GunFlower (Audio from Everywhere)
The Indefatigable Neural System (Electronic Beats + Remixes)
The Devil in Black / MRP (Hip-Hop)
In 1993, at the age of 17, I used my Macintosh computer to create a remix of "Spider" by They Might Be Giants. It was noisy, chaotic, and messy. Euphoric, I recorded it onto a cassette tape and raced over to a friend's dorm room, where I forced him and several unlucky bystanders to listen.
Emboldened by their not-completely-annoyed reaction, I spent the next month feverishly slicing more bits and bytes together. I used a horrible keyboard I bought at Wal-Mart, and a program that broke sound files into digitally corroded walls of noise. The result was a crazy mish-mash of static, sound clips, and silliness. I called the album Neural Jack, and for some reason chose the musical nom de plume GunFlower. (It mixes the beauty of nature with the violence of modern technological militarism. Or something.)
In the twenty years that followed, I created more than fifteen albums. Because I've used lots and lots of copyrighted material, I've never sold any of this music. I recorded most of it onto audiocassette tapes and forced them into the palms of friends and comrades.
I slowly developed a kind of musical skill over the years, although to this day I consider myself more a sound engineer than an actual musician. My biggest problem from the early years has been a blindness to the boredom of repetition. When I found a good clip or loop, I just copied and pasted eight times and 30 seconds of the song was done!
When I matured enough to make music that could stand by itself -- without sound clips from TV, news, and movies -- I used the name The Indefatigable Neural System, or INS. (I was inspired by the electronic world-beat artist Banco de Gaia, whose name means "World Bank". Using names that mimic powerful institutions allows us to call attention to their excesses.)
Eventually I started writing hip-hop lyrics and making albums of mixed-quality rap music. Someday I plan to put together a new album of hip-hop stuff, but for now it's just singles and whatnot. Originally I used the name The Devil in Black. (cf. George Carlin's amused appreciation for the term "devils", along with an acknowledgement of the white supremacy that lingers inside all of us. Plus I wear black a lot.) Lately I like "MRP" better, since three-letter pseudonyms are cool (DMC, ODB) and my students call me Mister P.
All of this music -- especially the GF and DIB stuff -- is made in the spirit of resistance to violence, injustice, and oppression. As Public Enemy famously said: "If you're down to fight the power, here's the power to fight." I believe passionately that music can inspire others to take action, and together we can make a better world.
Most of the music from those early years is not worth preserving. Many of the files on this page were digitized from audiocassette tapes (some of which were duplicates of duplicates). Apologies are offered for poor sound quality. Regardless, here are some of my favorite tracks from Back in the Day™. Enjoy.
Inspired by remix masters like Negativland, EBN, Consolidated, and Meat Beat Manifesto, I used GunFlower for culture-jam political statements and general audio-style fun-making. While I haven't made any GF stuff in a while, 2000's This Album... still holds up pretty well. (If you think the early GF tracks are noisy, you should hear my album of actual noise music, Magnetic Damage Onslaught.)
Inspired also by The Jerky Boys and Bart Simpson, I included prank phone calls on some albums -- to religious institutions like The 700 Club, or (on This Album...) Wal-Mart.
This collection gathers the choicest bits -- the least repetitive, the most diverse -- from my early culture-jam audio-collage work. Because my soul was filled with angst due to violence and political injustice, there's a lot of distortion and noise. I was really deep. That's also why there's some bad words along the way.
I also drew heavily from the people around me. Some tracks ("What They Said" and "Language Bypass") were distilled from messages left by friends on my answering machine.
The title of this collection (like the eponymous song) came from a shirt I got from a friend who worked at a sign shop. He made an error during printing; rather than throw it away, he gave it to me. In order to give the shirt meaning, I named a song after it. (On the back of the shirt, I wrote in fabric paint: "Energy begins to flow".)
After the messy incoherence of my first two albums, I put something together that was slightly more coherent. Still muddy and noisy, I wrapped this in audio from Orwell's 1984 and included some instrumentals along the way. The bonus track on the Highpoint Steel Erectors compilation is a review of this album.
Individual tracks aren't worth splitting, so it's available as two files.
I've been involved in the solidarity movement for East Timor since 1995, when I became the newsletter editor for the East Timor Action Network. (If you don't know about East Timor, check out this multimedia presentation.)
Most of this album holds up pretty well, and that's why so many of its tracks are in the HSE compilation. Still, there's some other good stuff too -- including an homage to the video game SoulBlade, which all of my friends were playing at the time.
Individual tracks aren't worth splitting, so it's available as two files.
My last GF project (as of 2016), I still enjoy listening to this one on a regular basis. I finally learned to temper repetition with variety (at least in terms of samples), and kept the dark distortion to a minimum. I spit some hip-hop lyrics on one of the tracks here as well. They're not great, but they're decent.
Three of the tracks ("Political Garbage", "I'm A Recording Artist", and "All About Spirit") feature audio recordings from a fan-focused chatline run by the singer Debbie Gibson, who (I learned) prefers the name "Deborah".
Inspired by eclectic electric beatsmiths like Aphex Twin, Orbital, and Omni Trio, I've used the INS name to create breakbeat stuff that is less abrasive and more accessible than my GF work. Some stuff is more aggressive (dot com post is pretty noisy) while other projects (especially Automatic Transmission) are more ambient.
The first INS album (Data Psychle, a good title I think) was messy and rushed, but I'm still proud of my sophomore effort. I relaxed my pacing and learned to avoid overloading every measure with more more more. I couldn't keep my mouth shut on "virs", and it's probably my least favorite of the bunch. Still, I listen to this album on a regular basis even now.
Remixes are fun to do, and they don't require coherent collections in the form of albums. Here's a collection of my favorites, including remixes of the Simpsons theme song, Prodigy's classic "Poison" (which I entered into an online remix contest, and won a signed copy of Music for the Jilted Generation), Orbital, Daft Punk, The Breeders, and Ani DiFranco. Underworld's "Born Slippy" is a favorite of my wife Diane, so I remixed it for our wedding reception on 07/07/07.
I've also remixed music from friends of mine, including Jesse Greist, Robert Lecusay, and I guy in Florida I met once named Hayden. One of the best ways to pay tribute to another person's music is to remix it.
I'm also including here the three mixes I've done of my own track "Get Down, Get Funky", which have appeared on different projects.
Finally: My remix of The Beasties' "Get It Together" isn't great, but in the middle of that track you'll find a collection of my New College friends responding to the "Phone is ringing" line. (The fun begins at the 1:00 mark.)
This is my ambient project, inspired in part by the Instinct Ambient Series. It's pretty repetitive, but there are some nice melodic elements going on here. In between each track is a mini-loop of 30 seconds or so. A little sonic sorbet or whatever.
Individual tracks aren't worth splitting, so it's available as two files.
Tim Robbins' 1992 movie Bob Roberts is the greatest feature film ever made about politics in the US. (The Eddie Murphy comedy The Distinguished Gentleman -- which came out in the same year -- is second-best.) Unfortunately, the excellent music in the movie (written by Tim Robbins with his brother David) was never released as a soundtrack. I heard this was because they didn't want conservative idiots who miss the irony to celebrate the songs for the wrong reasons. Who knows.
So I made my own versions of all the songs in the movie, along with some instrumentals and sound clips. I'm not a singer (and certainly my voice isn't in the same galaxy as Robbins'), so what you hear is a kind of jaded musical talking. Then I made things worse by dropping my voice in the mix and adding obfuscatory effects.
I have dreams of someday remaking all of these, perhaps with an actual singer doing the vocals.
Another collection of breakbeats and remixes. The excellent singing in "So Funky" comes from the New College Slavic Vocal Ensemble, whose musical talent I could only ever admire from a distance and then digitally mutilate for my own covetous purposes. Also: I spit lyrics on "Directive Four"; while the obnoxious echo effect makes the words inaudible, I think the overall sound of the track is decent.
Many years ago, I met a guy over the internet named Tom Purdue. We both made electronic music, and swapped tapes through the mail. Soon afterwards, I received a tape called EnSPired, containing remixes of tracks from Decibel Continuum. I was shocked and flattered to think that my music had made an impression worth remixing. (Tom was a founding member, with me, of the IEMC.)
For a long time I thought about remixing Tom's music, to repay the favor. I didn't get to it until 2000, when I made this collection from his album Wild. With these works I hope to demonstrate the respect and admiration I have for Tom.
70 minutes of breakbeats, noisy samples, and funky-ass basslines. This was something of a breakthrough project for me. Whereas Decibel Continuum marked a plateau of more mature music, this project demonstrates my acquisition of something like an individual style of composition. It's still chaotic, but I managed to put down some groovy tracks -- especially "track nine" and "nexus". I also think it ends well with the Bill Hicks-tribute "this illusion".
After 9/11, the administration of George W. Bush tried to soothe the panicked American people with banal platitudes and illusory promises of official omniscience. That circus sideshow was the thematic inspiration for this album; I also made this animated sampler.
This album was the first I created with Apple's GarageBand program. Previously, I had been using audio editors which work much like word processors -- copy, cut, and paste of waveform files. GarageBand made the process much easier, but the sound is also more generic (since I used very few outside samples). This album was basically a test run to see what I could do with these new tools. The results are decent, especially "Funky Alarm" and the oddly upbeat "Recovery".
Another little batch of beats and synths. This one contains zero outside samples. I especially like the relaxed melodies and rhythm of the final track.
I've been a fan of hip-hop all my life, and I've been writing lyrics since I was 10 years old. While my earlier projects were influenced by rap groups like Public Enemy, Paris, Queen Latifah, The Coup, and EPMD (especially "Poom Poom" on Blood Type), I didn't feel comfortable making an actual hip-hop album until 1999.
One reason is my awareness of white privilege. There's a tendency among many white folks -- including plenty of white hip-hop heads -- to believe that, so long as you're not burning crosses or wearing blackface, you're free of white supremacist contexts. I didn't want my music to reflect such obliviousness. If anything, I veered with early projects into the opposite side of the spectrum, infusing some songs with tedious overbearing anti-racist dogma.
Another reason I was slow to make hip-hop music is my voice. I've never had a voice that sounds at home in hip-hop; well, not the hip-hop I listened to growing up. So I tried to camoflauge and downmix my vocals, with mixed results. As I get older, my voice sounds better, and I've found more sophisticated ways to make it fit.
The first dib project took didactic dogma to new levels, and while I agree with the content 15 years later ("Do you wanna be just another devil?" on the title track), some of the aesthetics here make me cringe. Still, there's some funkiness to be found on tracks like "Economic Boom" and "Vocab Rehab".
As with Pride, I tried to disguise my white-bread voice with echo and filters. The musical production is pretty good, I think, especially on the second half. The closing track is heavily influenced by the Saul Williams movie Slam. The album's title comes from a chapter in Howard Zinn's classic book A People's History of the United States.
One year later I put together another collection of rhymes. This project contains some of my best lyrics from early days ("Late to bed, early to rise / Is how the revolution grows, expands, and multiplies"), but also some of my most cringey monents -- especially the dumb vocal style on "Raising Storms" and my silly attempt to be a fifth demon. (RIP Evan.)
Meanwhile, I hit upon some good themes in "Four Wasted Years" and "The Economy, It's Stupid" and "Zombie". There's more cursing here than usual; sorry about that. Still, it's relevant on tracks like "Fed Up".
Once I started teaching in 2000, my time for creative projects plummeted. Suddenly I had to spend all my time planning lessons, grading papers, and recovering from the exhaustion of a high-energy style I used to engage the students who preferred to sleep through life.
I kept working on hip-hop, however, much of it now focused on how and why I teach. In a way, this is nothing new -- the same political inspiration that I put out before; the only difference is that I now had a captive audience (and pedagogical standards that I had to meet along the way).
I intended to make this a full album, but after 10 tracks other things just got in the way. I've decided to draw a line under it and just make it available as is. The sound quality still isn't great -- tracks 1-6 were done with the old sound-editor software, while 7-10 were done in GarageBand. On the other hand, these tracks demonstrate my maturity of vocal production and thematic development.
The clips from "All Your Base" are ancient history by now, of course, but listeners of my podcast Didactic SynCast will recognize the chorus of "So Powerful". Also note that "The Drive-By" is a metaphor for the 2003 US invasion of Iraq.
Over the last ten years I've made a variety of hip-hop tracks, mostly about video games and assorted personal interests. I'd like to put together something more coherent, but right now it's just not a priority. (Aside from teaching a full schedule, I sponsor three clubs, work on East Timor projects, record a weekly video game podcast, etc etc.)