Interview: Lamprey Systems

Electro_Slack_Treatment_-_Lamprey_SystemsRobert Carr, the man behind Lamprey Systems, is pretty dang creative. He’s made one full-length DVD of music videos, 3 albums, lzines, lots of software, robots, computer sculptures, and probably some stuff I don’t even know about. Not to mention that he’s made most of this stuff available online for free. Sometimes he gives away the occasional hard copy — in fact, that’s how I discovered his stuff. He did an offer to send away for a copy of his ElectroSlack Treatment album (on alt.slack, I believe), which was cool, and then about two years ago, Rev. Ivan Stang’s blog posted that he was giving a few copies of his 2-DVD set, Keep It Surreal, away, and I got that, which just cemented my digging of his stuff.

A lot of SubGenii are already hip to the awesome that is Lamprey Systems, but perhaps non-SubGs are missing out. That’s one of the reasons why I asked Robert if I could interview him for Kittysneezes. (The other reason was just that I really dig his stuff, and he seemed to be a cool guy — which I can confirm, he is — who’d be fun to talk to — again, he is.) So, if you need any nudging to take a peek at Robert’s cool stuff, consider yourself poked, prodded and downright shoved.

Part the First

What’s your favorite T-shirt (or if you prefer not to wear t-shirts, your favorite article of clothing otherwise)?

Robert Carr: Black British Commando sweaters AKA the Wooly Pully. I must own about a half dozen of them.

At this moment in time, what is your favorite song?

Robert Carr: “God, Man, Machine” by Mona Lisa Overdrive.

If you had the power to eliminate two films from the history of the world, what would they be?

Robert Carr: 300– This film does for latent homosexual fascists what “Rocky Horror” did for transvestites. You can bet your bottom dollar that the pathetic fuck at the airport who makes you take off your shoes watches this movie alone in the dark, while mouthing the dialog.

What the Bleep Do We Know!? – this flick had every waterhead new-ager in the known universe convinced they would get a pony if they wished hard enough. If I never hear the word “quantum” again. I will die a happy man. [Ed Note: If by some fluke, you decide to pick this up via the amazon link, for the love of god, if you MUST, get a used copy. This film’s not only wall-to-wall bullshit, but it’s also a Ramtha cult recruitment film. Anyway, if you want a cult recruitment film, why not OUR cult?]

What’s your favorite band that you don’t think a lot of people would have heard of?

Robert Carr: Machines of Loving Grace.

What, if anything, is on any particular wall (your choice) in your domicile?

Robert Carr: You know how the serial killer in movies always has a special room where every square inch of the walls is plastered with shit? Well, I have two work rooms like that. The main room has Plasmatics, Cramps and Siouxsie and the Banshees posters, along with huge reproductions of the World Weekly News Bat Boy covers (My wife and I had volunteered to adopt the poor waif). My parts / robotics room is anchored by Dead Kennedys, Sex Pistols and Night of the Living Dead posters, along with the life-size glow-in-dark skeleton wearing a rubber Bush mask, Sex Pistols t shirt and American flag cape.

I probably could charge admission to this place.

Where is the place where you would do anything to be?

Robert Carr: The future.

What’s the strangest thing you own?

Robert Carr: It’s a tie between the large “Family Home Evening” placard stolen from a Mor(m)on steak house and a still-in-the-shrinkwrap copy of “Microsoft Bob.”

Of the things you’ve done, what’s your all-time favorite (however you want to interpret that, be it artistic works, actions, whatever)?

Robert Carr: My all-time favorite thing is the game “Mormonoids from the Deep.” This was my first computer game, and really marked a turning point in my life.

What’s your highest bowling score?

Robert Carr: I met my wife at a Kinko’s bowling party. We were fairly high, but I didn’t score for about three weeks.

Who’s your favorite visual artist (excluding yourself)?

Robert Carr: Jackson Pollock.

If you could make one band reconsider their decision to break up, which would it be?

Robert Carr: DEVO. Those guys were just a quarter of a century ahead of their time.

What are the five most recent films you’ve seen?

Robert Carr: Schizopolis, Jindabyne, 28 Weeks Later, The TV Set, Hot Fuzz.

What’re your top three movies?

Robert Carr: J-Men Forever!, Re-Animator, The Magic Christian.

Do you own any original artwork, and if so, whose?

Robert Carr: I have two large canvases by a local kid named McDevitt. His work turned up at fundraiser for the local art museum… probably because his mom was on the board of directors. The guy had obviously been skipping his medication when he painted these two, and the old ladies running the event couldn’t get rid of them fast enough. I think I paid $12 and $20 for them.

How are your DVDs/VHS/Betamax tapes organized?

Robert Carr: Mystery Science Theater 3000 and everything else.

What is your favorite game?

Robert Carr: Computer – Bejeweled; Real life – Fetch

What sort of pie do you enjoy?

Robert Carr: I am a friend of all pies. Even the chocolate tofu pie.

If you could say one thing to David Byrne, what would it be?

Robert Carr: Less art, more music please!

Have you ever watched short track speed skating?

Robert Carr: Nope. Is that like Roller Derby?

Describe some horrible/otherwise amusing local commercials.

Robert Carr: We used to have this Public Service Announcement where this old biddy would remind us all that, “Idiho, yu gotta huv arts.” I could never figure out whether she’d been kicked in the head by a large draft animal or had merely drank her lunch. Whenever we hit cultural high mark, such as the riot during the Sports Humanitarian football game, we say “Idiho, yu gotta huv arts.”

What are your five most favorite books in the world?

Robert Carr: A Guide to Western Civilization or My Story by Joe Bob Briggs, Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition: Science Slightly Over the Edge by Ed Regis, Sex, Drugs, Einstein & Elves: Sushi, Psychedelics, Parallel Universes and the Quest for Transcendence by Clifford Pickover, Dr. Adder by K.W. Jeter, The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence by Ray Kurzweil

What is the most boring thing you’ve ever experienced?

Robert Carr: I had a job at a print shop, and they had me go through thousands of copies of a book to make sure the pages were in the correct order.

If you could name a child anything in the world, what would it be?

Robert Carr: Johnny Fuckerfaster.

What would be a better weapon, a gun that fires dogs or a gun that fires cats?

Robert Carr: Because of the cat’s average weight, the cat gun would be able to achieve a higher velocity while having a lower recoil than the dog gun. While the cats wouldn’t have the knockdown power of the dogs, the smaller size would enable you to carry more cats in the weapon’s magazine. Also the lower mass of the cats would mean that they would be more likely to ricochet off of bones, and thus less likely to simply drill a hole through your target. And I suspect the cat gun would have a flatter trajectory. On the other hand, the canine weapon would have much more stopping power. In addition, if you could somehow convince the dogs to open their mouths when fired, the resulting wounds would be similar to those produced by a hollow point bullet.

What is your favorite meal?

Robert Carr: Pizza and beer… not necessarily in that order.

Would you trade your sanity to write something incredibly beautiful/perfect?

Robert Carr: Damn, I long ago traded my sanity (along with my eyesight) just to write CRAP!

What is reality?

Robert Carr: If you were here and asked that question, I would kick you really hard in the shin.


Part the Second

How did you get involved with the Church of the SubGenius?

Robert Carr: I traded ‘zines, art and software with various SubG’s during the late ’80’s. I think I actually drank the Kool-aid back in ’91 when I bought a official membership. Since then I’ve done a number of SubGenius-themed projects.

Why do you think so many SubGenii are drawn to audio/visual collage based media?

Robert Carr: I think the average SubGenius processes information more quickly than the Pinks. Speaking from my own personal experience, I find that the pacing of mainstream media to be very slow and boring. Even in a supposedly fast paced action sequence, such as a car chase in a movie, there’s really not much going on and what does happen is quite predictable. With visual collage, a great deal of information can be compressed into small amount of time and predictability flies out the window. Predictability is a fetish of the Pink boy, while the SubGenii love the unexpected in their art. This is evident in many SubGenius audio collages where the juxtaposition of unrelated sound clips can yield humorous and sometimes profound results.

The bottom line is if you loved MadLibs as a kid, you MAY be a SubGenius.

How long have you been programming?

Robert Carr: If you call what I do “programming,” 18 years.

What do you use to program?

Robert Carr: Right now I’m using a program called “SuperCard.” It is a descendent of Apple’s old HyperCard program.

Over the years, I’ve used a number of different programming tools – World Builder, HyperCard, FutureBasic, Think C, CodeWarrior and SuperCard.

What’s been your most popular program?

Robert Carr: That would have to be MacJesus and all its various incarnations.

What was your first computer?

Robert Carr: A Mac Plus w/ meg of RAM, two floppies and an external 30 meg hard drive.

What do you use to make your videos and music?

Robert Carr: Oh Oh… time for heresy! I mostly use Acid Techno on a friggin PC to do my music. I’ve never liked Apple’s Garageband and when I first started doing muzak it didn’t even exist, so I did my first CD, ElectroSlack Treatment, using GrooveMaker on a Mac. Groovemaker was okay, but very limited, whereas Acid is a great loop sequencer.

As for video, I use Final Cut Pro on a Mac.

The way I make a video, is completely bass-ackwards. I make the music and then set the video clips to it.

Have you been in any other bands?

Robert Carr: No.

How’s Pogo doing?

Robert Carr: Since the weather’s cooled down, we’ve started doing day hikes again. The responsibility of doing a daily Cougar Patrol weighs heavily on his curly shoulders, but he’s up to the task.

How did you get the idea to do the various ReAnimactor machines?

Robert Carr: Well, I had all these old Macs laying around the house…

Are there any more forthcoming?

Robert Carr: Unlikely as It seems, the supply of Classic Macs has pretty much dried up. I was getting pallets of beige Macs from the local recycler for $2 apiece a couple of years ago. Most of them were Performas and crap like that, but there were a few SE’s and Classics suitable for use as User Friendly art projects. However, this is no longer the case and it really seems a shame to paint my last half dozen Classic Macs.

Some of the User Friendly ones kind of remind me of Brian Eno’s generative art project 77 Million Paintings, just in the idea of using a computer monitor as an art-display mechanism. What do you think of Eno’s 77 Million Paintings, if you’ve seen it? Do you ever think about doing something with your stuff like that with a more computer-random generated aspect to the art?

Robert Carr: I’ve seen pictures of Eno’s art project, but I don’t know too much about it. The biggest problem I have with building computer art is finding space for the completed projects. It’s cool to build a wall of monitors, but where the hell do you put it when it’s finished?

What I think would be interesting would be to build a Lego Mindstorms robot that could draw random art. You’d put your paper in a tray, and the bot would draw on it. It could be similar in design to a Plasma Cam metal cutting robot.

Do you have a favorite Smurfs In Hell article?

Robert Carr: Of the ones online, I’d have to go with “Babies… fun to make, fun to eat.” It was reprinted in another ‘zine back in the day, a caused quite the stir in that ‘zine’s hometown (Phoenix, Tucson or some goddamn place like that) One of the things on the to do list, is scan in the entire Smurfs In Hell zine collection.

How long does it take you to make a Bad Bot?

Robert Carr: It can take several weeks to a month do one. Then of course there’s writing and debugging the software. The real humbling thing is when I built two of these for the local kids’ Discovery Center it took six weeks, and the kids found the bugs in the bots in about 5 minutes.

Do you have any other projects you’d like to mention?

Robert Carr: I’ve been working a disc cataloging/back up program to help me deal with thousands of CD’s I’ve collected over the years. It is very buggy still, but if I can resolve some of its issues I’ll release it as freeware. [ISODada: The Disc Fucker!, which will be posted in about a week. Robert says ” This utility is definitely only for the brave or stupid.”]

I’ve already mentioned a desire to scan in all my Smurfs in Hell ‘zines and put them on the web.

I also plan on making my DVD “Keep It Surreal” available for free, along with my 3 audio CD’s [Ed. Note: The CDs are available now as mp3s and ISOs]. These will be disc images that you can download and burn.

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