Friday, October 10, 2008

Satan, dope and the battle against the jellyfish

Yesterday Eric Hall sidled up next to me at Mangia and reminded me that he owed me some money.

Actually, he owed money to Poetry Scores, an arts group I cofounded. He had the winning bid at the recent Experiential Auction for the experience of having Dana Smith paint his band in live performance. Eric still owed us the money because he bid by proxy, being holed up on the day of the auction in the studio, producing the long-awaited Fred Friction solo record.

(I do my blog "research" at bars. At McGurk's the other night, I met the artist Chris Gustave - a fellow name on the bill with me at an upcoming art show - who is doing the cover art for Fred's CD.)

I asked Eric if Dana was painting his trio Peanuts. No, Eric said, he came out the other night and took pictures of his new band, with an unusual name that Eric had to write down for me on the back of a deposit slip, the only paper I had handy: "N. Nomurai." He also wrote out the MySpace address. Then added:


I read the bio. It is pretty cool. Here it is:


N. Nomurai (common name: Nomura's Jellyfish) are jellyfish which are among the largest in the sea, frequently reaching a width of 6 or 7 feet and a weight of 400 pounds or more. They have recently been proliferating wildly in the Sea of Japan, among other nearby waters, largely due to the over-fishing of their natural predators and other fish that these jellies would compete with for food, sewage and high-nutrient agricultural run-off feeding into the waters, and an increase in ports and other structures that the jellies' larvae attach to. In fact, jellyfish in general are now expected to have a larger biomass than all the fish in the oceans combined.

Due to their rapidly growing numbers, by the summer of 2005 Japanese fishers began to recognize the bane they posed while accidentally catching them by the hundreds in their giant nets. Because of their weight, these massive jellies would often times break their nets, and they would crush and ruin the caught fish with their ectoplasm and toxins, not to mention the physical threat to the fisherman.

As the problem grew out of control, the Japanese fish industry began using kill-nets and also sent out jellyfish death squads who captured these jellies by the thousands and slaughtered them as they lay piled upon the ship deck. Protected by rubber suits and goggles, the fishermen walked over the jellies slashing them with long blades, then pushed the dying animals back into the water.

They assumed this would effectively reduce the numbers of these troublesome jellyfish, but there was one critical detail of the N. Nomurai they had not considered. While being killed these jellies eject all of their sperm or eggs, which are pooled on the ship's deck and then dumped into the sea to fertilize, meaning that these slaughters actually caused the jellies to procreate, by the millions, posthumously. As ever, these jellyfish display why they are an evolutionary masterpiece.

Our project, N. Nomurai, is an open structure / improvisational gathering aspiring to sonically represent these creatures' evolutionary journey: from the Big Bang, to the primordial stew among the earth's earliest organisms, to becoming one of the most refined, elegant, and enduring animals on the planet, to their recent over-proliferation due to man's industriousness, to being slaughtered for their trespass, and finally thriving, for now at least, because of an overlooked genetic safety net. Improvising upon this narrative is our sole compositional form, though the overall interpritation is drastically different each time.


That's all from Eric Hall's meticulous written prose. At the bar, he explained further with his signature verbal flair. He explained that he bought a digital autoharp after seeing an image of David Bowie with a bright purple model of the instrument in the mid-'80s. He hooked it up to some guitar pedals, strummed some chords, and felt the power. He knew it was time to start that heavy metal band of which we all dream.

"I wanted to do an improv metal band," Eric said, "so I needed a dark narrative - but not Satan or dope." When you need a dark narrative, but are refraining from Satan and dope, there is clearly only one place to go: to the battle of fisherman vs. jellyfish in the Sea of Japan.

Who will we be seeing in Dana's eventual painting of the group? Back to the bio:

The line-up is Jim Winkeler (bass+bow. member of The Conformists), Brian Fleschute (bass+effects, member of Nerve Parade and Pat Sajak Assassins), Jeremy Brantlinger (percussion+contact mic+effects, member of Phut and Peanuts), and Eric Hall (Qchord+Kaoss Pad 3+contact mic+metals+Noise Swash+effects, member of Grandpa's Ghost and Peanuts).•


Image of the evolutionary marvel from an online jellyfish magazine, The Scyphozoan, which also includes picture of the fishermen contending with their crafty compeitors.

That there band MySpace page already has some sample tracks uploaded, since it is the way of Eric Hall to share his music with the world, as well as upcoming performances. Wear your wetsuit!

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