We catch up with musician and sound architect Eric Hall, after an afternoon shift behind the bar at
Mangia Italiano. Chatting about various and sundry topics, we catch up on some of his past-tense projects (Third Lip Cabaret, Phonophobia on KDHX), continuing works (Massamalgam) and even some picks on top area bands. Of course, that list is an eclectic one.
On Third Lip Cabaret: That was actually started by a friend of mine, Mike Marwit, and some other friends.
It began as Third Lip from the Sun. Did a couple shows in warehouses Downtown, and a couple at the Midtown Arts Center. It disbanded and Mike and I put ideas together and put on the Third Lip Cabaret. It was originally performance art, pretty extreme stuff. Short sketches of very intense personalities. Some of it was very cool, some downright frightening. In warehouses, that kind of thing can fly. (With Third Lip Cabaret) we brought in more music and made it a more dynamic experience than the full-on experience it had been. Trying to focus on each event having a broad selection of music. As that started happening, I was meeting more and more fantastic folks. And collaboration started to exist. There didn't have to be separate factions of genre-fanatics. We started having people not only on the same show, but on the same stage, at the same time. Some of these relationships were interesting, but didn't stick. Others stuck like mad. That's where Massamalgam came from, (Mark Deutsch) and I doing that. Some other stuff with Dave Stone. It grew from there.
On Massamalgam: It started out at Cicero's. But they only had a certain capacity and a certain stigma in the community already, catering to the jam bands. Casey from the Galaxy came up with a generous offer; we had a wish list of things we didn't expect to happen and they did. It was a great opportunity. We've done a lot of holiday shows, like last Thanksgiving, which was a blast.
On how things happen: Another night with Deutsch wasn't planned. I just happened to bring along all these effect boxes and a big box of children's toys. Mark and I sat on the floor with our legs crossed, surrounded by all these toys, microphones and boxes. We did these weird children's noises and stuff. That wasn't planned.
On work with Chris Deckard: I've done a lot with Chris, a lot live and not recorded. Some studio stuff together. One thing never got off the ground because the money didn't happen, but I was putting together a soundtrack to a book, which a friend was putting out. That's the first time we worked together. Chris was going to put the text into lyrics. We decided to have him not read it. We recorded drum and guitar tracks, then he read from the book and made music from it, without knowing where the next line was going. I just did the In Spite of Sustenance thing. For me, it seemed easier to record at my place, in my studio. He brought a DAT machine over and did it there.
On growing up with gear: The typical story: I'd break shit, just to see what it'd do. The first memory I have of trying to play music was just hearing hip-hop at five, six. I'd heard scratching on records. I didn't realize how scratching was done, so I took gravel and destroyed my Smurfs and Popeye records. I figured that's how they got those sounds. I kept doing that and destroyed my records and my folks' turntable in the process. I'd bring in my parents' turntable and my turntable and play these weird skipping records together and record them into a dictaphone, making accidental collage. And doing atmospheric stuff like dogs barking, playing in the pool, whatever.
On the KDHX show: We did that for a long time. The worst shift possible, 3-6 a.m., after Gabriel's show. It became a full-time job. We'd spend 40 hours a week in the Pagoda making tape loops and tape delays. We did sound collage, but had very strict rules about it being improvisational. Half the time we didn't even know what we were working with, pulling sounds at random off of satellite feeds into the mixer. More than half the show became this improv, using everything they had there: tapes and reels, carts, turntables, a piano in the other room. Just a lot of stuff with throwing mics into the garage, where you had shelves and metals and we'd do percussion work in there. We'd open the phone line and have people hang the receiver over the phone and do their own things. People really started participating in that. They sent in weird, old spoken word tapes, tons of preachers.
On what's next: When I finish a couple other projects I'm going to work with C.D. Stelzer and Chris Deckard on a project called the Texas Schoolbook Depository. The primary source of material will be the hundreds of hours of taped interviews Carl has with people on conspiracy theories, UFOs, Sasquatches, Art Bell-spinoffs. We'll use all those and collage with that stuff. And a lot of music. Carl plays guitar really, really well. Chris can play anything you put in front of him. I'm getting pretty honed at manipulating found noise. It'll kinda go like that. We'll do that on KDHX with Brett Underwood and on KWUR, can't remember the name of the show.
Recommendations: Grandpa's Ghost never ceases to blow me away. They've got such a wide sound, but a focused aesthetic. They can play something they've never played before and it still sounds like them. I don't know many people that can pull that off. There're a lot of fantastic DJs around. DJ Ses, I've worked with him a lot and am showing my bias, but he's pulled off some incredible stuff. He claims he doesn't have the scratching skills anymore, but at a point, he could really pull off the tricks. And he's a great mixologist. DJ P out of Columbia does good stuff. Device, Mike 2600, the Litterthugz... what they've got going on is really expressive. Ptah Williams is always doing great stuff at Riddle's. Actually, I've been getting into a guy, Jim Baltz, who started off his own label. Did one show together where he did a set, I did a set, then we did one together, which was kinda wild. He does really cool stuff. I don't see a lot of electronic artists that do it live. They'll do it in their bedrooms, then put it on the net. But it can hardly seem worth taking your stack of machines down to a club, when you can get the same atmosphere from a turntable. Deckard has a handful of cohorts always doing good stuff. I'm trying to get over my phobia over guitars. But you've got Fred's Variety Group, Highway Matrons. The new Julia Sets record is really great, too.