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AN INTERVIEW WITH GRANT CORUM
Grant Corum runs Psychic Sounds label and is a member of Million Brazilians and Timelash and performs solo as Universe B.
What is your introduction into music? What are some of your first memories?
The most important moment I can think of is when I moved from the Midwest to New Hampshire. I was 8 years old. There, I had some friends that started a tape label. We started collecting sounds from a boombox at school or at each other's houses. We'd use clips from records, television, video games, and Mad Magazine. B. Kliban's Never Eat Anything Bigger Than Your Head was an inspiration.
It was adolescent humor. We wanted to collect and have this because there wasn't the internet at the time. Whatever was on the tape was the gold. When I moved back to the Midwest we kept the tape exchange going. The series was called Weird Mix, each had its own title. Weird Mix Goes to the Shoe Store, Weird Mix Edits Total Chaos, and so on.
I met some other friends in the Midwest around the time I was 10 or 11 and we started to develop bands, commercials and interviews that were all fake. It was in our universe and I got to do the artwork for it. I think we had about 11 volumes and then it fizzled off. Some of my friends started playing real instruments and joined bands.
Then I moved to Kansas City to study graphic design and it was there that I started to go to underground shows. There was a jazz scene that was incredible. There were currents of experimental music coming and going across the United States. It was abrasive, intense, creative music. It started to morph my brain into what possibly could be and how to be more involved in that.
I've always been into sampling at that early age. Once I figured out how to apply that into a live element it got exciting. I started thinking about collaborating with people in different ways. You could put these battery powered amps out in the alleyway and have a show.
What was some of the equipment did you use when you were a kid to record?
At that time Home Alone was going off. Talkboys were portable handheld recorders that you'd you use with a regular sized tape. You could swap it into a boombox. There were cool effects like slowing the volume down.
Did your parents have any influence on you growing up?
I was a kid in the mid 80s, there was residue of their collection in the 70s. I remember looking at artwork from an Elton John record. It looked like a really scary creature on it. It was really psychedelic. I was into the artwork more than the music at that point. They weren't really listening to records at that point. It was tapes and CDs.
What was the underground scene like in Kansas City while you were there?
I worked at the Linda Hall Library. It was a non profit library that was founded by the Hall family to make Hallmark cards. It's located in the middle of the campus but privately owned. It's this massive crazy labyrinth, it's one of the largest collections of science documents in the world. I worked in the basement there. I was a page so I had to go find some strange science document that had to be brought up to document services to be xeroxed to be sent off to NASA or wherever.
Document services had a few cats that had been there since the 80s and they were into experimental industrial music. They asked if we had checked out Peter Christopherson, Hunting Lodge, or Throbbing Gristle. I was familiar with Ministry and some of the Wax Trax! label but this was more obscure stuff. Big Black and really nutso stuff. I got turned on to some of that. Those guys had been going to shows around the area like Tulsa, Kansas City, and St. Louis.
A friend of mine had started a gallery called Your Face with a few of their friends and they started having interesting shows. Black Dice when they were in Beaches and Canyons phase, Wolf Eyes, Neil Burke from Men's Recovery Project. There was this real offshoot project called Broken Spindles. The Shun, which was a few peers of mine. Lightning Bolt. All these bands were coming through on a DIY level. It was a very wild time. Shows were crazy and bizarre, dangerous.
What was one of the craziest shows you went to?
I don't know if I could pinpoint the craziest show I went to. I remember one we performed at. There was this trio I had gotten involved with using sampling called Curse of Dick Wilson. We would come up with these ways to capture the spirit of the night. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it totally bombed. That is the nature of an experiment. We had brought a kiddie pool in front of the stage and filled it full of water and had wrapped my friend up in nothing but saran wrap, calamine lotion and Christmas lights. It was my bandmate, but he was christmas lights, saran wrap, then he wanted calamine lotion poured all over him. It looked pretty bizarre, he was plugged in and everything. There was a knife on stage, I don't even know where that came from.
We had doused these meats in lighter fluid and had them dangling from a spun out metal thing. The music started to swell and it got kind of nuts. People were jumping into this pool and water was splashing over. Meats were being lit on fire and thrown up in the air. It's this huge place with 30 foot tall ceilings and the meat was hitting the ceiling and falling down. It was wild, people jumping on and off the stage. Weird crazy things happened, sometimes there was no difference between the audience and performer because people were jumping around knocking over equipment and wrestling and throwing each other around. There were surprise appearances, one time these people came out in doctor outfits and they were scaling the ceiling.
What were you using for equipment there?
At that time one of my bandmates was using a laptop and Juno synthesizer. I was still using the Dr. sampler and ramshackle percussion stuff. Another friend of mine had cut apart a gas mask with a microphone that connected to the pedals. It was painted so it looked like it was some appendage. He also had some ramshackle percussion like a hammer and a keg that was painted black to get a metallic tone. It was what we could find because we didn't have a budget.
Did you have a planned set?
We always had pretty specific plan. We'd come with the rhythmic components built in and composed in the laptop and sometimes the laptop would just fail. So we'd say, "Lets navigate this to the best of our ability." There were a fair share of failures but sometimes it worked. It was an attempt to grab a hold of the spirit of the air of where we were at.
Was it all the same kind of music playing at those events?
It was varied. It was just small enough of a scene to get a crossover of genres. You could have some kind of strange bizarre mutation of indie rock, punk, playing loops with brass. I liked that a lot, I liked that people were willing to take a risk and take a chance to different genres.
Where have you bought records?
I was working at a bookstore that had records. I started to collect and bring things home. A friend gave me a record player. I was 20 at the time. I moved to Portland, Oregon and went to Mississippi records but I was poor. The first record my wife and I bought was this Moondog record, best of. I still have it to this day. Then I started doing work around Portland. I could work for trade and swapped stuff. I traded for records. I met a whole new set of folks out there that turned me onto other things like European experimental music.
When I was living in Portland Oregon I got more into collecting. Exiled Records and Mississippi Records were my favorite because they always kept it real pricewise and curation. I tour a lot, especially back then. I was going across the US or the west coast. If we had a moment to dip into a thrift store or Goodwill, I would get them there or a local record store. Also trading, sometimes when I tour or travel I dig someone's sound and I ask if they want to trade. A good chunk of mine have come from friends or people I have performed with.
What are some of your current music projects?
I have been playing with Suzanne in group called Million Brazilians that started up in 2006 and really got going in 2007. Timelash is a duet I am involved where we are using keyboards and synthesizers. Universe B is my solo project.
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