Essay – Free Ears Part 1

Jul.02, 2013

Free Ears

Free Ears Part 1
A History of the Los Angeles Free Music Society
by Rick Potts
It just grew. It was fun, sometimes, mostly and pleasant, like spinning in
place. It can be fun but sometimes it makes you feel ill.Once, in 1975, after a Le Forte Four vs. Doodooettes freak-out
improvisation, we drove away from the studios at 35 South Raymond in
Pasadena’s pre “Old Town” crusty downtown porn-pawn-junk
store-hippie-art-trash skid neighborhood and I had an epiphany. Something
magical almost mystical goddam it happened, occasionally, where the frenetic
chaos of each individual unmusician’s sound would suddenly become one and
for 10 seconds we were transcendent. Then, when we realized it we would roll
out of control like my first solo bike ride and end up skinning my knee.
There were those surprising ecstatic moments but they would collapse and it
was a bit maddening.Occasionally Time would be missing. Out the window. Later on Time came
back and we rewound the tape. Pretty soon I got hooked. On the way home that
night we were driving past the Castle Green Hotel back when it was at it’s
most Haunted Mansion-y and I thought ‘someday everyone’s gonna be doing
this’. Then, I said out loud “someday everyone’s gonna be doing this” and
Dennis Duck said ‘What are you talking about Rick?” “Well,” I said “ like
ya know how we like make noise and tape it and stuff and sometimes it’s like
, ya know kinda good…well not too, bad?” Well ya know” I continued “
like… ah, never mind.” I wasn’t very articulate back then. Nor now.
My memory is probably faulty, too. Well at the very least it’s personal.
I’ve discovered we all have our own personal memories and sometimes the
emulsion flakes off the backing. When we compare notes thirty or so years
later we find out some of the notes are different or in different places.
This is the way I remember it, though. 

On my first day of High School in the fall of 1973 in 3rd period
“Beginning Instruments” class in the Music Building, the toupee topped
teacher had each student announce what instrument we planned on playing. I
had been fed up taking piano lessons from Alhambra’s premier lounge organist
Bob Abbey and said marimba was what I would like to play. I quickly was
talked into tenor sax after being offered glockenspiel in lieu of the school
not having a marimba. We finally got around to the two longhaired senior
students in the back of the class and I heard a voice answer “electronic
music synthesizer”. What the hell was this guy talking about? I’d never
heard of such a thing. We all laughed, but by the end of that school year
my new best friend Chip Chapman had gotten the school to purchase an Arp
Odyssey synthesizer, an Echoplex. an amp and a hot instructor to teach after
school Electronic Music class. Meanwhile, Chip got accepted into Cal Arts
Electronic Music Program by borrowing gear and recording in Pasadena City
College’s basement Moog-in-a-closet studio to make a demo reel to send with
his application. He had also organized a day of free improv freak outs in
the auditorium where I had to breath into a paper bag because I was
hyperventilating (again!) after some over-the-top saxophone blowing with
fellow sax honker Steve Nash. The summer before starting at Cal Arts Chip
and Joe Potts assembled a “camp cover band” at YMCA Camp Tatapotchin and
attempted a collaboration with ‘Patients’ Dan Weiss & mystery drummer Jay
Ross. Together with myself on sax and Susan Farthing on (rhythm) flute we
played an ill-fated show at a nearby Temple youth night. Our serious attempt
at rock music was hilariously embarrassing. Hilarembarrassing.

As I recall the show came about when Dan & Jay’s band, “Patients” were
asked to play a Teen Night show at their local Temple Beth Torah. Chip and
Joe (fresh from their camp band success) and I were asked to help out the
fledgling act. We sacrilegiously called the place of worship “Ethel’s
Tempura”. Patients pretty much knew one song, “Tuna Fish”, which repeated
one line “I hate it , I hate it, I hate it tuna fish!” over and over. Just
one part repeated ad nauseam (or until nausea). We quickly tried to help
them fill out their set. We could barely play our instruments and didn’t
really know any songs but that didn’t stop us. After each of us practicing
to Zappa’s “Weasals Ripped my Flesh” on our own, a bickering rehearsal
ensued when we tried to play “My Guitar wants to Kill your Mama” as a group.
Things were not meshing and soon arguments got heated and stupid. An edited
recording of this debaucle ended up being sent to an electronic music tape
in Norway and put on Bikini Tennis Shoes and several other LAFMS releases.
It is appropriatly titled “They are Asleep”. As the date of the show loomed
ahead I remember trying to lure other more professional musicians into the
act. One arrogant drummer dude showed up, retuned Jay’s drumkit (while Jay
waited outside), and rocked out leaving us in the dust. I don’t know if we
were more annoyed by his self-righteous ‘tude or he was more miffed by
wasting time with us.

On the afternoon of the show, Chip brought in some cool gear rented from

Hollywood and we set up to rehearse before the show. Joe had switched to
rhythm guitar using an open tuning and learned some Stones songs. The
potential vocalists who said they’d show up didn’t. We were beyond help
anyway but we managed to convince Mystery Drummer Jay to unplug the kick
drum pedal activated switch that lit up the inside of his kick drum with a
colored light and also made a loud POP through all the amps.
At dusk, we decorated the stage with a big box of Goodwill doll heads and
donned our rock costumes. Joe wore a torn up dress over his t-shirt and
jeans and a sideways Matador hat with a jockstrap over the bulge and a
celary stalk shoved in it. I wondered why I smeared racoon mascara around my
eyes and had a premonition that this was going to be the most embarrassing
night of my life. (In retrospect, it made the top three). I tried not to
hyperventilate.We dawdled on stage as party goers arrived and someone asked us if we were
playing any Alice Cooper. It must have been the mascara. Joe said “Nope,
only Zappa”. We “tuned up” and stumbled through our first tune, “Boris the
Spider”. Our version sounded like a demented polka and as we played the
sound hit the back wall and came galumphing back across the auditorium only
to crash head on with the outgoing din. We played “My Guitar Wants to Kill
Your Mama” and “Tuna Fish which left us with “Smoke on the Water” and the
Stones songs Joe learned. Chip asked me if I wanted to do vocals and I has
aghast. I told him “You’re the one who took choir”. I finally decided to try
“Little Queenie” and with the undecipherable lyrics scrawled on a piece of
paper in my hand I shyly mumbled the words rather than giving it the gutsy
growly R&B wail the song asked for. The party had long left the building and
mingled in the parking lot while we finished up without me singing “Smoke on
the Water”. We quickly packed up our gear and got the hell outta there.
Luckily, the money in the cash box pretty much covered the rented gear.Chip always has big, fun ideas. He’s smart and gets ideas and he goes
ahead and does’em. He has a way of making things happen that you didn’t
realize you could do. When he’d started at Cal Arts and after Joe and I had
recorded tapes with him a bunch of times, at our
Sunday-night-give-Chip-a-ride-back-to-Valencia sessions, he told us he’d
come up with a name for our ‘group’. We had just dragged our gear into
B-303. This probably included ; a three string japanese guitar with custom
scraped off failed epoxy resin finish, an empty 55 gallon cyanide drum, 

giant homemade (bamboo and weather stripping) “King Kong” mallet, the
Univox, Dad’s duck call, a little plastic toy violin and my Pedrini Music
tenor sax. We were standing outside an open closet filled with mike stands
and recording gear in a narrow passage in the Cal Arts music department
maze. I didn’t know we were a group.I was just having fun making sounds. Sure he had sent that tape to that
electronic tape festival in Norway as “The East Los Angeles Free Music
Society” but that was a joke, right? The name was supposed to get them to
take us seriously and it worked…temporarily. At first we were accepted
into the festival, but when Chip wrote asking for a copy of our master tape
Hal Clark, after hearing “They are Asleep” which was an edit of us arguing
during a rehearsal for the rock gone wrong Temple show and the ludicrous
Ka-Bella-Binsky-Bungo, sent our tape back with a letter that stated “Free
ears and minds are one thing, but what about aesthetics?”Chip tells us the new name of our group is Le Forte Four but I don’t quite
get it. Lay Fort-tay Four. Forte means loud or the thing someone does best,
like, “his forte is piano” or “piano forte”. It has the fancy French ‘le’
which is silly and also is mock pretentious. It also sounds like 44 (a film
noir or western gun reference?). I decide it’s a great name but I didn’t’t
know what to think.
I wondered about what having a name meant. It seemed too serious. I was
hoping we could still have fun ‘experimenting’ and it wouldn’t turn out like
the Temple Beth Torah show. It seems that I didn’t need to worry about Le
Forte Four being too serious.Back in B 303, Chip played us tapes of what he’d been working on that
week as we set up our shit. This was the most decked out of the three or so
Buchla laden electronic music studios. It was set up for Hi-Fi Quad as per
1973 audiophile specs. Two Ampeg half inch four tracks, a couple Revox half
tracks, a pair of stereo Marantz amps and a JBL Studio Monitor sitting on
a bright orange and chrome moderne Eames chair in each of the four corners.
On a table in the center was a four foot by four foot curved wall of knobs,
lights, jacks and joysticks often festooned with a literal tangle of
brightly colored patch cords by the end of the night. Don Buchla’s model
300 Electronic Music Box was the deluxe version, I repeat, it has joysticks
and pans sounds and signals around. This room set up with curved corners a
dark red curtain on far wall and all this cool gear set up in the middle
made me feel like I was behind the famous curtain from “The Wizard of Oz”. 

Cal Arts held a certain magic for me. The place was filled with the most
modern creative tools invented and amazing people to help teach you to use
them. I always wished I’d have been a student there. I wondered around the
Animation, Film , Video (they had a Nam June Paik designed Video

Synthesizer) Music, Art and Dance Departments and my mind would boggle at
all the possi-tunities. When I visited the animation studios I’d hear the
dreamy sounds of the Gamelan orchestra rehearsing nearby. I was often there
at nights or weekends when there weren’t’t many people around. The Main
Building is a big confusing labyrinth of classrooms lobbies, studios,
galleries, ,stairwells, long ass hallways and performance spaces. You felt
really isolated by the time you wound your way around and I never knew
where I was. It’s the kind of place you can get lost on a trip to the Men’s
Room.The few people we would run into would be smart, talented and funny.
We’d bump into Roland Kato or Carl Stone, Chas Smith, maybe bassoonist
Steve Braunstein or tabla player David Johnson who sat in with us a few
times. Most people had long hair and a magical gleam in their eyes. Peter
Cohen was an Elf who lived next door to Chip in the Dorm. He burnt off his
eyebrows when he grinned at the wrong time while doing a fire breathing
stunt. He wore a bell and giggled. You’d hear him down around some corner
jingling and tee-heeing as you tried to find your way through the maze. You
felt like you were in another world. Once, Woody Allen was revived out of
cryostasis into a future world when ‘Sleeper’ was filmed there.
Besides, the place had lot’s of really cool girls, nude dorm pool, beer
and Thai sticks via the Percussion Dept. My visits there pretty much ruined
high school for me. I just wanted to draw and make films and music after
that.That entire school year we recorded on most Sunday nights. My oldest
brother, Tom Potts, began recording with us and friends sometimes
participated. Most evenings would start with an hour’s drive in the green
Ford Raunch Wagon After dragging our stuff in from the parking lot Chip
would play us recordings he had done that week and then he would get out the
patch cords and start connecting modules on the Buchla. In most cases it
involved processing our instruments and microphones and sometimes turntables
and projectors. One week he played us a composite of a silly vocal improv we
had done the week before spliced and diced with some equally bombastic synth
movements. It’s the song Bikini Tennis Shoes and I was pretty startled and
amused by what Chip had done. For the first time I felt we had really done
something good.That summer Chip & I cleaned out a backyard tool shed to possibly use as
a studio. Chip showed me a new copy of the neo-dada magazine FILE (it was
formatted to look like LIFE magazine) and in amongst the pictures of the
person in the Mr. Peanut costume and articles about Ant Farm’s ‘Media Burn’
performance there was a full page ad with a flexi-disc single attached. The
Residents debut album ‘Meet the Residents’ could be bought by sending 2
dollars to an address in San Francisco. Back at my house we played the
flexi-disc. The odd music had a strange homemade feel to it. It was
definitely different and Chip told me “These guys aren’t signed to a record
label. I bet they just made it themselves!” At the time it was unheard and
unthought-of of. Chip might have already had the idea in mind but I assumed
only record companies put out records and that’s it. Chip got out the Yellow
Pages, called a couple places in Hollywood and started cutting up our tapes. 

Most of Bikini Tennis Shoes was recorded at Cal Arts in 1974. It ‘s got an
edit of an echoplex freak-out solo ‘Song of the Electric Drill’ (one of
Chip’s pre Cal Arts recordings) and home recorded fragments of his little
brother Tim’s kiddy comedy one liners. He put his Buchla projects up against
our modulated mock lounge trio playing to a thrift store bongo record. The
Pope bumping into a cheerful Jack-in the-Box jingle with sped up tape. It’s
Stockhausen meets Zappa arguing with Esquivel over hamburgers with Clutch
Cargo refereeing. There’s a section of our rock debacle and a song Chip sang
that’s based on a dream he had about our pal Steve Nash. Filtered noise ala
Columbia Princeton Electronic Music Center leaning against a nose solo and
an educational Tom Bosley quip

Chip took the finished master tapes to famous Gold Star Studios at Vine &
Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood to get the masters made. He dropped them off

and pretty soon we got a call from Ed the mastering engineer. He told Chip
“You brought the wrong tape. This one has a loud hum and cursing on it”.
Chip said “No, that’s the right one, that’s part of it”. Ed told Chip we
better come back down and be there for the mastering.
Before long we were taking the mother discs across the street to Alco to
get our run of 200 records made. When the test pressings showed up it was
very odd to hear our music on vinyl.
It was a great feeling but still hard to believe that Le Forte Four was
putting out a record. We still have hundreds of labels for Bikini Tennis
Shows somewhere because the smallest run they would do was 1000.
Next we had to come up with a cover and liner notes. The notes were a
collaborative thing with us shouting out lines in the Potts’ family living
room. Tom Potts edited & compiled our rantings and together he and I
‘transcribed’ the Popes speech. This amounted to listening to the Pope and
phonetically rendering his Latin sacrilegiously into English. “Thank you for
carrying me across to the sensuous intensely orphans immensely. The scallops
of She-She on the sockets all omnibus. Peculiarly small malt poured the tuna
the dent to. Duke University toured our morbid Christianity. Spirituality
boosts the restaurant, he’s sick Chris at the saw rays. No sermon of the
sewer is beyond avocado.”
The next formidable task was to paint the front of a printing shop. That’s
what we did in exchange for type setting and printing our notes and covers
for Bikini Tennis Shoes. Chip’s job at Cunningham Press had the perk of
scrounging reams of off register partial runs of postcards for the esteemed
Huntington Library. With only two or three of the five colors off register
the stodgy images of Blue Boy and Pinky (famous 19th century portraits) had
a dada psychedelic look. After they printed our name and album title on them
we snuck into they’re bookbinding shop signed all the liner notes and hand
glued the covers onto blank jackets with bookbinders glue. Once the two
hundred and something records got shrink-wrapped we had a record.
When Bikini Tennis Shoes came out we literally couldn’t give the damn
things away. On several occasions friends and family members gave the record
back to us saying “ I thought that you could give it to someone else who
might be able to ‘appreciate it more’. Finally Joe came up with the idea of
instructing recipients to ‘pass it on to a friend’ if they didn’t’t like
it. That way they would eventually find a home. Wise-asses would recite
“number nine, number nine, number nine” because referencing ‘Revolution
Number 9 ‘ off the Beatles ‘ White Album ‘ was the only way they could get
a handle on it. We figured if anyone could appreciate it the guys at Poobah
Records would dig it or at least put a few copies in their store.
Poobah Record Shop was born in 1971, Jay Green was the den mother of this
perennially bohemian establishment. In it’s basement lair in the 100 block
of N. Fair Oaks in rundown old Pasadena. LAFMS founding member, Juan Gomez,
remembers the indian bedspreads hung around, jazz playing and everyone
sporting beards.
I only went to the underground location a couple times but I do remember
meeting Tom Recchion.
I has tagging along with my brother Joe and we had driven across town
from the County Strip. A stretch of unincorporated LA County suburbia
ensnared by a cluster of post war boomed hamlets, namely Alhambra, Arcadia,
Temple City, South Pasadena, Rosemead, San Marino and our mailing address
city of San Gabriel. San Gabriel (city with a mission ) got started before
Los Angeles by Father Junipero Serra who enslaved the local Indians and
built a series of Missions from Mexico to the Bay Area. Joe called it “the
city with emissions” and back then the first stage smog alerts chain-smoked
through the summer. Joe started his ‘57 Ford Fairmont by opening the hood
and using a big screwdriver to arc from his battery to his starter as he
tugged on his gas cable. We drove through snooty squaresville San Marino in
the finned, Grey and White two tone number with the “Beautify America, Shoot
a Redneck” bumper on the inside drivers door, and into downtown tenderloin
Old, Old Town Pasadena, by all accounts, was a funky place in the early
70’s. About 8 square blocks of seedy urban grit set in a field of mixed
suburbia. It probably doubled for Times Square in Starsky and Hutch, Baretta
and Mannix episodes. There were dank pawn shops, smelly dive bars, greasy
Mexican restaurants, the Free Press Bookstore and the Free Clinic, sleazy
Adult Entertainment Center’s, and junky junk stores, mixed in with a few
patchouli stinking Hippie head/boutique/record/import/clothing stores. Lots
of unused abandoned office spaces and warehouses. In my mind it’s like 70’s
Noir, where there could be a Cassavetes film crew around the corner or I
could imagine seeing Barnaby Jones on the job. The funky scene was populated
with bums, drunks, junkies, tramps, hoods, pimps, whores, creeps, poor and
homeless, ghetto kids, artists and eccentrics. There were lots’o’ crusty
old men and scary old hags, plus a smattering of hip suburban teenagers
looking for cool shit to buy cheap. Slumming it.
At Poobah’s you had a very hip scene thriving at it’s new street level
location. From the latest Prog imports and jazz classics to all kinds of
rock and the bins of used stuff labeled $1.00 & under, 50 cents, 25 cents,
FREE. The Seventies was the vinyl decade and they had it all. Tom Recchion
worked at Poobah’s and was always enthusiastically pointing out his favorite
recent arrivals. “Have you heard the new Henry Cow record?” He turned us on
to some great records and we figured he was someone who might appreciate our
new baby.
Tom got Bikini Tennis Shoes. He GOT it. Soon, The Los Angeles Free Music
Society started germinating in Tom’s head. Why not create a society to go
with the factitious name? Unbeknownst to Le Forte Four, Poobah’s was also
the a vortex of musical experimentation by members of Tom’s group
Doodooettes and also Smegma and Ace & Duce as well as a whole bunch of other
pals. There was a whole underground scene rattling around. There was a
backroom where after-hours jam sessions ensued without the neighbors
freaking and three or four blocks away, in the derelict Raymond Building,
Tom had an abandoned office that he used as a music studio.
For us it was a refreshing surprise to meet like minded folks,
experimenters, who had none of the elitist, ‘What about esthetics?’ attitude
that sneered at us up at Cal Arts where our new album was received with
mixed annoyance by the other composers. I’m not sure LAFMS ever ‘formed’.
It was never a solid. It pooled and oozed and that made it more flexible. We
liked Tom’s concept for joining together as the Los Angeles Free Music
Society and his idea for a show in a abandoned ballroom over Poobah’s.
Later referred to as the Spaghetti Works Show (named after the restaurant at
the front of the building) it took place on Chinese New Year in January of
1975 and featured Ace & Duce, Doodooettes and Le Forte Four. It’s the
birth day of the LAFMS.

Essay- BYRON COLEY (Box Set)

Jul.02, 2013

The LAFMS was a lightning rod for pre-punk & non-punk musical whatsis from all over the globe. This compilation deals primarily with the associations core members and their good works, but one of the LAFMS' prime functions was to transform itself (via "mere" extended activity) into a kind of magneto-art-sump for universal noise oddballs. Because it was physically locate-able, and copiously documented its members' gush, the LAFMS drew disaffected weirdos to its hub in the way that doughnuts attract fat cops. Its name became a kind of secret handshake that allowed culturally disenfranchised puds & pudettes to identify each other. Indeed, several of my closest friendships were cemented in the 70s w/ phrases like, "Oh, you know Le Forte Four?" -spoken w/ surprised delight while poking through a new acquantance's records.

In a way, the LAFMS bridged the years between the appearance of Meet the Residents in '74 and 1/2 Japanese's first EP in '77; linking the Euro-rooted sophistication of early '70s American experimentation to the insanely intuitive noise gushing that came about after punk unlocked the undergrounds id. The sound of Smegma was the exact kind of thing that every isolated suburban Beefheart fan imagined himself or herself producing in the company of true peers. The same could be said of Le Forte Four, the Doo-Dooettes, Airway, and most of the other units that the LAFMS extruded. These bastards all glued together choice, disparate elements of musical-fringe-culture like the dedicated, all-American scientific-hobbyists they were.

Improvisation, concrete assemblage, kraut-moosh, tinkling, noise, and weirdness for the sake of weirdness were all perceived as hallmarks of the LAFMS ethos. In a year as dull as 1975, the wee-est taste of meat that strong could be enough to separate your head from your body. Forever. Again. For those who were brave enough to send away for LAFMS records or tapes, its name will gawp forever as a wide portal to a parallel cosmos that could only be suspected in the years before the "cassette revolution" (so called). And since almost no one has ever heard all the material that makes up this voluminous compendium, it is guaranteed to be its own set of trap doors to a very special void.

You are there. Now. Lucky. -

--Byron Coley, Northampton, MA. 1994

Solid Eye

Jul.02, 2013

Solid Eye formed in 1992, when ex-Monitor member, Steve Thomsen, joined forces with Rick Potts & Joseph Hammer, the “avant schmaltz” avatars behind Dinosaurs With Horns, a long lived experimental ensemble formed in 1982 whose penchant for unalloyed absurdity hit its nadir on their self titled 1983 cassette release. Potts & Hammer also briefly sojourned in the mid 80′s in Steaming Coils, Medicine main man Brad Laner’s post-Beefheart, post-Residents, post-Pere Ubu melange of madcap mutated pop structures, significantly contributing to their first LP “Never Creak,” as well as improvising alongside Laner in Debt Of Nature. Tricking around in the DNA of sound, the fruit of their loins, a fusion of Thomsen’s spectral otherworldly melodies and Potts & Hammer’s inspired lunacy has produced a new species of experimental audio custom designed to ensnare your head in fertile webs of feverish delirium. 

from Allmusic:

by Jason Ankeny

The experimental electronic trio Solid Eye comprised Joseph Hammer and Rick Potts (who previously teamed in Dinosaurs with Horns) in tandem with Steve Thomsen; formed in 1992, they released their self-titled debut album on Win Records in 1999.

Le Forte Four

Jul.02, 2013

Le Forte Four were the earliest group in the collective of avant-garde music anarchists known as the Los Angeles Free Music Society (LAFMS). With their music combining loose experimental improvisation on both conventional instruments and household items with stuff taped off television cartoons or taken from records as well as lo-fi electronics, Le Forte Four were pioneers of sampling, even as their D.I.Y. ethic paved the way for the punk movement a few years later. In the summer of 1973, Chip Chapman, along with two brothers, Rick and Joe Potts, formed the Patients and recorded some material in the Potts family living room, which mostly consisted of the group arguing as they rehearsed Zappa’s “My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama,” and the Who‘s “Boris the Spider.” A few months later, much to the chagrin of the other members, Chapman sent an excerpt of this to the Norway Electronic Music Festival under the name East Los Angeles Free Music Society.

In 1974, the group adopted the name Los Angeles Free Music Society as they worked on their first album, but by 1975 they had become Le Forte Four with the addition of another Potts brother, Tom Potts, and LAFMS was used for the name of their label. That first LP, Bikini Tennis Shoes was released later that year. Through the record, Le Forte Four were discovered by another group of avant-garde noise-makers who hung out regularly at the Poo-Bah Record Shop in Pasadena, and soon the whole LAFMS scene took off as the various artists inspired each other. By early 1976, Le Forte Four gigged regularly with other LAFMS artists like the Doo-Dooettes and Ace & Duce. One of those concerts, from July of 1976 at the recital hall of the Brand Library, was released as the LP Live at the Brand later that year. A third record, Spin ‘n’ Grin, was released in 1981, offering a retrospective of earlier material. By that time Le Forte Four’s members had moved on to relatedLAFMS projects and Le Forte Four were dissolved. ~ Rolf Semprebon, Rovi

Dinosaurs with Horns

Jul.02, 2013

“Since 1983′s self-titled cassette release on The Solid Eye label, Rick Potts and Joseph Hammer have delicately dispensed laughing-gas-balloon-animals-go-pop-music as Dinosaurs With Horns. The cryptic LAFMS-related group occurred during and in between periods of playing with Points of Friction, Steaming Coils and Solid Eye. Spencer Savage and/or Tom Recchion jammed with them in the mid ’80s and continued intermittently since. While a smattering of material has appeared on various compilations and very limited cassette and CDR releases, Return of the Disco-Aristo-Sarcophagus is the first full-length CD release. It was recorded November 2000 on KXLU radio and January 2007 at the LACE Gallery in Hollywood, CA. Joseph Hammer cites AM radio station mixing (receiving more than one station at the same time) and an episode of the ’70s TV show Land of the Giants, where astronauts used tape loops to thwart alien tyrants as a couple of his musical influences. He has developed his own way of making music utilizing consumer audio technology, tape loops, samplers and analog synthesizers to create compelling and varied musical expressions. Since 1980, he has performed with Solid Eye, Points of Friction, Blue Daisies, Steaming Coils, Debt of Nature (which became Medicine), Vector 3 Niner, Paramecial Wedding, Kitten Sparkles and others. Rick Potts has been making unusual music for the last thirty years, starting with the forming of Le Forte Four and founding of the L.A. Free Music Society in 1973. Playing the electric guitar with electric toothbrush, street sweeper bristles, electric cocktail stirrer and other objects, and using musical saw and analog synthesizers, he has a talent for making familiar instruments and other implements produce sounds unique, alarming and enigmatic yet oddly cordial. Tom Recchion has been working with sound and music for over 35 years. Starting off as an accordion player then on to pillow cushions with cardboard sticks that transmogrified into a set of drums. From there on, playing anything he could get his hands on, guitar, pianos in garages, found and invented instruments, tapes, keyboards, paper, fans, synths, radio, records and finally computer. Spencer Savage began playing live music with numerous groups in Los Angeles in 1983, primarily as a percussionist, vocalist, and noisemaker.”


Jul.02, 2013

Airway were part of the Los Angeles Free Music Society (LAFMS), a group of extremely radical experimental music anarchists in the mid-’70s. Even more radical was Airway’s focus on live performance with the use of subliminal-message tapes in the background, used to persuade the audience in different ways. Joe Potts, from the LAFMS group Le Forte Four, put out a single, “Airway,” in the spring of 1977, which was given away at an art exhibit at the Lunami Gallery in Tokyo, Japan. The single and its sleeve design had subliminal messages that reinforced the subliminals embedded in the autopsy photos of the show. The following year Potts decided to try to re-create the subliminal message beneath a Wall of Sound from that single in a live context, using a primitive tape delay and processing system he invented with Chip Chapman, also from Le Forte Four. Airway’s first performance took place in August 1978 at the Lace Gallery, with Potts and Chapman working the circuits, and Vetza on vocals, Rick Potts on mandolin, and Doo-Dooettes’ members Dennis Duck on sax, Juan Gomez on bass, and Tom Recchion on drums. The sheer noise of the music fed through the electronics and backed by Potts’ subliminal tapes soon drove people out of the gallery, where they continued to listen from a safe distance on the street three floors below. Excerpts of that show were released later that year by LAFMS on the LP Live at Lace. Airway returned to the Lace on October 31, 1978, and also played a handful of other gigs that year and the next, with many different lineups as well as different subliminal tapes from Joe Potts. At each performance the tapes manipulated the audience, to move closer to the group, or away, or in other ways, depending on Potts’ intentions. Eventually, Potts went on to other projects and Airway fell by the wayside at the end of the 1970s. Airway was resurrected for a performance at the Santa Monica Museum of Art on February 14, 1998, with a cast of 18 musicians, who included many former Airway members and others. This performance was released on CD as Beyond the Pink Live with the original Joe Potts single “Airway.” ~ Rolf Semprebon, Rovi

Biography of LAFMS

Jul.02, 2013

The Los Angeles Free Music Society is not one group per se but rather a loose collection of several like-minded noise anarchists from the mid-’70s who found commercial rock too boring, slick, and predictable, and set out to reinvent improvisation and sound experiments with a DIY ethic. Inspired by Zappa, Captain BeefheartJohn Cage, the Residents, and free jazz, the LAFMS was an underground avant-rock movement and a record label that presaged everything from punk to plunderphonics, while their utterly unconventional approach denied them any chance of mainstream success. As their movement spread, they became a lightning rod for art-damage, weird-music lovers everywhere.

In the summer of 1973, the threesome of Rick Potts, Joe Potts, and Chip Chapman started to record material under the name Patients in East L.A. These were tape experiments and improvised playing mixed with early sampling from television cartoons as well as Chapman’s extensive record collection. By 1974, they changed their name to the Los Angeles Free Music Society to do the album Ka-Bella-Binski-Bungo, however by the time the album came out, in 1975, it had been renamed Bikini Tennis Shoes and the group was now Le Forte Four with the addition of Tom Potts. Unbeknownst to them, during this time another gang of semi-musicians with a similar experimental bent gathered in the evenings at the Poo-Bah Record Shop in nearby Pasadena. Tom Recchion, who worked at the store, had formed Two Who Do Duets with Harold Schroeder in March of 1975, and later that year the group transformed into the Doo-Dooettes with the addition of Juan Gomez. Others of the Pasadena crowd included Ace Farren Ford and the Professor (who performed as the duo Ace & Duce), Dennis Duck, Richard Snyder, Fredrik Nilson, and Billy Bishop. Members of the avant-rock group Smegma, who had already been around for a couple years, were also part of the Pasadena crowd before they moved to Portland, OR, near the end of 1975. When Recchion arrived one evening with Le Forte Four‘s Bikini Tennis Shoes LP, the impressed Pasadena contingent realized they were not alone, and immediately joined the LAFMS umbrella as a way to get their own recordings released, and soon Le Forte Four and the Doo-Dooettes were double-billing live.

In 1976, Joe Potts decided to put out a various-artists compilation with an open invitation, selling space on the record at two dollars for every 15 minutes as a way to allow others who couldn’t afford their own record to release material. This compilation, I.D. Art, featuring both LAFMS artists and others, came out later that year. This led to several Blorp Essette compilations set up along similar lines in 1978 and 1980, further widening the LAFMS web and their attitude that anyone should have the right to be on record. New projects were also formed out of the pool of LAFMS compatriots, from Joe Potts’ live noise-overload project Airway, formed in 1977; to John Duncan‘s CV Massage a couple years later; and even more groups in the 1980s like Solid Eye, Monique, Human Hands, Dinosaurs With Horns, Foundation Boo; as well as solo efforts by John Duncan, Joe Potts, Tom Recchion, Dennis Duck, Fredrik Nilson, and Chip Chapman. Though nothing has been released on the LAFMS label since the mid-’80s, many of the participants carried the spirit of the movement onward. It can’t be denied that their influence has carried forward through punk in the late ’70s to the cassette-tape trader movement of the ’80s, while much of their own music is still as unsettlingly weird as it was in the mid-’70s. ~ Rolf Semprebon, Rovi

from “The History of Rock and Roll” (online)

The Los Angeles Free Music Society, formed around Tom Recchion in 1972, was a collective of underground artists loosely inspired by Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart (but also all jazz and classical avantgarde movements). Le Forte Four, who released four lunatic electronic-folk albums starting with Bikini Tennis Shoes (1974), Doo-Dooettes (two albums), Smegma (one album) and Airway (one album) were some of the performers devoted to free improvisation, abstract cacophony and demented chanting.


Nov.20, 2012

(Established 1973, LAFMS core group)

So far over 100 people have Performed and or,recorded with , or helped work on projects with SMEGMA this is lots of them.

Pasadena Smegma:

Ju Suk Reet Meate (Eric Stewart), Cheezbro, Amazon Bambi (Amy DeWolfe aka Erph-Puss), Cheezit Ritz, Chucko Fats (aka D.K. Fatts), Dennis Duck (Dennis Mehaffey),  Ace Farren Ford (Steve Rietta aka Ace of Space), Electric Willy(William Clay Robinson aka Electric Bill),   Paul ” Pigface” Rioux,

Also-  Dr.Id  (Mike Lastra),  Dr. Odd, Reed Burns, Victor Sparks (Tom Recchion), Wild Man Fischer, Iso, Chuck, Bev, The Professer, Gary “Magic” Marker.


Portland Smegma:
Ju Suk Reet Meate (Eric Stewart), Dr.Id  (Mike Lastra), Amazon Bambi (Amy DeWolfe aka Erph-Puss), Danton * , Frank Chavez * , D.K. (Big Dirty) *#, Cheez-it-Ritz *,  Oblivia (Jackie Stewart aka Rock and Roll Jackie), Burned Mind + ^  and Borneo Jimmy (Richard Meltzer)+, Myrtle Tickner  (Charles Nims) # + , Stan Wood ^ , Lee Rockey * # ,

Also- John Jensen+,, Samek Cosmano , Arsene Zara, Jerry A., Pig Champi  on,

,*=1970s only, #= 1980s only, +=1990s only, ^= 2000s only


Current Smegma:
Ju Suk Reet Meate (Eric Stewart), Oblivia (Jackie Stewart aka Rock and Roll Jackie),  Dennis Duck (Dennis Mehaffey), Ace Farren Ford (Steve Rietta aka Ace of Space), Big Dirty (Brad Hostetler), Vetza (Vetza Trussel) ,Rogue Iniki (Nour Mobarak), John Wiese, Madelyn Villano.    also Alieta Train, David Morgan,  Cody, Jennifer, William Cyrus ford , Mars Ford.

Lowest Form of Music Images

Jul.02, 2010


From The Wire

From The Wire


Getting set up


LFOM - 1010SOMU22 - Airway - _DGL6963 - 72