|For years, the BEANS have been playing weird
free-jazz experimental rock. They've released an ep, "Tired Snow," on Zum Media,
as well as a new album, "Crane Wars." Previously, they put out an album called
"Portage" on Zulu Records. You can find out more at www.ibeanstrument.com. When I
talked to Stefan, a member of the band, they had just finished playing a 48 hour concert!
How did you guys all get together to form the BEANS?
BEANS: Tygh, Andy and I used to be in a Velvet Underground cover band called the
Danglers. Our official t-shirt had a drawing of a stomach on it. Anyhow, that band split
up and Andy kept playing with Tygh and me separately. Then Andy worked out this plan to
bring the three of us together again. So we ended up playing together this one day (our
own material) and I remember watching Tygh curled up in a little ball, wedged in between
his amplifier and Andy's futon (we jammed in Andy's room), and there were the crazy
screeches and howles and grunts and stuff coming from him and his amp. I still can't
remember how he managed to play his guitar, but that was it. We were the beans from then
on. One night, at a show we were playing, Ida shuffled in off the street holding her
trumpet (she was busking). She asked if she could sit in for a song and we instantly fell
in love with her. Andy and I met Damon at university where we were taking computer music
courses together. Damon came up with some pretty mean electroacoustic stuff, so we asked
him to hop on board, and he consented.
i: What was it like recording Crane Wars? Was it any different from Portage? Why
the name Crane Wars?
B: We recorded Portage in our living room on an 8 track reel-to-reel. The 8 tracks
companion (the mixing board) was lovingly referred to as "monkey business." we
had all the time in the world to record in the comfort of our own home. the
all-over-the-placed-ness of Portage just came from us experimenting, trying whatever with
whatever instrument whatever time of the day, having fun. there are a lot of unreleased
tracks from that period. With Crane Wars, it was basically the same situation, except we
recorded at The Hive Recording Studio. They were very generous to us, as far as how long
we needed to record what we wanted to record. Crane Wars is a more focused effort only
because we decided to approach the album that way. When we left the studio, we had over
two hours of recorded and mixed material which was just as all over the place as Portage.
I guess we just tried to make Crane Wars a little less eratic than Portage. Crane Wars is
basically a document of the beans from 1996-99 so some of the material is fairly old for
us now. We actually have another album almost finished. We're a little slow with these
i: How did you find Zum? What made you choose them?
B: Zum chose us. My girlfriend met George (Zum) while her band was on tour (he set up
their show in Berkley) and she gave him a copy of Portage. He called me soon after. Yvonne
and George (Zum) kick some serious ass.
i: What was it like performing for 48 hours straight? Would you do it again?
B: That is definitely hard to describe. I haven't really processed what happened quite
yet. It was maddening. We tried to prepare for it but when we were in the middle of it, it
really hit us how large of a thing it really was. There is no way to prepare. There were a
lot of great moments for the band. We played some of the best music we've played. And I'd
like to think that the quality of music that we were putting out over the 48 hours, for
the band, was fairly high. We had some moments of exhaustion where the music would drop to
pretty minimal stuff with not a lot of effort, but for the most part we steamrolled
through that 48 hours. The last 4 or so hours were amoung the best for sure. Something
clicked. We had become habituated to playing or something. During the last hour we broke
into three part harmony for a song we had never rehearsed as a whole before. Fairly
suprising considering we're predominantly an instrumental band. Anyhow, We had the whole
48 hours planned out. We approached it as one song. Our friend David Crompton made these
slides describing where we were in the song for each hour. It mapped out the 48 hours for
the audience, so they had an idea of what we were doing with the music. We have the
projection slides posted on our website for people to check out. David did a great job,
they look good. And no, I don't think we'll be doing that again. It's way to crazy.
i: How did you get the inspiration for this type of music? Were any of you exposed
to it when you were growing up? Or did you discover it later in life?
B: The only thing that I can think of musically from when I was a kid that might have
influenced what I play in the beans is the times when I would sit with my father in the
living room with the lights out and listen to Beethoven symphonies. I dubbed those records
onto to my little fisher price tape recorder and rode around the trailer park on my BMX
blasting Beethoven. Maybe the Beethoven explains some of the melodrama. There is a show
Tygh, Andy and I went to back in '95 or '96 (beans formative years) that really blew us
away. It was the Dirty Three. They were fresh from Australia, I think, and they blew us
away. We didn't know who they were cause we were there to see John Cale. They were
spitting and screaming and jumping and playing the craziest music. I think I got a little
Warren spittle on me. So initially they were an influence. I listened to Pell Mell and
Talk Talk a lot in the formative years as well. I can't speak for the rest though. Since
then there has been a lot of things, music or otherwise that have influenced us which
would be to much to go into here.
i: What type of music do you listen to? Like, what's in the cd player/tape
deck/turntable right now?
B: Dixie's Death Pool - Soon In the Mood For Love - Soundtrack Morton Feldman - Piano
and String Quartet some old live Velvet Underground bootlegs a steady diet of Giacinto
Scelsi, Gavin Bryars, and Neil Young
i: Got any interesting or funny stories to share?
B: When we came down to San Fransisco last summer on our Westcoast tour, we ended up
spending a few nights in a 20 foot high sphere covered in bubble wrap. it was cozy 'cause
there was a humungous bean bag pillow inside of it. actually, there is a picture of us
lounging in the sphere in the Crane Wars CD booklet.
i: What's that question that you wish all interviewers would ask, that I haven't?
And what's the response?
B: Why are the beans so difficult to deal with? Why are they so frustrating and
irrational? Once this radio interviewer became a little confused and frustrated because we
answered his questions in mono-voice (everyone saying the same thing at the same time).
It's actually a pretty neat effect when everyone is on. We didn't mean to confuse or
upset. I think he was mildly ammused after he realized all hell wasn't going to break
loose. We are responsible misbehavors.
i: What's it like touring? Is the whole experience barrels o' fun, or is there a
lot of work involved? Or is it a mixture?
B: It's crazy touring. We all get along, so that's good. I have had a lot of fun on
every tour we've done, even if half the shows are us playing behind a heater in someone's
basement to 3 people. We have always had really great experiences on the road, like
sleeping in giant spheres, etcetera. We like to think of tours as holidays. We bring tents
and camp out some nights, roast some mystery chunks from the van over the fire. I have to
say, touring is barrels o' fun.
i: So you're walking down the street. A man with a top hat on walks up to you and
takes off his hat. He shows you that hat and says, "In here, I've got two bags. One
bag contains 5000 dollars, the other bag is a mystery bag." You look into the hat,
but you don't see anything. He assures you that they are in there. He speaks, "Now,
it's you're turn to choose one. Which would you like?" What do you do?
B: Oh my God. I'm not good with this stuff. I am an indicisive person. Maybe I should
probably buy some groceries. I've been eating out too much.
i: What's your favourite colour?
B: Right now it's green.