= page 44,45 = IAO CORE: SAN FRANCISCO'S MULTI-FACETED EXPERIMENTALISTS by Bill Waid
Existing outside the conventional S.F. music club/bar scene for over two years now, a performance space called simply FourFiveFiveTenth (455 Tenth Street -- the address) has become that city's most prolific venue dedicated to experimental music.
Appearances by talents like If,Bwana, Big City Orchestra, Caroliner Rainbow, Freshly-Wrapped Candies, and Holland's Vidna Obmana, to name but a few, illustrate both the diversity and continuity of the organizers -- those being the versatile members of another thriving experimental outfit, Iao Core. Their keen balance of numerous multi-media projects makes them one of the Bay Area's most important you (?JH)collectives, but they didn't get that way without a lot of hard work.
In 1985, members John Ayres and Martin Schmidt were just two friends fiddling around with cheap electronics, boss effects, prepared piano, and various other odd devices, and listening to Hawkwind, Faust, John Cage -- basically anything unconventional. When thoughts came around to recording and performing, though the two were not aware of a local experimental scene (being trapped in the suburban vortex, like many of us), they found their ideas to be highly correlative: a desire to work with time-based media (film/video) in combination with unusual music. In early '86 they began performing and released two all-instrumental cassettes, partially from material gathered during those performances.
John, deciding to unearth people with similar tastes, began self-publishing a magazine called THE CORE, and as a result of his distribution technique of visiting used record stores and inserting a copy of the magazine in the sleeves of records he liked, he soon found what he was looking for. It was in this way he met Demi Thraam, who joined him shortly thereafter as a member of Iao Core. When Martin veered away from the project for a while, John and Demi performed as a duo, combining their mutual interest of "consciousness alteration through multi-media events."
They refined the film and video aspect of Iao Core, concentrating on techniques of rhythmic editing for closer integration with the music, disdaining the usual use of video as a promotional gimmick. And with Demi's predilection toward noise, she and John brought the band through its most "industrial" stage of composition.
Since then Iao Core has developed a relatively stable lineup, consisting of John (Guitar, keyboards, vocals), Demi (percussion, chaos), Martin (keyboards, sampling), David Gardner (turntables and found sounds -- he has also worked with Kim Cascone of PGR), and singer/violinist/bassist Kris Force. Danielle Willis has also joined in performances recently.
In 1987 this new-found cohesiveness coincided with a desire to find what many underground bands search unceasingly for: a place to perform. Inspired by S.F.'s eccentric and ambitious Artist's Television Access (ATA), the band searched for a warehouse space suitable for a recording studio and performance arena, as well as residency. They found one, and opened it up as a viable showcase almost immediately. From there the ball rolled smoothly, and in addition to the flood of bands which have appeared at FourFiveFiveTenth (audience numbers ranging from 7-10 in the beginning to upwards of 75 nowadays), they have put on both art showings and installations.
Most notable of these has been "Mindset," a giant chessboard created by 17 separate artists, each constructing a life-sized chess piece representing a famous thinker from history (an animatronic Walt Disney, as the White Knight, was a surreal highlight).
Another full house was turned out for last year's Abject and Unusual Video Festival, featuring work by Iao Core as well as other local music/video artisans like Negativland. A recent first for the group was the recording of a new album -- "Suspension Of Belief," available through RRRecords -- by well-established Bay Area band Katharsis.
One particularly ambitious member of Iao Core has been Kris Force, who, while retaining ties with the band and 455, has branched out and opened Force/Nordstrom Gallery, which has wasted no time in becoming one of the most recognized "alternative" art galleries in the city. She's also embarked on a separate musical project called The Love Force, with artist Beth Love, which should prove as successful as her other ventures.
And if that were not enough, Kris was the principal organizer of this past August's (1988) infamous "Evening of Apocalyptic Delight" -- an event which featured the S.F. premiere of Wade Williams' Manson film "The Other Side of Madness," performances by NON (Boyd Rice with Nikolas Schreck, Zeena La Vey and others) and the Secret Chiefs, and a showing of Jonathan Reiss/Survival Research Laboratories' "A Bitter Message of Hopeless Grief." Taking place at the recently revitalized Strand Theater (thanks again to Kris, who was the manager), the show was covered by the mainstream press, including Geraldo Rivera, who videotaped it and used a clip in his sophomoric "Exposing Satan's Underground."
As for the whole of Iao Core, following on the heels of their latest cassette release 1000 POINTS OF LIGHT (review in EC #1), either a CD/cassette or LP/cassette combination is soon to appear (this format quandary was the central topic of conversation during a Chinese lunch I had one day with John and Mark Hosler (of Negativland) -- my contention being that CDs are the 8-track tape of the 90's, Mark's that they're a brilliant invention here to stay, and John treading somewhere between us...but that's a different article), as well as "Guyana Footbridge," a new video. Moving toward a more song-oriented focus, the band is nevertheless still concerned with catching the listener unaware, moving her or him from one place to another via interesting segues and the juxtaposition of harsh and ambient sounds.
Certain that, at least in their neck of the woods, experimental music is still a healthy enterprise, the band will continue to be a loud voice for what they see as the musical underground. And in that spirit, they invite any like-minded bands/performers who might be visiting the Bay Area to contact them about performing at FourFiveFiveTenth.
Contact address: 455 Tenth Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
Typed by Cheryl Vega 5-6-95