His unique approach to
sound awash with anxious energy and recycled content, G. Lucas Crane is
part of the dwindling but ardent group of present-day tape jockeys. His
solo outlet, Nonhorse, has been bouncing around as far back as 2002, and
behind him lies a convoluted trail of releases out on fledgling cassette
labels as well as more established outlets. Dealing in themes of
deterioration and overload, his often-hectic sound collages are
frequently challenging but always engrossing. Lucas also plays with such
memorable acts as Woods and Vanishing Voice, although this interview --
conducted over several weeks via electronic mail -- deals principally
with his one-man endeavours.
So should Icall
you G Lucas? or G? Nonhorse??
Ha haha. My friends call me Lucas. The G is
my unused first name Gabriel. I still use the G, because it seems
Where did the Nonhorse name come from?
The Nonhorse is an adversarial entity
inculcated in the symbol of a horse-not-horse. It is a negation of
horse, which therefore is most other things, or belongs to the set of
"things in this world that aren't a horse" As primarily a not-thing or
non-thing, it is a cold pitiless evil void and must be escaped by
I saw it in a dream I had a few times,
where I was being beaten underneath a giant billboard that had been
partially destroyed, and the design on the billboard had been blown
away, and the picture that was left was the nonhorse. The symbol then
repeated in other dreams, where the dream would be going along fairly
normally and then suddenly everything would go haywire frozen cold and
the symbol would be floating behind me engulfed in black fire, and the
dream would freeze for a few hours.
Surreal... Do you normally remember your
dreams in such detail?
Usually yes. Dreams are extremely important
to my life and work. The actual answer to this question for everyone is
"only the important ones" but to me dreaming is especially important.
The personal story of one's own dreamtime shows up in our waking behavior, our attractions and obsessions. For me, the day's recall of a
dream, the actual experience of remembering, is akin to the sensation I
would like to evoke in my music, the flash of full sensation and memory,
the quickly shifting richly different environments, the mental image of
a degraded signal, etc. I feel like the art of the collage is an attempt
to recreate or evoke the experience of the basic functioning of the
human sensorium and its peculiarities. We all need to do something with
the very real inner world. It's an unwritable tale, literally the stuff
of pure insanity. The juxtapositions and synchronistic media layers I
try to achieve during a performance are an access point for my dreams to
Do you ever put music on as you go to
asleep, perhaps to influence the dreams you have?
Yes I have a tape deck next to my bed, and
I regularly record 45 minute long tracks expressly for the purpose of
falling asleep to.
would influence my dreams, but I have no fun stories unfortunately. The
dream world usually may only be related tangentially to our waking mind.
Another fun experiment
I've been doing is putting a voice activated recorder near my
head and training myself to keep talking as I loose consciousness. I'm
working on a "Visions" project to incorporate these tapes, but it won't
be done for a while.
How did you come to like tapes so much?
I got into tapes to
fulfill a practical
concern, and then that led to equipment and design fetishism. Tape
provides a low-tech answer to sampling needs. If you need sound to play
under or with something, putting the sound on a tape and hitting a
button is a quick, cheap, physically immediate thing to do. But the more
I did it, the more attracted I got to the design simplicity of a
cassette. Its immediacy and physicality. When you put a sample on tape,
the tape itself becomes a physical representation of that sound, astand-in that you can grip and locate in space, changing the experience of the
sound from hearing to touch. When working with samplers or computers,
the sounds are saved to banks represented by numbers or file names,
making retrieving them an intellectual exercise.
"Hmm... would 244 sound
good with 547?" With the sound embodied physically in a tape, I find it
easier to encounter and take advantage of the coincidental intersections
that lead to honest inspiration. It helps when you make collage based
music, where juxtapositions are the meat of the art.
What are your thoughts on the
Plunderphonics movement? John Oswald, Negativland, People Like Us,
John Oswald had too many cartoon samples in
it for me, but I always liked People
Like Us and
Negativland especially, considering they were (are) a conceptual art
piece masquerading as a band, and I always liked that, the stretching of
genres. A completely sample based band on SST? How much punker can you
get? I think nowadays to sample and reprocess culture it isn't
immediately revolutionary, but when these guys first were doing it, it
was. I feel like sample based art is a little more naturalistic now, as
the amount of media and its level of saturation in our lives has
increased. The fact that any smartphone can be a whole sampling/remixing
tool and anyone can carry them around changes the game a little.
Negativland and artists like Paul DMiller situating their sampling and
collage work within a media centric-conceptual framework was always
really interesting and evocative.
What Negativland was doing always seemed
downright militant. It's my impression that sampling these days has
become less political, and more about either novelty or - in its more
abstract forms - creating a unique sound experience. I wouldn't
necessarily say that this is a bad thing, although perhaps the outlets
that artists use for social criticism have taken on new forms. For you
and the experimental scene, using tapes as a primary means of generating
sound, and putting out many of your releases on CS only, is in itself a
sort of "fuck-you" to the conventions of modern society... What role do
'politics' play in your music?
The ‘fuck you' of releasing on tapes is the
statement it makes about technological obsolescence. The rise of the MP3
killed the format arms race of the 90's. There is nothing after
digitizing music, the music itself is now in its most malleable,
transmittable form, which is why the race is now about the players
themselves, the iPod and do-everything cellphones etc.
But this self-evident media politics fades
away once you get down to the meat of the creative act. The salient
detail of experimental music now is that ones own personal concept or
sonic vision can be achieved by oneself. Weather you choose tapes and
pedals or max/msp on a laptop the technology is there for you, and the
Internet levels the learning curve on anything. Choice of technology is
an aesthetic choice rather than a necessity. Modern society includes
tapes, and that I think is the reigning aspect of our mediated lives
now. We have to respect that our life with technology is not just the
cutting edge; it also includes what the mechanized striving of man has
left behind. The political aspect of my sound may be one of reminding
the listener of the existence of the garbage detritus of our
technologically mediated life. The more signal the more noise. The more
interconnections between people the more opportunity for garbled
The act of making art, where it comes from
inside oneself, I feel can never be political. Creativity is just too
phantasmagoric. Politics is a higher order concern that is fitted over
the rawness of creation.
The Black Cockroach
Take me through your sound-making
process. What cassette equipment do you use? What goes into the sound?
I use two regular Sony TCM-929 tape decks
("the black cockroach") and a crossfader DJ mixer. The two tape decks
mix whatever tapes I throw in them; this is mixed to a looper usually.
By throwing sound loops on tape that I skip with my hands into the
looper, I can quickly build up a refracting pulsing wall or bed of
So in the context of a live performance,
you would be switching tapes in and out of the tape decks pretty
frequently, right? Or do you make mixtapes of desired sounds for your
I do both. I can either improvise the way
the tapes intersect, or the way I play the tapes. I often craft samples
that are supposed to be played together, or "off each other". Its like
making all the parts of a song separately, constructing many many pieces
that could potentially go together, and then at the moment of a
performance experimenting with combinations. Anytime I record a tape,
whether its recorded music or just an environment sound, it becomes a
node in a sifting relationship of possible combinations.
How does your process differ when you're
performing live, as composed to making a recording for release?
When I'm making a recording for release,
I'm using the same set up as I do live, but with more options. I can
stop, I can take my time. The live setup is stripped down for
ontological simplicity and "terrible purpose", bring only the equipment
you need to make your point, your piece
- do it and get the hell out of
there. It's necessarily more frantic being that it's brought to life
under the attentions of an audience. This will always change what comes
out. My tape system is formulated to give an outlet to both aspects of
what I want: Exploration and transcendent functioning. I can get as out
there and brainy as I want with a certain sound in the studio, but when
I play live I want to lose myself in the moment of the performance and
have it be a moment of maximum sonic intersection. I make the tapes at
home and cut them up live indulging in my "sonic exploration" side and
my "player" side. In the studio, I'm always striving for more of the
energy I get naturally live, and when I play live I'm always striving
for the patience I have naturally in the studio.
What inspired the candid street footage
on the (brilliant) HangoutDowner video?
That video is more about summer finally
arriving than any distain. I like crowd footage because an observer can
imprint anything on the random strangers engaged in innocuously familiar
activities. Even if one hates "hipsters" you cant fault anyone for
enjoying nice weather. I just happen to live in Brooklyn where you can't
aim a camera in any direction without hitting someone hip as shit.
How did you first become involved in
Making art is kind of the "family business,"
both my father and brother are artists in New York City. As for the
music, I made up the system I use as an instrument, and am not a
classically trained musician in any way, so my music is unconventional
by the very fact of its existence...My tape set up was essentially a
conceptual art piece when it started, a "tape DJ" set up, but then I
started using it to play in bands, and many of my friends are
musicians...I feel like music is the most social artform, and that's
they way I want to work...with people.
For sure. You mentioned your brother and
father. What does your family think about your music?
They are very supportive and pretty "with
it" when it comes to contextualizing and understanding my method and the
result of what I do. I believe they think it's
What do you do when you're not making
I'm barely ever not making music, but
been getting into video, and I've always drawn and built stuff. I like to
cook and am working on a "punk house" cooking show in my spare time. I
also co-run a house show space/art studio in Queens NYC called Silent
Barn, and that takes up a large portion of my time... If you
Google it you'll
see what I mean....
No kidding! That's cool that you keep it
all ages. How did the Silent Barn start up in the first place?
Well that story could fill a book, but
it's an old sweater factory that was taken over by musicians
ago. Over the years it's always been used for music in some way, whether
recording or shows, and we've had a variety of different residents with
different focuses as far as the curating of the house is concerned. I'm
currently the longest full time resident. Lately the schedule has been
intense, with at least three shows or more a week. Lots of punk lately.
I've had to scale back booking because of touring and recording demands,
but I did the more experimental shows, of course.
From where do you track down found tapes
for use in your music? Any favourite finds?
Everyone has a box of tapes they don't
want. Tapes being officially outmoded or "garbage" media means they can
be anywhere, and usually gravitate to the forgotten or wilderness areas
of the media landscape. Among my favourite tapes are
a computer tape labeled "Karate: Perfection is the only accepted standard" full of
blistering noise and a tape of a preacher interviewing a former Satanist
who admits to stabbing and eating children, but "she's been saved" so its
all cool man....
Shit! How did you come by that one?
Just in a box somewhere. That's always the
way. Because this strata of media now exists in the world as the
technology presses forward, its practically begging to be found and used
creatively. Because of the nature of the cassette, it can be an
immensely personal medium; a stray tape can contain anything from
your garden variety "casingle" real music to a one-of-a-kind personal rant.
When you find that secret tape that was clearly a personal moment for
someone between them and the recorder, it's a window into a very
world. Those are the best tapes.
Have you ever heard any of the Jonestown
Hmmm, I've seen the documentary. You cant
really get creepier than a tape on in a place where everyone's about to
kill themselves. Are you talking about some specific audiotapes, or do
you mean the Jonestown recordings in general? I understand there are
many recordings that the church made itself.
Yeah, there's even a tape of the fateful
day itself. You can hear them passing out the flavour-aid. They used a
really old recycled tape, and the music on the other side of cassette
comes through, so all the while you hear this evil, warbly, gospel music
in reverse. Real disturbing. What's even stranger is
that the CIA also found
a tape, filed among all the other cassettes (which were mostly Jim
Jones' sermons), that's comprised of several recordings of news
broadcasts that took place AFTER the fact, after everyone had died and
police were just getting to the scene. Anyway, over the years you've
produced hordes of releases on a real medley of labels. What motivates
you to put stuff out on so many different record labels? Any especially
excellent experiences or horror stories?
I'm always surprised and delighted that
people want into my own personal world, and I'm psyched to be involved
on the artist side with labels that support artists. I'm always making
music, so when people ask I usually say yes. Not Not fun is a great
label with a very personal touch. 5RC, the Kill
Rock Stars imprint who
put out the WWVV stuff, were great at bringing a larger audience to weird
obscure stuff. I appreciated that. I really love tape labels though,
they are always a labor of love. Most don't last very long, so when a
new one contacts me, I do my best to lend my music to the experience of
putting tapes out.The final product is always so freaking cool, to hold
in the hand, to see on a shelf.
Do you pay attention to music criticism?
We're not just dancing about architecture
anymore, now its full on "producing a movie about the Broadway musical
based on the videogame Architecture™". Sure I'll read stuff about music,
but I like how poetic it gets, and little else. Sometimes music
criticism seems completely unrelated to the music, with uncalled-for
associations and blatantly unfair content. I think bad reviews are
stupid. But when its treated like an art form I'm into it, and there are
plenty of people who consider writing about art their art form.
What is your favourite colour?
your website supposed to be giving me seizures?
Oh yes....its my natural state.
The Rare Tape Zero
conducted by Michael Tau
published December 2009