Monday, October 19, 2009


"Pyrodydacts was Doug Russell on guitar, Tristana Fiscella on vocals, Josh Blair on drums, and me, Sara Jaffe, on guitar and keyboard (namely, a little Casio with an output jack that we amplified through boombox speakers so it would sound blown out). We were a band in Middletown, CT from approximately October 1998-June 1999. Most of us were students at Wesleyan University. Doug and I met on one of our first days of college, and had been talking about playing music together, but it didn’t happen until our senior year, when Doug started playing with Josh and Tristana and invited me to join in. The two records I heard during my college years that probably affected me the most were the No New York and Wanna Buy a Bridge compilations—I was really interested in making music that had some kind of hooks or pop elements, but that was also open to fracture, implosion, noise. Without, I think, ever talking about this as our goal, that is what Pyrodydacts ended up being. Josh’s amazing sense of control on the drums, his impeccable sense of when to fill in space and when to back off, Doug’s perfect equation of riffage and feedback, Tristana’s sometimes spoken, sometimes quasi-operatically-sung lyrics, childhood-memories-meets-pissed-at-the-world—I loved being in this band! We practiced in my basement at 42 Miles Avenue. In some songs I would have to make really quick switches between guitar and keyboard, so I devised this system where I put a hole through my guitar pick and tied it to a string around my wrist, so I could let it go for the keyboard parts and scoop it back up for the guitar. We played probably only like 8 or 10 shows, most of them at Wesleyan, and then I think one at Sarah Lawrence College, one in New Haven, and one in Brooklyn at the Happy Birthday Hideout. At the HBH show, this kid did an amazing Sharpie drawing of us playing, I need to remember what I did with that, and Michael Azzerad came up to me after and gave me his card. I didn’t know who he was.

We made this recording on Josh’s 8-track at 42 Miles. Doug went on to play in the noise-guitar duo Open City, Tristana in Caution Curves, and Josh in Orthrelm, El Guapo/SuperSystem, and a zillion other projects. I played guitar in Erase Errata, which, incidentally, was rejected as a band name before we came up with Pyrodydacts."

Sara first played Pyrodydacts for me one wild weekend in 1999. I asked my old roommate Ben Nugent to tell that wild tale:

"It was my first fall in New York. In the summer of 1999 I had moved to South 4th between Driggs and Roebling, and BJ was my second roommate in an apartment where we shook roaches out of our shoes in the morning. Dirt, humidity, some danger.  South 2nd was rough back then, but South 4th was friendly in a hood way. The Rapture and Black Dice played an amazing show at The Cooler, I went with BJ and Jonathan Stuart and Alex Klein. I eventually started The Cloud Room with Jonathan. But that year I wasn't thinking about my own music or writing. I was panicked. I had just turned 22, and I worked for the city, out in Brownsville, trying to persuade aging welfare recipients to pound the pavement harder looking for service industry jobs. They were people falling through the cracks in the workfare system, forced to spear trash in parks to keep their welfare check coming, just about unemployable. My purpose was to help somebody strike them off the ledger, get them some kind of job somewhere, no matter how bad, to erase errata. It was my first job. My title was Employment Expert.

I was learning how to lie. The notion that I could be helpful to these desperate single mothers by reciting received wisdom to them and calling Au Bon Pain managers on their behalf was of course itself a lie. I lied to my supervisors and spent a lot of my time finding myself a magazine job instead of trying to get the 'clients' jobs. The glorious beginning of my literary career.

One weekend BJ and I and Mel Flashman, my girlfriend at the time, went up to Wesleyan, because Mel had gone there and had friends who were still there. Calvin Johnson and Mirah were playing at a coed frat, Eclectic. BJ and I decided I would tell everyone I was Ted Nugent's nephew. I didn't know if I was actually going to go through with it. I couldn't decide if it was the kind of lark people would talk about in my biography once I got famous, or if I was never going to get famous and it was therefore pointless. Youth.

We stood outside Eclectic smoking with Sara Jaffe, who was still just starting to get Erase Errata up and running at that point, I think. BJ was like, did you know this guy is Ted Nugent's nephew? People started asking me all kinds of questions. I found myself pulling answers out of the ether that felt correct. He and my father hadn't spoken much in a while, my father was the good boy who went to college and became a liberal, we used to love to go to Ted's place in Dearborn, etc. BJ kept a straight face and nodded. It felt like writing a character, like making something. Everyone nodded, interested, and we talked about the history of conservatism in rock. Then we went inside and saw Calvin Johnson pretend, listened to him sing like a child in his man's voice. It was beautiful. I thought: better--more moral, more fun-- to play pretend with your friends, than to pretend for an employer, according to plan. Far better to tell a childish lie than a smug, adult lie. Or at least I hope I thought that.

I saw Erase Errata years later at DUMBA and they were great, as good as that early Rapture show, and different."

Ladies and gentlemen, for your listening pleasure, Pyrodydacts.


Pyrodydacts (Pukekos)
1. Cruisin
2. Fencelamb
3. Cocky Fuck
4. 65 Pounds
5. Seawall
6. Democracy of Pirates
7. Seem Ejaculate

1 comment:

Dodecahedron said...

This is fucking GREAT. Thanks for this.