Secret Signals 2

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Secret Signals 2

This the the second album in the Secret Signals series (one more to go). As stated before, all of these were first produced in the late 80s / early 90s as "Hand Systems" cassettes and sold via Steve Feigenbaum's Wayside Music catalog (thank you, Steve). Many thanks to Joe Paradiso for cleaning these cassettes up and transferring them over to a digital format, and to Mike Potter at Orion Studios in Baltimore, Maryland for squeezing the best sound and volume out of these age-old recordings. A big portion of our Muffin sets would always include an improvisation or two. We always felt that it was an important part of the Muffin "identity" along with our highly structured and arranged other music. We related to the American free jazz sound (many of us were die-hard fans of Sun Ra, Anthony Braxton, and The Art Ensemble of Chicago as well as the European free improvisation that bands like Henry Cow exemplified), but I also think the improvisations served as a release from that structure giving us the freedom to stretch out and have fun. Mike Bass is the sole drummer on this album - Mike seemed best wired for this improvisational side of The Muffins. Most of this album is a collection of those improvisations, many of them 44 years old. (Man, I feel ancient!) The cover, insert, and disc art are by Gonzalo Fuentes and Eric Kearns (based on my original cassette designs). This package could not have been done without their particular graphics expertise. Our apologies up front for the occasional drop out or distortion; many of these recordings were done on the run using the best equipment we had available at the time, which was not always ideal.


"Hands All Round"

I believe that this is live at a place we used to play at a lot (mostly because they didn't care WHAT we played, and we could go as crazy as we wanted) called The Music Carry-Out in a tough section of Washington, DC. It used to be a Chicken Carry-Out, but the owner changed the venue and just left the "Carry-Out" part up there for convenience. I have one memory in particular of that "club" (note the quotation marks). A few of us were standing outside looking through the front windows of the laundromat next door when we noticed a movement on top of one of the washing machines.It soon revealed itself as an enormous rat (in my mind's eye, it's as big as one of our cats!) as it leapt from one washing machine to another! I say I believe that this is The Music Carry-Out because at the end of the piece, you can faintly hear a voice say, "Oh, that's good." There was one night when we played there that we hadd one lone guy in the audience. I think he just didn't have anywhere else to go, so he parked himself there and stayed for the whole set. At one point, I remember him saying, "Do you all know any Chuck Berry?" to which Mike Bass replied, "No, but we know his brother, Blue." 



"The Blue Man"

Recorded at Mike Bass's Petey Pop Studios. I was in the throws of a major Soft Machine high and just had to get this Hugh Hopper-like bass line idea recorded. Mike Bass on drums, me on everything else. 


"How's The Weather"

To which Billy responds, "Sure is hot." 


"Bartok Stockpot"

A Mike Bass composition that he wrote specifically for The Muffins. It highlights as many instruments that we could play within one song as well as Mike's wonderful marimba playing. Bela Bartok has always been one of Mike's favorite composers. 


"Why Don't You Go Play Out In Traffic"

Recorded at the Muffin Buba Flirf house. We had a small enclosed back porch next to the kitchen where Tom Scott had recently moved his baby grand piano (he still has that piano). If you walked through the porch, you'd hit the back stairs that led out to our gravel parking lot where all of our cars (anywhere from four to six at any given time). Someone had the idea to set up my reel-to-reel tape recorder (The Animal Nations) in the kitchen and two microphones and record some Muffin silliness. I believe that Tom and Michael Zentner were outside in the parking lot yelling and beeping their car horns. Billy was making noise with the nearby trashcans. I was playing piano and trying to do my best John Greaves impersonation. It all had a very loose structure to it that we talked about ahead of time (you'd never know it!).