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an interview from whats up! magazine:
by maria guerriero

"...the possibility of digital media and electronic media becoming more and more organic." jake trussell from an on-line interview by chris tweney

It's Friday again. Long day of work, but I have this when I step off the T: beats vibrating off of the Lucy Parson's Bookstore sign, spray painted over with words asking us not to buy into the gentrification of Central Square. In front is the creator of the music: a DJ. And I thank the DJ today, and every Friday for bringing some chaotic peace to my mind. . . (taken from a journal entry, Summer 1998 Toneburst presentations in Central Square)

This is the Toneburst Collective. Toneburst is a Boston-based group of DJs, musicians, video and instillation artists that come together to produce music and events. Visionaries in contemporary culture. The products from Toneburst combine art forms of present: new and experimental video, music/sound/speech/noise, interdisciplinary concoctions. (Toneburst is accepting proposals from installation, environmental and video artists, hoping to expand to different media.)

At least one member of Toneburst is either producing or performing or mixing or presenting in town; both dj c (aka, jake trussell) and esp (aka, mike esposito) have played at Circle, the Tuesday night dance event at the Paradise in Cambridge. Members of Toneburst also produce large scale events at eclectic spaces throughout New England. Their parties cost $5 and are always all ages. You can find contact information, upcoming events, etcetera at their website: www.toneburst.com.

Members of the Toneburst Collective e-mailed and conversed (almost) with What's Up from many different physical (rafi is in China), mental and spiritual places. From their answers, it is clear that they truly think innovative and introspective. Unlike anything before.

What's Up?

rafi (rafi loiederman): Played at a club named Babylon. Slick men with forked tongues tried to look me in the eyes and convince me that the rowdy, pot-smoking punks I hang with aren't my real friends. They spoke no language I know, only used words to build shifting towers of deception.

alex (alex rae): Not much.

jake (jake trussell): Stuff.

splice (sasha constanza-chock): That magazine is the bomb. Really.

moose (joe demb): Sun, Moon, & Stars.

What is Toneburst?

mike (mike esposito): Choose one or more: Toneburst is a group of people that throw/have thrown multi-sensory multidisciplinary multimedia extravaganzas in alternative spaces at relatively infrequent times. Toneburst is the name of those events. Toneburst is a bunch of guys making electronic music. Toneburst is a family. Toneburst is something else entirely....

rafi: Toneburst is homestyle. Toneburst is righteous. Toneburst is d.i.y. Toneburst is beans and rice. Toneburst is noise toys jams. Toneburst is like when you were in junior high and everybody was wearing town and country surf T-shirts, but you wore the turtlenecks your mama bought you just cause they were more comfortable. Toneburst is tough love.

flack (antony flackett): Toneburst will typically organize an event around a specific space, and work with themes that that space inspires. Or perhaps we will find a space to fit a theme that we want to explore. Often we will divide the space into different areas with different vibes so people can experience the event on many levels.

One of Toneburst's goals is to present to the community an accessible venue for experiencing innovative experimental art forms. All of the various elements--video, music, sculpture and the space itself--work together with the diverse group of Toneburst go-ers (representing all walks of life) to create one giant piece of time-based art that exists somewhere between a roadside carnival, a museum field trip, an electronic science fair and a good ol' fashioned ho-down. (Taken from an e-mail given to Visionspace)

Aren't you worried that you'll be playing a new years eve show in 1999 and all your computers will stop running?

jake: My Macintosh's will keep running if the power grid doesn't shut down.

fig (arnaldo hernandez): I worry about my computers crashing every show. I've tested all my machines by using them while their internal clocks change to 1/1/2000 and they are OK. Besides if they stop working I can blame it on "THE MAN"...

alex: Nope. I'm worried that millions of people will die sometime around then. A bit worried.

/rupture (jace clayton): I'll be in NYC: riots, looting, bad telephone connections, and the grassroots fomentation of class war!!

splice: I'm HOPING the computers will all crash because I'll be ready with some good ol' fashioned large hollow objects to physically hit and bring the boom sound. And if all else fails the two-lip beat-box never let me down yet.

moose: Technics don't have a Y2K bug problem. I don't think.

What new technology excites you? Scares you?

jake: I am excited that internet technology, combined with the plummeting prices of digital video and audio technologies, could allow us all to become our own media outlets. There will literally be thousands or millions of "channels" to choose from. Just like any other medium, there will be 90% crap, but when more artists and free thinkers get a hold of it there will be lots of great stuff.

I am afraid of internet technologies ability to become a tool for Big Brother. With all of the corporate consolidation going on in the internet/telephone/cable and other industries, there is the potential for a very few people to be at the top of the media pyramid, and gain control over the whole thing.

jenn (jenn leong): A lot of technology excites me and scares me. Lets see... I'm really into the future of wearable technology. The new medical technology is going a bit far and is a little creepy, but I'm sure if I needed it I would be much more appreciative. Actually for a while I thought that I'd need a new knee. I'm glad to have mine still intact but I would rather have some synthetic knee than none at all. Anyways, tangible technology is where it's at, when you can take it off the flat screen, into your hands and make it your own that's when I'll be psyched.

mike: Computers can be put to incredibly good use if they are used as the powerful tools that they are. Blind computer worship can be a very scary thing.

splice: I like 3d scanners, directional speakers, and furbies that talk to each other and learn new languages, but I'm not sure how much I'll like them once they're smarter than us. I'm terrified by the idea that the rich will live longer and longer, amassing more and more wealth while the rest of us starve due to awful resource waste, fry in the harsh rays of unblocked ozone and choke in greenhouse gases, or die of genetically engineered diseases.

fig: Technology excites me and scares me the same. Do you know those supermarket scanners that scan your product and speeds things up? That's great, but when they are not working correctly it takes forever to enter the price manually.

/rupture: Books and analog vinyl records excite me. Genotypin'/cloning tech. scares me.

What's the future of art and artists?

rafi: The future of art will be funnier. Plus everyone will pronounce it with a Boston accent. Nowadays, art takes itself so seriously that it's gonna have to lighten up to survive. funny aht. Fun-aht. Faht. The future is faht.

fig: Plastics. The future is plastics.

alex: Future? Can't predict the future. The present is interesting. I think one effect of the spastic proliferation of technology, especially these insanely complex digital technologies, into so-called artistic media has been to fuzzify boundaries and raise interesting questions. things like, who is the artist? Or how much is created by people, as opposed to machines or situations? If there is an event where there are several DJs playing records, made by people using samplers who have sampled other musicians, who are playing in musical structures that they largely learned from others, playing on instruments that are products both of their historical evolution and of the available technologies and materials, then how can anyone place one entity at the root of that creation? All these different people and forces feeding into it, from the instrument/tool makers to the organizers of the event who gather the DJs, to the digital technology industry, to the people who come to the event as an audience.

I don't think these questions are really new. Technology has always interacted with art. There have been artistic/musical traditions, where a less rigid sampling can happens with your fingers, your eyes, your ears and your brain instead of with a computer chip. People quote each other. They react to their social and political situations, to religion, to oppression. What is new is the extra degree to which everything is blurred; you can subtract people entirely from the final "performance" of something, keeping only the watchers and the listeners and the feelers. Do they become the doers? Maybe. Maybe we need to open our senses more the rest of the time.

What's your take on event production?

alex: Maybe event production is the kind of art form that might help people to look around them and realize how much we are created by our space, and how much we create that space.

/rupture: Producers get a cut, and performers get a cut, so as both, my take is relatively large, but we never make any money anyhow. Events are micro-cultures: people create a space and come together to celebrate and share and grow and think of ways to bring these fleeting event-spaces into greater society. They're also parties.

jenn: I think that a lot of the time we view our productions as large scale art installations that we put up for a night and then turn around and take it down. I think that's really awesome. Temporary art is very precious and when so much energy is put into it and so many elements make up the whole, it is really rewarding for everyone involved.

What are you listening to these days and what have you been visually or environmentally stimulated by?

flack: Anything on vinyl that's strange and under a dollar.

jenn: I've been really into /rupture's mix tape, PJ Harvey, Lauren Hill. Visually: superbad.com as always, still motion, that is motion that occurs in a still image whether its photography or design, ummm, designers republic, storefronts, flash, tetris and sleepers.

alex: Been listening to I'm not sure what. Sounds and bangs and thumps and whines and murmurs as they happen. Some other stuff. Definitely most audiovisually and environmentally stimulated by huge loud growling behemoth-ish trains with glowing windows (hints of humanoids) and hulking shadows crunching who knows what to pieces.

mike: Visual stimulation is everywhere. The city is amazing if you look at it the right way (and sort of terrifying no matter what). the big dig, the now-defunct bridge to Southie (view of the "world shaving headquarters" and the industrial mess in front of it), certain parts of 93 / the expressway with multiple intertwined rusty metal on/off ramps like some ridiculous roller coaster.... Of course the natural wonders of the world are also nice but they're harder to come by in this particular place and time.

splice: hip hop

What is the role of the audience at a Toneburst and what response would you most like from the crowd?

mike: I started seriously trying to play "live" electronic music after seeing a group of electronic/acoustic musicians engaged in a jam session at a soundlab in 1996. It was mesmerizing and it made me want to stop, sit down, listen and watch. There were only five or so people paying attention to about as many musicians. If I could create a similar reaction in somebody who came to one of our shows then I'd be psyched.

jake: It's great when the crowd is active: dancing and interacting with other elements of the event. It is up to us to create an interactive environment and it is up to the crowd to interact with it.

moose: It seems to range. If promoted correctly.. artsy fartsy, and interactive.

lack: Enthusiasm, open-mindedness and bliss.

/rupture: I hope we all create a space in which all types of difference can peacefully coexist, without any center or ruling sound/scene/etc. I hope everybody finds something challenging, that the performers push themselves and the audience encounters something new, that the overall environment is strikingly unlike the normal milieu and therefore offers the possibility for greater, longer lasting anarco-artisticommunities.

Do you have anything else to add?

jake: What's Up?

rafi: there's this gnarly chemical plant complex next to where I live. it stretches for miles. this is china, so there's little concern for hiding the "ugly" stuff or for keeping people out. you're surrounded by multicolor pipes, steaming valves, rusting dinosaur machines, and random bursts of flame, all the time breathing an acrid, dizzying smoke. The best part is there's a big billboard in the middle of it all. on the billboard is a picture of the chemical complex in all its glory, proclaiming the great future it heralds, with a neon yellow sun sinking in the shit-brown haze--and you're thinking "we're all in it together," and the theme song to Brazil is humming in your head.

/rupture: 1 + 1 = 3