Dictaphone looped interview with Simon Piler from Bunkroom 3… September 2009
Hello, Smally, are you around? It’s Simon. Do you have a moment?
Hey. Yeah I’m here, hiding under the bed. It’s… well it’s not important. For you Simon I have as many moments as you need.
I know that words are precious, so I’ll try not to muddle them; would you mind if I asked you a few questions about these things so-called ‘Quixodelic’ in nature? I have been quite curious for some time.
First of all, may I ask you, why Don Quixote? And in that light, what elements of his personality does quixodelia draw from?
Well this was really just an accidental happening of language. The idea to start making free download compilations came to me when I was standing smoking in my back garden in the rain and thinking about The Beat Generation as long ago as March 2007. I was thinking “What kind of generation are we?” and the first thing that happened in my head was “The Daydream Generation”. I think that we have a lot of cultural baggage to be hauling around – many bridges of opportunity that should still be standing were burned in the 1960s, plus we have the weight of environmental, social, and economic pressures that many of our forefathers didn’t have. To counter this I think as a coping mechanism we have a tendency more than anyone before us to escape into our own imaginations, hence “Daydream”. In particular this manifests itself in art, and as I’d been so heavily involved in music for the year previous to this, this idea triggered instantly the subsequent idea to put together music compilations under this name. Actually I’d been pestering the Cozy Home for months previous to this to organise a compilation to no avail, so the idea of making compilations was already floating around in my brain waiting to manifest. It was a case of attaching a home-made sledge to the proverbial bull’s horns and seeing (1) was it possible, and (2) how long I could hold on for.In the summer of 2007 The Daydream Generation was up and running and we had a couple of compilations out. At the time, Tara was helping behind the scenes and whenever we posted on the MySpace blog we would set the mood to “Quixotic”. This in turn led to a discussion of the word “quixotic” and how it had derived from Don Quixote – the original daydreamer. It took me three years a long time ago to read that book, and though it was hard-going I really loved it. Beneath the archaic translated text, was a humour, not just in the words of Cervantes, but also in his lead characters own relentless quest to fly in the face of adversity, a beautiful portrayal of innocent madness run amok, and a shining example of how to live a daydream, irrespective of what other people might think. I think if Don Quixote had been around in the 21st century, then he would have been hunched in his basement recording songs to save the world, using a cheap microphone and a free software programme on his stuttering overloaded computer. In 16th century Spain, the battlegrounds were livelihood and land, nowadays the fight takes place in ideology and imaginations. Also of course there is the absolute calamity that seems to pervade every noble project and lost cause we’ve ever chased – it is undeniably Quixote-esque in nature.
Do quixodelic things have any definite way of being described? Do they glow in the dark? What is their general density? Do these things emit any form of radiation? Can you seal them into containers, or will they escape from containers despite well-formed seals? Do they have distinctive, volatile scents? Or, perhaps quixodelia is not qualitative at all. These things might be good to make a short note of.
When did you start ‘The Daydream Generation’? For those of us that weren’t around in the earlier days, what were things like in the beginning? Any favorite or notorious moments you’d care to highlight?
This is a very good question. I’ve not really thought about the beginnings for a long while, and it’s interesting to look back at it from the benefit of this vantage point two and a half years down the line. As described previously it was March 2007, and thinking about it now I can’t believe how naive I was concerning both how much work would be involved, and how difficult it would be to actually make an impact. I’d met a lot of bands through both Cozy Home Records (they kindly adopted my own band of 13 years The Wheelies inviting us in from the musical wilderness) and MySpace (back when it was a place to discover new music and not just the rat race stock market cacophony of self-promotion that it feels like today) – and I figured it would be fun to put together a couple of free downloads as a way of helping promote all these songs and artists that I really liked. At the time I didn’t know anyone else who was doing it – obviously there was, but from where I was sitting it felt like a new and very exciting idea: free digital mix-tapes of unsigned bands you’ve likely never heard of. I remembered buying these Indie music compilations when I was a kid and through them discovering bands like The Stone Roses and The Happy Mondays, Chapterhouse and Ride, and was aiming at recreating that feeling of adventure putting together a couple of discs of unfamiliar names in the hope that there might be something you could listen to for a lifetime.In the beginning I had to really work at getting people to contribute a song, loads of emails, explanations of what the project was about, “mining” MySpace into the night looking for people that I hoped would fit. Nowadays when I put together a compilation, it doesn’t take a lot of digging. With each DG compilation the core bands that contribute and can be counted on grows, and it has reached a stage where I usually only need to send a couple of group emails and get suggestions from people who are already involved in the project to fill 160 minutes (in fact DG6 was so popular that it ended up being 3 full CDs). There are a handful of individuals and groups that I regret losing touch with over time – more often than not it is about their circumstances rather than me not wanting them to be involved – but generally the people who are here at the moment are the exact people that I want to be promoting, and hopefully this has shown in the quality of the compilations over time. Early on in the DG’s history someone said to me that the personality behind the music is as important as the music itself. I regrettably immediately cut this person loose for their negativity, but they did have a point. Each compilation has been like a filter, or an assault course, and each time we carry over a new handful of really decent people who make great music. Those of you left standing now that have been featured repeatedly are there because of who you are and the songs you play… so give yourself a pat on the back.Again, with the benefit of hindsight I’m probably the last person who should have ever attempted to orchestrate something like this. Anyone who has ever met me will tell you that I’m not a “doing” person, I’m an ideas person – a Grade A daydreamer if you will. I am socially introspective and technologically incompetent, so it makes it even more staggering to think where we’ve got to in such a short space of time. I think we collectively owe a lot to Tim Schram of Transatmospheric and Cozy Home who put together http://www.daydreamgeneration.com for nothing, and has always been an email away for advice or to help turn ideas into reality. The thing that always tipped me over the edge into even attempting to do something I think is my age. I’m an old bastard at 34 now, and would have been 31 when I started the Daydream Generation, so I’ve always had that urgent and impending sense of needing to get as much done as possible while it is still creditable to do so. I was pretty messed up in my early twenties and ended up vanishing back into the real world for eight beautiful years (kind of like a Buddhist monk going up the mountain in search of Enlightenment – only in reverse). Those eight years not only fixed my head, but they also gave me an appetite for wanting to create something really worthwhile – The Daydream Generation I guess was my attempt.The hardest part about looking back to the beginning and remembering that sense of genuine excitement when compilations were getting put together, or when we were trying to work out alternative ways of getting the word out, even simply mining for and discovering like-minded musicians, is that although we’ve come a long way from the clumsily enthusiastic beginnings, I also can’t help but feeling like the project has failed. Instead of the dizzying stratospheric heights of notoriety, actually we barely got our feet off the ground. I’ve learned a lot about people and about the shared pursuit of a daydream through the DG and associated projects. For a start, you can’t engineer a collective. Nor can you expect other people to want to dream exactly the same dream as you. The musical world we inhabit, seems to be a place that we flicker in and out of – some of us seem ever-present, others disappear for weeks and months. Some people see the bigger collective picture easily, and others are only in it for themselves. When all is said and done, I think it comes down to numbers and seconds. The amount of work that goes into each compilation has arguably reduced over time, but the quantity of downloads that each compilation gets remains roughly the same. You can’t change the world if only 100 people download your sampler featuring forty bands. And you can’t connect with a wider audience unless everyone involved gets behind the project, blogging and bulletineering, posting on forums, telling their friends and telling their friends to tell their friends. For me at least, the excitement has gone. Don’t get me wrong – I still love hearing all the tracks back to back from all over the globe, and I like that it is still the same daydream that propels it and the same philanthropic ideal underpinning it… but ultimately I know that I’ve somehow let it down by getting side-tracked and spinning more plates than it could take. That’s not to say great things have come out of it, only it wasn’t the great things I originally hoped for. But like I said… I’m probably the last person who should have ever attempted to orchestrate something like this.
I know that the Daydream Generation, Quixodelic Records and The Utica Flower Company aren’t easily divided, but I also know that they do operate on slightly different wavelengths.
How do the elements fit together in your mind?
I think since The Mardi set sail on the 1st May 2009, the three separate elements of what we’re involved in here have found their own form. Like a great big tree. The foundations and big thick lower branches are The Daydream Generation, where you climb on. The middle of the tree where the juicy fruit grows is Quixodelic Records. And the top of the tree is The Utica Flower Company, where the wind blows hard and the branches are spindly and perilous, that’s where only the really wild ones climb.
No? Okay, I’ll put it less metaphorically…
The Daydream Generation as discussed is essentially compilations of unsigned bands. Usually everyone who appears on Quixodelic Records appears on the compilations, but it is also open to others who are already affiliated with other collectives. It’s pretty much all-embracing and a place where you can hopefully discover new music, even if you already know and love half the bands on it. I like that balance – half are people you will have heard on previous DG compilations, and half are people you will probably have never heard of. Again as discussed, I’m pretty sure this project is royally fucked… or at the very least on its last legs. Every compilation feels like the last. However I would say this: I’m giving up writing songs of my own, so that’s going to free up a lot more time for promoting the music I like. In the greater scheme of things The Daydream Generation is still an infant of an idea, so there’s always the remote chance that life can be breathed back into it.
Quixodelic Records is perhaps the element I’m most proud of. I guess when I put on my reality specs I can see that it is not a record label as such, but I really believe in all of the artists and all of the albums that are in there, and as long as Tim keeps hosting the site, then the Quixodelic store will be open for business. For a while I felt very overwhelmed by the amount of work I was having to put into the DG and decided that I would save the little there is for promotion of the artists and records that we are featuring. At the time we set it up, the only people I knew that were doing the same was Cozy Home, so really this was a way of featuring bands and artists that weren’t a part of that set-up. Over time the lines have blurred (a good thing) and the likes of Fig Mints, The Real Burnouts, and The Wheelies all feature in both places. I’ve since also discovered CLLCT, who in many ways are streets ahead of us in both scale and technology. But the beautiful thing about what we’re doing (giving our music away for free) is that there is no such thing as competition, there are only comrades accidentally finding themselves fighting the same corner. Quixodelic Records in that sense is perhaps more a little shop where you can pick up music for free… actually size-wise it’s more like a wallpapering table laid out at the edge of the world. I’d urge anyone involved in Quixodelic to go out and join CLLCT, find other places to host their records as well as us – you only get one shot at this, so cover as much ground as you can.
If The Daydream Generation is the most well known of the three, and Quixodelic Records is the one I’m most proud of, then I’d have to say that The Utica Flower Company is the one I enjoy the most. Originally it was born out my efforts to collectivise what we were doing, to get people involved with posting on the DG site, and get some dialogue going between individuals dotted all over the globe. Attempts to do this on the main Daydream Generation site were something of a failure – there was definitely interest and I did get some help, but I think the sticking point was probably that people didn’t know how or what to do. There seems to be a perception that these things are my projects, whereas in reality I’ve been constantly crying out for help from the right people for just about as long as I can remember. When this idea to allow anyone within the collective to post directly onto the main site failed, I tried to resurrect the old Daydream Generation forum that had been relatively successful for a couple of months before fading into obscurity. Becky N correctly pointed out that the very generic forum provider we were using looked and subsequently felt pretty generic, so she kicked off a WordPress blog. Now this new collective blog/forum hybrid might have looked a lot better and had much more accessible technology in place, but I still felt that without a different spin on it, that we would be in the same boat as we were with the old forum. So rather than be in the same boat, I went and borrowed some money and bought an actual boat, and the rest as they say is history. Technically I suppose I hijacked the original idea of a collective blog and swam away with it, but I did consult everyone involved and the general consensus was that the ship was the way to go. Going way back, the original Utica Flower Company was a basement in Utica, NY beneath an old florist, where “revolutionary people meet” – artists, musicians, poets, writers, anarchists, beatniks, scientists, cartoonists, urchins, coming together to share ideas and inspire and encourage each other to create bigger and better things. What you see here was an attempt to make the Flower Company an actual functioning workshop. Someday I hope there are Flower Company’s all over the earth. A franchise. Feel free to start your own.
I must know, what do you think of the algaebrew? Have you tried it, chaplin? I think it’s pretty splendid stuff, but then again, I guess it was at least twenty-five percent my idea and being so, I can’t give it a very unbiased opinion, you see.
Honestly Simon, I’m reluctant to try it. I fucking miss my coffee, but I’ve seen the film footage of the three o’clock report and it scares the shit out of me. Remember I have already been incarcerated in an Infinity Cell for two weeks after eating hallucinogenic ice-cream. But if you can assure me there are no ill side effects then I’ll pour myself a cup. Where do I get it? And when will the phone lines and internet be back up and running?
Would you care to cast any light on future blueprints and designs that you have for our Quixodelic dreamship? How do you think people-in-general can best absorb and contribute to this floating pack-of-dreams?
Yes, most definitely.
This is undoubtedly the most important thing you have asked me. Apart from “Do Quixodelic things glow in the dark?”
In the immediate future we’ve got the hurdle of The Invisible Box-Set to negotiate, but after that it is open seas for as far as the open eyes can see. What I’m really saying is that beyond 1st October 2009, the future and direction of these musical adventures is there for the shaping. Will there be more Daydream Generation compilations? Maybe yes, maybe no. In the off-chance that there are, anyone who wants to contribute a track can email me an mp3 at email@example.com and I’ll try and make some space to listen. The same applies for Quixodelic Records – if anyone has a record they’d like us to host on our wallpapering table, then please feel free to point me in the right direction. The best form of contribution though is to go and download some of the records, leave some feedback, post a bulletin or a blog post about what we’re doing. We can’t buy advertising. But then again you can’t buy a shared collective daydream either.
The most important thing for now is The Utica Flower Company and The Mardi. We’ve been sailing for four months (that’s one third of our voyage around the planet if my calculations are correct). It’s never too late to sign up for the crew and we will of course provide transportation to wherever the fuck we are. It’s never too late to get re-involved either. I remember feeling somewhat deflated a month or so into the journey when Company members began jumping ship (see, I told you these things die a quick death). Here’s an open forum, a place to promote your own creative adventures and help others, and really only a handful of individuals have stepped up to the plate. The thing is, I think it was always expecting too much of people to really get involved in the very abstract idea of the ship itself. Curiously now I feel the complete opposite – amazed that anyone ever mucked in at all. Not all of us are writers, and not all of us have the time to throw at a titanic (haha) project like the UFC. More recently the objectives of the ship have subtly changed – where before it was purely about achieving some kind of group dialogue and taking a bit of the weight of activity off my shoulders, it has now evolved into an interactive collective work of fiction (or non-fiction depending on which side of the ship you are standing). Assuming all goes well and we sail on through to the 1st May 2010, then I’d like to take the bulk of everything that has been written and turn it into a book. It will require some serious editing, but I imagine it will take the following format: beginning of the book – welcome pack, ship roster (I am working on this, but it is heavy going), the ship section itself; the body of the book split into two sections – the Main Deck (posts and comments), and then a second section with each of the individual parts of the ship (the freezer, the imaginary film, cabins and bunkrooms etc.) I’ve put some money aside to get a small run of copies made and then would look to get it hosted through lulu.com or suchlike so that copies could be printed per order. I’m intending on that first run to have a soundtrack CD in a pocket of the book’s inside cover featuring some of the music on the site, maybe “A Soundtrack To Doom Cruise: An Imaginary Film”.
Bearing that all in mind, the way that people can best contribute is to join the Company if you haven’t already, sign up for a WordPress account and let me know the email you’re using and I’ll get you added. From there get involved in ship life if you can. Work on existing pages, grab a bunk, make that space your own, muck in on parts of the ship that look lonely and lost, and push things in your own direction with posts, the madder the better. The rest of us will quixodelically follow. If you can’t write, then don’t worry… at the very least give it a go. And if you can’t give it a go, then a well-timed comment here and there is as good as the wind of herculean posts in the sails.
There are no blueprints. We’ve been making this up as we go along from the very beginning and will continue to do so until the bitter or beautiful end.
Also, do you have any thoughts regarding good practice while dreaming?
Dreaming? All I can think of is make sure and find a safe place to fall asleep.
If you are meaning day-dreaming, then that’s very different. I find a big window helps. Also pulling the idea-trigger immediately before you have time to think about the consequences. As long as your intentions are pure and truthful then you can’t really go wrong – even when you fuck it all up.
Well, that’s pretty much it. Ah, I guess I’ll be seeing you around.
That you will. Cheers for dropping by Simon. And thanks for these questions… the answers might not help clear up any confusions you all have concerning Quixodelic things, but as always they’ve helped me scrub the brain decks clean.
Oh wait! Before you go… the algaebrew…. is it flammable?
I open the door and step inside.