As you’ve probably already gathered, this is not your average ‘live album.’ To tell the story of Teach A Dead God New Tricks, we’ll need to reach back in time a bit.
In March of 2009, a twenty-something musician named Olson (username: Auto-Dichotomy) found the Myspace profile of a twenty-something musician named Morris (username: Uncle Mo You’re Sister Disco), and sent him a message asking to make some music together. Morris made a peculiar sonic beauty that Olson had never heard before, yet it seemed odd to say so, since the music felt so eerily reminiscent of something inside him, the way déjà vu harkens back to forgotten dreams. Morris’ music was a special kind of spine tingling. To Olson, it sounded like a melancholic fog encircling an electrical storm around a perfectly spiraled roller coaster, the screams of whose passengers were audible by dogs only, while the rapid clickety-clack of the wheels, the sputtering dance of the mechanics, was itself immutable even within the chaotic crackles of the storm’s outer shell. Morris replied with a yes, but there was a catch: ‘I live in the UK.’ Reading from his New York apartment, Olson stopped dead on that line.
For the next four and a half years, Morris and Olson created songs together exclusively by email. Morris would record an instrumental track of synths and beats (often so fully formed that it could already be a song on its own), then send it to Olson, who would upload it into the program on his laptop and layer separate vocal tracks on top of it. By this method alone, they created thirteen EP’s, albums, and single releases, totaling over ninety songs. If you included all the unreleased or yet-to-be-released material in their catalogue, the number would be well beyond one hundred. They did this not with a ‘breakneck speed’, but a calm desperation, a bright kind of need, and a relaxed precision. At the strike of a mood, songs were born; it just so happens, the mood struck nearly non-stop. When there’re no practice sessions, no rehearsals, no face-to-face contact of any sort (not even video chatting, for lack of up-to-date software on Olson’s computer), the band you’re in really does ‘exist’ solely in the songs themselves. Even once DA’s first CD was released with DIY Bandits, Morris and Olson’s relationship was still confined, in a very literal sense, to the ‘digital realm’.
In September of 2013, nearly half a decade after they first met, Morris and Olson met each other for the first time. With the help of the fabulous Klaus Funk, Morris equipped his laptop (aka ‘lappy’) to feed his own loops into a new contraption, the ever-lovin’ Launchpad, so that he could play a pile of DA songs without lugging his Korg ‘across the waters.’ Alongside Ali (of Golly Ghost fame), Morris arrived at Penn Station in New York City on the night of 4th September, a Wednesday. From the New York side of things, Olson, having locked his sights for several minutes on the only door they could possibly enter from, had turned his back for a second, knowing somehow that when he turned around he’d see Morris and Ali there, that they’d suddenly be standing in all their earthly, non-digital, completely physical, absolutely real, six-dimensional, scarily actual presence. From the UK side of things, Morris and Ali glanced over and saw the pony-tailed yankee whish around in sudden recognition of his visitors. That seems to be how they knew it was him. DiscoAbsurdo had planned a homecoming of sorts, an intimate, celebratory event to mark the occasion of our first physical meeting. On Saturday the 7th, we would perform about seventeen songs in front of a handful of East Coast US friends. We had two days to prepare.
On our first day of rehearsal, we walked to Astoria Soundworks and checked in at the front desk. The dark haired man leaned back in his swivel chair, confirmed our appointment under AJ Thirdo’s name, and showed us to Room C. Morris and Ali rigged two music stands to lay flat at the same level, so Morris could prop up his laptop and launchpad sampler. Ali would play Paparazzi from then on, laying deep within the studio’s hammock-like contraption (which we christened the ‘sex chair’) and flashing photos of the band as we set up our minimal equipment and began our first rehearsal ever. You’d close your eyes for a second, then look again and PaparazzAli would be on the other side of the room, crouching or twisting for the best shot. From the three mics available, Olson chose the dented one. While he meowed loudly into the mic’s tiny cave-like notch, Morris and Ali adjusted the vocal levels. The first set began with Promise Me. To get around her shyness, Morris had uploaded AJ’s vocals into his launchpad so we could play the song without her having to perform her parts. We stopped and started over maybe once, no more than a minute into the song. Then we took a breath and jumped back in. Nothing had ever felt so natural. It was like we’d been doing this for years. We went through each of the songs we’d prepared for, stopping only to have a smoke outside the studio. There was something so strangely easy about it all. There was little to no confusion about timing, we didn’t really throw each other off. We just did it. And it was smooth. Maybe because we’d been so used to doing things separately, we didn’t have to depend on cues from each other, counting one another’s measures, or having to be keen to moments of improvisation. We each knew what we had to do, and we just did it. There’s a weird sense in which we played fluidly because we didn’t think about it. We each gave the other their space, automatically. We each gave the other their confidence that this was a finished thing. Automatically. We were comfortable, Morris said, as we all sat on the cement outside and finished our cigarettes. Olson was surprised by the truth of it, stunned. But Morris had known even before he and Ali arrived. Maybe that’s part of why they came.
On the second day of rehearsal, the plan was to loosen up. Olson’s faithful neuroses began to show, possibly due to the pressure to live up to the previous day’s practice session. As on that day, we played fluidly, with Morris deciding the set list on the spot, each song flowing spontaneously into the next. We’d play the last parts of a song, then the melodies would quietly fade beneath the slowing tempo, and other, smaller melodies would start creeping in, sticks and stretches of something yet-unidentified. Then suddenly those crispy tingles of synth would show, and you’d recognize the ghostly birth of Majority Nothing’s opening riff, or the dissonant crackle of Hymn For The Unforgiven, or the soothing-and-frightening breeze of Part II, or the mysterious wind-chimey pulsing of Potential For Light’s Buddhist chant. It was the most excitement a band could ever experience: playing our own songs for the very first time, teasing the element of surprise by guessing the song while we began it. Although Olson had spent weeks prior to Morris’ and Ali’s arrival, rehearsing by himself in order to memorize his own endless words, he still stumbled during rehearsals. The calmer of the two, Morris consoled him with instruction to keep it loose, open things up if you forget a line or two, keep to the original but stay just as much in the moment. It worked well, but a lot of improv occurred. Olson memorized something he saw on a sticker in the bathroom stall.
On 7th September, Pepe and Lee arrived from Connecticut and we all hung out for a while, letting the Bandits and the Brits get to know each other. It was the day of our Communal Rehearsal. The setlist (in no particular order) was as follows:
Hymn For The Unforgiven
Part II: Transcribe The Fire
Super-Reified (MO’s ben-bot Remix)
Potential For Light Acts I-III
110 (Great Vapour)
124 (Twisted Addiction)
A Belongs To Z
And two yet-to-be-released tracks: ‘Start/Rupture/Depart’ and ‘CT (Dead Money. Bitter Hope.)’
That same day, we decided to add one more song, which even in our two days of practice we’d yet to rehearse. Sprung from the fact that John ‘Bootleg Johnny’ Gianfortune (who was so supportive and generous to our Potential For Light charity release) couldn’t make it that night, we decided to toss in his favorite song from PFL, ‘Everything And.’ While Morris loaded up the pieces of it into his launchpad, Olson gathered his pile of worn-paper words, then we all headed to the studio, stopping once at the UPS store so Olson could print out yet more words.
I think we opened the night with a fresh run-through of Everything And, since we’d practiced Everything But That. It went smoother than we thought, and the last-minute decision was enough to throw Olson somewhat off the path of trying-too-hard-to-get-it-right. Then we tore into what’s perhaps our most comfortably confident song to perform: Promise Me. Every time we’d start a new one after that, we’d look out and see another loving friend there, cheering us on. While Morris professes never to have had stage fright in his life, for Olson, a roomful of friends watching him sing was scary. That’s not entirely true. It was terrifying. But to hear DA’s East Coast Super-Friends hooting and hollering between each performance…for that screaming love, it was a little bit easier. That’s not entirely true. It was a lotta bit awesomer. Stomping through each track with the passion and precision we could never before express in person; slowly burning on the common physical ground we’d never shared; hissing and chopping and whispers all around the fire we finally caught together; howling and barking and tapping and moving and banging and twisting - entangling one another; flying through that roller coaster inside that electrical storm within that encircling fog, we were finally fucking audible. And there was no denying it – no matter how many adlibs or one-more-measures – DiscoAbsurdo had happened. To our beautiful friends who showed their loving faces, and to our gorgeous pals who supported from afar, DiscoAbsurdo Thank You. DiscoAbsurdo Love You. And DiscoAbsurdo Salute Your Awesomeness.
It’s fitting then, that the night we brought you all to witness the un-digification of an up-to-then digital band, the very evening we chose to prove our physical existence away from the world of electronic reality, was the same night digital proof would betray us, and we’d fail to properly record the event. The following day, realizing we had two very colorful discs with zero data on them (it was something rather ridiculous like, we hadn’t pressed ‘COMPLETE’ after stopping the recording), AJ Thirdo decided to book us one more go-round at the Astoria Soundworks. We hauled over for a fourth session that Tuesday, and recorded our setlist again, properly, with extra care and a heavy dose of love. Although our Super-Friends were not there to witness the Once More, we hope they will listen with the love they brought that magical Saturday night.
Being the best Nervous Nelly he could, Olson made several trips to the bathroom that day, where he kept seeing the same sticker pasted haphazardly on the wall, which he’d memorized from the previous rehearsals. It said ‘Dead Tricks.’ As stated afterwards, Olson’s logic went something like this:
‘Teach an old dog new tricks’
Dog backwards is God
Ali smoked a pipe like Friedrich Nietzsche
Morris had a Nietzschean moustache
God is dead
Between ‘dead’ and ‘tricks’ lay some hybrid of ‘God is dead’ and ‘Teach an old dog’.
On the sheet of thin paperboard that came with the fresh disc upon which they’d finally record the setlist, Olson wrote ‘Teach A Dead God New Tricks,’ and propped it next to him as they played through each track without stopping.
As Ali pointed out, it was weirdly that fourth session which tallied our total rehearsal time to 13 hours. Because it’s such a lovely, lovely number, we selected 13 songs from the session to share with you. We hope you feel the fear, desperation, and calm, seaside love that went into each. DiscoAbsurdo Are Obsessed With You.
Using the sheet of paper that said Teach A Dead God New Tricks, our new friend Selina Hope Borji created a series of images in her trademark Dovetail method – cutting and repeating an image with other images to create an eerie, sometimes cryptic visual story – from which we painstakingly selected the final cover. Selina Dovetail is an incredible artist with a unique vision, and we thank her for her beautiful involvement in this project.
What you hold in your heads, is an artifact from the DiscoFuture, an unpolished stone, raw and yearning, from the rubble of tomorrow's lesser days. This is the latest incarnation of DiscoAbsurdo: same members, same songs, same undying love, but with one enormous absence: the Atlantic Ocean. We are present, and we are human. These are the first fleshly-made DiscoAbsurdo tracks.
Experimental electronic duo who met online in March 2009, have not inhaled since. Synths, beats, guitars by Morris via
Norfolk, UK. Vox by Olson via NYC. After self-releasing several EP's, and rotating on UK-based Internet radio shows like BBC Norfolk Introducing, DA released an EP and full-length on netlabel Misspelled Records. Since 2012 proud members of the DIY Bandits collective family....more