Anyone for Seconds?

Ten Seconds' debut album features, besides Robert Fripp and Bill Rieflin, other talented guest musicians and engineers/producers such as Mark Craney, Jimmy Hawes, Jac Mihanovic, Mark Walk, Steven Scott Smalley, Jeff Borgeson, Carmen Rizzo, and David Singleton. I spoke to guitarist/vocalist Bill Forth about how the album was recorded with such a diverse set of talents, and he narrated a long story.

Apparently Forth began by recording demos with long-time acquaintance Jeff Fayman in Fayman's apartment studio. "Jeff and I hammered out the sequences together: I played guitar, Jeff played keys. I then improvised vocals until things fit." The two then shopped the demo to various major and independent labels. Reaction to the demo was mixed: while many people in the industry liked the music, Forth quoted a label representative as saying "I love this. I listen to it all time. I can't sign THIS!" Finally, Mark Perry of Possible Productions got a hold of it and expressed interest in distributing the music made by the band. Forth says that "I never dreamt that it would be good enough to be released on Discipline Records. When David played back the tapes for Robert, he decided to release it. I consider being accepted for release by Discipline Global Mobile a very great honor."

At some points, the Ten Seconds album breaks any and all pre-conceptions of music. Some of this effect might be due to how it was recorded. Rieflin, who joined Forth as primary noise-maker after Fayman became involved in other commitments, and Mark Craney (Jethro Tull) apparently had to drum on top of the sequenced drum tracks which were later removed. Removal of the drum tracks, however, causes other problems, for example the bass track which was in synchrony with the drum track might appear to be off and might have to be corrected. These sorts of gynamistics were what was involved in recording the music, which make for an unique sound. Forth says "I was dissatisfied with sequencers and drum machines. Basically we did all sorts of things going from the music being stiff and machine-like to having that random element in it."

Since the album was recorded on a small budget, there's a lo-fi feel to it. However, the use of extensive processing (primarily from a Roland GP-16 and a Digitech GSP 2101) leads to a high-tech sound and quality. That, in and of itself, provides some interesting complementarity. Fripp's contribution with regards to the experimental electronic noise is clearly felt, providing Ten Seconds with a King Crimson-esque sound at times. Forth showed a lot of respect for Fripp: "the guy just shreds." Forth says "Jeff and I became so accustomed to hearing the tunes with Robert on them, that we then could not imagine these songs without him. Robert has contributed a very strong musical voice and brought it up to a new level."

Forth cites bands like King Crimson and composers such as Bartok, Stravinsky and Mahler as influences for his noise-making, and John Lennon and Jack Bruce as vocal influences. Some of his influences are felt in Ten Seconds' debut album. However, when one listens to such an album, it's worth asking whether there's an artistic statement being made here, or whether it's plain fun. Forth says "basically it's just having fun, but it's also a reflection of the culture we're living in. Drum machines are useful, sequencing is useful, but live playing is a lot more... it's a lot more!" Forth went on to say: "I love the energy of industrial music, but harmonically it's not going anywhere. I wanted to do something more harmonic and what holds my attention is experimenting with music." This ideal fits in line with his list of influences, most of whom were prominent experimentalists: "the harmonic freedom in Stravinsky blows me away." He says ultimately that the music is simply a reflection of his "orneriness".

In the liner notes, Discipline Global Mobile talks about the practice of the artist giving away sound copyrights to the label as "out of tune with the time", "questionable", and "indefensible". While this is a positive, and unprecendented, attempt to push the artist up from the bottom of the feeding chain in the music industry, I think that the entire notion of intellectual property is deserving of those labels, and is entirely destructive to the entire creative process. Forth had this to add on the music industry: "there are a great number of people who are ethical and great number of people who aren't." He approves of Discipline Global Mobile records' policy, and thinks that eventually there will be greater changes in how intellectual property issues are handled in the music industry.

Future plans include a live tour with Rieflin for which the band is apparently is just beginning rehearsal. Forth says "it'll just rock and be lean and to the point." Steve Ball will be playing guitar, Michael Tedesco will be playing bass, and Forth hopes to have a bunch of guest musicians like Robert Fripp playing at least some of the dates. The band hopes to get out on the road by fall. So check out the record and keep an eye out for them when they come to your area!

Music ram-blings || Ram Samudrala || || May 3, 1996