My first musical outings took place with two good friends, Jon (Wax) Spencer and Rick Davies. We improvised a strange and noisy sort of experimental stew called Quote Unquote (which we imagined spelling “.”) We recorded many of our sessions together, and put together a cassette of various extracts in late 1980, which we copied by hand and gave to friends. Wax worked at Mother Jones magazine, and helped get us an inch in their Classified section to advertise the cassette for sale. We only got one order, with a cheque enclosed for $6. We felt somewhat embarrassed about selling the tape, so we sent it for free and returned the $6.
The only public Quote-Unquote performance took place in November 1980 on radio station KFJC. Rick and Wax set up tape loops and I patched up my Paia modular synth, processing a microphone and making sub-mixes for the broadcast. I brought some gamelan instruments for extra noisemaking, and Rick Huber was there to help interface with the radio station. A very bad impedance mismatch between our mixer and the broadcast mixer resulted in a loud 60 Hz hum, distortion and only high frequencies passing through. It sounded so bad that eventually I took the output of the mixer and sent it through the ring modulator of my modular synth, and back out to the station. College radio at its finest!
Quote Unquote live on KFJC, November 1980. Robert Rich, Rick Davies, Jon Spencer, Rick Huber
Urdu was our second group attempt, consisting of Rick Davies, Andrew McGowan and myself. We were a rather unstructured, noisy improvising trio that performed maybe a half-dozen gigs around the Bay Area from 1983-1985. Our only cassette release consisted of a side from our live performance on radio station KFJC in 1985, and the other side recorded from a rehearsal with audience in the basement of Robert’s college co-op house around 1984. We do not recommend looking for copies of this cassette, as it probably isn’t worth the search.
Urdu cassette release on Rarefaction (RF04, 1986)
Worth noting that the photograph used on the cover was taken by the son of author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who had been a childhood friend of Rick Davies in Barcelona.
Questioning the Moon (6 min)
Jazz Rmff (4 min)
Air Ritual (6 min)
Land’s End (8 min)
To the Menlo Walker (9 min)
Billboard Angel (5 min)
Amphibian (10 min)
All of us from Quote Unquote and Urdu remain friends to this day, and occasionally over the years we have played together as Amoeba, or on my solo albums. The first effort as Amoeba had a more manic and silly flavor than the later iterations with Rick Davies. I was imagining something strange and theatrical, like the Residents, with comic undertones and a bit disturbing. Unfortunately my sense of humor borders more on the psychotic, and the result just made people uncomfortable. We released a 5-song CD in 1992 that caused quite a bit of confusion to people who were just becoming familiar with my quiet instrumental music. The musicians on Eye Catching were Matt Isaacson on drums, Andrew McGowan on bass, Dave Hahn on guitars, Robert Rich on vocals, synths and production. Andrew McGowan created the rather disturbing cover art.
Amoeba Eye Catching CD-EP (SP004, 1992)
1. Ooze 3:28
2. Lizard Brain 5:04
3. Knee Jerk Reaction 4:13
4. Snail Song 10:16
5. (Hidden Track) Rain Drain