Frankenstein (1999)

L to R: Paul McCarthy, Joe Potts, Tom Recchion, Fredrik Nilsen, Alex Stevens. Photo by Danny Gromfin

L to R: Paul McCarthy, Joe Potts, Tom Recchion, Fredrik Nilsen, Alex Stevens in front of Mike Kelley’s Mobile Homestead at MOCAD. Photo by Danny Gromfin

Frankenstein (1999)

Presented here is a piece by Extended Organ recorded in 1997 and released on our 1999 CD, XOXO, which is now out of print. Extended Organ was formed in 1995 by Joe Potts, Tom Recchion, Paul McCarthy and me, Fredrik Nilsen, as an experiment in sonic interaction over a droning substate. Joe Potts provides an hypnotic, other-worldly undercurrent with his “Chopped Optigan,” a hybridized adaptation of a 1960s keyboard instrument that sources sounds from floppy optical discs. The group builds a music upon this substrate which moves through a sea of emotional currents. Though there is no conscious attempt to produce any particular mood, pathos, mirth, ambivalence, menace, and exasperation are expressed, sometimes simultaneously, producing something akin to a soundtrack for a nightmare. Through the decades that we have been playing together in a free improvisation format, we have developed instincts for how to play with and against each other, building aural structures and then undermining them. It can be an emotionally taxing experience which sometimes works very effectively and sometimes falls flat. It can also happen that, months or years later, we revisit the recordings and find them to work (or fail to work) in ways other than we’d first thought.

Extended Organ is a part of the Los Angeles Free Music Society (LAFMS), a sound and visual arts collective formed amidst the mid-1970s international DIY movement in which artists developed systems for self-production and distribution of works both material and ephemeral. It was during this early period that we, as members of the LAFMS, had studios in what was then the derelict 35 South Raymond building in Pasadena where artist Paul McCarthy also had his studio. Our parallel interests eventually led to collaborative experiments in sound.

In 1996, Extended Organ performed in the Oslo Rock Festival at Club Stratos on the roof of the Oslo Opera. Extended Organ’s set was followed by Sod and Sodie Sock, a collaboration between Paul McCarthy and Mike Kelley, and Extended Organ remained on stage to serve as their backup band. This experience led to Mike working informally with the group until he became a bona fide member in 2000. He remained with the group until his death in 2012. We now consist of Alex Stevens, Tom Recchion, Joe Potts, Paul McCarthy and me. We had the great honor to perform a “private ritual of an aesthetic nature” in tribute to Mike in the non-public, claustrophobic, maze-like chambers beneath his Mobile Homestead at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) in November of 2013.

The piece presented here is called Frankenstein and was recorded live in Tom Recchion’s living room, and mixed by Recchion and Andre Knecht. Joe performs on his Chopped Optigan while Tom uses tape loops, sampling, keyboards, and homemade instruments, such as his springboards. I play prepared guitar and Rheem Organ, and Paul is on vocals.