The project “Instagon” began in 1993 in Orange County, California. Instagon has since progressed into quite possibly the most unique and well documented audio experiment in the history of modern music. Combining factors of improvisation and chaos theory, Instagon never performs with the same band members together for any one ensemble. This means that various players might play over and over again, but each grouping they are playing in will never be the same members. Since starting this open ended conceptual project, Instagon has played over 500 shows, and had well over 525 members, and continues to play regularly as a band on the scene….even though there is only one consistent band member, LOB.
(dis)PERSE sent Lob a series of questions, he spent a while pondering and returned what lies below for your information consuming pleasure. We invite you to enjoy the history, the thoughts and the musings of Lob. We have left all of Lob’s answers in the format we received them in – no edits – no censorship – all original – all natural…
Can you explain how you began your career as a musician and how it has evolved over time?
Wow… that is a tough question to start off with, and the answer is really no, but I can try… I played a little bass guitar in high school …but it was stolen from me and so that ended quickly… I’ve played harmonica as long as I can remember. I had another bass guitar in my twenties and would record odd songs using a 4-track… I was really into tape-culture in the late 1980’s. I also really taught myself to play bass during that time period… mostly playing to Metallica and Pink Floyd records…but eventually I sold that bass to get tickets to see the Grateful Dead play in probably 1990 or 1991. Shortly after that somehow I fell into starting a boogie blues band called THE LOST HIGH DESERT TORTOISE, I was singing and playing harmonica, and also doing all the booking and hard stuff. Eventually I got tired of trying so hard to keep it together and it all fell apart in a drunken haze like good blues bands are supposed to do. But I was bitten with the stage and the desire to be on it, and soon I started becoming involved with the local poetry community as a major force and personality… and then I started making crazy music and well… the evolution?? That is what this whole interview thing is about, right??
There are so many places we can start based on your history but I’ll start with Instagon – What was the main concept behind Instagon, how did this idea grow and come to fruition?
In the early 1990’s I was involved with the Temple of Psychick Youth North America (TOPYNA) and the So.Cal local group for that organization was located in Fullerton, CA, it was called TOPY BABYLON. Instagon was a project that hatched with the crew of TOPYBablyon, The Euro TOPY scene had PTV to be its propaganda arm… and we believed that the US TOPY should have one as well, and the INSTAGON project was born. The original idea was that there were to be 4 different bands, all called Instagon… 4 members of the Babylon crew were given the task of starting a live project called Instagon…and in the end only mine survived and actually happened. And then after a few performances during 1993… the actual concept around what we were doing came more into focus… the project never had the same members in the performances… sure many of the same people were involved, but the full ensemble was never the same… this fell very much in line with chaos theory and magicks that were being birthed at this time period in sorcery communities and scenes. Instagon was created in chaos and continues to follow that path. I guess the main idea came in the wake after the initial wave of energy that brought Instagon to reality…that idea was to never have the same ensemble play… always creating an unknown factor… an essence of chaos….keeping each show from ever becoming predictable or stagnant. TOPYNA has since closed its doors and been replaced by a new network of magickal creative people called Autonomous Individuals Network (AIN23) and Instagon continues to be part of that linage and a propaganda arm for AIN.
What are some of the influences you had that prompted this project and continue to drive Instagon today?
Instagon has been more anti-influenced than influenced. Trying hard to be unlike anything that has been before… but with enough familiarity to keep interest. Chaos Theory in general has probably been the single most influential meme to effect Instagon. The constant drive and desire for change and the outcome of the effects of change and unknown interactions have always been a core foundation of what Instagon does. In the early days … I would invite everyone I knew who had any instruments at all… sometimes it would be as large as 23 or more people …but it would be huge and big and loud and fun and crazy and intense… …and we would never be asked back to a venue, and we were prepared for that. Then we started playing ambient sonic audio sculptures I stared inviting particular sound artists interplaying them with friends… and the players sometimes had not met prior to the music making … and the tone of the music different… but the intensity and the chaotic factor of unknown players collaborating was still there. When I started actually to play the bass guitar regularly with Instagon and we started doing more traditional “band” type sets…this is where the influence of space rock and jazz came into play… still players meeting on a sonic level… this still continues… this is really the core to Instagon and how it continues on… I would say some of the musical influences that I feel have inspired what I do with Instagon would be Sun Ra, Hawkwind, Grateful Dead, Throbbing Gristle, & the original Zendik Farm Band…some of my personal influences on the style of bass that I play would be bands like Flipper, Bauhaus, Pink Floyd, Iceburn, Metallica, and all forms of surf music. As a sonic sculptor and noise art creator probably my biggest influences would be Nurse With Wound and Hafler Trio…
In the first 10 years… there were more individuals that had hands on interaction and were “part” of the Instagon happenings… so there was more of a team spirit and bonding that went on between those that were part of the project… others felt as if they were just as much a part of it as I did… these days is mostly just my doing. Also these days there are many faces to Instagon and so we can paradigm shift between genres to enjoy playing in different scenes… These days each show is approached with a plan of booking a group of musicians or sound artists that will compliment the show itself to make us to be remembered and to stand out as unique. So, I suppose the major changes would be pre-meditated chaos as compared to unleashed raw chaos… over the years we have a little better understanding of what may happen… so we are able to plan a little better and also execute a more entertaining experience. At least I think so…
It is easy to say that an ever changing cast of band members can be exceedingly difficult not only to work with but to establish a following based on unpredictability and potential for “genre shift”. How have you managed to work with this issue? Do you feel this is an integral part of what makes Instagon unique?
Yes, this is indeed an core part of what makes Instagon unique. If it were the same players all the time… it would be a much better band…but the awe and surprise would go away… The energy of the unknown that the players share with the audience is what makes it special in away that is very one of a kind. The “genre shift” is also something that has been influenced by the Chaos Theory of magick… the idea of paradigm shifting is very relevant there… we shift musical paradigms… and we feel that no musical paradigm is un-approachable. Working with it has always been a hard issue… as Instagon does not fit into the standard business models for musical success… but the Internet has been a great help… Instagon has been on line since 1994 and we have had a web presence since that time… When we posted our first website there were only around 800 websites on the net. EIGHT HUNDRED!! So we have used this to help us be recognized and easily found. We continue to add new pages as new social networks are created… and continue to expand our name in an ever growing cyber-verse… .and play live when ever available! Playing live is what its all about… always looking for more gigs and opportunities and ways to change and shift and have fun doing it…
What is your general feeling about classification or the need to fit musical styles into a genre – personally and from a business perspective?
Consumers need direction…genres help the consumer find similar artists… its really that simple … if you are similar to something… being part of that genre and classified as part of that genre will help you gain access to fans of that genre… its real… it happens. Instagon has releases in various styles and genres… we like to keep you on your toes….but Instagon is something different that goes against most traditional approaches to stuff… we try to figure out the traditional approach and bend it to our will. So being classified as a noise band, or a space rock band, or an experimental band… all of those are true… so we embrace each and try to figure new ways to utilize these new titles for business or pleasure. In around 2002 I created a genre title for what Instagon does musically as a band… its called GARAGE JAZZ… where we take players that would normally be guys getting together in the garage, and have them jam on riffs and improvisations like jazz musicians… when we needed a new genre to call ourselves…we made one.
You are involved in a large number of projects, what are some of the most active projects aside from Instagon?
I am the Creative Director for the NForg here in Sacramento. This is the group that puts on the annual Norcal Noisefest (www.norcalnoisefest.com). I took on this title in 2005 and have booked, scheduled, & stage managed the past 6 years worth of events. I also play bass in a trio called GARAGE JAZZ ARCHITECTS, which is a band that is further exploring the concepts of the new genre we have started… I also am still very involved with the 23rd Current and part of the AIN23 Network that replaced the organization called TOPY. Lately I have been doing some writing for some zines and blogs…I also do art and photography, try to have a small label (or 2), manage multiple social network pages and try to lead a fun life with my girlfriend and our cat. …this is a smidgen of my list of activities… I am a pretty busy person.
You often wear many hats within the “scene” – musician, booker, promoter, producer – do you have a favorite or do you feel as if all are a necessary part of what you do and are trying to accomplish?
I think they are all related for what I am trying to make happen… Instagon was always meant to be a collective type project… something that involves others and their creative notions… wearing all of the hats gives others the opportunities for them to explore their potential…since I have moved here… some of the projects that I started booking here 4 years ago are now booking their own shows and tours and the virus spreads… Instagon Foundation is viral… creativity is airborne.
You are one of the – if not the – primary forces behind the production of the Norcal Noisefest. This year you enter your 14th year of presenting this festival of noise and difficult music. Can you give us some background on the foundations of the festival?
It was not something that I started. I only came along for the ride… and well… its been a long strange trip. The NF event in Sacramento was actually started by people that are no longer a part of it… the early crew included Floyd Diebel, Joe Colley, John Frank, Jay Truesdale, Joe Irizumi, and a few others. Instagon was asked to come play that first event in 1995 solely on our internet reputation. I came alone… I hijacked Joe Colley and someone else to play as Instagon for that first NF appearance… it was fun. Instagon has continued to play NF every year since. I became part of the staff and planning force in 2005 when I moved to Sacramento from Orange County. When I lived in the OC, I worked for a short time booking a bar there and so I brought the knowledge of actual booking artists and production planning to our event… and also some ideas regarding propaganda and promotions. Every year is a task, but every year ends up being loads of fun too… So far I have learned many things about myself and many others because of Noisefest, and so I am more thankful thank anything to the guys that did start it.
After 14 years, if you take a step back and take a deep breath, what are your overall impressions of the festival? participants? audience? community?
We are definitely much more welcomed in the community now… we have some sponsor funding from local city art organizations, we have venues that approach us as possible locations for our event, our event this year has some beverages donated by a national energy drink brand, and so over all we are not the noisy art punks that we were 15 years ago. The audience has grown in different ways….sure in size… every year brings new ears… but also in types of people… there are much more young people interested in what we are doing… and I do mean young… like 15 and under… The participants ratio is still for the most part male dominated, but there have been more female artists coming to the scene in the past few years… so overall I would say that the Festival has grown in terms of the 3 aspects you have presented… but as an event could use some bigger sponsors and with a little more work become something TRULY special.
What are some of the biggest challenges you see experimental/noise music artists facing?
Money is the biggest issue… we are all broke… and none of us are making any money at this…
Having been deeply involved for many years in noise music and other fringe genres and art forms, what are some of the most significant changes you have seen over time?
Oh that is easy… the digitization and ability to transfer sound files in mere moments to anywhere in the world has changed the game dramatically. Digital recording devices make it so much more easier to capture and duplicate sounds, it’s amazing. The need for studios and such are over… people make sounds at home and upload them to the world in moments … in early days we would spend hours making cassette copies… and then photocopying the covers at the local drug store… and then mailing the finished art away and would wait for weeks to hear any feedback… now you create something in the morning, and feedback has happened by lunch. But I do miss the magick of records and zines holding them in my hands… everything has become smaller… and as I age my eyes want everything bigger! The hands on creative energy is all but gone these days…
As few as 20 years ago one could have never predicted the sheer numbers of noise and experimental artists that have evolved over time. How do you see this genre evolving over the next 20 years?
I see the noise/experimental scene as the punk rock scene was in the 70’s… no one thought that would last… and it went on and on … Continually until the mid 1990’s… It took 15 years to catch on… and another 10 to die! (and some will argue that is STILL has not died) Sound art is just now catching on… we have a good 10 years to reign on the music world now… we should grab it and run… now is the time… the time is now… bring the noise!
What is your basic philosophy towards your music and art?
Being creative is a byproduct of living a magickal life… those that live magical lives and try to inspire more magick and creativity within their lives and the lives of others are artistic people, its not a choice… it a byproduct… My Creative Output happens because of who I am and how I live my life. I believe that everyone has a Creative Output Potential and once they find it and turn that switch to “ON” … its nearly impossible to turn it off. I am also of the belief that one should never stop trying new creative whims… enhance your creative arsenal…explore new mediums.
What makes you really really happy?
A well cooked steak, a smile from the woman I love, and a good heady buzz.
Oh, and I supposed having a plan come together and execute well is really nice too.
Learn more about Lob’s projects, Instagon and The NorCal Noisefest, and AIN23