RIP radio master Don Joyce #negativland #KPFA @kpfa: image via Derk Richardson @Derk Richardson, 23 July 2015
DON: Well, dying is easy, comedy is hard. That 19th Century actor's death bed confession could hardly have suspected that making fun is not only hard, but that someday there would be nothing left to make fun of! I think a longer view will show that there is plenty left to make fun of now, even if there is nothing "new" to make fun of. Let's start with ultra serious religionism before it kills us...
-- from interview with Don Joyce and other members of Negativland in Wired, October 2008
RIP Don Joyce of Negativland (1944-2015) father of "culture jamming" #donjoyce #negativland: image via Kutmusic @Kutmusic, 23 July 2015
Don Joyce (February 9, 1944-July 22, 2015)
Words cannot do justice to the loss of Donald S. Joyce, Crosley Bendix, C. Eliot Friday, Omer Edge, Izzy Isn’t, Bud Choke, Leland Googleburger, Wang Tool and Dr. Oslo Norway, who all died yesterday in Oakland, CA of heart failure at age 71. Perhaps a loud, mournful squawk from Don's “Booper” feedback oscillator would better sum up the feelings of Negativland, his comrades and partners in art for 34 years, who are devastated. It was Don who coined the term “culture jamming”, and who devoted his life to the art of sound collage and his weekly live radio program, "Over the Edge", on KPFA FM in Berkeley, where it has continuously lived on the dial on Thursday nights at midnight since 1981, without interruption.
Don was a DJ at the station when a mutual friend, Ian Allen (who died this past January) introduced him to a group of Contra Costa County noise/music artists called Negativland, who entered the station one night, armed with stacks of recordings and electronic gear, and immediately transformed Don’s “normal music show” into a free-form collage sound odyssey, totally blowing open Don’s idea of what a radio program could be and what a DJ could “do”. And in Don Joyce (whose initials were conveniently also “DJ”), Negativland had found its “lead vocalist” without even realizing they were looking for one. It was Don who took the idea of reshaping previously recorded words -– in a pre-sampling age –- and ran with it to an extent and depth never before heard, and never equalled. “Recontextualization” became his weapon, with the 1/4” tape machine and razor blade his ammunition, and the radio “cart player" –- an entirely forgotten piece of broadcast history using endless-loop tape cartridges, which he used until his death - – his delivery system.
When he and Negativland discovered their mutual love for “found” sounds, an intensely collaborative creative partnership was cemented. It continued non-stop for the ensuing decades, with Don endlessly scanning the airwaves of radio and television, along with his massive LP collection, for new material, day by day, week by week. There was often a TV and a radio on in his room simultaneously, cassette recorders always at the ready. And as an extremely shy and often quite reclusive person, radio was a perfect medium for Don. He could reach thousands of people each week without having to deal with very many actual humans, just as he preferred it. Creating art was not only Don’s full-time pursuit, it was literally his life’s work. He had made it clear to the group as recently as a few weeks ago that he was happy and satisfied with what he had been able to achieve in his life, and were he not able to continue to work, his life would feel as good as over.
Don Joyce’s singular editing style was laced with profundity and silliness in equal measure. His work was that of a dada humanist, able to wring unforgettable sentiments and statements out of material which originally spoke something entirely different. Hugely inspired by both the droll radio of Bob and Ray and the reckless free-form of the Firesign Theatre, he created a wicked language of repurposed purple prose which has inspired legions of other collage artists over the past three decades. He was the father of the form. One need only to listen to his work on “Time Zones” (on the Escape from Noise album) or “Piece of Pie” (in the No Business CD/book) to immediately tune into his unique wavelength.
He was also an animal lover, a Bob Dylan fanatic, a staunch atheist, a convicted (but never jailed) draft dodger, and slept with the radio on. Cranky, curmudgeonly, loyal and fair, brilliant, hilarious and uncompromising, he was steadfastly devoted to the creation of his art, full-time, for more than three decades. He leaves behind not only his massive recorded legacy via "Over the Edge", but his work on nearly 30 Negativland albums, two books, three DVDs, and his giant, meticulous paper collages.
There was Negativland before Don Joyce (though not by much), and there will be Negativland after (indeed, Don stopped touring with the group in 2010), and he made it clear that he wished for the group to continue on in some fashion if he was the next member to go. At the very least, there are two nearly-completed albums in the works and possible live shows, and, in late 2015, all 34 years of “Over the Edge” (5000-plus hours' worth) will be available until the end of time on the Internet Archive, the result of a multi-year archiving project. But there will never be another Don Joyce.
Don Joyce was born in Keene, New Hampshire, where he spent his childhood obsessed with drawing, leading to him getting a masters degree in painting at the Rhode Island School of Design. By the late 1960s, he had relocated to Northern California (with a brief stint living in Toronto during Vietnam) where he lived, in Oakland, until his death. He is survived by his sister, his brother, a spider plant which thrived on a window sill through decades of choking cigarette smoke, and his Negativland family.
Don Joyce obit via Negativland, 23 July 2015
Negativland live! Doing a faux radio show about atheism!: photo by Nelson Pavlosky, 5 August 2007
Negativland. Taken at 12.50 AM -- cameraphone upload by ShoZu: photo by fo.ol, 28 November 2007
It's All In Your Head FM. Negativland no Auditório de Serralves, 18 de Maio de 2008: photo by Rádio Zero, 18 May 2008
Ian Allen: photo courtesy of Peter Montgomery/Sharon Jue via Rolling Stone
Past Negativland member, and long time friend of the group, Ian Allen, died on January 17, 2015 from unexpected complications and infections following heart valve replacement surgery at Stanford Hospital in California. We are extremely shocked and saddened by this news. He was with dear friends of his at the time of his death, and is survived by his brother, Pyke Allen.
Ian was very active with Negativland from 1981 to about 1987, and his impact, inspiration, and influence on the group is impossible to overestimate. There would be no group as we know it today, no Over The Edge radio show, no "culture jamming" and no "A Big 10-8 Place" LP without him.
Ian struggled with various serious health issues his entire adult life, and while they lead to his gradual withdrawal from active participation with the group by the late 80s, he remained a good friend and supporter, attending all of our live shows whenever we performed in the SF Bay Area. With Ian's blessings we were thrilled to recently revive and rework an early 80's unfinished tape loop based work of his called "Like Cattle Act," and made it a part of our current live set. He was part of creating Negativland's "points" LP in 1981, introducing to the rest of us, on the track BABAC D'BABC, the idea of using tape splicing not just as a way to make loops and connect tracks, but as a compositional tool unto itself. This revelation led to the exploration of this technique full-on in 1983's "A Big 10-8 Place," and he played a major role in the creation of that record and its unique packaging. He was instrumental in helping to create and articulate the group's idea of "culture jamming," and pushed the group into making "A Big 10-8 Place" our first ever concept LP. From then on that was the standard for us, and nearly every single Negativland release, up to and including our current one, "It's All In Your Head," has been a concept project. He came up with the idea of making four-channel tape loops (as we couldn't afford early expensive samplers back then) and this became a technique that was used extensively on 1987's "Escape From Noise." Ian was obsessed with the number 17, which is why it appears in various ways on so many Negativland projects and texts in the 80's and 90's (please note the day he died!). In the summer of 1981 he introduced the current group members to radio DJ (and now long time Negativland member) Don Joyce, and thus our weekly audio collage radio show Over The Edge was born, still broadcasting to this day.
For those who knew him, he was a visionary, magical, impish, playful and eccentric thinker, a true genius who was light years ahead of all of us with his ideas about art, sound, society, and technology. He will be dearly missed.
Ian Allen obit via Negativland, 21 January 2015
Recently deceased Negativland founding members Ian Allen (d. December 2014) and Don Joyce (d. July 2015), early to mid 80s...: photo courtesy of Negativland
Sad news, #don joyce of #negativland has passed. Give "Escape from Noise" a spin: image via murraybradmurray @mrrybrdmrry, 23 July 2015
Rain (Albany, California): photo by efo, 8 June 2013
@jobsworth #London in the 1929s: #Telephone #Engineer /v @oldpicsarchive: image via Alexander Ainslie @AAinslie, 8 January 2015