Here is part 1 of this post.
I hadn’t played a live show in what seemed like ages, and the most technology I had ever used onstage was using a distortion pedal AND a delay pedal on my guitar. Now I was leaving the guitar behind and bringing a mess of pedals for three keyboards (Farfisa organ, K2000 synth/sampler, 1980’s Yamaha toy synth), going through a mixer. Fortunately it was “just a house show” at our friend Chris Crowley’s Flophouse® and there was minimal external pressure… but having come from a indie rock background I honestly didn’t know if we could pull this electronic thing off live.
Countless hours were spent loading samples and patches into the Kurzweil K2000. I had Mellotrons and Moog samples as well as keymapped snippets of pieces of Art Bell’s AM radio show “Coast to Coast” where he’s talking about aliens and the Quickening.
The Quickening by Chef Menteur
People weren’t really doing laptop live shows quite yet—at least not in New Orleans—but my work Powerbook G3 was used with a microphone and a borrowed projector to make psychedelic improvisations based algorithmically on the music, using a visualizer named MacCthuga. (We later moved on to a more advanced visualizer called G-Force, later integrated into iTunes) — this was before visualizers were commonly built into iTunes and WinAmp, so the idea that the projections could reflect the waveforms of the sound we were playing was quite revolutionary at the time.
The visualizers we used could be pre-scripted as well as “played” live to a degree, so that you could set it up to have a better chance of showing the kinds of patterns you wanted to see, and could use keyboard shortcuts to advance color palettes or animations to the next one in the list. I spent a lot of time practicing this, but in the end it was too difficult to pay any attention to the video and still make a half-decent effort at performing, so although we did get some help at shows from a couple of friends, essentially it ended up on autopilot…. but still interpolating from the actual music being played through the microphone, which was the main point. I wanted to have a video member of the band that was of equal import to any of the musicians—especially (a few years later) after seeing Stars of the Lid perform at the Mermaid Lounge, who not only did that but did it with vintage film equipment.
Our first show was a success I was told, although it was a total blur for me. Our next couple of shows we tested in real live local rock clubs: the Circle Bar and the Mermaid Lounge.
Another song that we played for the first few shows was based on a Chinese pop vocal sample from my friend Mack that we had improvised over, put to a club beat, recorded to 4-track, edited and looped:
Chun-Li by Chef Menteur
Before moving on to part 3, I realized I’d forgotten another gem from our pre-live days that should probably be in part one. Probably the most acid/house of all our tracks (thanks to the 303s) it nonetheless is really rooted more in dub:
Terra Incognita by Chef Menteur
Stay tuned for part 3. Meanwhile check out the tracks above to see what Chef Menteur started out sounding like and how far we’ve come— and please, please consider supporting our Kickstarter project!