Zounds Productions began way back in 1977 when a young pharmacy major by the name of Brad Garton happened to wander into a performance of a production of Sam Shepard's The Unseen Hand. I had recently become enamored with the sound creations of Fripp and Eno, and had incorporated these ideas into my sound score for the play. Brad was so surprised to find out that there was somebody else in town who had even heard of Fripp and Eno that he immediately contacted the chair of the Theatre Division at Purdue University to find out who I was. Thus began a long series of collaborations between Brad and I that included many shows, albums, experimental music, and the odd trip to Europe to pontificate....
We started a business in Brad's bedroom (after all, he had all the equipment!) making recordings for anyone who would pay us, and for a lot of people who didn't! Eventually (1978) we moved into this old house on N Salisbury Street in beautiful West Lafayette, Indiana, and moved what we were now referring to as our "studio" into the basement. It was here that the legendary recordings of Dow Jones and the Industrials, and many other punk bands were made, mostly by Brad, as I was busy creating sound scores for theatre productions. Dow Jones, the bass player for the band became famous as the president of the Purdue Student Body. The band created quite a commotion on the old West Lafayette Campus, and became so notorious that the first album, Hoosier Hysteria was positively reviewed in Billboard, Creem, etc.
We made enough money from the profits from the first album to buy a 1/2" 8 track tape recorder. The fame of the band also generated a great amount of business for our studio, and, for a while we were the place in the Midwest for punk bands to make albums. These included The Dancing Cigarettes, The Jetsons, The Last (4) Digits, The Panics, The Torpedoes, Amoebas in Chaos and a bizarre compilation album of Indiana bands called Red Snerts.
By 1983 the Lafayette punk scene had simmered a bit, and Brad found himself wanting to go to grad school to study a new field called computer music. We split up the equipment we had purchased with money made in the studio, and Brad went on to Princeton University where he studied with Paul Lansky. Eventually he became head of the computer music program at Columbia University, a position he holds to this day. I decided to keep the business, and financed replacement of a lot of the equipment that Brad had got. Theatre was being very good to me, as I had one production performed at the Perry Street Theatre in New York, and a second production of Athol Fugard's The Island that would eventually be performed in many regional theatres around the country, culminating in a performance at the Dublin Theatre Festival in Dublin Ireland. I didn't know it at the time, but Zounds Productions was about to enter a new era in 1984.
I think it was in the summer of 1984 that a local folk singer by the name of Carrie Newcomer came to me with her band, Stone Soup to see if I could help them remaster a demo tape they had made at another studio. We hit it off, and started a relationship that continues today. We made a couple of albums, the first called Longfields, and the second called October Nights before the band split up, and Carrie went on to launch her own solo career. We made one last album together, Visions and Dreams, which was eventually re-released by Rounder Records on its Philo Label.
In 1986 I made another connection which was to form the foundation for a new era at Zounds Productions. I received a call from the Colorado Shakespeare Festival asking me to create a sound score for a production of Shakespeare's King Lear. A decade later, it has become something of a habit for me to create a score for a show out there every other year or so, and these include Titus Andronicus (1988), Much Ado About Nothing (1990), The Rivals (1992), Twelfth Night (1994), and A Midsummer Night's Dream (1996):
It's one of the premiere Shakespearian summer festivals in the country, so if you're ever in Bolder in July or August, make sure to stop by and see a show!
I've never lost my love of creating theatre pieces from scratch. We used to torment parents when we were kids with our backyard "shows" that included everything from really bad plays to circuses and carnivals, and big time spectacles such as the annual 4th of July sparkler display (the parents would have to sit up on the roof and I would get all of the neighborhood kids to simultaneously light sparklers in the shape of flags and stars, etc.). In high school, I created my own version of Romeo and Juliet called, I'm embarrassed to say, Romeo and Juliet A-Go-Go. Then while an undergraduate at Michigan State University I wrote and performed a one person show based on the life of Abraham Lincoln. Later, I was to create a new rock musical based on the Lysistrata called This Is My Country. It was never produced, although the creation of the music soundtrack became a mini event in itself, with all sorts of students, actors, musicians, etc. meeting in the basement of Fairchild Theatre for a couple of months of all night recording sessions.
When I got to Purdue in 1976 I went through a whole phase of creating overly elaborate multi-media shows that included 30 projector slide shows with surround sound and even film such as Travels With Ernie, Missile Epistle, and the show that caused enough political trouble to precipitate the demise of the endeavor, Hamalot. Eventually the creative juices flowed again, and in 1990 I created an experimental production based on John Pielmeyer's Splatterflick, called Bloodbath of the Living Dead in 3D at the Stiemke Theatre in the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre Building. Wrote and recorded a great title theme with the infamous Brian Stu of The Problem With Jack. This was followed by another one person performance piece called Know Blood for Oil, which I performed at the 1991 War Mosaic at the Wells Cultural Center in Lafayette IN.
One of the most satisfying pieces of theatre I have created has been the 1993 production of Awakening!, a punk-rock musical created with Mass Giorgini of Squirtgun fame and Quentin Flory of Strawberry Larry. The live band featured guitar virtuoso Mike Kelsey another in what is turning out to be a rather long line of great Lafayette Musicians, and Dane Carter of Pete Bogg fame. A few copies of the soundtrack can still be found at local stores or in boxes under some people's beds. It was definitely a show that created quite a little stir around town, and fueled the fire to create more....
When my longtime playwriting and directing collaborator, Joel Fink left Colorado and became the director of the Theatre Conservatory at the Chicago College of the Performing Arts, we started developing new productions there, including our own adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe's works called An Unkindness ofRavens, a restaging of Joel and my musical theatre version of The Mandrake, and our most recent collaboration on Shakespeare's Cymbeline.
In 2000, I got together with another good friend and collaborator, Scott Meador, and a bunch of students from Purdue's Computer Graphics Technology Department, and created a new production called The Creature.
My current project is the development of a scenographic design for Shakespeare's King Lear, set at the site of the World Trade Center Attacks. King Lear at Ground Zero explores the why behind the terrorist attacks, and in the process, looks inward at the United States: who we are, where we have been, what we've become, and what we still might be....
So here we are--some 25 albums and 80 Theatre Sound Scores later and still running. It's been a great show so far...