Monday, September 14, 2015

The Story of Eris Temple (EP)

By the spring of 2007, when I wrote and recorded most of the Eris Temple EP tracks, my life had changed radically from where I had been during the Philly Free School/Highwire Gallery days of 2004/2005. I had finished my MFA in creative writing and was now a University Fellow at Temple University, working towards a PhD in English literature. Because my University Fellowship offered both a stipend and two fellowship years (2006/2007 and 2009/2010), and because my first year was a fellowship year and did not require me to teach, I still had time to write books and music. The other change that spring was that I resumed my relationship with Mary Harju, after several years hiatus. Matt was ensconced at the Eris Temple in North-West Philly (52nd and Cedar), and the Eris Temple basement, where the studio was, was also large enough to hold performances in. To give some idea of how the studio looked: you would descend down a red-painted wooden staircase, into a kind of dungeon lair beneath street level. As per levels: the first, bottom level had Matt’s computer equipment and mixing board on it. Then, upsy daisy (a jump up) to the second, elevated level of the studio, which was large and square-shaped, and where the instruments where kept. Radio Eris rehearsed there, punk bands and noise-industrial bands often played as part of Eris Temple events, and this is where the instrumental portion of recording was done. That means, as those who know recording studios know, that the cables ran between the two levels, which wasn’t always comfortable, rather banana-peel-ish, but who cares. The instrument/sound-booth space had one window, even with the side-yard pavement, facing due south. The ceilings were relatively high, which offset the aura of grunge and “bunker” nicely. The floors were granite slab.

The songs I had written that spring were only a semi-hodge podge. For some reason, I was attracted to the open G tuning, made famous by Ry Cooder and Keith Richards. Salty Waves Of Blue, Rake, and Garden Wall were all written in open G. The way Matt produced Salty Waves Of Blue and Rake, the ambiance owed a lot to Big Star’s #1 Record, particularly Watch the Sunrise. I also noticed that when we recorded She Disowned My Life with Pete Leonard on drums (who had also drummed for my band The Godheads at CHS), and which was in standard tuning, the mood we caught was some rock music equivalent of the high ceilings and the granite slabs mixed together. It was an aural admixture that had Philadelphia as it looked and felt in it. USA Lite and Feel Like A Man Again were both meant to express different kinds of frustration; as halcyon as much of Aughts Philadelphia was, and as the Eris Temple in all its high-ceiling grunginess was, the Aughts were Bush regime years in the United States and all of us felt that pinch constantly, too. Feel Like A Man Again is more about the social and sexual mores of Aughts Philadelphia, and the sense I often had in the Aughts of characters and situations out of control, beyond the pale; in other words, excess. The dynamic between Aughts Philadelphia and Red America was utterly never-the-twain, and we didn’t necessarily feel, on a day to day basis, that our excesses were being mirrored anywhere else. I’m In Love With A Girl, of course, the Big Star cover, is from an earlier era when Matt lived at 11th and Webster in South Philly. I think it works as an add-on here, to an EP collection which requires some sweetness to balance a general sense of the brackish. As to why this EP took almost ten years to come out; because, as they say, shit happens. Matt and I were going to do more recording in the summer of ’07, but I was preoccupied with poetry, particularly the Dusie chapbook “Kollectiv” and getting my first chapbook Posit ready for publication. Mary and I broke up in September; my first two books, Opera Bufa and Beams, appeared that fall. Quite a year. In the Aughts, they all were.

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