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Last updated: 02/27/2017

The 1996 DIYZ BoxThe Monster BoxHearpen Records

I was wondering whether the re-issues on vinyl available from Morphius are the same re-mastered recordings as the re-issues on the CDs?
I'm not sure which releases you're referring to. Let's assume Pere Ubu. We don't involve ourselves in vinyl pressings of Ubu records. As I'm sure you're aware we don't LIKE vinyl and consider it to be nothing more than a money-making scam. I respect that there are many who prefer vinyl. The fact is we don't and we're not going to pretend to feel otherwise. Cooking Vinyl has licensed vinyl pressings in various places and they have used whatever the current cd master was to make them. Beyond that I don't know. I don't have a working turntable and therefore have no way to be involved in the cut process. During our previous management regime we had a trusted fellow okay them, and he did.

Does Ubu plan to, under its own terms, release/re-release any footage (video, live performances, etc) in its possession to the public for historical/archival purposes? Such would certainly be perferable to low-quality copies being distributed without the band's authorization. I believe it's safe to say there's an interest if somebody went to the trouble to encode videos for something so near-mainstream as YouTube (videos of teenaged tomfoolery aside) in the first place.
We have long hoped to do so and for years have had various projects bubbling under, for example "Help! I'm On Tour." For the record, "Help!" foundered the last time I was engaged on the project on some dodgy audio tech issues in a couple places. I don't think they are necessarily insurmountable but when you are in an active band(s), working on a shoestring, with constant demands, and precious little time to do any creative work, it's easy for projects to get back-burnered for years. As well, though we are equipped with the tools of production for all (any) sorts of audio projects, we are not so equipped for video. We are very interested in archival projects. We are aware that without video we will be consigned to the dustbin of history in a visuals-oriented culture. And while this doesn't weigh heavy on our souls (the dustbin of history) it is a consideration and a frustration. Some six years ago we were working with a fellow on a DVD/video project and shipped everything we had off to him. Nothing came of it and we have been fruitlessly trying to retrieve our footage. We are currently assembling a live project called "Oh Pennsylvania, I do Remember Thee" which covers the PA years and grew out of an internally circulated "aide-memoire" for learning/remembering versions of songs during that period. We hope to similarly document the Fontana years tours as a follow-on project.

david-the color choice is yours, i have checked my files and found that i did do black once before (a 7" pressed initially 800 on yellow and 200 on black--thereby subverting the collector need for color vinyl since the black was rarer)...
Color vinyl doesn't sound good-- at least the last time I ever had any dealings with it some 20 years ago. But, hey, vinyl itself sounds like a beer buzz gone far too stale far too early in the morning. I like black. If you'd rather do something else for commercial reasons it's up to you without any ill feeling. Vinyl to me does not fall in the category of art. Therefore I have no interests to protect. It's for irredeemable audio suckers who deserve what they get and, therefore, falls under the category of caveat emptor. I was simply expressing a preference. Do what you & Johnny decide is good for marketing.

The sonic clarity of the remastered Pere Ubu recordings is astonishing. The Ubu Projex website has the Bug Report in which the post production flaws of previous pressings are revealed in detail. Is this anal retentive nit-picking or is technology finally able to reproduce the sounds you made twenty years ago?
The remastered versions are close to what we heard when we were recording and mixing. The studio is as good as the sound ever gets. That's why every producer I know has nothing more than a boom box at home for listening to music. Everything outside the studio is a disappointment that should lead to dangerous questions like, "What am I doing?" Vinyl always clouded what we wanted to do - which was to make use of silence and space. Digital is better because you can achieve the power of silence. It's not ideal. And it's only better in specific ways. We love sound and fear it. We note faults with the reproduction of it because civilians need to appreciate the issues involved. We do it for YOU.

I like the dead boys stuff and would like a chance to hear rocket from the tombs so here's my vote.
Who said you get a vote? It's our art and we do what we want regardless of anything anyone else thinks or wants.

Will the cd reissues have original cover art, bonus pictures, extra tracks, cd-rom, etc.-- goodies to sweeten the deal and cause diehard Pere-heads to go wobbly?
The art will be as close to the original as we can get. Much of the original art is long-gone and John has had to reconstruct it from album sleeves. He has taken the opportunity to tidy up some things and sometimes enhance his original ideas. The NPT front photo, for example, is different because the original Mellen film negative was damaged. The difference is very slight. In all cases John preserved the spirit of the original packaging.

As for extras, remember that the intention of the original packaging was to supply the minimum of personal information. We refused to print band photos or even list instrumentation. Note also that Pere Ubu has never generated out-takes or alternative mixes. In 1977 we asked Cliff Burnstein how long records were supposed to be. He said 36 minutes. We wrote and recorded songs until we got to 36 minutes and then we stopped. Then we mixed the one possible version of each song and stopped. That's the spirit of those albums and the spirit that prevails in the studio down to this day. The DIYZ box was the vehicle for bonus stuff, band photos & anecdotes. The cd individual reissues will be as close to the original intention as possible. The exception, for unique reasons, is the inclusion of both "Arabia" and "Arabian Nights" on the reissue of The Art of Walking.

Does the Terminal Tower cd reissue feature the remixes of Not Happy / Lonesome Cowboy Dave that appeared on the vinyl edition? Or are they the original 7-inch versions?
See the Bug Report.

What is the status of the "Help! I'm on tour" video?
The video was edited and completed some years ago. The material dates from 1981, a rather bizarre concert in a circus tent in Ravenna for an audience of Pakistani sailors and Italian youth filmed by Italian tv. When Rough Trade went bust the release was shelved. The tape still exists. Ubu Projex is undecided on its fate.

Will the two original live records, 390 & One Man, be re-released? If so, will they differ from the previously released forms?

The web, disc 5 of the box, and CLE magazine comprise a great resource for understanding the Cleveland music scene of the 70s. For those of us interested in pursuing this education, can you recommend any books, recordings, or other material?
No. That Cleveland is gone. It is a world forever shut away for safe keeping. Those who know aren't saying. You can see, read and hear bits & pieces. Outsiders write about it fueled by their own prejudices. Our own prejudices are hard enough to cipher thru. EREWHON -- if you lived here you'd be home now.

How involved were you in the remastering process for the reissues?
In 1994 David Thomas and Paul Hamann used Suma's custom built 20-bit Analog-to-Digital Processor to transfer the entire Ubu back catalog from the original quarter-inch mix tapes to a digital format. They processed the signal using the Sumex equalization software, making every effort to remain true to the intentions of the original mix while enhancing detail, imaging and clarity. They A/B'ed the processed signal with virgin copies of the original vinyl and once or twice actually degraded the digital signal in order to stay true to the intentions and spirit of the original. They checked their progress using the same speakers in the same acoustic space that the original material was recorded and mixed in. There was no remixing involved. It was a process of restoration.

The Rough Trade cd reissues of the late 80s, by contrast, sound inferior because they are flat transfers. When songs are mixed they reflect the bias of the speakers on which they're mixed and the technology of the time. Older material tends to suffer from a more severe bias. A flat transfer doesn't account for this bias and can, therefore, do a disservice to the music.

Judge our disappointment with the sound of the original vinyl releases by comparing what we were hearing in the studio 20 years ago (as represented on the box set) with what was surviving the vinyl process. There's alot of nonsense spoken about vinyl. It's a hideous medium. Ubu never translated well to vinyl. We avoided signal compression, we flooded the mid & low mid-ranges, and the EML was and is an untamable sonic beast throwing spikes every which way. Indifferent corporate pressings and the Ubu laissez faire attitude to detail only made the situation worse.

All vinyl issues of the Ubu catalog are disappointments to a greater or lesser degree. The Hearpen singles were some of the best vinyl pressings we had. Cleveland Recording / Suma did the cuts. The pressing plant returned the "30 Seconds Over Tokyo / Heart of Darkness" tapes saying, "There's a lot of noise all over these tapes, maybe you better send us another copy." We had to assure them that the noise was intentional.

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1996 DIYZ Box Set Issues

For more info on the box set, click here.
I noticed a recording listed as part of the Datapanik box set titled "390 Degrees of Simulated Stereo, Volume 2." I have all of PU's remastered CDs. Is this recording only available as part of the Datapanik box set? Is it from a concert on the SOBM tour?
The performances are from Theatre 140, Brussels, 5/5/78, and Cinema Teatro Medica, Bologna, 3/3/81. These performances are not available elsewhere, except that "Street Waves" (Theatre 140) appeared on the now out of print '390 Degrees of Simulated Stereo, Volume One.' That record may at some point become available again via download only. The Bologna show preceded the Song Of The Bailing Man sessions by some 5 months but we were evidently already performing Big Ed's Used Farms. The band line-up for Bologna was Thomas - Thompson - Ravenstine - Maimone - Krauss. At various retail websites you can hear the tracks and determine how valuable they would be to you. Also for your consideration, please note that there is a possibility that these tracks MAY become available for download at some point.

What does "Datapanik in the Year Zero" mean - and does that meaning shed any light on why Ubu has recycled the title of its first compilation EP?
It doesn't MEAN anything, really. The inspiration for the title was a movie, a sci-fi vision of a dysfunctional future called Panic In The Year Zero. In 1978 Johnny & I were intrigued by the notion of Too Much Information. We felt that information had become a sedative, an info-sedative. That deprived of their info-sedative people become restless and unhappy. Info-sedative is painless and requires nothing of the user. Strangely prophetic in light of the internet today. We re-used the title because it was a good title and the originl EP was long out of print and it seemed like a good idea at the time. I also hate wasting things. I felt compelled to recycle it.

Does the DIYZ box contain complete version of the albums listed or does it skip a track here and there?
The studio albums are complete except for Song Of The Bailing Man from which "Use of A Dog" is missing. The maximum size of an audio cd is 74 minutes. (Longer disks can be produced but they do not play reliably on all cd players.) Note the sizes of the studio discs:
1975-1977 69:29
1978-1979 72:06
1980-1982 72:51
The song in question belongs to the disc 1980-1982. Also missing from that disc is the single "Not Happy / Lonesome Cowboy Dave." Missing from the 1978-1979 disc is the live version of "Humor Me" that was released as a b side of the "Fabulous Sequel" single. "Use of A Dog" will be restored to the individual cd re-issue of Song Of The Bailing Man. "Not Happy," "Lonesome Cowboy Dave" and the live version of "Humor Me" are available on the individual cd re-issue of 'Terminal Tower.'

Are all of the items noted in the The Bug Report rectified in the pressings contained in the DIYZ box - such that the box can be described in "Here's how Ubu wanted it" terms?
Yes, it's all been rectified. Some of the bugs only became obvious during the compilation process. By bugs we don't mean bad mixes or tape glitches or the like. We mean things that went wrong in the post-production phase. Vinyl always covered more than it revealed with us. We were never happy with how the music came back from the pressing plant. We were also unhappy with the previous issue of some of the albums on cd by Rough Trade for reasons explained elsewhere.

Any particular criteria for what/who did or did not qualify for the DIYZ rarities disk?
The material had to have an Ubu connection, it had to be rare, and we wanted to direct attention to some of the other people involved in the scene at the time. There have been one or two critical comments because the disk is not full of Rocket From The Tombs or Peter Laughner. Neither meet the rare criterion: RFTT material is available on Smog Veil, and a Laughner collection is available on Tim/Kerr Records and Smog Veil. Of course, Rocket From The Tombs and Peter Laughner were important but there were other people and other groups just as important, and, arguably, more original. The rarities disk is not meant to be comprehensive. It was meant to give a sense of the times. Everyone in Cleveland is indebted to the Numbers Band. The Mirrors were the standard bearers for years in the wilderness. It's a shame that Tin Huey met none of the criteria. I still remember hearing the recordings they were making in 1973 and feeling inadequate and unworthy.

The jewelcase insert for the live disc in the DIYZ box duplicates the covers of the two Rough Trade live releases, suggesting that they are the discs featured in the box. What's the deal?
I don't know. I suspect the answer is that John needed some art to go in there to maintain the symmetry of the layout between disks. The songs on the box set live disc have never been released before except for Street Waves which appeared on 390 Degrees, Volume 1.

How involved were you in re-mixing/restoration process for the box (assuming one occurred)?
I was deeply involved. Paul Hamann and I are the ones who did it. We used Suma's custom built 20-bit Analog to Digital processor to transfer from the original quarter-inch mix tapes to a digital format. We processed the signal using the Sumex equalization software, making every effort to remain true to the intentions of the original mix while enhancing detail, imaging and clarity. We A/B'ed the processed signal with virgin copies of the original vinyl and once or twice actually degraded the digital signal in order to stay true to the intentions and spirit of the original. We checked our progress using the same speakers in the same acoustic space that the original material was recorded and mixed in. There was no remixing involved. It was a process of restoration. Judge our disappointment with the sound of the original vinyl releases by comparing what we were hearing in the studio 20 years ago (as represented on the box set) with what was surviving the vinyl process.

Did you find surprises that you'd forgotten were audibly buried in old mixes or physically buried in old tapes? (As an example, I've always thought the crackling in the background of "Rhapsody in Pink" was caused by my poor vinyl copy, so was astounded to find that it actually BELONGED there once I heard "Pink" on CD.)
No. It's pretty much as I remembered it but remember I KNEW the crackling was supposed to be there-- it's the sound of a campfire. I was surprised at how subtle some of the ideas were. I was gratified that we weren't completely out to lunch. I think the box vindicates many of our experiments.

We are a little confused about the song order on the Datapanik in the Year Zero CD-box, please tell us which songs belong to which album.
The Modern Dance is Nonalignment Pact to Humor Me, inclusive, complete and in order. Dub Housing is Navvy to Codex, inclusive, complete and in order. New Picnic Time is The Fabulous Sequel to Kingdom Come, inclusive, complete and in order. The Art of Walking is Go to Crush This Horn, inclusive, complete and in order. Song of the Bailing Man is The Long Walk Home to Horns Are A Dilemma, inclusive and in order but not complete (Use Of A Dog was the second song on the album). All other tracks on the first three disks belong to Terminal Tower.

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The Monster Box

I was listening to the 5 disks of MONSTER on random, and was struck by what seemed to be numerous references to birds, both in titles and lyrics.
This evolved out of perversity. Somewhere along the line I wrote a song that had birds in it. And then by pure coincidence, another. Some critic asked, "Why all these songs about birds?" And I said to myself, "You think that's alot of songs about birds?!? I'll show you alot of songs about birds!" So, for awhile, I stuck birds in everywhere I could.

When you assembled the Ubu box you corrected a number of mistakes. Have you made any such corrections for MONSTER? If so what are they?
I jump at the opportunity to fine tune history. It's our history. We got a right. I remixed More Places Forever and Variations On A Theme. The original mixes suffered from particularly restrictive financial pressures. I fixed a few of the vocal performances on VOAT and added some parts, reinstated others and rewrote some of the lyrics. Jim Jones contributed a number of important instrumental & vocal overdubs. It had been my original intention to involve him more; again, financial pressures shortcircuited my intentions. MPF is a radical remix that more accurately reflects what was going on with the band. I have also taken the opportunity to officially disappear the Winter Comes Home album. It never existed. If it HAD existed I'd explain the reason to disappear it as follows: that version of the Pedestrians was more of a theatrical experience than a musical one and the intention was always that the release be a limited edition; a limited edition means that it's limited. But the album never existed so there's no reason to explain ANYTHING.

As with the DIYZ box we digitally transferred and eq'ed all the material using the Sumex System at Suma and the quality of the sound is pretty good.

You say that the MPF remix is more accurate. How so? What was going on with that band?
The band had a radical sound: bass, drums, bassoon; and an ambitious approach. The original mix didn't reflect those qualities.

Variations . . . was my favorite. Why the remix on the boxed-set? I enjoy the adulterated version so long as I can have the pleasure of hearing the raw original. Will the seminal version be released on disk?
The studio seizes a snapshot of a flow. The musician is satisfied (or not) according to where along the course of that flow the snapshot is taken and according to the amount of photoshop fixing that can be applied in post-processing to "correct" the final image. VOAT had to be recorded with a very small budget & under considerable pressure. The pressure was so severe that it warped my judgment and I have always been unhappy about the result. The listener judges according to different criteria. You loved it. I hated it. Who is right? Time will judge. Who should dictate? The artist... always.

So it comes down to who owns the copyright. In this case, I do and not a record company. (BTW, I have always argued that musicians need ruthless, feudal record companies to keep them honest.) The question, then, is simple: fix VOAT or disappear it. I fixed it. According to your view I damaged it. But who has first-call on happiness? The artist... always.

Will the "original" ever be released? (I reserve the right to question which version is the "true" original.) Unlikely.

Are the vocal performances, Petrified & Sloop John B (Rough Trade 5/12), included in the MONSTER box ?
No. They have been disappeared, as has the Winter Comes Home live album. These recordings were meant to be limited releases. "Limited" means limited. These performances were as much about a theatrical experience as a musical one. When the decision about the box had to be made I felt the audio recordings lacked for that important theatrical component. I'm not ashamed of the recordings and there's nothing inferior about them. The WCH album, in particular, represents a tour and time I'm very pleased with.

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Hearpen Records

Is there a way of telling the difference between the original Hearpen singles and the boxed set editions?
The boxed set editions are replicas in harder, glossy card. Tokyo in the original was a fold-out and was not glossy. The first 600 FS had printed paper sleeves front & back. The rest had no sleeve. SW was hand-stamped. MD had a lighter grade paper.

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