Interview By: Rodney Clark
XDUGEF…is a Los Angeles Circuit Bending Noise artist. I met him back in 2005 when I was looking to put out my first compilation of circuit bent music. Little did I know how many cool people I would meet, let alone how willing everyone involved would be to help get it off the ground; XDUGEF was there from day one. I sent him a few questions about himself and the state of circuit bending in Los Angeles. Not to any surprise he cut no corners and provided tons of awesome info.
Q: First, I really have to ask about your performing name XDUGEF? Where does it come from how did you come up with that tag?
X: This fictitious term came into being on one of the several 3D graphic forums I frequent. It was mostly an insider joke used to pull the legs of noobs.
For example there is a technique in 3D modeling called box modeling where you start with a simple box and divide, push pull and extrude faces to create a complex model. Modeling in the Xdugef technique requires starting with an overly divided box that would for all practical purposes be unwieldy and difficult to work with.
I liked the word and thought that conceptually it fit well the process of circuit bending. Circuit bending being a somewhat mysterious yet simplistic and or overly complicated process, all at the same time.
“1. Ancient Nepalese Buddhist technique for manipulation of forms.
2. The software package of the same name being developed which makes extensive use of these ancient techniques as well as proprietary technology that was originally patented in the late 80’s but has been locked in probate after the development company folded in 1989. Plugins for the major DCC packages are also in development.
The technology is protected by NDA’s in every country where it is being developed (there are seven), but it is reportedly based on a new form of geometric construction related to recursive integral binary mapping of micro sub surfaces.
3. The last name of primary Xdugef researcher, Thomas Xdugef. Who reportedly spent 15 years living in a monastery/cave in the Himalayas without speaking, living on fallen leaves and rainwater. Comtemplating three small stones given to him by the last of the Xdugef monks in 1961.
After his retreat, Mr. Xdugef renounced his old name and took the one he has now, and began working on the Xdugef engine.
Xdugef will completely revolutionize the world of digital content creation when it becomes available to the public. Security for the project has heretofore been perfectly impenetrable, but there are rumors that it will be open-source, and thus the large DCC software corporations are doing their best to keep the project as quiet as possible, as they anticipate their business becoming completely obviated by the new technology.”
The question I get asked the most is “how do you pronounce Xdugef”. I’ve been pronouncing it ex-due-gef, but most people seem to have a hard time with the “g” sound and want say it with a “j” sound.
Q: You’re out in Los Angeles, California… I’d say it’s the hot-bed of circuit bending performances. How many shows this year alone have you attended where a circuit bender was on the bill?
X: Including my own shows, several a month. I have been noticing more classes or workshops in circuit bending at schools of various levels in California. There are also many bands that are more conventional that use bent instruments.
Q: What’s the turnout for shows like? Are they typically jammed packed full?
X: No more than any other experimental or noise show. Although I do hope for the same or better turnout for my annual Bend This Times Three night of circuit bending at the Il Corral in Los Angeles on October 20th.
I’m going even more all out this year and will be having the toy raffle again, video projections and Evil Moisture from France will be playing and he and I will be touring up the coast the week after. We will also be having a workshop the afternoon of the show.
Q: What was the most memorable show you took part in or witnessed, as far as bent performances?
X: Well the Bent Festival this past year in Los Angeles was really good. But I’d have to say my show with Spunky Toofers was pretty memorable. Spunky is very intense, I wasn’t really sure what to expect.
(Above: Spunky Toofers @ Tiger Claw Records Showcase)
Q: Do you get a lot of people from out of town coming through playing bent sets?
X: A few.
Q: Who hosts shows out in L.A. typically? Is there a steady place to get a show going?
X: There are several venues for noise and experimental music. The Il Corral, Pehr Space, Dangerous Curve, The Smell and the Space Arc. There are actually several other places, but these stand out as having the most frequent noise/experimental shows.
Q: How could one get a hold of someone out in the L.A. area to possibly set up a show to play?
X: Personally I book some shows at the Il Corral. Most of the other places take submissions via email but not all are very responsive. It definitely helps to have at least 2-3 months lead time and know somebody local who books shows with the venue in question.
Q: Anything coming up in the future as far as shows in L.A., and where can one go to find out about shows in your area?
X: BEND THIS THREE TIMES, OCT 20th
ilcorral, cannedbeefrecords, The noisefanatics website has a large regional area for show postings and a tour section, hertz-lion, or8, newmusicevents, And dare I mention myspace. Also there is the noisewiki, which has a section for circuit benders and events.
Q: Do you guys get together a lot and trade secrets or do workshops in the L.A. area? How does word get out on what’s going on? How do all these crazy benders find their way out of L.A.?
X: There are irregular workshops around the city. I have hosted one in the past year besides the two workshops I did at BENT 2007 here in Los Angeles. I get word out through as many methods as I can for shows but the internet and networking sites like myspace seem especially effective and free.
Q: Have you been working on any new bends or planning any big bend projects?
X: I always have a workbench of half finished projects. One thing I completed recently that seemed to catch many people’s eye was the BitchBOX. Although this is not strictly a circuit bent device it is intended as a switching device for multiple toys and also provides feedback loops for pedals etc. It’s basically a box full of switches and is completely passive electronically speaking. It’s works best with hot signals because with normal signals it tends to click when you switch or mute an input, but for noise projects this isn’t a problem.
Here’s a pic of a bitchBOX with a custom paint job.
I also have been acquiring military radios to rehouse bent devices in and I have been working on a roadcase for my upcoming tour that has been appropriately dubbed the Xdugef Engine.
Q: When did you first start bending then?
X: Officially it probably wasn’t until 2005. As a child I always loved taking things apart. In High School I had a Casio SK-1, which I had modified to have an output jack but it never occurred to me to short out it’s internal circuits. Although I think like a lot of kids I had noticed that toys with weak batteries made strange sounds. My senior year in High School I started working with kinetic sculpture and performance art. This was the same year (1987) that I was introduced to noise and industrial music. However after a few wall outlet shocks I got a little shy about messing around with electronics. I did however record my first noise tape that same year using a very beat up electric guitar I bought from my dorm mate and a stereo receiver that had shorts and dirty pots. I restrung the guitar with steel bailing wire and played it with an electric toothbrush.
In college a had several friends who were deep into DIY electronics and I pursued kinetic sculpture for a while, but eventually got really interested in computer graphics. I also studied video, analog synthesis and digital sampling at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I had a couple of bands during the summers while I was away from college that if anything were inspired by the Butthole Surfers. We did a few live shows here and there; some made some radio appearances at the local college station and gave away tapes.
During this period I also did a lot of solo recording much of which was inspired by Nurse With Wound, Zoviet France and bands of that like. I eventually got really into midi sequencing, but that got stale after awhile.
Then from about 95-98 I didn’t really do anything musical and sold most of my outboard gear including the SK-1 and Alesis SR16 I had both of which are prime bending targets.
I mostly had unloaded alot of the gear because I moved from Chicago to San Francisco. I did a little bit of recording work with the now defunct Christal Methodists after arriving in SF.
I was working for a company called H-gun Labs which was a broadcast design, commercial, music video production and design boutique. One of the owners of the company was Ben Stokes AKA DHS (Digital Holofonic Sound) and Tino Korp. Ben is good friends with Jack Dangers of Meat Beat Manifesto and one day Jack came over with his bent Speak and Spell. At the time it didn’t really hit me as to what it was. I was really impressed and thought that this had taken some serious engineering to make this toy create these sounds.
A few years later I moved to Los Angeles and had come across a website about bending. I don’t really recall which one it was but shortly after that I noticed a number of bent toys being sold on eBay. I bought a few and eventually realized that I had to try bending myself.
Shortly after this I came upon the bender yahoo group and my first official bend was a Speak and Learn. For a black blob toy I managed to get quite a bit out of it and I did a nice paintjob on it as well. It’s still part of my regular setup. Then due to re-occurring posts on the list about the bending of cd players I decided to try my hand at one and successfully bent a portable cd player.
Later that year I had my first live show in over 10 years in NY at the 2005 Bent Festival.
Since then I have been playing ever more frequently, which I find much more enjoyable than recording.
Q: Any hidden gems as far as web pages or info out there we may want to know about that we might not already?
X: Here’s a list of resources:
Q: Anything you want to add?
X: My CD’s are available at cannedbeefrecords
Thanks XDUGEF…Hope to see you out my way sometime!!!