I’ve been involved with a lot of different musical projects, as songwriter, collaborator, hired gun, organist, guitar player, engineer/producer, and so on, but for the past decade, my main musical project has consistently been a band called Chef Menteur.
Chef Menteur started at a time when I’d tired of indie rock band clichés, and wanted to do something different: focus on experimenting and improvising instead of writing the perfect 4 minute indie/pop/folk/country tune. Having been spent some concentrated time in London’s electronic music scene, I had never been able to get that out of my brain, and technology was finally allowing those of us who couldn’t afford the vintage gear prices to do rudimentary sampling and sequencing for much less.
At Rue de la Course, a coffehouse on Magazine Street in New Orleans, I saw an ad that mentioned My Bloody Valentine, John Coletrane, Sea and Cake, and John Zorn. And so, Chef Menteur started out with drum machines, keyboards, synthesizers… sounding like some weird mutation of Stereolab, the Chemical Brothers, Bruce Haack and weird Ninja Tune b-sides.. with fuzzed out guitars/bass that could be from Sonic Youth’s Sister.
A four-track Tascam tape recorder was used to capture live sounds and Pro Tools Free was used to edit and mix. The plugins could take 4 minutes to render 10 seconds of audio and the Mac 8500 we were using would often crash, forcing a complete reboot. Each song took ages!
We put some tunes up on mp3.com (this is before myspace) and claimed we were big in Japan. We started getting some plays on WTUL and well-loved and respected DJ Chris Crowley offered us a show at the the Flophouse, which was kind of a communal living/party space.
We said yes, but were terrified: this changed everything! How could we play live sounds that were so studio-based?