BANDSPEAK, Boston Hassle presents, BOSTON/NE BANDS, Music

Bandspeak: Interview with Crank Sturgeon

Crank Sturgeon headlines SMFA Hassle Show 1/20


Q: What is your name?
Crank Sturgeon, mostly. Although other name calling has been overheard over the years.
Q: Where are you from?
New England, mostly.
Q: What labels are you associated with? RRR, Chocolate Monk, Fluxus MT, Cryptic Carousel, Bobby J, Mother Savage, Recordings for the Summer, Coherent States, Humbug, Tochnit Aleph, Mang Disc, Manufracture, Psychform, Ratskin, Solace Media Corporation, CNP, Readymades, HalTapes, Beartown, CNP, Deadmind… to name a few.
Q: Is there anyone else in your band?
Nope. I collaborate with folks here and there, but ultimately it’s a one person perturbable, mostly for safety reasons.
Q: How often do you perform?
A lot. Sometimes months at a time on the road, other times just in the barn, kicking stuff around.

Q:Where is your music available/How many albums have you released?

As of this writing, CS is a quarter century old, so an estimated guess would be somewhere in the hundreds. In terms of availability: a number of outlets have put the goo up on their bandcamps or wherever; other means — other networks — those venerable ones that put out physical formats such as cassette, CD, or vinyl, well, these nuggets tend to unearth in totally random locations that I’m not aware of nor have control over. I like that though. I prefer the latter over the E-Z button press download quest we’ve been suckered into, which at times can seem a bit too cocaine-y for me. That said, the inner-net has allowed me to archive heaps of gobstoppers over the years, so if you’re looking for a fine way to annihilate a Sunday afternoon, check out my website for a listen.

Q:Describe your project: For the purpose of fliers, I keep the tagline slim: Fisch-kopf Psychedelia.

Q:How did it come about?

That’s an easy one. The description was given to me by my Swiss friend, Pille. He just scribbled it on a show flier, maybe used a typewriter too, for good effect. I don’t think he had a printer or photoshop. It was like, in 2003 or something. Pretty unmemorable show, sad to say, but I like the word “kopf”. It’s like “cop”, but with an F.

Q:What materials do you use?

I keep stuff portable and easily accessible; an unspoken mantra that reverberates from traveling as a one person show. Cheap transducers, dryer hoses, business suits, packing tape, rosin, sharpie markers, string, and discarded magazines. It’s a marriage between thriftstore electronics and supermarket aesthetics.

Q:What is a sturgeon/Why is it your name?

A sturgeon is a common type of Volkswagen that’s had its headlights crossed with those of a lamprey, a length of ventilation tubing, and various interpretations of the Futurist Manifesto thrown in for good measure. It’s the name I chose when I turned twenty one and was getting ready exit college and inhale the fresh air of young adulthood. Being that sturgeon are sort of ossified entities — you know,  what with their elbow patches and monocles and penchant for collecting old bike pumps — I figured, why not? It’s like pretending to be Tom Waits, with that ancient craggy growl. I’ve never gotten tired of that voice, or the fish.

Q:What is the philosophy behind your work?

Crank is kind of a jerk, to be honest. I don’t mean to be a jerk, me personally, but Crank is my astrological moon and my employer, so I’m obligated to go along for the ride. To be clear, Crank‘s jerkiness isn’t to be a crank, per se, but to instill a tugging sensation. But it’s also a tall order, being a guy who wears a cardboard costume, to try and convince people that they’re somehow having an artistic experience. So, best to cover all bases and check both the yes and no boxes whenever possible. I suppose that would be the ethos, er, pathos too, maybe?

Q:Who is Buckminister Fuller/why important to you?

Whether or not this has any importance, Bucky was a charming mathematican from back along, who enabled Frodo to obtain the Ring. The two of them then went on to put out an ill-fitting line of menswear with had an oddly geodesic quality. I’m into weird housewares, sure, but Lloyd Kahn hit the nail on the head when he said, “mama don’t let your mathematicians grow up to be architects”. I guess that means, circles are cool and all, as is peace for all of humanity, but domes make for bad trousers. That said, Bucky seemed to know more than what was up back then. Read his book, Critical Path. Go on now… do it.

Q:Why do you do what you do?

After I’d abandoned all hopes in ever becoming a meterologist-marinebiologist-illustrator, I discovered microphones — condenser, transducer, electret, didn’t matter — I just knew that I had to get inside them. In doing so, I had this epiphany, particularly with piezos, that the center point for all sound, and thusly, the launchpad for everything curious, was to be found here, whether a stammer, a wonderful wack, an onerous or ominous rumble; that this thing, this sometimes embarassing way to go about life, was a perfectly humbling yet mystifying yet incredible way to ear the world. So, I resolved to make microphones and use what I make. Microphones are why I do what I do.

Q:Describe a live performance:

I usually arrive at a venue and immediately need to know where the bathroom is and where all the exits are. Then, depending on what I’m showcasing, I look for hooks, anchor-points, and squeaky chairs. Next, I try to discourage seating arrangements and dissuade the sound techician from creaming over their subwoofers. Afterwards, I go to the bathroom, or if there’s none provided, I look for nearby alleys, or behind the theatre screen, broom closets, what not, and try and get into my costume in a manner that is discrete. Following that, I’ll do a performance. Alas, I never really remember performances, just the long protracted buildup to the minute before I set foot out on stage.

Q:What’s so great about junk?

Junk isn’t anaesthetized.

Q:In what way does the city of Boston influence you, if it does at all?

Boston bore me. I don’t mean that it’s boring: oh no, it’s where Crank was born. Suckled and weened by the then-Massachusetts College of Art, in the preliminary years just before we were all engulfed by the world wide informational stupor highway, that skinny big-nosed contrarian was birthed. So? In a nutshell, Bossy town is my old stomp and where I cut my teeth. Back then, I used to be kind of “eh” about it, but nowadays I find that I have a kinder, gentler Jonathan Richman take on Boston. It has a grumpy charm.

Q:How did your Youtube videos come about?

They didn’t come around, actually, it was more of a necessity. People began uploading gigglingly-poor-quality mid-2000’s cellphone videos of my crap and so I begrudgingly joined them. I’ll be frank when I say that, okay, YouTube can introduce one to many many many good things — I love it, too, but in the same breath, I have a slight distrust for it (and most) third party platforms. Information can get pulled without a second’s notice, and worse, now that the crazy rightwing uncles have now learned how to stalk and menace people online, I find it safer to write letters and stick to VHS. But those videos keep trickling in…

Q:Who is Charlotte Moorman?

Charlotte was a rad cellist and artist that unknowingly set laws in motion which we now hold dear, those being the ones that protect live art/nudity from being prosecuted as a criminal act. Aside from that, Moorman did fantastic collaborations with a number of different artists — for me, her work with Nam June Paik really tingles the pineal tee-hee-hee gland.

Q:What (non-human) inspires you?

You know, I think it comes down to cats? Sounds wicked cliché, but cats, in particular, noisecats, are where it’s at: inspiring, lazy, highly critical — very Zen trickster, or so I’ve led myself to believe. But, truth be told, one never knows if a noisecat is going to release the claws, sit on your J-cards when preparing for a new release, or raise a furry eyebrow in acknowledgement that yes, this IS a very good field recording you’re both listening to. A noisecat’s outlook vacillates wildly. It should be understood that this can also serve as a path to enlightenment.

Q:Best performance you’ve seen:

I’ll stick to best recent performance, as my mind and memory are having an argument as to whether it was Metallica in 1989, Keiji Haino in 1996, or back when Id m theft able was using a motorized magnetic hockey rink/game in his show. I had the pleasure of finally catching Jeff Carey’s full-on solo set a few months ago. His stuff was simply, whoah: lightshow, Atari joystick controller, headbanging, yup. At another juncture in the not-too-far-off memory brambles, I’d invited Andrea Pensado to give a talk at a class I was teaching. The second her accelerometer-controlled ventriloquist doll came out was profound: jaws dropped, eyes wide in horror, mirth, glee, and incomprehension. Her stuff too, is up there in the whoah range, far beyond the realms of what can be a torpor-inducing musical genre.

Q:Some good sounds to hear:

The aforementioned noisecats, Jeff Carey and Andrea Pensado’s live shows, any sounds by Id m theft able, dragging a dry branch around the woods with a recorder; Ennio Morricone; the guitar mangling of Olivier DiPlacido, certain rocking chairs, Pierre Henri in concert; contact mic recordings of ice; Meet the Residents (of course); Captain Beefheart, Ben Patterson, sounds by Olivia Block, Jason Soliday, grain silos, subways, airports, spring peepers, Ana Maria Romano G, Charlotte Moorman, capturing the call to prayer on a tape recorder before dawn during a visit to Turkey in the mid 1990’s; and just listening for the sake of listening for the sake of listening (for the sake of listening).

Q:Favorite piece of literature:

James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake is my tippy top. It’s a language-busting perpetual tongue twisting chew toy; it’s also an exasperating read, and as a result I’ve only gotten to page twenty eight. So, I opt for lighter fare. Check out: The Blurring of Art and Life by Allan Kaprow; Shelter, by Lloyd Kahn; Silence, John Cage; McElligot’s Pool, by Dr Seuss; Eno/Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies; and the poetry of Tristan Tzara.

Q:Favorite artists:

It’s fun to list this stuff as it gets me thinking about all the interconnected pathways there are between visual and sonic artists. To my mind, these artists — past and present — all kinda jumble together, dance and coalesce and create hybrids that have and continue to have an impact of how I see things. So, in no particular order: Max Ernst, Kurt Schwitters, Antony Gormley, Fritz Welch, Karen Constance, Nick Cave, Marcel Duchamp, Patrick Corrigan, Yoko Ono, Tony Oursler, Donald Burgy, Empty Set Projects, Micha Barthel, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Francis Alys, Dadaism, Spindleworks, and Hieronymus Bosch.

Q:Some advice for aspiring experimental artists:

I would say try not take things too seriously. At the same time, it’s important to understand that being an artist is very serious business.

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License(unless otherwise indicated) © 2019