August 4, 2002
Welcome to the Knowthing project, a hypertext encyclopedia about the artists of the Knowthing collective. After reading this introduction piece, you will see a list of nodes which will help you navigate the encyclopedia.
Most biographies start with the austere birth of the hero's grandparents and assorted bullshit until they get to the part you're interested in, roughly 60 pages in. Sometimes this works, but in this case it won't because this group isn't full of Carnegie descendants. They were committed to eradicating the influence of the generations before them; true futurists want to preserve museums instead of burning them down to show how much greater their creation is than the collected past.
Knowthing was built on esoterica, iconoclasm, and orgasm and I'm convinced these are the reasons you're reading this tome right now. Let's face it, this isn't a Behind the Music with 'N' Sync book. I'm going to delve into the Knowthing consciousness, but this is about turning shit into gold. My ideal reader is motivated by the trash aesthetic: the desire to create beauty out of the most intense horror. This story is wallowing in the dump and finding a chest of refined opals.
I'll start with the dump. I acknowledge the impossibility of objective history, so here's my disclaimer: this is my egotistical take on the Knowthing record label and community. Ideally, universities and academes throughout the world will gradually form departments of Knowthingology; until then, here are the opals.
My goal is now the same as the Knowthing community: deconstruction of outmoded societal norms and conventions. But I have not evolved to their point, so instead of Arthur's great-uncle's birthplace, here's mine.
I grew up Mormon in Utah, and that statement acknowledges every possible stigma and horror of my situation before Knowthing. My musical knowledge revolved around 19th century liturgies and spider-web hymnals. There was no world outside of the church, at least not that my frail mind was exposed to, until I turned 16. In the interest of skipping sex and drugs (until later), here's my Knowthing story. You have one, don't you?
Mine involves a record clerk named Marie
. I'm still convinced she was the most cosmopolitan girl in Salt Lake City.
Her knowledge of everything from philosophy to visual art to consciousness in general was unfathomable. Her vast understanding of art contributed to her world view in a fascinating way, because she would incorporate all of the most brilliant theologies, histories, and theory about consciousness -- the understanding of perceived reality -- into everything she did. In this synthesis of worldviews, she eschewed foolish consistency of the past and focused on the important developments in every century. Unfortunately, the general weltanschauung is a deceived one: brainwashed by increasing corporate globalization, the military industrial complex, which harvests blood and oil, and content with giving up our civil liberties for supposed safety. She was the first activist I met, continually striving for greater wisdom in a world which sometimes seems filled with fools. In between youth group services and somber family dinners, I tried to seek out her guidance as much as possible. I was 13.
She turned me on erotically, but the Sears catalog that came with the Sunday paper was good enough to do that when I was a teenager. More importantly, she turned me on to studies in daffodils, sinew, 17th century cathedrals, and education in exultation. For the purpose of this story, she turned me on to Knowthing.
It was right before she was leaving for college out of state and as far away from me as she could be. Marie worked at Best Buy for two years to save up for the trip, classes, and all the pot and pizza she could stomach at school. She always wore 5 inch heels, impractical retro skirts, and the ultimate red trenchcoat. I would have licked off the dirt gladly from those boots, savoring every morsel on the roof of my mouth. Again, I was 13. I knew I would never get close to her again, not that close. A story there.
My first experience actually meeting Dylan Klein
was at a show in Leadville, Colorado
. I had gotten the magazine I was working for at the time, a horrible glossy that I prefer not even mentioning, to pay for my trip out there. Officially, I was supposed to be covering a burlesque bingo event that was donating 10% of its money to husbands who were down and out after gambling their houses away on Ponce de Leon, the horse. A real humanitarian event, y'see? I sort of casually checked this place out and interviewed a few of the townies there, but the entire time, all I could do is think about the Knowthing show later that night. The story ended up being rejected since some of my sources didn't check out -- I guess it figures, considering I quoted a few friends from high school that weren't necessarily there in the article. But their spirits were.
The focus was Knowthing, as it had been for me the past five years. It was dead winter, and it was supposed to be an outside show. I was confused, because it was 10 degrees outside, but the Knowthing newsletter I subscribed to told me that the Cypherpunks had been planning a spectacle on January 16th, and that was today. They were one of the lesser-known acts on the label, which is saying something considering the ridiculous obscurity of the other acts. It was also strange, because rumors were flying that Dylan and Carol had been in town from Westbury for three months, and it was unusual for someone to stay away that long from the community.
and Carol had gotten a lot of attention about 8 years ago when this guy named Conor Fess started getting involved with the two of them and wrote about their sexual escapades. To be honest, the guy was pretty creepy and sort of a stalker. He was writing obsessive religious erotica about being a member of the Salir bondage scene -- I don't even know what the hell that is -- and this girl who, quote, "Mesmerically sprayed some of her perfume in my face while projections of psychedelic lights swirled on her naked hips, the skin showing between her skirt and shirt." He described 20-year-old Dylan in November of '85 as a prodigy who had read the Journal of John Woolman, some 17th century tome, with such incredible fervor that you'd think the guy was immortal. To spare you from the whole article, which admittedly does lend some insight to sexual politics in the Knowthing community, I'll summarize the rest of the article.
So the guy, like some great artiste, polishes his vintage 1931 Gerbinton S-700 typewriter for a while and then cuts into Dylan and Carol, before their common law marriage. Here's the relevant passage, strictly for background purposes:
1979 Black Mustang. Dylan's tattooed crucifix on his forearm. My tongue on Dylan's chest later that night after he read me Barthes' Pleasure of the Text and I asked if I could kiss him. He reluctantly said yes, and I took off his shirt, and he flipped his ponytail to the side. Carol came into the [room] dressed like a goth Catholic schoolgirl with black eyeliner and embarrassed the both of us. She looked unashamed, took off her skirt, and sat on Dylan's face. She told him she would bite his neck like the vampiresses she knew he adored, the succubi that visited his bedside. When she was on top of him, he told me later, he saw a serpent on the ceiling when he thought of her as a panting demoness on top of him, riding him in hellish ecstasy -- when praise is finally given in Hell, the demons fly up past the clouds, forgiven, truly forgiven. But when he saw her as an angel, lightly riding and writhing her hips on his lips, he thought of peach cake and fresh spring water. Her scent was not like the other girls. It smelled like rosemary apple violet juice, flavored with milk and sugar. Her eyes painted looked like Gloria Swanson's, the ones he touched himself to as a boy in magazines which captured the starlet's glamour en vogue. But she was silent in those magazines, voiceless, an apparition in black and white. But he came for her still.
He never came for me, even when I licked his stomach, worshipping what I perceived as perfected wisdom when I was still a na´ve boy.
In his mind, he put wings on her shoul[d]ers, a fae still undiscovered in the woods buried until chronology was rediscovered.
Okay, enough of that. Back to reality. The guy, Conor Fess, was desperate to communicate with people about this experience, but people shrugged him off as another immature fanboy. And this was all before Dylan and Carol moved onto the Knowthing scene -- it's hard to figure out how to follow something like that up in your real life, but the two of them always managed to do it somehow. Conor probably ended up in an asylum, horny and babbling about the de Sades of Salir. I vowed that I would not become like that.
I arrived at the location of the show, careful to fight against the expectations that people like Fess had put into my head. But I should have expected more. There was an enormous igloo standing there. That's the only way I could really classify it. I was freezing.
There was a skinny kid in ripped jeans with a parka waiting at the entrance, taking money for the show. Reproduced below is the pamphlet he gave me:
The Leadville Ice Palace
was constructed in December of 1895 and opened for visitors in December of 1895 and opened for visitors on January 1, 1896. This palace is a scaled-down replica of the original palace, which used approximately 5,000 tons of ice and included luxuries such as a skating rink, a dancing area, a restaurant, and a carousel house. The original sculpture took approximately a month to build using the labor of 250 men. It was over 50,000 square feet in area, an enormous structure. Today's sculpture encompasses the dance hall of this palace. Please make the appropriate donation preceding the show.
My budget was limited on the trip, as the glossy I worked for scoured our expense reports. I threw in a 5, and the skinny guy sneered at me. I tossed in another 20, my right hand not knowing what my left hand was doing and amazed by the extravagance. I walked inside the new Crystal Palace.
The replica was remarkable. The level of attention to detail was easy to see in the exceptional diorama outside. A list of members of the Knowthing collective who had assisted in building the structure was located at the bottom of the flyer. After walking in, I recognized Dylan and Carol, who were already celebrating by doing lines of snow-white cocaine off of a clear blue block of ice. They were wearing long coats, obsidian with crimson scarves wrapped around both of their necks to mask whatever happened the night before. They were in a mass of people drinking, kissing, pissing, and fucking. Looking in and watching them, I perceived them as an inherently chaotic force.
There was music I had never heard before playing, which as a music journalist is always embarrassing and unnerving, but at the concert I understood everyone was just as in awe as I was. Everything about this gathering other than the palace itself was so radically different that it only takes a few images to produce a collage of the scene that night. Instead of Baby Doe Tabors and wise investors from the gold rush 100 years ago; there was a mass of undergrounders walking around mystified and mystifying, pilgrims seeking pleasure and the warmth of another body in the frozen air. A royal ball for anyone without a carriage, with the same sense of excitement and anticipation of obscene queens, princes, and their beholden drinking expensive liquors and seeking pleasure before convention. But this was a gutterpoet celebration of work churned out for years, strobe lights making dancers surrender and submit to each other. At this point, I had grasped the fact that I could never be an objective journalist. I had to involve myself in the pandemonium, bassdrums at 150 beats per minute, some of the ice painted black while people danced manically to music made by machines. Industrial sound waves crashed and clanged like metal beams colliding instead of snare drums, a union of frequencies in mechanistic and rhythmic cities. Shy couples were making out languorously under an aluminum foil dodecahedron, but the more risky groups sucked and fucked on top of tables, benches, and chairs -- men and women displaying their muscle structures and flesh on the dancefloor until their bodies agreed that it was time to keep the party going: the creation, procreation, and recreation of more visions, more perceptions.
Dylan and Carol's shyness was rubbed off years ago, under dirty sheets with the lights off, hiding the squalid room. Now, they were the ice king and queen after the lines of pure, uncut drugs were being inhaled one after another off of the ice and each other's bodies. After I met them a few days later, after the inevitable party comedown, Dylan told me that his dissatisfaction with straight life was due to the past ten years of his wandering. After the life I lived and my exposure to this idea, I could tell exactly what he meant. The ecstasy and inherent over-the-topness of everything that was going on over the past few days was enough to let me know that the human, hymnal listening side of me made me not cut out for this at all. He had read Rimbaud and Verlaine and Lautreamont -- now the only experience of their work should be through a derangement of the senses: chemicals. But going there sober was jarring enough, and it was impossible for me to believe that anyone could be jaded after experiences like this. I had come to ask about their art, the bizarre scrolls I had obsessed over included in their LPs, which looked moth-eaten and frayed but were obviously written by them. Cypherpunks, encoding each message to send the explorer a code to draw them like a spider into a web impossible to escape. I had thought the web was musical and literary for the past few years, but now I understood it was physical as well. I was the fly that wanted to be caught, to have the soporific poison shot into me and lie motionless in the fibers like a Lotus-eater, willfully ignorant of the rest of the world.