’m looking forward to a strong third year. There are some exciting interviews coming up as well. Lots of work to do.

Yawn. Its actually 2:30 in the morning. I just finished watching the Empire Strikes Back. Saw the new Star Wars film a few days ago and have been revisiting some of the other movies since then. I waited tables at my restaurant job along Lake Calhoun after the show today, and am exhausted. So I’m going to make this one a bit shorter and hit the sack. My cat is chasing a small furry ball around the room. I’ll take a picture of that for today’s image, then hide his toy (so he doesn’t keep me awake all night with it!) and go to sleep.
Pretty exciting, huh?
Thanks for listening,
Jon Nelson

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Retropost - PART II

10/26/05 - Part II

So here's the following week's post, from May 2005, when I started writing the blog, a bit prematurely... (By the way, that's Mark Hosler (Negativland) there, to the right, taken at the Oak Street Cinema in Fall of 2004 - story below)...

(May 28, 2005)
Here’s the playlist for this week’s episode of Some Assembly Required

01 Akufen – “Wet Floors”
02 DJ Riko – “Whistler's Delight (Full Version)”
03 DJ Babu – “Suckas (Sucka DJ Dis)”
04 John Oswald – “Anon“
05 Myeck Waters - “I love white things”
06 Fat Cougars – “Little ditty about superbike”
07 Jim Allenspach – “People like um”
08 People Like Us – “More Plunderblunders”
09 Eric Vessels – “Limbaugher”
10 Party Ben – “Fischervana (smells like emerge)”
11 Emergency Broadcast Network – “You Have 5 Seconds To Complete This Section”
12 Evolution Control Committee – “Nasha”
13 DJ Shadow – “You Can't Go Home Again”

I got some nice phone calls today. One was from a man who says he looks forward to listening to the show with his son. That’s awesome. I’ve been trying to get a feel for who listens to the show, and so far I’ve got it boiled down to three pretty distinct categories. Prepare yourself for some (obviously) broad generalizations…
1) Punks/Outsiders (We know who we are)
2) Artists/Art lovers (uh, again... we know who we are)
3) Kids (and again!)

I was shopping at the Wedge one afternoon (a Twin Cities food coop) and a woman came up to me and said she really liked the show (I forget how she knew who I was, by sight), and then introduced me to her kids, who looked up at me and shouted, in unison, “Only children can go down a bathroom drain!” I just about passed out, I felt so cool (the phrase repeats in a collage I made and played on the show). When the phone rings at the studio, it’s either from parents/kids, various members of the "counter culture," or other artists and fans of modern art. Or its someone accusing me of having lost my mind and insisting that I start to play some “real music.”

Which brings me to my second subject for this week’s blog entry. “Music” vs. “Audio Art.” When Mark Hosler was in town to give his film presentation on Negativland for Some Assembly Required and Sound Unseen, we had a friendly debate about this subject. He, like a lot of people I know, insists on calling everything "music," even if it has no rhythm or melody. That’s cool - of course - everyone’s entitled to their opinion. But I respectfully disagree. Keep in mind, if you haven’t figured this out yet, I’m a BIG fan of sound collage and am not trying to say that it’s not worthwhile, if its not entirely musical. I’m just saying that if you can’t dance to it, or hum along, why call it music? Music, unlike art, does have some basic guidelines. Why stretch the definition? Why not just call it art?

Anyway, I’m a fan of Negativland, and I'm sure Mark knew that, so he didn't seem overly defensive when I said I don’t always refer to his band, or the artists I play on Some Assembly Required, as music. I think I actually got through to him with this point: My “mission,” if you want to get lofty about it, with Some Assembly Required, has always been to expose people to my collection of unusual and beautiful recordings. Its up to me to try and be savvy about how to get people to listen. I can set up shop for an hour every week for a million years and no one’s going to listen unless I use some strategy in how I present the work...

One thing I’ve learned to respect is the power of preconception. One of my pet peeves is when I find a dramatic film in the comedy section at the video store, because it stars an actor who is a comedian. My personal review of the film is often seriously jeopardized by the fact that I have to first come to grips with the fact that it isn’t actually a comedy. That’s my concern when it comes to what to call what I play on the show. If I tell people to get ready to dance to this three minute text cut-up by Myeck Waters, or Wayne Butane, they’re going to crank the radio, put on their dancing shoes and then completely overlook how brilliant, and humorous, the relationships between all the cut-up fragments are, because they’re trying to figure out why I think they can dance to it. If it has a beat in the background, its musical, yes, but the lines are still blurry to say the least.

So I like to use the term “audio art.” Or as the FAQ page at the show’s website says… “I like to think of the program as a weekly art show. A lot of it IS quite musical, but that’s not necessarily always the case… Basically, while all music is audio art, not all audio art is music. That’s a good rule of thumb to keep in mind, when listening to Some Assembly Required.”

So that’s my rant for this week’s blog submission. Feel free to comment if you like. I think that’s a feature of this blog. We’ll see. This week’s image is a picture of Mark Hosler, taken at the Oak Street Cinema in October of 2004, right before his presentation at Sound Unseen. Makes some sense since I mentioned his visit earlier. And feel free to drop me a line, if you have questions/comments about Some Assembly Required or Post Consumer Productions. Specifically, I’d love to hear from you if you’re listening in cities other than Minneapolis. Let me know where you hear the show (city/state/station/etc). Thanks!

Until next week…
Jon Nelson

Retropost - PART I

10/26/05 - Part I

Okay - so I actually started writing this blog last May, before I had figured out how/where I wanted to post it. So what do I do with those old posts? I guess I'll post them here...

(May 21, 2005)
Well today I start my new blog.

From what I've seen of other blogs, I guess I'm feeling pretty free to just write how I normally write - free association, basically. Like a journal entry, but less personal. I've been keeping a journal since the 2nd grade, so this should be a piece of cake.

Since Some Assembly Required airs on a weekly basis (on college, public and community radio stations across the US and Canada), I'll probably end up primarily focusing on that week's episode. I plan to post the playlist and I'd like to do a weekly focus on artists who receive airplay on the show, but that all depends on how receptive the individual artists are to answering questions. If you get played on SAR, expect an email at some point this year, with a handful of VERY basic questions about you and your work. I'd like to compile a little collection of small bios about the artists featured on the show.

Here's what I played today on Some Assembly Required, in Minneapolis (on Radio K). Keep in mind that the shows don't air in syndication until usually a couple of months after they initially air in the Twin Cities, and when they do air in syndication, its completely up to the individual stations as to when they choose to air them (or if they play them at all, in some cases!), so there's probably not much consistency in scheduling. Contact your local station for more information about the days and times SAR airs in your neighborhood. Here's today's (May 21, 2005) playlist:

01 People Like Us - “OB & Cha Cha”
02 Cassetteboy – “Scrap Heap Services”
03 Kid Koala – “Drunk Trumpet”
04 Picasio - “Do you really like it”
05 The Bran Flakes – “No More Free Will”
06 Jason Forrest - “10 Amazing Years”
07 Christian Marclay – “Louis Armstrong”
08 Freddy Fresh – “Music For The Younger Set”
09 David Shea – “Track 18 (Let's Entertain, Disc 2)”
10 Cassetteboy – “Fred Horse “
11 Idiom Creak – “Jean Luke's Room”
12 The Who Boys - “Mr. Davidson”
13 Escape Mechanism – “Worship”
14 Brian Eno & David Byrne – “Moonlight In Glory”
15 DJ Danger Mouse – “Moment of Clarity”

I produced this show this morning on the way into the studio, which is how I usually do it, actually. I'll put together the playlist Friday night and lay out the order in which I'm going to play the tracks and then get up early Saturday morning and plan my breaks. A common criticism I've received in the past is that I don't talk enough on the air, so I've started doing more research to find more to say about the tracks being played, rather than just creating a playlist and back announcing everything. I've always enjoyed keeping it very straightforward, letting the work speak for itself (keeping my own personality out of the mix as much as is possible), but I can definitely see the importance of providing a little background on the work featured, so I've been giving myself more time to talk these days.

I guess I started this story with the idea that I'd share some pointless bit of info about the show each week, such as this one: I usually have it timed out right down to the wire and end up burning each week's episode to CDR with about thirty minutes to drive to the studio at Radio K. Well, this week I've been feeling pretty sick, so in my somewhat groggy state I accidentally burned a data CD instead of an audio disc and the reason the show started a few minutes late was because that’s about how long it took to burn the extra CD this morning! See? Pretty pointless little story, but maybe it sheds a little light on the show, or my life, which is the underlying feature of this blog, I guess -- and in the future I'll try to keep it more interesting!

This week's photo (above) is a collage I did a few years ago. In the future it will have more to do with that week's entry. Okay. Thanks for reading!
Jon Nelson

Sunday, October 23, 2005

October 23, 2005: History


OK! I've got the blog fever now, or something like that. I bet they have a word for it - the blog community at large, that is. Anyway...

Here's a little history about the show...
(By the way, the photo is a scan of the original promo card we put together for Some Assembly Required, in '99).

I started Some Assembly Required as a netcast exclusive in 1999. But to go back a little further than that, just briefly - I started volunteering at my college radio station (Radio K) in 1995, and had tried to get involved when the station first went on the air (to go back even further!) in 1993...

There was an alternative radio station in Minneapolis called KJ104 which went off the air right around the same time I moved back to Minneapolis from Chicago. As a big fan of the station, I was naturally pretty disappointed, and when I heard there was a new alternative radio station starting up (Radio K positioned itself as "alternative" the first couple of years it was on the air), I gathered up all my courage and attended a meeting about the new radio station. I was working at the Uptown Theater at the time, and a guy came in to ask if he could put up a poster about a film screening and "town meeting" about the new station, and the "state of modern rock" in the Twin Cities, and he gave me some tickets to the event.

After the film and panel discussion, I went up to ask about how I could get involved and was told I wasn't eligible because I wasn't a student at the University of Minnesota (I was a fine arts major at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design at the time), so I swallowed my disappointment and tuned in to the new station as it went on the air in October of 1993. Soon after that I moved back to Chicago to study photography at Columbia College, where I quickly changed my major to Production for Radio. I was actually more interested in exploring an old interest in sound collage than anything, but when I moved back (again!) to Minneapolis, in 1995, it was because I wanted to finish up my Bachelor's degree at the University of Minnesota, and the main reason I chose to go to the University was because I wanted to finally get involved at Radio K.

So - three years later it was 1998 and I'd been hired as Radio K's Production Director. I'd also just released an album of sound collage (Escape Mechanism - a project I had started back in the production department at Columbia College) and thanks to the internet, and a somewhat aggressive series of mailings, the record was being reviewed and I was starting to meet a lot of other sound collage artists on the web. We were trading records and eventually I had quite a library of "found sound collage," which is what I called it at the time.

Towards the end of the year, the station's founder and program coach (Jim Musil) left Minneapolis for Colorado and Radio K hired Mark Wheat (a DJ at KFAI, at the time, and currently a DJ for MPR's the Current) to fill the position of Program Coach. To introduce Wheat to the rest of us at Radio K, an all-station meeting was called, at which one of the topics discussed was the problem we were having finding DJs to fill the overnight netcast slots (Radio K goes off the air in the evening, as our AM signal would reach much further at night than it does during the day, interfering with license holding stations in other areas). One of the individuals in attendance was Radio K alum Simon Peter (co-founder of the station's local music showcase, "Off the Record"), who spoke up to remind us that back when many of Radio K's founding DJs were at WMMR, they didn't have any problem finding DJs who were happy just to be on the station's limited cable frequency, and that the potential for online listeners was much greater than that. This was what inspired me to start an online specialty show, and a few days later I met with our new programming coach, who supported the idea from the very beginning, and Some Assembly Required began as a netcast-exclusive specialty show in January of 1999.

Originally, the show was two hours long. During the second hour we mixed a live sound collage not unlike other live sound collage shows around the country. Freeform experimental sound collage shows, mixed live, have become a college and community radio tradition. A few obvious examples spring to mind: Greg Carr's "Technological Retreat" (KFAI - Minneapolis, MN), The Button's "Press the Button" (WRUW - Cleveland, OH), Kenzo 's "Ken's Last Ever Radio Extravaganza" (KOOP - Austin, TX) and Negativland's long running "Over the Edge" (KPFA - Berkely, CA). What set my show apart was the first hour, which was a pretty straight forward radio program, where the focus was on sound compositions by other collage artists.

As fun as that second hour was, the first hour was what really held my interest, and in 2001 I retired the 2nd hour and, concentrating on the first hour's programming, started experimenting with syndicating the show to other stations. It was at this time that Radio K decided to give me a slot on their AM dial, during the afternoon on Sundays, and we moved to Saturday's at 2PM, not long after that.

So, thats the story in a huge nutshell. Probably way more detail than most people would ever want, but if you're interested, there it is! Believe it or not, I actually bump into people from time to time who used to listen to us online and remember that second hour of improvisation. We used to call it "Live, Improvised Media Collage." As noisy as it often was, we took it very seriously, and would occasionally be asked to play out live. We performed at the Weisman Art Museum, the Walker Art Center, The Rogue Buddha Gallery, The Oak Street Cinema and The First Avenue Mainroom. I released a best-of CD of recordings from those public performances, called "Cast of Thousands with Escape Mechanism," in 2004. It's available at the Recombinations website, and there's more information about it at the Escape Mechanism website.

Alright, thats quite a long post, so I'll wrap this up for now. Thanks for reading about Some Assembly Required!
Jon Nelson

Saturday, October 22, 2005

October 22, 2005: First Post


This is the first post for the Some Assembly Required blog. Hi! My name is Jon, I'm the host and producer of Some Assembly Required, and this blog is an attempt to make the show's website a bit more personal. More interactive? We'll see if people comment or get involved. Who knows? It will also give me an opportunity to share more about the show and the work that we play, since I'm much more comfortable writing than talking. For those of you familiar with the show, you're probably aware that I spend a lot more time playing music/audio art than I do talking about it. This is partly because I'd rather let the work speak for itself, but its also because I'm not really the kind of person/DJ who likes to go on and on about things (well, not on the air at least!). I think I've gotten a lot better about this over the last couple of years though. If you were listening back when the show was first produced, you may remember the famously short breaks where all I said was what was being played. I've been slowly warming up to the idea of speaking my mind a bit more, and I think it is making for a better show. Hope you agree.

Anyway - I have big plans for the blog. One thing I'm hoping to start doing in January 0f 2006 - once I've mastered the basics here and am ready to start adding features - is an online archive of old shows. I'm looking for a place where I can put them, and the plan will be to upload a new one each week and provide a link to it here. I figure we'll start with the last episode of the 2nd year and work our way backward for two years, until the first two years are archived online.

Another feature I hope to work on is a weekly artist profile. I've already started emailing various artists who receive regular airplay, asking them to answer a few basic questions. The plan is to share those with you, via the blog.

My other goal is to start podcasting! I have no idea how to do this though, so hopefully I can find a mentor, or a good FAQ and have that project ready to launch in a couple of months.

In the meantime, to give myself something to do with the blog - to get started - I'm going to start the weekly posts with a little history of the show. This will serve as basic blog training for me - I'll upload images and create all the weblinks, etc - and at the same time provide a little background on the show for those of you who are curious. I hope there are a few of you out there at least! I'll start by posting this the way it is and then I'll edit it and add links and things. fun fun fun.
thanks for reading!
Jon Nelson