meridiem, a revealing history and recollection…thus far.

meridiem is my ongoing experimental musical project that has as its goal creating collaboration between musicians that may or may not share genre or aesthetic affiliation. the third-mind principal is at work here, in that the cross-pollination may result in something brilliant…. or quite stinky, but it will be wholly unique. I cannot say that my inspiration formed in a vacuum, as i was completely captivated by what anton fier was able to accomplish with his golden palominos project from the late 80’s into the 90’s. anton’s project was much more polished than mine, and featured actual songwriting vs. the improvisationally based performances that meridiem has come to be punctuated by (less so with each successive album, with more song development becoming more evident).

 meridiem has featured an amazing cast of characters thus far spanning 4 albums, including; jarboe (swans) vernon reid (living color), bill laswell, fred frith, dk dyson, buckethead, jill tracy, charles hayward, trey gunn (king crimson), kris force (amber asylum), kali lavey, haroun serang, steve sullivan, jonathan byerly (the grassy knoll), ricky carter, and happy rhodes.

the idea for moving forward with the meridiem project initially occurred after i was asked to be part of bill laswell’s hashisheen project, a spoken word/electronic music recording commissioned by sub rosa, and based upon text concerning hasaan I sabbah that was compiled by peter lamborn wilson. the recording included readings from patti smith, iggy pop, hakim bey, william s. burroughs, and nicole blackman. there was sufficient connectivity between us to suggest further collaboration, and in 1998 i asked him to join charles hayward and myself in recording the first meridiem project for italian label materiali sonori, which was simply to be titled “meridiem” laswell suggested fred frith as guitarist, and it did not occur to me at the time that in typical laswell fashion, he was maximizing, maximizing the artistic opportunity, as laswell, frith, and hayward became the latest iteration of frith’s massacre, and they have played together off and on for the last decade. the massacre album funny valentine was actually recorded during the meridiem sessions in exactly 90 minutes, consisting of an amazing improvisation that was later constructed into “songs”. i should have paid closer attention to laswell’s amazing ability to tie together distinct artistry and business in such a way that nothing was lost in his plan, no momentum, no money, no nothing. i’m sure that a major part of his motivation to collaborate with me was to play with frith and hayward, and it made perfect sense.

 oz fritz  engineered the sessions, which were improvisations loosely constructed around very primitive loops and tonal centers which i put together in saramento with the much appreciated assistance of rob brown and brought on cd to laswell’s orange music sound studios in new jersey. all of the vocals were recorded at the conclusion of the improvs….the result was a recording that teetered from out-jazz and crazy spontaneity, to very melodic, inside work with frith on violin (lunarsa, a track that was inspired by liz hand’s amazing novel waking the moon, liz and I subsequently shared some contact and connectivity over shared musical tastes, and i am fortunate to have shared some cyber friendship with her).

 one of the best memories of that session was the night oz and I went to a hole in the wall sushi bar in west orange late at night and had sushi that has been  and unparalleled gastronomic delight for me to this day.

 in support of the recording we played 3 live dates on the west coast; a very weird, sparsely attended show at palookavile in santa cruz (this is an only hippy music town), and sold out dates at the great american music hall in SF and ARospace in seattle. I did not know what to expect, being a relatively unknown playing with long respected musical figures, but the audiences in SF and seattle accepted me as equals with the other players. the seattle show was once in a life-time magic, with us performing 3 encores. the shows were equal parts “songs” from the album and pure improvs, seeing me giving hand signals to sound man extraordinaire oz fritz to indicate what extreme effects i needed to craft my wordless vocalizations  around….it was an amazing experience.

 the second meridiem album would be titled “incidental seductions”, and was recorded in sacramento at chris ross’ (claire voyant) studio, and at john baccigalupi’s studio enharmonik (now the hanger), again with oz engineering. the core band for this recording consisted of living color guitarist vernon reid, king crimson bassist trey gunn, and hayward on drums. vernon and I became connected via our mutual friend michael uman, and i actually cannot remember how trey was drafted in. this recording was an evolution in the direction of “songs” with vernon providing the role of arranger, mentor, and constructor on many of the pieces. there are also 2 electronic pieces constructed around loops from eraldo bernocchi. in addition, there is also a lot of material on this recording  that was done with my local crew of steve sullivan, john ettinger and ricky carter. this would be the second and last meridiem project released on materiali sonori, as the project was proving costly to produce, with travel, live studio time, artists fees, etc. we did three shows in this configuration as well, again another weird one in santa cruz (why?), a show at the maritime hall in sf with buckethead opening that was a disaster…the crowd did  not want to hear a singer, any singer i am convinced, and a fantastic show at old ironsides in sacramento, which was out of my great respect and thanks to the kanelos family for years of support. i believe that this recording has weight and longevity in it, and some good songs, float, trastevere,  and some lyrical collaborations with seattle poet, and my lover at the time, kali lavey, everything and thirst. vernon and I have continued in close contact and friendship over the years, and are planning to work in another project some time in 2010-2011.

 after the demise of the relationship with materiali sonori due to funding and monetary concerns, in 2000 i was asked by sean ahearn of sf label pangea to put together one more meridiem recording. sean had secured backing from navarre corporation, which created the opportunity for me to assemble a core band of laswell, vernon, charles hayward, and my long standing friend and incredible guitarist haroun serang. this recording is the furthest evolution of song, as there was time to develop melody and structure, and move more onto at least the borders of song craft,  with songs such as our musical re-working of tim buckley’s chase the blues away. a pleasant fiction, which is the album’s name was also a further move into my role as director/producer, as i only sing on half the tracks. the other tracks are sung by an amazing cast of some of the female artists whose work i have admired greatly over the years; jill tracy, jarboe, dk dyson and happy rhodes. the album was mixed constructed over the period of several months at pyramind studios in SF with matt donner, whose co-production of the recording was skillful, elegant, mindful, and technically brilliant; it is a very good sounding recording. Sadly enough pangea folded prior to the release of the record, and it just came out in full flight in 2009 on re-issue label voiceprint.

 in the space between “incidental seductions” and “a pleasant fiction” i completed an album produced and recorded with my close friend robert rich called “ a scattering time”. this meridiem album consists mainly of collaborations with bay area musicians and friends, including haroun, ricky carter, john ettinger, jonathan byerly, and jessie turner, as well as robert on pedal steel guitar, hand drums, and other instruments. this recoding is an ambient love poem, delicate and forboding at once…it will be released some time in 2010 on my new label necessary angel.

 i am moving into new musical territory, away from improvisation and further into more constructed music, songs, in both of my current projects; poets cabaret, collaboration with composer jack perla, and hardboiled wonderland, an electronic pop project with martin birke, a sacramento co-conspiritor from the early 90s. martin was a percussionist in sand box trio. even so, it is my dream to keep meridiem alive as a sort of archival musical encounter, a time capsule of collaboration. it will be interesting to see what the formulation of the next line up will be.


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