CMKT 4 Live at the Ink People’s Center for the Arts
Understanding, as I do, that people with interesting, engaging hobbies tend to spend less time absorbed in random blather on the web, I hesitate to share this with you, but I attended an interesting workshop at the Ink People’s Center for the Arts in Eureka this past Tuesday.
The Dekalb Ill. Circuit-bent rock trio CMKT 4, helped everyone in attendance build a pretty darned good sounding acoustic instrument pick-up from a few plastic bottle caps, a brass piezoelectric disk, a panel mount guitar cord jack, and a short length or wire. They have clearly made hundreds of them. They sell finished pick-ups, or contact microphones, the technical term for them, for $20, significantly less than the retail price of a similar mass produced product.
They also sell kits to build your own. These include all of the parts, including pre-drilled recycled plastic bottle caps, for $15, and also includes a beautifully illustrated assembly manual. A plaid suit-wearing character, Crème Dementia guides you through the assembly process in great detail.
Just so this isn’t wasted on you, here’s 3, 20 something guys, producing a high-tech consumer product, mostly out of post-consumer waste, and marketing it at a very competitive price, to support their band. CMKT4‘s contact mics have a certain diy aesthetic, and are just a little bigger than competing mass produced products, but for quality, durability and price, they make a very competitive product. Of course now that I know how to make them, I sure won’t need to buy another. Here’s the one I made:
While CMKT4 did not have a cd to support their current 30 day tour, they’ve kept themselves afloat with contact microphone sales, and workshops teaching people to make them. They’ve given workshop/concerts at over 20 “Hacker Spaces.” Apparently in these places people share tools and try out ideas. They have sprung up all over the country and CMKT4 has worked the circuit on this tour. They rounded it out with performances, and a booth at both the Detroit and San Francisco “Makers Festival” sponsored by Make magazine.
As I said earlier, CMKT4 is a “circuit-bent” rock band, meaning that they augment the basic rock band arrangement of guitar, drums and bass with a whole bunch of modified electronic toys and homemade “bleep boxes”. A number of their instruments seemed to involve the tortured souls of talking teddy bears, “Furbys” and various “See and Say” educational toys. All of these toys sprouted numerous, knobs, switches, light, sound and touch sensors that indicated that these devices have undergone substantial customization. It kind of sounded like all of these talking stuffed animals had had strokes. Some babbled incessantly, some screamed intermittently and some just kept repeating themselves. This chorus of demented toys forms the foundation of CMKT4‘s sound.
CMKT4‘s heavy churning rhythm section propels this swirling, spitting, chattering cacophony forward with a sound somewhere between Nirvana and the soundtrack to Eraserhead. I had a great time.
So, are you done playing with that Talking Elmo, kid?