Former Denton resident Chris Weber is a founding member of the justifiably legendary Good/Bad Art Collective, and though he now calls Seattle home, he has been back in town a lot of late. His extended visit has been in preparation for the various events the momentarily reformed Good/Bad is staging as part of the Nasher Sculpture Center’s citywide public art exhibition known as the Nasher XChange. The mischievous collective occupied a floor of the 40-story Bryan Tower for Curtains this past weekend, in which an infomercial was taped involving crowd participation. The results are to be broadcast at a later date.
Curtains combines performance, “sculptural elements,” and music, and I decided to ask Weber about the latter, since I heard some interesting names come up as participants. Weber will actually be in town through the next installment of Rock Lottery, of which he played a vital role in its creation.
FR: I did not get to see the press preview for this, but how much does music play a role? I heard there are 4 theme songs, but what are the theme songs for?
CW: To give you a quick background of this event, there are three parts, the live event being kind of the focal point, that was always a one-night-only event. At this event, patrons are going to be brought into the space—a lot of it’s secret so I’m going to be vague—they’re brought into the space and they’re led through. They have to sign a waiver that they’re going to be filmed, and then they’re brought into a waiting room that has sculptural elements in it. Then a Good/Bad member guides them through three television studios.
In each of those studios, they have to perform a different action. Those films will be inserted into the infomercial that’s going to be on broadcast television, which is the other component. So Mark Ryan — of Marked Men, Reds, Grown-Ups and Mind Spiders, and a member of the collective — he created the main theme that will be in the waiting room. We then took that theme and we invited other musicians that have been a part of Good/Bad’s history to do their take or remix on the main theme for each of the studios. Each theme has a completely different feel to it, and the action that happens inside it is very different.
So for the first room we needed more of a playful tone, so we got Corn Mo, Jon Cunningham, to be part of it. He did a version of the song incorporating some vocals, some talking stuff —another member’s daughter talking about stuff that’s really cute. The second room, Wanz Dover did a dance remix. And then Daron Beck of Pinkish Black did another song in the final room.
In the space, there’s going to be a little bit of bleed, and it’s actually planned. Mark created it so that if you hear all of it, it will still make sense. And it will sound crazy, but it will sound crazy in a way that makes sense. That’ll be part of the live event. It’ll also be part of the extended exhibition that runs November 4th through the end of February. So each of those tracks will be part of that extended exhibition and kind of set the tone for the sculptural elements that will still be on display. They will also all be used in the infomercial.
FR: How did you decide on Wanz Dover, Corn Mo, and Daron Beck?
CW: We have a history with all of them, each of those people, including Mark. The history of Good/Bad is that a lot of our events were music-based. A lot of them were strange experiments in music, the Rock Lottery being the one that still exists from that.
“Dueling Bandos” was this thing where two bands were set up on either side of the venue and took turns. One would play a song, and the audience that was in front for that band, would then turn around and the band on the opposite side of the club would then play one song. They would take turns.
We did this thing called “Space Rock vs Roots Rock” where we made up a fake rivalry. We made everyone who walked in pick a side.
CW: They actually had to stand on one side of the venue or the other, with a sticker that said what affiliation they were with. Some of the bands weren’t even in on the joke and got really upset.
CW: We had things like that. This band E.F.F., that was part of the collective, they did things like play outside on a trampoline. So the whole band was on a trampoline, except for the drummer, who was in the back of a pickup truck, circling the trampoline. So we did lots of ridiculous things like that.
The cacophonous thing that will be part of this. Our final show at the Cadet Space had two visual art elements, but the third one was a thing we called 8 exclamation points “!!!!!!!!.” Long before Chk Chk Chk was a band. So we were “Chk Chk Chk Chk Chk Chk Chk Chk.” In that we invited eight bands from our history to play all at the same time. We set up eight stages outside of Good/Bad under a circus tent that we rented, a church revivalist tent. We built eight stages and the audience was in the middle with eight PAs. The was rule was that the bands would play their normal set. If it’s twenty minutes, it’s twenty minutes. If it’s an hour-and-a-half, it’s an hour-and-a-half. Dutch Treats was just John Freeman by himself; there was a duo, Asphalt the Recorder; Cornhole, that was five people at the time. So, different sized bands. If they had between-song banter, then they would do it, even though nobody could hear you. Then they played all at once, and it was this beautiful noise. That’s one that I think people still talk about, the musicians themselves, will say it was their favorite show ever. They could just go wild and nobody could tell if they messed up, so their inhibitions were gone.
It’s that sort of history. All of these guys have had at least two bands that played these kinds of events for us. A lot of those events were benefits for the collective. That’s how we raised our money to do other things. Rock Lottery started as that.
Mark, Wanz, and Corn Mo were all in Rock Lottery I. Daron was in Rock Lottery II. So, a big history with these guys. They were always loyal to the collective. We wanted to bring them and also thematically it made sense. Honestly, how most of this is running came from Mark Ryan. He was the center point for a lot of this as well. He was both the composer and the ringleader for some of this. Everyone had input on who the other people should be. But how it ended up being put together, Mark managed that.
FR: Was what the musicians turned in what you expected on any level? Were they given directives?
CW: They were given parameters. There were very few people outside of the collective who got to read the script from the infomercial and got to actually know all the elements. I think they had a pretty good idea of what the project was, and what kind of feel we wanted in each room. Then Mark gave them parameters about time signature and musical, technical information, so he could put it together sonically in the room and in the infomercial. Then they were given his original track, which he meticulously crafted. So that they would have the most flexibility in making something that was still their own, but that would still work with the overall project.
I was surprised by all three. In all three cases, it was exactly what we thought it was going to be, and we were completely surprised by it.
FR: What changed for you, perspective-wise, musically, after moving from Denton to New York, and then Seattle?
FR: Sorry, that’s kind of broad.
CW: No, it’s fine. I 100 percent thank Denton, Texas for my overview of music in general. And I still think it’s the best music city in the world. I think a lot of that is because of its remoteness and it’s a college town. Maybe the music school has something to do with it, either because there are good musicians or people are competing against the music school. Good/Bad was never associated with the university, so it was a little bit of that, too. I think with the small town mentality, there’s kind of an egoless … I mean, there’s ego, but not an ego.
I think it’s probably changed a little bit now, but especially back then, no one thought they were going to get famous. Or make money. We all just wanted to work real hard, and make cool sh*t happen. That’s why I started putting on these crazy music shows. I was just working. Working at the Argo, working at the rock clubs and putting on shows. Even on the best day, I was getting bored and wanting to entertain myself, and others.
When I moved to New York, and also Seattle, which are both, obviously great music towns … I don’t know, there’s obviously less community, and I know most of that is because they’re bigger places. There are more opportunities to do other things. There’s something special about Denton, and I feel like we wouldn’t have made these weird things … Good/Bad couldn’t have happened any other place and these weird music things we did, couldn’t have happened any place else. That probably didn’t answer your question.
FR: That’s fine. I think what you’re saying about Denton probably fills in some blanks about what you’re not saying about New York or Seattle, maybe.
CW: [Laughter] And I still put on Rock Lotteries in Brooklyn and in Seattle. And they still work. They’re different. I work in the entertainment industry in Seattle and I like it there. It’s just a different thing.
FR: When you were working in Denton in the nineties—I know you said a second ago that you never imagined being famous—but did you ever envision being in a 40-story building in downtown Dallas? Or was that always in the back of your mind, that you could do something that bizarre?
CW: We always thought that we could do bizarre things, and we did a lot of bizarre things. We had shows in Houston and New York, and all sorts of places. We got written about in Village Voice and other national things. I never thought that we would have a big show in Dallas. Especially in the nineties, our kind of thing was pro-Denton. If not necessarily anti-Dallas, definitely pro-Denton.
I wrote a local music column for a publication a couple of years called The Met, when it still existed in the nineties. I never wrote about Dallas bands. I only wrote about Denton. They somehow let me get away with that, even though it was a Dallas publication.
FR: Well, it’s a necessity. I think Denton has played a huge part in the Dallas music scene, so…
CW: Being an outsider, it’s hard for me to really know, but it seems to have changed a lot. I’m also older. I don’t know. Whatever.
FR: I think maybe Dallas has warmed up to the antics of Denton twenty years ago. Maybe. Finally.
CW: I think there are a lot of people from that scene who live in Dallas. It may just be those people moving.
FR: One last thing. Somewhat unrelated: What was seeing the [Baptist] Generals play the Sub Pop anniversary like for you?
CW: Oh, it was amazing. I’ve known Chris [Flemmons] a long time, and all those guys. Peter Salisbury has been taking all the photos for this project. Jason Reimer is actually part of the collective now. It was just really amazing to see it. I’m so happy that album finally came out, and that it’s great. Having a band that was so important to my Texan side, my Denton side—to have them play and be so well-received in my new home, the town I lived in for ten years … it was really cool and I think they did a great job. I’m hoping there’s another record in the next ten years. They basically just put out a record every time Good/Bad does something. The last record came out right when we had broken up. This one came out right when we reformed, and we’re about to break up again. Maybe in another ten years, we’ll do another project and they can put another record.