At a West Oakland warehouse show the headlining band suddenly stops
rendition of the "Chariots of Fire" theme song and the
lead singer begins to recite
poetry. An audience member starts shouting obscenities and the air
is filled with
unpredictability, even danger. The lead singer/poet manages to eke
out a few
stanzas above the fray and... a 2000-ton weight falls on his head.
The audience cracks up,
both from relief and because the comic timing is perfect. Its
as though theyve
witnessed a Roadrunner cartoon as imagined by Andy Kaufman.
An Andy Kaufman kind of feeling is a good way to describe the aftermath
of a Mono
Pause show, recording, or interview. Like Kaufman, they raise questions
very nature of humor and performance and the disquiet of pushing
the fourth wall.
Also similar to Kaufman, they are satirically earnest while being
talented enough to
warrant that earnestness if it were not satirical. And much like
Kaufman, they are
difficult to describe.
"Mono Pause is one of my favorite bands right now because their
live show is
unpredictable," says KALX DJ Ricardo Esway. "Every time
you see them it will be
slightly if not drastically different. They constantly challenge
you by playing different
styles of music ranging from sound collage, weird art-rock, Southeast
pop, goofy skronk, field recordings, and generally anything left
of center. Then they
mix that with crazy visual content, you could get backwards songs,
computers, tongue-in-cheek alter ego identities, organ transplants,
videos, the list goes on. Basically we are all prisoners of this
band because if you're
a Mono Pause fan you have to go see them or you miss out."
Mono Pause calls upon countless influences. They utilize instrumentation,
dialogue, and also tape loops of original and manipulated found
sound, all resulting
in something that can not only be called music, but music as accessible
3-minute pop tune. Peeping
Through the Listen Hole, their 1999 vinyl LP, treats
head banging metal as seriously for source material as it does Middle
traditionals. Through it all, the band has this instinctual feel
for beginning, middles,
and endings. The end result is more satisfying fare than one would
expect from an
untraditional and nonlinear band.
Mono Pause is in its tenth year, and if they were a tree and various
its branches, what shade that tree would provide. Originally a duo
from River Falls,
Wisconsin, Mono Pause founding members Mark Gergis (who also records
Porest) and Peter Conheim (also with Wet
Gate and Negativland)
to California. Other Mono Pause members include Heco Davis (who
is also probably
the worlds only 78-RPM record DJ), Erik Gergis, Brently Pusser
(also of Three Day
Stubble) and Miles Stegall (also in Corsciana). During a hiatus
in 1996 the Gergis
brothers spent six months in suburban Detroit and under the name
they released an elaborate CD and booklet that is in parts a minutiae
letter to Michigan. Continuing Mono Pause projects include The
White Ring, a
right-wing ex-National Guard singing combo and Neung Phak (a name
means "mono pause" in Thai), a Southeast Asian traditional
and pop music group.
With Neung Phak they perform with singer Diana Hayes.
The band is still recovering from their first tour in the summer
of 2002, where they
hit the road for about a week with Finnish band Aavikko.
Both groups have since
collaborated on creative projects, including a brilliant split
single, where they cover
each other's songs.
The tour also ended up being an inadvertent sociological study in
urban centers. "We concluded that LA club audiences are possibly
manipulated than audiences in other cities," says the band,
which prefers to be
cited as a collective entity. "Most of our shows on the tour
began with us being
hijacked by masked and angry men, and dragged off the stage and
violence if we continued. A cued recording would play over the PA
incidents, with a heavily Eastern European accented voice declaring
by Mono Pause has been canceled, please find the exit and leave.'
Los Angeles was
the only city of the eight we visited where people did actually
leave as instructed.
Right on cue. Those people down there are very good listeners."
Mono Pause is heading into the studio in late April for one of their
consuming recording sessions. The band's library is sparse, the
the Controls for the Head of the Duck, a 1995 completely
improvised long-form instrumental piece released on one side of
a cassette, and Peeping through the Listen Hole, a 1999 vinyl
LP, as well as a growing handful of compilation tracks. While they
wish they could spin their exhaustive process as a result of savant
perfectionism, the truth is more human.
are severely Attention Deficit Disorder-stricken people," says
Mono Pause. "We often spend weeks
and weeks trying to
relearn (i. e. 'remember') a single song we
spontaneously composed in a 2-hour session one night which was inadvertently
recorded. We'll try to remember it and then argue about which part
"Often we forget that we're in the middle of recording a song
to tape and it gets
discovered months later that half of it has been accidentally erased.
Then, since we
can't remember how the first half went, we spend another season
companion piece to attach to the second half. By the time we figure
it out, our
enthusiasm gets the best of us and we forget to stop recording that
on in the first half and accidentally erase the last half."
"We are also our own tape engineers, which makes things go
says the band. "Also, since we record everything in our own
environment and have
never stepped into a real studio, it means we can take our time."
Mono Pause's recording studio, aptly named Transit Sounds, lies
in the median strip
of a busy West Oakland boulevard where the rent is low and affordable.
literally press the record button around the sounds of BART trains
semi-trailer trucks on their way to the port," says the band.
"On our Peeping
Through the Listen Hole LP we wound up amplifying the sounds around
more than one track. We just kind of gave in. That's the West Oakland
"So far our recording projects have been built mainly around
pieces which we have
been playing live or in our studio for months or years, but a large
part of the Mono
Pause method so far has been to craft songs out of our recordings
What is most impressive about Mono Pause is that listening and watching
they make it all seem so easy. Their profoundly untraditional recording
performing methods, which require huge investments of time, energy,
result in music that is listenable, watchable, and digestible. They
have none of the
negative characteristics that are often attached to the "experimental"
can include humorlessness, inaccessibility, pretension, and a choice
to be "arty"
"One Mono Pause track can span ten years, feature 4 different
guitarists, 3 wars,
and 6,720 packs of cigarettes," says the band. "This is
imperceptible to the listener,
but so are most things."
Neung Phak's debut
album will be issued by Abduction Records in mid-2003.
Mono Pause's next album will be issued sometime after that on
the Seeland/Electro Motive Records labels.