October 19, 2014 § Leave a comment
Upon finishing school in December 2002, I remained in Boston and was still having difficulty coping with everyday existence. I lived with 4 or 5 other Berklee students and grads, and it snowed…and snowed…and snowed. I didn’t have a proper studio set up once moved into this new house, and had limited funds to fix my studio situation or even live on.
I received a call from Brian, Greyhaven’s vocalist in late February, and received an offer to essentially move to Portland, Oregon. It was one of the biggest relief’s of my live, but also very heart-wrenching at the same time. Boston had gone from being a godsend for me in 1998 upon starting school, to being a living hell, frozen over. Very few friends left in the city, and it was time to get out, finally take the time to truly ‘cure’ my problems in a new city, with a new lease on life. I went into it with no reservations. Musically, I hadn’t had a proper album out in some time, and no one was expecting anything from me. Thus, I got to experience life from a totally different perspective for awhile. This also meant no new releases still until early 2005, but that was okay with me. I had a lot of things to do, new things to learn and lots of musical material to play around with.
Echo Us’ debut CD in 2005 came out of a whole lot of pain, and it’s evident all over the album. Many people commented on this as I remember, even though the album sold very poorly. It was also my vocal debut, and after having such a solid release as Greyhaven out there, no matter what the style of the new album, I was on a huge learning curve. I couldn’t afford a vocal coach, so I slogged through it the best I could. What I came out with is still the most twisted and creative album to my ears. Now a days when people mention things sound like this or that, I tell them to listen to that album, because it is so very different.
I hired a photographer for the album’s promo shots, but no one else, and since I was now officially solo I took it upon myself to do everything- for some reason, and not just for control reasons, I had to do everything. I think it was because I had to learn a variety of disciplines, and I always wanted to know how everything worked. The only other musician on the album was Kai Kurasawa- on one track, Who Loves You, which was penned in response to a cover song that I accompanied a girlfriend on some time ago. Some out there might be able to guess it!
Once actually settled in Portland in late July 2003 the creativity started really burgling for me. I quickly finished the debut, warts and all and let it be, planning for it’s later release. Shortly after, in September I received a ‘wave’ of energy, many dreams, and something I never thought would happen- a completely new direction that would start with the composition of The Tide Decides. I received much of the ‘information’ about the album in a very ‘clairvoyant’ fashion- the lyrics for From Snow To Sea came out of nowhere, and the night that happened I knew I’d hit something major. For me, it was almost a new style of music, but it had enough familiarity to it because of it melodies and atmospheres, which were not far removed from what I was doing with Greyhaven before. In fact, this album was first where I believe I topped my former band’s work, or at least equaled it, on my own terms. The mixing was still not perfect, but compositionally I was very much reaching for things that I’d always known existed, but I couldn’t quite put my finger or mind too before. The album has the sound of ‘consonance’ rather than dissonance to it. It’s very open sounding.
I also got to start collaborating with some new Portland-area friends. Much of the album was done simply because I met the right people at the right time that were able and wanting to help. In odd fashion, the drums were recorded last! The album has about 50 percent real drums and 50 percent electronic-based, and oftentimes they are mixed together which was extremely time-consuming to balance and edit correctly. In fact, The Tide Decides was so time consuming as time wore on that I’d never want to make anything like it again- 70 minute albums are very hard to make when you’re dealing with thousands of sounds!
2004 was mostly spent developing the new ideas around that initial wave of energy. I was also still in a new city, slowly meeting new people and reconnecting with people from the distant past as well. This time period I was at an age where I felt I could stretch out, take my time artistically as well as within my personal life. It was a much quieter time, a time of healing.
October 11, 2014 § Leave a comment
Echo Us will be joined at the November 1st CD release show by Christopher Koroshetz, an amazing drummer and percussionist with a deep resume in world music, jazz and, everything! The fall set is all about the ambient and groove-oriented side of Echo Us music, taking from 3 out of the 4 albums, as well as unreleased material-
As opposed to last winter’s set, which featured concert harp, Echo Us this fall will be night and day away from where we were earlier this year. This is a much more ‘fun’ and engaging live version of what started as a completely independent, studio-only project so many years ago now. Rehearsals have been swift and productive, and we are very much looking forward to bringing this music in its actual recorded form, to the stage!
October 4, 2014 § Leave a comment
It’s been great hearing from those of you giving your first impressions of the album the past two weeks! USA release is scheduled for this Tuesday- Oct 7th. Many interesting reactions thus far from Europe!
We’ll have Echo Us’ first Portland area autumn show this Nov 1st- this will be the CD release show for the United States, performing alongside Vibrissae at the Hawthorne Theater Lounge.
October 1, 2014 § Leave a comment
It’s always interesting to hear how divisive music can be, but it gets tiring too. I do read publications in a leisurely way sometimes, and reviews like the following always make me want to check something out rather than ignore it.
It’s also interesting that two different people can have such a polar-opposite reaction. I’ll be the first to admit that Echo Us music is both experimental AND conventional at the same time; depending on which elements you are looking at. Some people don’t get that. That’s cool!
In general, I am absolutely sick…extremely sick of what ‘pop’ music has become these days. There is so little new to be done with a 3 note melody over 2 or 3 chords. In fact, the best ‘pop songs’ of the 60s, 70s and 80’s were constructed more like a jazz standard in terms of sophistication than the awful things being produced now. Steely Dan or Lady G? You choose! At some point, musicians AND listeners forgot to keep seeking new things.
As far as Echo Us music, it just “comes to me”, the idea already exists ‘out there’. I never sit down and say “let’s write XXXXX kind of thing, or this or that”. It’s always right off the top of my head and it’s a wave that it comes in, out of no where. So, to suggest that an artist’s music is somehow invalid, when it is in fact a spiritual phenomenon, is to me extremely risky.
September 20, 2014 § Leave a comment
September 14, 2014 § Leave a comment
(Pt 4 of a mini-musical-autobiography)
After the Connecticut trip in late July, I went home to Eugene for a week in late August. On the plane I had a very ‘out there psychedelic experience’. It’s worth noting, that the Denver airport has an ‘electric-buzz’ to it only detectable in a heightened sense of awareness. I do NOT recommend ingesting psychedelics before taking a plane flight, as the altitude difference in and of itself can cause very strange physical sensations and it might not even be healthy for the heart or other internal organs. I was very interested in experimenting on myself back then, and must make clear these are not circumstances and practices common to psychedelic use. Peter Gabriel’s “Mercy Street” played in my head clear as day at 30K feet. I didn’t need a CD player or headphones. It was just….there. I arose out of my meditative state, realizing I wasn’t actually listening to the CD. The player was off and away, I only thought I had fell half a sleep with headphones on. Music has it’s own consciousness…it is always there. My legs were buzzing in Denver, like walking across an electric field of some sort. Again, I don’t recommend trying the kinds of things I was doing at this stage in the game. My motto at this time during my life, was ‘try everything once except hard drugs’ (ie: no heroin please).
When I returned to Boston from Eugene in late August, I was to start a part-time school schedule as well as continue my two part-time jobs. This was to make enough room for the band to accomplish all it could. But things really started to change for me in early September, both musically and otherwise. On nights off, I started to spend my time in the North End of Boston, usually tripping. And then 9/11 happened. I remember trying my hardest to read the paper at Dello’s Cafe in the North End, by the Cemetery there. Dello’s Cafe by the Old North Church was right out of a Marlon Brando movie. And in the North End there were these wonderful gardens, and a park in that area. I used to take my CD player, and completely disconnect from the world. I wasn’t so out of it yet that I couldn’t function day to day. Things were still okay and I had fun in classes and studied. I think back to some of those magical moments listening to music alone in the gardens of the North End. The fall wind would whip up, take the leaves and deposit them 25 feet away. I would relax on a park bench, quite a like a homeless person, totally content away from my daily responsibilities and relationships. I used to walk over to the Constitution ship, and take the T boat back to the hotel on the wharf. You could still smoke in hotels back then. But the gardens and the Bjork album that had just came out, Vespertine, these two things were absolutely meant to go together. And even though my life was getting more and more out of control, this was my reaction- to just ‘leave’. And when you do that enough, people start to notice. And when they don’t approve, they take action.
I made a number of comments to my bandmates and writing partner, as well as playing some new material to them I was working on. Truth be told, it was the beginnings of Her Heart’s Army, from the later Echo Us debut. I radiate I was already played by the band, but Matt did not understand Her Heart’s at all. At that point I knew it was over, the beginning of being over at least. All I could think about was reconnecting with my mate, drinking coffee and the North End rendezvous. And that is what I did, until I was unavailable enough that people started to really notice.
I missed meetings, but I never missed a rehearsal until the very end. One rehearsal I was obviously high, and that was nearly the end of it. I apologized, but it got me nowhere. I could play most of Echo Us’ material at that point while high, because compared to what I was playing before with Greyhaven, it was very simple music. But people pick up on the ‘vibe’ when it’s strong and a number of us within the group were opposed to all kinds of drug use (it was our one disagreement earlier on). Kai had introduced me to Vespertine, and that was the vibe I was after musically speaking, but I did not know exactly at that point exactly what I wanted. Musically, I had drifted off into new waters and that always takes time to develop. But the psychedelic use had gone to far, much to far- I already had troubles with depression and anxiety since 11 or 12 years old, and my mind simply could not handle what I was throwing at it. The effects started to wear, so I drank more, and more…I had never had an issue with alcohol per say- but I was nearing about a pint of vodka a night. That went on from late 2001 until early 2003, with ample breaks because of the intervening circumstances that followed in late 2001.
On November 4th, 2001 I was admitted, ‘involuntarily’ to Massachusetts General Hospital’s Blake 11 mental ward. Earlier that week I had lost complete contact with everyone. I was letting myself out of the house through the front window. All I know is I had one discussion with my writing partner earlier the week before, which ended in my cackling laughter. I don’t remember exactly what it was about, but I do know it revolved around both the music path, as well as presentation of the group. We were kind of like a supergroup of 21 and 22 year olds- 4 very strong personalities. I thought the whole thing had become delusional, and I was right to an extent, but I was as delusional about myself. I knew I was right about my own musical desires however, and I needed to follow them.
Friday the 2nd, I had locked myself in my room completely. I missed work for the first time, and then woke up still very out of it on Saturday morning. We were scheduled for a studio session Saturday, to record the song “Who Loves You”. I called Mike, who I hadn’t talked to for about a week, and mentioned that I needed him to pick up the van, that I’d had a rough night, but I was still coming to the session. He got irate with me on the phone. Apparently after that he called his father, who was a psychiatrist incidentally; he told him about my behavior and they all started to take action. The rest is very murky and perhaps embarrassing, because I had no idea what was going on. I thought things were still okay if a bit tense between myself and the guys- I’d had a bad week and needed to recuperate- that was the way I saw it. My bandmates and house partners made the situation out to be so dire that family had to be flown out from the west coast and the police were to be called in, presumably in case I got rough on my trip to the hospital. I was sitting on the porch when they all finally showed up, paddy wagon, police cars and all. My ‘ex’ in the distance down the street. What was funny is although despondent, they were apparently awaiting someone who was ‘dangerous to themselves or others’, but I was silent, if shocked that they were all there. The guys in the band all carried knives because of where we lived (which I still think is pretty stupid looking back), but they told the cops I had weapons, implying I was lival to use them. No knife was ever found, but I never trashed mine, so I am not sure how that happened. These guys proceeded, once I was in the hospital to take out restraining orders against me, so there was no way I could’ve continued school at that time. Later on, while back in Oregon I was accused of breaking into the old house in Southie and stealing musical equipment, which was obviously an oversight, as those guys didn’t even realize that I wasn’t in Boston and then enrolled for one term at the University of Oregon. What was funny in all this is that in court they proved nothing, except that we’d lived together and had some disagreements and were worried about my ‘disorganized’ behavior, as it was put in court. I still respect them for not making anything up. I have no idea why they were as terrified as they were, and I don’t think they knew either.
I spent 2 weeks in the inpatient mental ward, which is essentially a glorified prison. They ran every test and practice they could, from speaking and personality tests all the way to rorschach diagrams. I was close to having ECT done, but they couldn’t find a big enough excuse, and thus just stuck me on anti-psychotic medication while I still was coming down off a massive binge of psychedelics and alcohol. The docs had no clue, so I often did my best to mess with them at first, telling jokes, engaging in everything from extreme sarcasm all the way to despondency. They couldn’t diagnose me, just like my former social workers and psychologist in Eugene years earlier. First it was ‘psychosis’, then it was bi-polar, and then ‘depression’ (which they couldn’t really prove was systemic or long lasting). The chief psych on staff was ironically named, “Dr. Matthews” (no joke); I also was forced to meet with a forensics investigator who was extremely nasty, so nasty I blacked out what actually went on with his interview. I think he thought there was somehow a criminal element to all this, but I think that was just his own way of interviewing ‘suspects’. He found out nothing new interrogating me or doing any fact checking with others. I had a lawyer, had to go to court in Southie over the restraining orders. My parents and aunt didn’t really think I was doing that bad after a week, and I got a release from my former psychologist in Eugene, OR a week later, but they still insisted on keeping me in the hospital longer, and since I’d signed papers under spurious circumstances there was nothing I could do except play their games and fake my way out. My parents began to cheer me on for this- because obviously even though I was very depressed and had a ‘mental breakdown’, I was not exactly mental hospital material. The man next to me got electroshock treatment almost daily, which I was terrified of. I had to prove that I was not a ‘threat to myself or others’ by their definition, which meant ‘perfect’ behavior, participating in anything they deemed necessary. Later on, when I returned to Berklee and told a close friend about the details of all this, they said: “In Europe, how we handle those situation’s is out behind the back of the pub”. It was a partial joke with a bit of truth mixed in, but my situation with the psychiatric establishment worsened a great deal, no matter my real life problems. When you look back at the history of many of the mental hospitals in this country you’ll understand more of what I mean. They are experimentation programs for social engineering, and it’s proved in decades past that universities such as McGill in Montreal worked directly with the CIA and other government entities. (Velasquez)
During any alone time in the hospital I was busy writing lyrics, going over songs in my head and formulating things. After the term at the University of Oregon doing my remaining general education credits I got cleared to return to Berklee in summer of 2002. It was decided, since my former ‘friends’ were not in school anymore as students, that the restraining orders were not a big enough concern for the administrators there, so I was allowed back in. I was still friends with Kai, and we became even better friends during this period, him helping me with bass tracks, meeting new friends of his and more. I still obviously had issues, but I was grateful for the friends I had. I remember one point going to the counseling center at school to meet with my school social worker, and one of the guys with a restraining order comes in to the office. A friend was there and ushered me around the corner. I literally hid in a hallway corner because there was no way to leave, because there were possible consequences for breaking the restraining order. All this cat and mouse was kind of like a French drama or something. I watched a lot of French movies during 2002.
Also when I returned I found out there were faculty meetings about me, but literally almost no one outside of these meetings seemed to know what happened other than maybe 4-5 people. All this speculation again encouraged the anxiety, because I didn’t know who knew what, and I couldn’t ask. It was like living in a created psychodrama. Back in school, later in fall of 2002 I went through quite a bit, but managed to get a B+ average despite my troubles. I also explored some different facets of music during this time, mostly minimalism and creating soundscape material. I could not perform- one of the major things that happened was a complete cutoff from live performances that lasted over 10 years, but I was still integrating a lot of new material into what would become the first full-length Echo Us album.
Echo Us was apparently my baby, because I was given almost all the material that had anything to do with Echo Us back to me from the guys during the hospital stay (they left it at the Southie house for family to pick up). All I can say, is thank you to them for that. I’ve always felt I’ve kept my music moving forward, re-inventing myself, and it was always the point to shake people up and encourage them to think differently. I awake in 2014 and feel very much alone in this, even more so now a days perhaps. Even though I’ve become happier in a sense, I know that I’ll probably never really feel I truly ‘fit in’. It’s a different thing than being the nerd in glasses in 3rd grade- I never really was that kind of outcast. I didn’t fit the cliché I guess, but I’ve spent my life alone and am not ashamed to say so. It was something I can’t really describe, and music is the only real connection to the outer world, through most of my life.
There are many unique elements to what I experienced over the course of this 2-year period. The entire experience felt like I was ‘opening a portal’ through which my energies would flow in later years. I still do not ‘thank’ the psychiatric establishment for how any of this was handled, even though I’ve had to do my own ‘soul-searching’ throughout the proceeding years. What really pains me, is that people of all socio-economic, racial, and cultural backgrounds are being subjugated to ‘casual drugging’ by general practitioners and psychiatrists, when there is absolutely no need except in the most extreme circumstances of mental illness. The psychiatric establishment’s power in our culture is due to other social and economic control factors, starting at the family level and running all the way up to the highest levels of government and policy makers. It’s a systemic problem, and not simply a problem of the individual. It’s been my experience that people who have undergone a lot of psychotherapy have within themselves a sixth-sense, and are actually seeing the world and it’s control-structure for what it really is.
The key to overcoming mental illness, by and large, and in my experience is to come to terms with the depth of the world and it’s many cultural prerogatives, because they are just that- things that society considers a ‘norm’ or ‘right’, even if they infringe on natural rights. I think we are able to move to a crossroads with acceptance of all people, and for the troublesome one’s we must learn to work with them before we incarcerate, drug, or do any kind of psychological babysitting.
It is possible to find happiness, in my opinion, by not simply being a victim to the control structure, but by working within it for change. First of all, we do need to understand the problems inherent in our culture, and finding out what those things are can be a long and dark road. The more one knows about it however, the more one can guard against its negative effects, from which the ‘victim hood’ flows.
( ) Juan Camilo Velasquez, September 6, 2012. MK-ULTRAViolence [University Newspaper]. Retrieved from http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2012/09/mk-ultraviolence/
Album Pre-Orders For II:XII, A Priori Memoriae- Street dates: 15 Sep (UK), 19 Sep (Europe), 7 Oct. (USA)
September 3, 2014 § Leave a comment
Online pre-orders for II:XII, A Priori Memoriae are available everywhere- US release is OCT 7th, and orders will be available at http://www.echous.net after that time. For now, the best way is to preorder the album from a jungle river nearest you :0)
For the October issue of Germany’s Eclipsed! Magazine, Echo Us will feature an alternate arrangement of a track from A Priori Memoriae on the compilation CD in the magazine- The cut is also featured within the album’s promo trailer, while not being on the pressed album ( http://youtu.be/9F9SVcwuQQw ). Fans are encouraged to spot the alternate arrangement by Sept 28th, and those who email Echo Us (email@example.com) with the name of the track will receive the two non-album cuts from A Priori Memoriae in the digital format of their choice.
Amazon.co.uk (15 Sep)
Amazon.de (19 Sep)
Amazon.com (7 Oct)
Echo Us’ II:XII, A Priori Memoriae is coming out through Dust On The Tracks and SPV on 15 Sep (UK), 19 Sep (Europe) and 7 Oct (US). The album has been described as pure return to the “concept albums that dominated the progressive rock of the 1970s- The album is one the best progressive rock albums of the century. Such a production made up of wonderful melodies, clever dramaturgy and compelling dynamics, is something that even the top of the class Mike Oldfield was not able to achieve through decades of work, including after his album ‘Ommadawn’.”