Below are the liner notes to the Flaming Lips new experimental 4 CD set, Zaireeka. I just thought this might be of interest to anyone that hadn't had contact with the album and was curious. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me and I will try and be of help. Also if you have been able to listen to the CD's in any fashion; be it 1, 2, 3, or 4 at a time, and would like to submit a review of it; feel free to send that to me as well. If I get enough I will post some. Remember, Zaireeka was released on October 28th and only 5,000 copies were pressed. If you want a copy you better act fast. You can order them from CDnow while supplies last as well as some local outlets. This is a monumental event in the history of music so don't miss out!
What is Zaireeka?
Zaireeka is my own combination of the words Zaire and Eureka. A kind of anarchy meets inspiration, or maybe a mess with a purpose.. sort of.. thought turned to action process.. Here's what I mean...
One day while on tour in Europe somewhere we were driving and listening to the news of the day on the radio. I remember a newscaster with a British accent saying these ominous words: "Civilization as we know it is breaking down at a phenomenal rate." He was talking about Zaire, you know, in Africa. And I thought to myself, what if we were actually driving around and playing shows in Zaire instead of Europe... What would you play to an audience whose civilization was "breaking down??"..
Since then, to me the word "Zaire" has always been synonymous with "trouble." And it made me think that people who have touted the idea of "anarchy" as the ultimate solution obviously have never really experienced it. If they had I'm not sure they would like the idea of sleeping in the woods, being bit by insects, nothing to eat, nothing to drink, sick and scared to death, with a past that is irretrievable and a future that is unseeable, perhaps your family is dead or maybe you yourself are waiting to die. That's the kind of paralyzing chaos I think of when I hear you long for the days that seem ordinary and boring... So that would be the "Zaire" part, and then there's the eureka part...
Plenty of times while struggling with ideas, ideas not exclusively musical or artistic, I have accidentally and surprisingly found the solution!! Eureka!!... I believe these moments are what truly gives a person's creative drive its momentum. It's these moments that make it possible to keep an idea going. To see it through. It's these little sparks that break up the tedious boredom of a big project and encourage you to keep at it. It gives ideas force, and it's the force by which an idea comes into existence that gives it the momentum to go from being an inner thought to an outward reality. And sometimes this force is so great that it seems to bypass all the usual check-points of reasoning, stupid or retarded, but none the less invigorated...
So anyway it's Zaire fused with Eureka - Zaireeka!! Both of these spheres of thought happening at exactly the same time - a kind of progress because of decline - simultaneously - but instead of one canceling out the other - one uses the other. Anarchy using inspiration to guide it. And inspiration using anarchy's abandon and power to crash through any road blocks... whatever that means??... But somewhere in there is the spark that, I think, holds this concept and these songs together... Anyway, I had an idea.
In the fall of 1996 I put together what has come to be known as simply "The Parking Lot Experiments." This was an idea I had been working on in my head for a couple of years. And at the beginning of the summer of '96 I started to do the actual physical work of recording and mapping it all out. What the "experiment" was and continues to be is this: Using up to fifty cars with loud tape decks. All strategically parked in a covered parking garage. I give each car a cassette tape, each tape contains very specifically arranged music, sounds and frequencies. Each car is then instructed to engage their tape decks, all starting together... what resulted, with varying degrees of non-success, was a sort of surround sound, inner sound, random-precision, tape deck performance... well, a kind of mutated symphony where the musicians are just tape decks.
These experiments were mostly for my own amusement, but I was finding that the small audience, mostly made up of the folks who brought their cars, were intrigued as well. What was happening was a kind of "new event."???? I wanted to surround the audience with sound from all around, and since it is a tape that you are hearing, there would essentially be no "performer." And since there is no "performer" the sounds could be... unexpected. For instance, I could fill half of the garage with the sound of mosquitoes buzzing and the other half with lush orchestral melodies, and then without warning, the whole garage erupts into three-hundred different horn players all playing different melody patterns. I felt totally unrestricted and it seemed that the freakier the combination of sounds the better. All coming together telling a sort of "sound story".. but also without the usual fanfare that goes along with a "rock concert" setting. What I mean is - not just to go and witness an event but to be the event. Not just to experience the "show," but to have the "show" and the audience participate in each other. To have the curiosity and anticipation of the audience be the thing that gives the event its excitement. What I think I was getting at when I said "new event," was something where the rules and logic have not even been made up yet. I remember at the second experiment someone asked me, when it was over, if they should clap??... and I said, "well... if you want to"... they honked their horns in their cars instead. But it did make me wonder, how sometimes in a movie theater after the movie is over, people will applaud the screen..?. I've done that... even though there is no "real" performer in front of you, you applaud the... film?. So anyway. With each experiment I was more encouraged - and even though it had its limitations, I was discovering the possibilities of using separate sound sources to expand on the ideas of composing and listening. And at the same time I was finding that the audience liked the idea of participating in their own entertainment... it was from this process, these failures and successes, that this four CD concept came into being. Though not the same compositions, much of the same ideas are used.
My initial recordings of the "parking lot" things were, I was finding out, dull and flat compared to the way they really sounded. I was finding that the multiple dimensions of having separate sound sources is what gave the compositions their dynamics. What I mean is, when I took a composition that came out of just two speakers right in front of you, well... it was kind of boring, so I set out to see if I could capture the "unstructuredness" and "unexpected" elements of what was going on out in the parking lot and put it into a format that could be played in someone's living room...
The way the parking lot compositions/performances were fused with a "multi-dimensional" dynamic is what I would try to do to songs and the recording process. What I mean is... I wanted to abandon song structure but not abandon the song. I wanted to make songs that were different every time you played them. I wanted to veer away from even the way songs were listened to... I wanted to get away from the things that were... known. So anyway... I got a couple of CD players together and played some tracks that I had on two separate CDs. You know, the same song but on two different discs, like say a track off an album and a track off a single... anyway - I played them together simply by pressing the play buttons at the same time. To my surprise they played reatively in synch for the first minute or so... but even more of a surprise was that they would wobble in and out of synch sort of arbitrarily. From what I can tell, CD players will not play in synch with each other. They get close, depending on the quality of the players, but for the most part it can be pretty random. It was this part that excited me, the fact that they played close enough together that you could tell what was going on, but also played unpredictably in front of or behind the other making it confusing. Sometimes one would start behind and catch up to the other, other times the opposite. What I like best about it was how different and out of whack and otherwise simple song could get...and with that in mid I started to think with an "expanded" view of what music and songs could be... I would try to present music that was both clear and confusing, where rhythms fought each other, where time signatures were simple yet unpredictable... music that would be unfamiliar even after a thousand listens. Music that, according to the normal ideas of what music is, doesn't work... instead of listening to a song and passively being either entertained or bored the listener would be engaged and agitated.. soothed but suspect.. in a state of suspended anticipation.. The listener could hear an exaggerated dimension of sound where sometimes reverb comes before a sound occurs, other times it's delayed.. Where a melody that's pleasant and uplifting, upon being shifted slightly, becomes dissonant and interruptive.. Where crescendos miss their cues either late or early or both... making music that purposely destroys its own momentum... and instead of hearing these things and thinking of them as being wrong or annoying... I heard the possibilities of a bizarre new format.
How does it work?
Zaireeka can be listened to:
1 CD at a
2 CDs at a time
3 CDs at a time
or 4 CDs at a time
Each requiring its own CD player and system. That means, to hear all four CDs playing at the same time you must have four separate CD players.
How do you get them to all play together?
To hear, let's say, Track No.1, put each CD in its player and go to track No.1, press play and you'll hear it say "Track No.1" followed by each CD announcing its number. For instance, CD No.1 will say, "This is CD No.1," CD No.2 says, "No.2," CD No.3 says, "No.3," CD No.4 says, "And No.4." After hearing "Track No.1" press pause, while it is paused press skip or automatic search back to the beginning of the track. This is to insure all the CDs are paused at exactly the beginning of the track. Use a kind of "Ready, Set, Go!!!" count-off to get everybody to press play at exactly the same time. (This implies you'll need more than one person.) When all the CDs are engaged properly in synch you should hear all the CDs in unison say "Track No.1" followed by each CD announcing its number individually. If this start sequence is a jumbled mess, or the CD numbers aren't announced in the right order 1, 2, 3, and 4.. you should pause, reverse, and try it again... if the count-off is correct, the selection will begin in a proper state. Each track should be played using this synchronized starting procedure... also, some tracks have sections of silence.
Here's some news about the songs...
Track No.1 "Okay I'll Admit That I Really Don't Understand"
This song began as a single chord played on piano that can be heard accompanying the singing and guitar playing on CD No.3. The drums and bass were recorded separately but made to sound together on CD No.1... CDs No.2 and No.4 have rising and descending vocal melodies with random flex-o-tone banging away here and there. All elements of this song were played randomly. All based around that first chord played on the piano. I think this song implies that there's a little bit of relief when a person acknowledges to themselves that they "don't understand" what's going on... But also I think it tries to imply that there are some things that a person will never understand, some things that can't even be completely figured out. Only you don't know this, so you keep trying to figure it out over and over.
Lyrics - Okay I'll admit that I really don't understand.
Track No.2 "Riding To Work In The Year 2025 (Your Invisible Now)"
This song is about a kind of comfortable paranoia that I feel like everybody has a certain amount of. The character in the song imagines that he is a secret agent on his way to work in the distant future... In his own mind he is the most important man on the planet and bears the responsibility of saving mankind, or something like that. Anyway, so even though it is fake, it makes him feel important. He has a "mission." And one day while on this "imaginary" ride to work he imagines that the pressure of being the most important secret agent in the world has become too much, and he collapses into insanity right there as the morning sun beams through the window of this futuristic shuttle train... but the "realness" of the supposedly "imagined" insanity leaves our character stunned that he could so vividly envision his own psychological demise. He is surprised, and panics, and screams... and wonders, is insanity just imagination that can't find its way back to reality?
Lyrics - On some driven ship, the morning commuter ride, everything is orange and bright. Your invisible now, and I know that it's hard to get used to, 'cause you're the last secret agent reporting back but you're reporting back to nothing. Your invisible now, and I know that it's hard to get used to. The panoramic scene, the landscape's grand design, the moment overtakes your life. In the silver morning sun the worst is magnified it makes you see the use of Christ.
Track No.3 "Thirty-Five Thousand Feet of Despair"
A short drama about a pilot who's losing his mind little by little. He fears for the safety of his family when he's at home, and fears for the safety of his passengers when he's flying. Finally he fears he can no longer control himself and during a transatlantic flight he leaves the cock-pit and goes to the bathroom and hangs himself... The story is told from the perspective of a news guy reporting from the airport as the plane comes in to land, this is on CD No.1. On CD No.2 is the pilot's "still sane" side as he walks down the aisle on the way to the bathroom. CD No.3 is the sound of the airport expecting a sad, heavy, nighttime arrival. CD No.4 is the "not sane" side of the pilot, sort of unconnected and eerie, the vocals were run through a series of effects that, at times, sounds like someone is laughing.
Lyrics - Another moth disintegrates hovering in the beam of a searchlights that's looking for a trace of a plane whose pilot it's a shame has gone insane. You can see the silhouette across the moon he hung himself mid-flight in the bathroom. Why is it so high? Why is it so much?.........
Track No.4 " A Machine In India"
The basic chords and vocal melody come out of CD No.1. On CDs No.2, No.3 and No.4 are different arrangements of instruments and melodies that, played against the song, but played all together, form a dense, abstract cloud of interweaving and unrelated moods that seem to hover along with the song regardless of rhythm.. the concept of the song is based around a conversation I had with Michelle about the "other word" she is in during her menstrual periods...and the kind of dull and depressing, mild insanity that seems to possess her, even though she knows it's coming, and has been through it a million times, it arrives new and uncontrollable every time... The long drifting guitar solo section tries to imply the "unconnectedness" she feels with her own self. The little "cartoon sounding" glips or the "machine" sound implies the clock-like "mechanicalness" of nature.
Lyrics - I'm going to India over and over again. I'm standin' in a cylinder, seein' all the bleedin' vaginas. I feel it now comin' over me so I strive to love the Messiah. I'm goin' to India over and over again. I'm rushin' to the nearest station, feet and hands collided with the driver. All that I think, all I thought and all I know the Syrian missile guides itself into the vaginas. I'm goin' to India over and over again.
Track No.5 "The Train Runs Over The Camel But Is Derailed By The Gnat"
A combination of three different songs all delicately linked by a vocal melody.. None of the CDs seems to cooperated with the others.. till the end when a soothing kind of funeral organ plays the same melody out of all four at the same time... I couldn't quite define, exactly, what I was attempting to say.. I could see clearly these great collisions of sounds setting the stage for a speech by some "scientist/preacher" sort of guy, but when he steps up to the podium his logic, which is held by just a thread, eludes him and he's left there kind of talking in circles about an idea that he forever seems to be on the verge of knowing...
Lyrics - As if to be some kind of test.. born out of the boredom of who's better than the rest. This time they wouldn't measure the pointless small details.. the only thing that mattered was if the "you" prevailed. Maybe it's just some coincidence that natural selection always works the best.. what if they didn't count the molecules that failed and the only thing that mattered were the pieces that prevailed.
Track No.6 "How Will We Know (Futuristic Crashendos)"
CAUTION: CDs No.1, No.3, and No. 4 contain extremely high and low frequencies that can cause a person to become disoriented, confused or nauseated. Each speaker contains a high and a low frequency. CD No.1's frequencies are 20hz and 14khz. CD No.3's frequencies are 10hz and 14khz. CD No.4 contains 7hz and 10khz. These tracks should NOT be listened to repeatedly at high volume. Make sure infants are out of listening range. This track should not be listened to while driving. CD No.2 contains the "ear friendly" part of this composition, it has a normal frequency range.. The reference for this song is the untrue "urban myth" that goes something along these lines: "being exposed to extremely high and low frequencies at high volume for extended periods of time has some strange psychological side effects - though their hearing was temporarily impaired the participants reported feeling as if they could predict the future"..?
Lyrics - How will we know if this rush of noise we're hearin' is the world's biggest hammer comin' down on our heads crushing our lives, and everything that we've said, crushing the existence of any small effects we've had or is it just some super-sonic flux invented in the future blowin' up so hard you can hear it before it happens... how will we know?
Track No.7 "March Of The Rotten Vegetables"
I envisioned this as music for a cartoon about a group of determined vegetables who feel like the place where they're growing is.. no good. So they uproot and head for better soil.. encountering hardship and heroism along the way.. as they parade through Meatville they are BOOed, then they are attacked by bats, but eventually, before they rot, they must find better ground.. CD No.1 plays the main theme. CD No.3 takes over during the "here come the bats" part and all the CD's join in as the bats "attack." You may hear this as a freakish drum solo.
Track No.8 "The Big Ol' Bug Is The New Baby Now"
CD No.1 sets the mood and gives the story an uplifting and confident pace. CDs No. 2 and 4 give various surround-sound settings of my backyard at different times of the day and night. On CD No.3 is the story...
Lyrics - We have three dogs that love to chew stuff up so we're always gettin' them some toys and stuffed animals and stuff so they can destroy them. And usually whatever we get is shred to pieces within a couple of days. And one day I noticed that this stuffed animal that we had gotten, they had had it for about a week, had remained relatively unharmed, a little bit dirty, but it really didn't have any damage. So I was kind of watchin' them for the next couple of days, and I noticed that for some weird reason, this little stuffed animal seemed like they all liked it for some weird reason, it was special to them, not only did they not chew it up, they sort of made it seem like it was their baby. They treated as though it was their own baby, so I thought, "this is weird." How strange this is. Of all the toys and things that we get for them, for some weird reason, this one, it wasn't really any different from the rest, this one is picked to be special. So there you go.. So some time passed and one day I noticed that this box of "big plastic insects," that I had been keeping on a shelf in the bathroom, had some how fallen down and unfortunately it looked as though the dogs had already chewed up most of the stuff in it, the big giant spiders, ants, and cockroaches and stuff that were in it. And as I walked around the house picking up the shredded pieces of these plastic insects I cam across the... baby... you know, their stuffed animal baby! And there it was just torn to shreds, like everything else - all the other stuff, finally this one was torn to shreds. So later on I came across one of the giant grasshoppers that for some reason hadn't been chewed up at all, not even as much as a small tooth mark. So I watch.. and it occurs to me.. that for some reason their affections have changed.. and I can plainly see that, instead of the stuffed animal, the big ol' bug is the new baby... now.
Zaireeka was recorded in Cassadaga, New York, April - August of 1997
Flaming Lips * Dave Fridmann * Scott Booker
Dave Fridmann * Flaming Lips