Friday, April 22, 2016
Negativeland Co-Founder Passes
Richard Lyons - I didn't actively know his name until last night. I was stranded in W. LA due to nightmare-level traffic, sitting at a Coffee Bean writing about Prince's death when the following text came through:
Much like a lot of Prince's later work I hadn't kept up with Negativeland in a while. The last piece I saw/heard was the Deathsentences of the Polished and Structurally Weak and that was in 2002 while recording at the wonderful Apocalypse Cow recording studio in Montgomery, Illinois where proprietors the Brooks Brothers brought me up to speed on the then-latest NL project. But Negativeland's work takes time to appreciate and that's something I've had considerably less of over the fifteen years since. Even with a record store like the pretty much all-encompassing Amoeba relatively nearby I just haven't kept up. That however, does not change the fact that Negativeland - the group Mr. Lyons helped co-found, released a handful of albums that I did encounter in the past and that had enormous impact on my life, mind and art.
The first of these was Helter Stupid, which I seriously cannot recommend enough. That said, what Negativeland does isn't exactly music so you have to reasonably curate how and when you engage with it. Think of this more as media-splicing/sound collage with the intent of deprogramming some of the more residual and insidious modern day marketing shrapnel that gets lodged in our circuit boxes just by driving past billboards, catching a few moments of television while sitting in the dentist's waiting room or suffering through even a few small moments of terrestrial radio while in the office.
Helter Stupid, in true NL fashion, samples the group's "breakout" track - I'd imagine they'd laugh at that - Christianity is Stupid. This made a HUGE impact on me at the time, and it's confrontational yet hilarious delivery very much influenced a project Mr. Brown and I did in the early 00s - C-Building Kids.
Brown took to the group even more than I did, and scooped up the group's descertation on the 'cola wars' and advertising in general, Dispepsi pretty much the day it came out. This one was in heavy rotation in our rehearsal space; at the time we were in a band called Schlitz Family Robinson that actively tried to incorporate strange recording techniques/samples/sonic detritus into our sound and Dispepsi opened up all kinds of new doors for us in that regard.
Richard Lyons and Negativeland helped further introduce me to new and left-of-center ideas for what 'music' can be, or maybe more appropriately what a band can be. Hearing about his death - and holy cow two other members of the band having also passed on since 2015 - has left me feeling a little bit older than even the Prince exodus did.
Read all about Richard Lyons in a great article on Consequence of Sound here and enjoy Christianity is Stupid below.