In A Foreign Film

by Viscera

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In A Foreign Film has been moved to the Cause And Effect site on Bandcamp
causeandeffectk7.bandcamp.com/album/in-a-foreign-film

In A Foreign Film was the first full-length tape that Debbie Jaffe and Hal McGee recorded and released under the name Viscera. Industrial gothic minimal synth avant neo-primitivism. Most of the songs consist of abstract and expressionist poetic texts recited with a sparse instrumental backing of Casio MT-11 and VL-Tone keyboards, clarinet, Boss Dr. Rhythm DR-55 drum machine. Recorded at 821 N. Pennsylvania Street, Apt. #22, Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1982. Originally released by Mirth and Merriment Productions, on cassette in 1983, C59 . Re-released by Harsh Reality Music in 1990.

from the January 1985 Cause And Effect catalog:
This first release by America's premier psychotic weirdo duo was described by Objekt magazine as "Music for the insane asylum/ lobotomy ward". 60 minutes of dreary, croaky voices chanting and spewing out disjointed texts about isolation, alienation and mental disease -- everybody's favorite subjects. Excruciating minimalism, great for quaalude parties."

The equipment Debbie Jaffe and I used was primitive, but was a step up from 60 MINUTES OF LAUGHTER. Along with the tiny toy-like Casio VL-Tone, we had a new Casio MT-11 polyphonic keyboard. We had recently bought a Boss Dr. Rhythm DR-55 drum machine, just like the one our friends Rick Karcasheff and David Mattingly used in their band Gabble Ratchet. Deb played clarinet on a couple tracks. We performed most of the vocals using our Shure vocal microphone through my guitar amplifier. We used the amp for the keyboards too. All of the pieces on IN A FOREIGN FILM were recorded with an Audio Technica stereo microphone directly into our Pioneer CT-F750 cassette deck, which had stereo mike inputs on the front.

It was an odd time. Deb and I were living in a hole-in-the-wall $130-per-month apartment in a crappy old building in downtown Indianapolis across the street from the Public Library. We lived there from the Summer of 1982 through early 1984. Apartment Number 22 at 821 North Pennsylvania Avenue was dinky, essentially one room. We prepared our meals in a tiny kitchen which had a gas oven which was always on the verge of blowing up. The bathroom area had one of those old-time footed bathtubs. The plaster and wallpaper were flaking and peeling off the walls. The apartment was hot in the Summer because there was no air conditioning. In the Winter we got heat from an ancient rickety steam heat radiator. We could not afford a telephone, so we went across the street to the Library to use the pay phones. The apartment was overrun with mice and cockroaches.

Downtown Indianapolis was a depressing place to live. There were a lot of direfully poor people living in rundown buildings that had once been luxury accomodations before all the wealthy people abandoned them and moved out to the suburbs on the north side of town. There were hundreds of homeless people living in alleys and condemned buildings, foraging for scraps of food in garbage dumpsters and trash cans in fast food restaurants. Within a few blocks of our apartment were several mammoth, gray, icy-looking war memorials made of huge blocks of Indiana limestone.

Winters in Indiana can be bitterly cold, with harsh winds that can drive the wind chill temperature as low as 70 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Sometimes we almost literally did not see the sun for six months at a time, as gray clouds blanketed the sky from October through March. It is little wonder that I sank into bottomless pits of lethargy and hopeless depression for months on end.

I was unemployed a lot of the time. I resorted to temporary jobs and collecting discarded cans for money. Deb had spotty employment, but at least she could type, so she got odd jobs at various offices downtown. We were on the U.S. Department of Agriculture food stamp program for about a year.
I had a lot of emotional problems. A couple of years before, in about 1980, I had been diagnosed as schizo affective schizophrenic. I was told that this condition was caused by a chemical imbalance in my brain and that this might very well be hereditary. I was in psychiatric counseling and took prescription medications (Lithium, Stelazine and Activan) that were intended to derail the psychological rollercoaster I was on: from stratospheric emotional highs to the depths of suicidal despair. They did the job so well that I felt like my consciousness was in a box. Instead of calming me down this had the effect of making me more anxious, because I felt like my mind was in a prison.

Debbie and I were broke and depressed and both more than a little crazy. But there will never be another time like it. Our intuitive collaborative powers were at an all-time high (a truly invigorating, joyful, creative feeling!). We knew each other so well that we could complete each other's sentences.
The bed, floor and chairs were littered with hundreds of books, tapes and scraps of paper on which we had written poems, tracts, manifestoes. The words poured out of us as we tried to make sense of our lives and the struggle of existence.

Rick Karcasheff had made dozens of tape copies for us of intriguing recordings by underground audio artists from all over Europe, Japan, Canada and the U.S. It was around this time that we first learned that there was a worldwide network of people who made recordings in their homes of their own electronic and experimental music. This was an exciting time because we were finding out all about the hometaper scene. IN A FOREIGN FILM by Viscera was the first tape we did that we sent out and traded with other audio artists.

Deb and I set about making our own unique and very personal audio statements. One of us would choose a poem or other scrap of writing by one or the other of us that we found lying about or in a notebook; the other would search for a sound setting on one of the Casio keyboards or a simple pattern on the drum machine. Then, with little or no preparation or advance planning we would turn on the tape recorder and let it flow out of us! We filled up several cassettes with these spontaneously created sound works. In a way they were like miniature audio theatrical pieces.

We chose to use the name Viscera because we wanted to create works that were as direct and straightforward and from the gut as possible. We strived to scrape away artifice, to get to the root, the core, the essence of existence, to baldly express our personal sense of the politics of experience. What did it mean to exist?

I had the sense that existence itself was suffering. I also believed that each person must find his own personal vision and meaning (if any) of life. We both believed in the power of art to redeem life of its seeming meaninglessness: all the boredom, confusion, contradictions and pointlessness of existence. If life was hell and if absorption in self was hell, then Viscera presented windows into that hell!

Yes, it is true that I had read a lot of existentialist literature: all the Dostoevsky (Crime And Punishment, The Idiot, The Brothers Karamazov), Camus (The Stranger, The Fall, The Plague) and Kafka (The Castle and The Trial). Samuel Beckett's bleak vision of a meaningless world in Waiting For Godot had made a big impression on me. The dystopian visions of William Burroughs had convinced me that reality itself was a vast conspiracy of cosmic proportions. I could not get enough of Ingmar Bergman's films (Cries And Whispers and Persona were my favorites). At this time I favored music that presented a morbid, pessimistic view of life (Joy Division and early New Order, as well as Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire and a little Nico).

expression of psychological/emotional states
---info actually intended to be conveyed
existence as struggle/is suffering
redemption through art
absorption in the hell of self
existentialism Camus nausea ennui
Dostoevsky Kafka
mind/body dichotomy -- escape from body Castaneda/Burroughs
Joy Division/New Order/Throbbing Gristle
inappropriate (or deadened) emotional responses
"profoundly amateurish" -- imperfections = genuineness
---Syd Barrett, Wild Man Fisher
Bergman Persona
disillusionment -- societal expectations
theme of black and white

And, in early 1983 we got Kent Hotchkiss's Aeon Distribution Service to carry it! -- wow! -- what a coup! -- now we were in the Aeon catalog along with people like Nurse With Wound, Whitehouse, Borbetomagus, Human Flesh, Nocturnal Emissions, Legendary Pink Dots, D.D.A.A., P16.D4, Pascal Comelade, Mnemonists, Lt. Murnau, Maurizio Bianchi, etc. We felt like we had really arrived!

The album We Buy A Hammer For Daddy by The Lemon Kittens (United Dairies label) had an enormous influence on our style.

IN A FOREIGN FILM may be a difficult listen for many people. The singing/vocalizing is often out of tune, and the instrument-playing is riddled with imperfections. But the tape captures well a time in my life and experiences that I can never forget. The faults and imperfections reveal much about what we tried to express, our doubts, our isolation and alienation, our vulnerability.

Originally released by Mirth And Merriment Productions. Re-released by Harsh Reality Music.


Selected Viscera lyrics from In A Foreign Film



Slipping Away

No stopping

No standing

Is there a message slipping away

There is a life slipping away

I am a blind man

I need a energy transplant

One could say I’m out for tea

Coffee

A drink of water

Cars hiss by on the pavement

I smoke a cigarette

I become a picnicker

With blanket and picnic basket

I want to hear the old songs

I want to hear the old ballads

I need a new national policy

No stopping

No standing

Is there a message slipping away

A life slipping away


The Message

Big words in a childish scrawl on a blackboard

Big steps

Ringing bells

All the sounds in my ears

All the memories passing me by

I wrote the message so all could see

A big tree and a little bird comes

And sits on a branch

And the wind is blowing

And I hear voices calling

Down the stairway

I give to you the letter I wrote you

When you turned away

And wouldn’t listen any more

I give to you the letter I wrote you

When you turned away

And wouldn’t listen any more


Mysterious Pleasures

The stockades were empty

The streets were black

Above the city the searchlights scanned

Empty space

I had my eye on you

When you opened

And stuck your head in the sky

Mysterious pleasures I can’t understand

Walking human photograph

Your bedroom is in negative

Distorted faces

Fugitive semaphore

A most disturbing element

I had my eye on you

When you walked out on the balcony

And welcomed death like a friend

Mysterious pleasures I can’t understand


With Eyes Open

One: I’m falling

Two: Resistance falling away

Three: I’m drifting down

Four: Am I falling?

Five: Yes, I am falling

Six: Down down

Seven: Defenses against sight

Eight: falling away

And Nine: I’m beginning to see the light

At the end of the tunnel

I don’t know what I’m doing

I know exactly what I’m doing

I’m learning how to forget

I can’t forget a thing

I’m flying through the air

My feet are flat on the ground

I’m becoming nothing as the lights go out

I’m becoming everything in a breath

The ships are landing

I can see their red lights flashing in the sunset

I’m falling

Learning to accept the sights

With eyes open


In A Foreign Film

Last night he thought I was a fool

Did I treat the children right?

It’s hard to tell

The rough red skin of his neck

The black ink pen

The callouses on my mother’s fingers

Once in a foreign film

The soundtrack was in synch

With moving mouths

Joking expressions

It is time!

I used to meet him in a downtown restaurant

We conspired together

We decided that what the world needs

is an entirely new set of needs

I’m looking out for him

I want the best for him


She Wants To Forget

No matter how she talks

she’s still as lost

as the day she forgot about tomorrow

And no matter how she talks

she’s still as sad

as the time she found out about sorrow

Give her a hand

She wants to forget

Give her an eye to see

She wants to forget

How her faith let her down

She wants to forget

In the hour of her greatest need

she turns away from it all

thinking and fighting the memory of her fall

In the hour of her most secretive desire

she still turns away

from the belief that puts out the fire

Give her a hand

She wants to forget

Give her an eye to see

She wants to forget

How her faith let her down

She wants to forget


Black On Black On Woman

I never really learned how to live

I knew everything I know at birth

I never had to learn how to forgive

I forgive everyone for everything

they said and did

The woman with the broken mind

stole a painting from the museum

and threw it in the sea

She sees you in the line

Just imagine how the wife killed the man

and then turned away

and put on a black dress

...until all the laughter died away

You remained frozen, out of touch

with the woman who came to lift you up

She sees you

She’s waiting for you

She sees you in extremity


Drifting Into Sync

Lucifer stepped out of his body

into a blue blanket

of sniffing noses

drifting into sync

He had tried this many times before

and had at last succeeded

It was something he had always wanted to do

and had practiced it

He had tried to merely wish himself out of his body

and it hadn’t worked

It would take much more than that

A city bus like the back of a giraffe’s skeleton

lost in transit

the emergency exits popped open

ajar, frightening

transition smelled like danger

but Lucifer feared nothing

he moved to a nearby streetlight

a glowing element

It would take much more than that

Lucifer couldn’t fall asleep that night

He found it hard to lay his head on a pillow

He was newly remodeled

a beach blanket crusted with sea salt

He made preparations

to re-enter the Sync Room

There was a sour metallic taste in Lucifer’s mouth

radioactive crayons

a cool afternoon rain, sprinkling

she colored the snowman

with pink polka dots on his belly

He loved her street south side uptown downtown

He blinked his eyes

and he was there in an instant

a gleaming bay

a beaming city

on the borders of imagination


October 12 th

I used to fight wars

and used to achieve

everything I wanted

I used to complain

about being forgotten

not worthy of discussion

a subject overlooked

I used to be patient

and used to achieve

everything I wanted

I used to complain

about being neglected

not worthy of a second thought

all my virtues: (...laughter)

Look: the rain has ceased

I’m tired

I’ve talked so much

I’ve talked so much

all my words forgotten

I am as innocent as a lamb

I can’t forget the day I ran

away from the burden of freedom

Look: the rain has ceased

I’m tired

I’ve talked so much

I’ve talked so much

and all my words will be forgotten


Selling The House

Mother said, “Don’t sell the baby;

Don’t sell the house!”

Why should I listen?

How long would the words come?

I feared I had developed too many of her qualities

I had the potential to be just like her

The thought scared me

Horrified and vanquished

She dropped her bags never bags never

Look in my direction

See something else besides yourself

for a change

I did not even follow my own advice

Falling short of every expectation I could think of

My alienation

My delirious misgivings shed light in fur bags and expensive dreams

Kitten love

The doctor thinks it’s rooted in her childhood

Her life story in two breaths

two heavy breaths...

The girls in hot rods playing the game

because they were taught well

a stolen script

everything was always as it used to be

silence in the night

windows black and reflective

the people inside invisible holes...


Pieces

Everything is cold and dark

Don’t ever say no to me

Every word I speak becomes an island

crawling like life across a mirror

Everything is more than I can take

Everything is no sense I can make

Once I could make sense

of the things in my heart

all the pieces falling apart

Life spills into the cup

Sense impressions cut-up

Everything falling apart

Nothing rising up


Dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter, allows nerve cells in the brain to send messages to each other. The imbalance of this chemical affects the way a person's brain reacts to stimuli--which explains why a person with schizophrenia may be overwhelmed by sensory information (loud music or bright lights) which other people can easily handle. This problem in processing different sounds, sights, smells and tastes can also lead to hallucinations or delusions.

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released January 1, 1983

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Hal McGee Gainesville, Florida

View an index of all 300+ HalTapes albums -https://halmcgee.bandcamp.com/indexpage.

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