the legendary Short Wave Band
All hail the reemergence of the short wave band. Around 75ish I, little Ronnie Rocket was experimenting in his laboratory with an "old radio" whose source and whereabouts today are unknown. Anyway to make a short boring story way more long, complicated and exciting than it really was, I was tinkering with this short wave radio and these otherworldly sounds were emitting from it, theremin-like waves of pure sonic celestial joy. So the light bulb went off and little me decided then and there to form the "Short Wave Band".
That was pretty easy since I was the only member, but the very concept of a BAND was like a dream for the mad scientist inside me. While others in the field of "electronic music" were spending thousands upon thousands for MOG synthewhatzits, I was teasing and torturing this little radio into my own completely organically grown form of electronic music for mere pennies on the dollar. Tapes remain in the archive, around 25 minutes of space noodles.
And, a concept was born. The concept of making music out of other people’s throwaways, other people’s dead technologies. While other’s eschewed the cassette, little Mr. Rocket saw the cassette as an opportunity to create little sonic sculptures that combined both words and music. A "recording engineer" he was not. This concept eventually evolved into Butchwax, a more pop rock n roll band that was put together to play the songs I was beginning to write.
Most of the material written around this time was composed on acoustic guitar, an Epiphone with a broken neck that I picked somewhere real cheap. Eventually the neck broke completely off, the nutty professor being clueless that it might be able to be repaired when first acquired. The tune changed with the introduction of the electric guitar and the 1963 Fender tremo-lux and as the band evolved from concept to actuality I played less and less guitar. This wasn’t a choice so much as the amp died. The routine became that I wrote away from the band, then taught the guitarist the chords and I didn’t actually "play" in the band.
I think that was unfortunate in many ways but Butchwax turned out to be quite a force without my input as a guitar player. Kudos to a Mr. Dupree. The band was more refined and disciplined and structured, where I am not. I want to retain an edge of not knowing what’s coming next as with the old blips and skrees of hell’s own wave ocilliator.
As the Short Wave Band made the evolutionary ride to stage readiness the hubble bubble toil and trouble aspect of the alchemy was lost. It became a different dynamic because it was by nature formulaic. We play the song this way or it’s wrong. While structure has it's own statement to make I like to keep the laws of chance in play until the finished art or product is final in vinyl. I think in terms of the vinyl disc being the medium and the sound etched into it as the artistic work. And that work is complete only when recorded and etched into polyvinylchloride. I look at the song as a heading, a direction. Songs are the vehicle by which an artistic statement can be made and that statement, for me, is more flavorful or even spicy if I can use outdated tossed aside technologies to produce my work. Not to mention, I grew up on and love the sound of hot tubes.
As irony will often shape things, I was talking with my son about those remembered days at "back room studios" choking and coaxing that radio into becoming a creative partner and wondering what ever happened to the heart of the SWB. When I mentioned I would love to get another one to play with now he said he had one I could have. He had found it beside the road for refuse pick-up. It is pictured above. Let the psychedelic folk experimentation begin… at least in spirit the short wave band still lives.