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I first encountered Radio Eris (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Radio-Eris/59505104735) members Lora Bloom and Kenny Brown at Germ Books and Gallery, Philadelphia, PA. Lora charmed the bejeezus out of me, and I purchased their Broadcast Muse CD. After popping it in my player, I was quite wowed by their psychedelic, post-punk sound. Lora’s wailing vocals, Kenny’s flying saucer operator electronics, Lisa Sunshine’s veteran drumming, Matt Stevenson’s 60’s keyboard stylings (he also plays bass), and Dan Baker’s fluid, well-honed guitar quotatives and details had me sold. Broadcast Muse was released in 2009. Since then, jazz and psychedelic rock obsessive Brad Rothman has been pounding away at the skins. Along the way, Radio Eris members and I collaborated on various events, most notably a Winterfest at my former studio in the Kensington section of Philly (Kenny, Lora, and Matt all played as separate projects for that show). 

Ellen Powell Tiberino Museum, an awe-inspiring and magical place (a family home filled with collected religious iconography, and art by the late Ellen Tiberino. Add to that a backyard sculpture garden that features expressionist, surrealist relief murals, and the white walls of a typical gallery space feel, refreshingly, light years away) has been host to Radio Eris’ summertime Discordinalias, an event that has showcased numerous musicians, poets, and film makers.

To see Radio Eris perform is like entering another world. Multi-colored lights, and war paint erupt amidst passages of heavy guitar shredding, dark ambient noise, and electro-organ beatification culled from past saints of psychedelia. One feels as if alternately passing through transcendental and terrifying corridors of the mind from Lora’s haunting vocals—vocals that sometimes shift into staccato, Diamanda Galas inspired screams, augmented by transitions into her sci-fi poetry. When Lora asked me to create a music video for them, I jumped at the opportunity. How could I resist the song “Chip Mind� from their latest release At Your Service (http://radioeris.bandcamp.com/)? I drew inspiration from conversations with the band, bad TV shows I never outgrew, and conspiracy books like Alex Constantine’s Psychic Dictatorship USA and Jim Keith’s Mind Control. We had a supremely fun “Chip Mind� screening at The Eris Temple with very positive reactions from all in attendance. This interview with Lora Bloom, Dan Baker, and Matt Stevenson will give you much background on Radio Eris, their philosophy, views, and creative process.

JFA: How long has Radio Eris been around? What have been some of the struggles of starting and maintaining such a project? 

Matt: As a recording concept Radio Eris started sometime around 1998. The first performance as a rock band occurred February 1999 at City Gardens in Trenton, NJ.  

A book could be written about the struggles of starting and maintaining such a project, but they're typical: life changes among band members, money problems, lack of stature, and existential futility issues. Entropy is a big problem. I can say, though, that obviously it's what we seem to need to do and would find a way to do one way or another, so the struggles seem worth it. ‘

Lora: It is hard to pinpoint the exact starting point, since we’ve gone through so many lineup changes and broke up a few times, but Matt and I always kept the name and always kept working together. When I started I couldn’t sing or play anything, and Matt mostly did ambient noise creation. I would mark 2005 as the point where we mostly jelled and became steady. Being in a band is such a weird and difficult thing - not an original analogy but it is like being in a romantic relationship with 4 other people - everyone’s emotional ups and downs and the difficulties of balancing jobs and financial struggles with a band that is all a labor of love, since we make no money doing this (not that we don’t get paid but the cost of equipment /promotion etc. far outweighs the money coming in). However, most bands break up after a few years and for some reason we are still going strong. We are compelled for some reason to do this.

Dan: The struggles of keeping this band/performance project going is as easy as keeping five friends as close as you would keep your family. Meet every week for over a decade in constant social and business contact. I can’t explain how we exist as people, let alone a tight knit unit of freak musicians.
This is a nearly impossible situation with any group of friends, let alone people you count on for creative stimulation. We simply have the persistence, patience, and relatively normative level of sanity as can be expected of temperamental artistic types like us. It’s not an easy "walk in the park� kind of band, but I wouldn't have it any other way. The fact remains that this band keeps getting more interesting to me every day, and spawns creative ideas at a consistently high rate. 

JFA: What is the context of Eris in the band name? Since your HQ is called The Eris Temple, do you take Discordianism and strife seriously as a religion? Explain.

Matt: After I had been a big music listener and collector for a few years, I started making mix tapes and got a little in to the art of the thing. I started putting "Radio E.R.I.S." on some mix tapes, the idea being if I programmed a radio station this is what I'd play. I'd gotten into Patti Smith and really liked the album and track "Radio Ethiopia." I'd also read the ILLUMINATUS! trilogy around the same time. Radio Ethiopia + Eris. 

I don't think any of us take Discordianism seriously but it expresses aspects of our respective attitudes to art and/or life to some extent, so we can work with it. I'd point out we focus more on creative chaos and accepting randomness in life, not so much the strife aspect (although there is some mischief).  

Lora:  I have read and am familiar with Discordianism. I am also a big fan of Robert Anton Wilson. We have also hosted Discordian events - we did a tribute to Robert Anton Wilson when he died and Matt lead a Discordian ceremony, but I do not consider myself a Discordian. I like to think of it more like a sort of goddess possession, like channeling the spirit of the Goddess of chaos through sound and movement and words, and finding catharsis. Chaos, discord, and destruction pave the way for new ideas and change, keep us from stagnation. In chaos theory it appears that chaos is the reason for life evolving, and most likely, the entire universe coming to be. The fragile interplay between total order and complete chaos is what gives birth to the complexity of our world. I think that all of us in the band take the spiritual side of what we do seriously, and this, more than the music, may be what sets us apart from other bands.  

On a side note, the Eris Temple was actually named by members of SpaceSeed, a Hawkwind-inspired space rock band from Atlanta. We played a show with them and they came by for the after-party and somehow managed to dub us the Temple of Eris, which became Eris Temple, and seemed to fit perfectly with what we are trying to do here - accessing the spiritual energy of art and music creation in a free and open environment. 

Dan: Eris was a goddess I had first become aware of during the research for my BFA Performance Art thesis during my senior year of study at Alma College. I researched the battles between the Persians and Athenians in ancient mythology and delved into the Iliad and its archetypical characterizations of desire, glory, and the subjugation of “the other.�

These themes ran deep in my upbringing. At the age of 16, I was consecrated as a deacon in the Presbyterian Church, and began fighting the good fight. By the time I had graduated college, I had drawn too many parallels between the religions of ancient societies to be seriously invested in Christianity. As I looked around the world as a thinking, critical artist, I realized that as organized as our society portends to be, we are still in a constant state of flux and crisis. The most interesting and “spiritual� among us show themselves in how they react in our ever changing society. The only way to truly appreciate anything as “spiritually awe inspiring� during my adult life has been to simply appreciate the fact that this world works at all. If Eris is the chaos, then at least we can count of Eris.

Besides, if religion isn’t about how you deal with strife and malcontent emotions that come with being a piece of crap in a sea of shit, then I don’t know what religion is good for. I would rather look to the god that exists in each of us, and is connected to the shifts and drops this life shares with us all. “What can a poor boy do, but play in a rock and roll band�, indeed.

JFA: Describe the PRINCIPIA DISCORDIA and what influence it has had on Radio Eris.

Matt: The PRINCIPIA DISCORDIA is the main text of the Discordian pseudo-religion. It expresses a satirical theology and myth about the Greek Goddess Eris, recasting her as a principal of creative chaos. Underneath the goofiness there's a Zen Taoist worldview. An interest in chance process in art and life influences our music.  

JFA: Please explain the importance of the Goddess in relation to the band and in relation
to Philadelphia.

Matt: In relation to the band, see above answers. In relation to Philadelphia...huh. I haven't thought about that. 

Dan: Shortly after Radio Eris set up our headquarters at the Eris Temple, I began to remember a great deal of the mythology and oral traditions that contributed to my Discordian lifestyle. As I had always envisioned myself a sort of modern troubadour, I had thought a great deal about how the Oracle of Delphi had become a center of travel for Troubadours who were telling stories and singing songs. They brought news and entertainment from Athens (the capitol city directly to the EAST). It was here in Delphi that a forerunner of the Olympic Games was held. The Goddess at Delphi became the inspiration of competition for all musicians, storytellers, and theatrical arts.  

I realized we had formed a creative center of activity near our cultures’ original capital just to the EAST of us. I realized we have our own Oracle of PhilaDELPHIa. We are our own seers here in Philly, as sure as this town was founded on secret religious groups and uncommon theological melding. The Eris Temple is just a continuation of a long tradition of the whimsical story of our cultural psyche--stories passed down through song. The Eris Temple has become a meeting place for all the bizarre moths drawn to the same flame we are.

JFA: Describe the role of The Eris Temple in the local community and with Philadelphia artists. 

Matt: We've become a sort of Production Company and we facilitate events as well as perform at them. We connect with other groups and scenes, and I guess we participate in the general art community. 

Lora: We like to think of it as a sacred space for society’s artistic outcasts to express and create. With the studio downstairs, we have bands that come to record and rehearse, we have jam sessions, and in the gallery in the front we have artists and installations. Dan created the “oracle sessions� where we invite musicians from diverse musical scenes in Philly to come and record together. We collaborate with arts organizations such as Certain Circuits, Permanent Wave, and Community Cultural Exchange. We also organize events off site - this will be our 3rd year booking multimedia celebrations at the magical Tiberino Museum. We like to think of it as a scene where people from different scenes and different backgrounds can come together without judgment. Whether it is a party with 10 people or 50 (and we can’t hold much more than 50), everyone leaves the Temple feeling like they have had a unique experience and with fond memories. For the future we are planning some classes and workshops, a retail space and some renovations, as well as some interesting art shows in the works. We are also looking for bands who want to share our rehearsal space. 

JFA: What are some of your musical and aesthetic influences?

Matt: I'll pick 5 at random: Sonic Youth, early-mid Pink Floyd, Patti Smith, Brian Eno, and Grateful Dead.  

Dan: Boyd Rice, Bill Lazwell, Beck, Wonder Sho-Zen, Butthhole Surfers, Cowboy Junkies, Wally Pleasant.

Lora:  see “literary influences.�

JFA: How much of what you do is improvised?

Matt: A good chunk. We do straight improv, and some pieces are improvs involving a couple set ideas. And some of the songs have spaces in them. But some nights, we're very songy with only a few minutes of free playing.  

Dan: Gibby Haines said that if you can play with the same musicians for ten years you are going to be a good band. In other words, we have been developing our musical feel for each other long enough that we are perfectly comfortable to improvise an entire show. That said, some of our material relies upon the “type� of sounds we create, not the exact placement of preplanned chord changes. There are loose structures in this band as much as there is a drifting subconscious songwriter at work. I also know that the most personal and pertinent expressions flow from a spontaneous and dangerous mindset, which is what this band cultivates better than any other.

JFA: The New album At Your Service has some fun yet despairing cover art. Tell me
about the artist.

Lora: The artist is Delia Gable, http://dcgable.com/.
She is an old friend of mine and of the band. She also did the beautiful cover art to our last album “Broadcast Muse “. She is an amazing artist, and has done quite a few graphic novels. Coming out soon is “A Ninja Named Stan� which she created with Mike Whittengerger, and they got a deal with comic book company (sorry Delia, I can’t remember which one). She has a real way with people, of capturing the essence of people, that unique quality that makes you feel like you know that person, like you can hear them talk, seem them move, whether it is a real person or a fantasy character. She does a great job combining whimsical fantasy with gritty reality. She really knows how to tell a story which a picture, and you can always imagine her character's storylines. Also, she draws beautiful women with real (not magazine-sexy) bodies and real looks (and awesome fashions), women whose unique personalities, bodies and styles are what make them sexy. I am honored to have been a model for her quite a few times and am so very awed that she has done such wonderful album art for us. In the future Delia and I will be working on a collaborative project with some of my writing and poetry. We also have a plan for a “Radio Eris� comic that we’d like Delia to do, but not sure when that one will materialize. The album cover is a little bit of a preview. 

JFA: What have been some of the reactions to At Your Service?

Matt: Myself, I haven't heard much. 

Lora: You can check out this link for a review from a friend in the music scene in Atlantic City - 
http://elephanttalkindie.wordpress.com/2012/01/page/2/
Generally we are getting positive feedback, people especially like “At Your Service� and “Falling Apart Houses�, I guess because they are a little more accessible than what we usually do, but also because they are about things a lot of people can relate to. Other people are really digging “Chip Mind� and other people like our other albums better because this one is a little more “songy� and accessible. 

JFA: My take on At Your Service is that you are very disgruntled as if everyone around you
is vapid and frustrating. Are you at your last straw with people?

Matt: That's an interesting take on the album.   

Lora: I agree with Matt- it is interesting and there is some truth to this, but I don’t feel that way about people, more the systems that we operate within, and I am often pretty fed-up with myself. As you probably can relate to, wanting to be an artist in America means that you will never have money, never have success, means you will always struggle, trying to balance supporting yourself financially with doing what you really love, and end up doing neither successfully. The song “At Your Service� is definitely disgruntled with the corporate bosses and customers you have to cater to in the service industry. “Falling Apart Houses� I think is more disgruntled with myself, but it is also a reminder that we are all shattered, not-quite complete, falling apart from the inside, and maybe sort of comforting to know that we are all together in this half-built house. “Mortal� is a sort of love story/fantasy that explores love versus morality. If your boyfriend was destined to be super villain, would you kill him? “Philadelphia Kiss-Off� is also a love story of sorts- except the boyfriend this time is the city of Philadelphia in the roll of the loser junkie boyfriend that you want to leave but somehow can’t (because you still love him). The song is pretty disgruntled with Philadelphia and big cities in general (this was written a long time ago, actually appeared on our very first album, Beautiful Losers). “Cosmic Power� is mostly just fun jammy space rocky stuff, and “Avalanche� is a relatively bitter Leonard Cohen cover that also seems pretty fed-up and angry with the people we love and their perceptions, stereotypes, deceptions and two-facedness, though I think there could be many takes on that song and what the song actually means. 

Dan: Far from being at my last straw with people, I find them infinitely fascinating and frustrating. I'm just focusing on the handfuls that are worth pleasing and staying on good terms with. Most people never get any smarter than an 8th grader. I hate this. We are lucky to be alive and none of us, me included, takes much consideration of this fact. People suck, except the ones that don’t. 

JFA: What are some literary influences? Who is the main Radio Eris lyricist? 

Matt: Lora is the lyricist.  

Lora: Literary influences - definitely sci-fi writers such as Bruce Sterling, William Gibson, Phillip K. Dick, Charles Stross. Also comic books and fantasy - Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman. child-oriented fantasies- Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Wizard of Oz. Mind-bending existential fiction like Hiroshi Murakami, Franz Kafka, Very dark experimental fiction -  And the Ass Saw the Angel by Nick Cave, The Consumer by Michael Gira (they are both musical inspirations to me as well) . Poetry - I would mention Laurie Anderson, Patti Smith, Jim Morrison, Jim Carroll, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave as poets who have translated their works to music and performance so beautifully, and whose work I deeply admire and am inspired by. 

JFA: How did the track “Chip Mind� evolve? What type of people were you thinking of as having “Chip Minds�? 

Matt: Lora came in with a science-fiction piece and Kenny and I both used digital sample/hold effects as the basic background to her recital, with Dan and Brad improvising freely. It's evolved more of a structure since the recording.  

Lora: The lyrics of “Chip Mind� were inspired by a book called  Nanotime, in which peoples minds could be downloaded onto chip and implanted into someone else, except in the instance of the main character, it was his own mind that was downloaded and implanted into himself. With the chip mind he had almost godlike powers and the ability to slow down time in his mind. The concept was compelling to me - if offered the choice; would we also accept this being done to us? Even with godlike powers, with a chip mind we would be easily programmed and controlled. Also, it would be easy to switch bodies so that we would no longer be able to identify people by their physical form.  

In terms of the music, this song is interesting, since it started out as a total improv, with the musicians working with the words in a sort of organic way, creating a theatrical atmosphere by holding back at some point and raising energy at others. In time it has evolved a specific structure but nothing that can be explained or pinpointed exactly. We have written a few other songs and portions of songs in this manner. 


JFA: Do you perceive a future America in which we are all identi-chipped?

Matt: Got a bank card? 

Lora: I think it is going in that direction one way or another. Recently I had a chilling experience that made me realize how different websites are being linked- Facebook, Google, Youtube. At some point or other we will no longer be able to create online personalities. We will be forced to be a specific person. And as such, trackable by anyone monitoring us online. First we get used to operating on these websites, thinking that they are a place we can be freer than in our regular life, and then they pull this change-up on us once it is too late to reprogram our brains.  
I think in all aspects of our life, things will be going in that direction as technology progresses. I am interested in the concept of implants in our brains, something science fiction novels have made look both sinister and really cool! I guess that is the question: think about implants that could give us knowledge and skills, or change our emotional state of mind, let us travel, slow down time, experience god-consciousness, etc? On one hand it is fascinating and I can’t wait to try it, but on the other hand it means we will all be linked. Our very minds will be part of the internet and our thoughts accessible by whoever is monitoring these implants. Also, what part of our soul, of our human struggle, will we lose to make room for the upgrade? Will we still be human? Is it natural evolution that we are becoming something new?  

The future seems like it could offer us amazing, awe-inspiring opportunities through technology, (even now it is already happening through our relationship with the internet and social networking sites) but what price will we pay and what will we lose in the process? Perhaps this is the real question/message posed in the “Chip Mind� piece.  

Dan: My dog has a chip, and McDonalds was putting pet-grade meat in its food earlier this year (pink slime). So I think it's just a matter of time before we get in line as good little pets. Seriously, I'm not crazy enough to envision an America where everyone is chipped, but I do see one where the incentives to be chipped far outweigh the benefits of “analog living�. The gap between the powerful and the poor would have to widen further for this reality to exist .......give it a few months and we will be ready for implementation. Now, please tilt you neck for me. You might experience a slight pressure.

JFA: How was it working with me on the "Chip Mind" video?

Matt: Real easy.

Lora: It was very inspiring to me, I had never worked with a blue-screen before, that was fun, and going into the corner store in the neighborhood was hilarious. The looks we got! Everything we did was pretty simple but you did so much with it. Can't wait to work with you again! 

Dan: You inspired a nice blend of crazy freedom and general, but not restrictive direction. Your ideas were edgy and adventurous and I felt like I had taken a little creative journey by the time the shoot was finished. I remember being glad I got dressed that day. Very cool.

JFA: Thanks much! Indeed, the store was the crowning moment of the shooting day. Glad to entertain the locals, and it gave me some good chuckles. Kudos for the Jimmy Buffet t-shirt. What are your reactions to the video concerning aesthetic, and message?

Dan: This seems to me a video firmly planted in the technology and ethic of NOW. This vid would not have been made at any other cultural junction. It feels like DADA. It smells like MTV. It walks like a heroine junky, and it screams with the panic of a culture obsessed with staring at its own image. How you captured that, I have no idea. You must be as insane as any of us. 

Lora: I think it works really well with the concepts explored in the lyrics and also the music. There is so much going on so many levels. I love ambiguity, something that can be understood on many levels, and the song “Chip Mind�, to me, is something different people understand in different ways, each in their own way, and I think the video also works in this manner. I love how you created unique “creatures� out of each band member, and how those “creatures� interact with the images you create - there are so many messages here, each existing on another level. It almost works like a consciousness-expanding drug. It is a bit scary and sinister but also very beautiful and mind-opening, and there is also a lot of humor thrown in there, which I love, since part of what we do is trying not to take ourselves too seriously even when we are seeming dead serious. 

JFA: Is the video within the realm of Discordianism and would the Goddess Eris approve?

Matt: Yeah, it's random, pretty, and wise. 

Lora: Yes, with the combination of horror, humor, surrealism and spirituality, I think it goes quite well with the discordian realm, and I am sure the Goddess approves. 

Dan: I wouldn’t be surprised if the goddess “force channeled� through you while you were editing this video.

JFA: Thanks again and glad to be in the graces of the Goddess!

An interview with Radio Eris 
by Jon F. Allen
May 8, 2012
"Chip Mind" video still by Jon F. Allen. Featuring
Matt Stevenson of Radio Eris.
"Chip Mind" on YouTube.