Baron Landscape’s Broken Hours – A History (Part One)

It began with Beethoven, Tchiakovsky, The Beatles and The Monkees, and using my grandfather’s multi-speed reel-to-reel to alter my voice.  I considered this a better use of the technology than my grandparents‘ recording their seemingly generic hick spiritual duets.  Likewise did my parents‘ folk and easy listening records generally bore me, their only child.  A notable exception was the loco 2:18 a-side by The Texans called “Green Grass of Texas” (Infinity [INX-001]).

With very good humor, Mom and Dad exposed me to the masters of popular song and unconditionally indulged my music appreciation.  Being undisciplined, however, I neglected to practice and thus could not sustain an interest in piano or drum lessons.   But I was always interested in those paper sleeves and their contents, vinyl discs that made music when you spun them and put an amplified needle in their grooves.

I came of age musically listening to top-40 radio from the late 60s through the early 70s.  Thinking that I was being a dutiful citizen of Radioland, I transcribed playlists and enclosed them in fan letters to the DJs.  Ultimately I would be found toiling in my room for hours recording my own air-checks to cassette tape with a condenser microphone and a turntable.

I really liked songs that had melodic, chiming codas with long fade-outs: “Atlantis,” “Isn’t It A Pity,” “Ride, Captain, Ride,” “Rocket Man,” and Keith Barbour‘s “Echo Park,” to name a few.  Drawn to complex arrangements with classical references and sparkling production, I preferred Simon and Garfunkel and Mason Williams, to The Stones and Creedence.  In these pre-experienced days of mine, the psychedelic, blues-based jams of Iron Butterfly or the Dead did little for me.  They still don’t.  Give me five spins of Badfinger‘s “Day After Day” over a side of Led Zeppelin any time.  Not to say that I never found my way to the land of over-driven metal — I just didn’t stay very long.  No sense of humor there, and little humility.

By the mid-70s I was firmly in a British progressive mode.  I will always have a great fondness for albums of that era by Yes, Genesis, King Crimson and The Moody Blues, as well as solo projects by various members of those bands.  I believe that 1974 in particular was a pinnacle year for albums, including Visions of the Emerald Beyond by Mahavishnu Orchestra, Rock Bottom by Robert Wyatt, and Supertramp‘s Crime of the Century, in addition to King Crimson’s Red and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway from Genesis.

I was profoundly influenced by my high-school friend, the late Steve Abrams.  He was an “audiophile” with a component stereo.  He actually worked in radio, played guitar, collected records and hung out at Everybody’s Music in Bellevue, WA, subscribed to Rolling Stone and smoked marijuana.  Soon I wanted to do and be all of that, and he took me to the FM stations where he’d gotten his foot in the prosaic soundproofed door, turned me on to Dr. Demento, The Firesign Theater, Pink Floyd and The Who, and had a hand on my first joint, which was at a Supertramp concert for which Heart was the opening act.  Bless you, Steve.

Already halfway through college in Bellingham, Washington, I joined the radio station KUGS-FM and rolled out my manifesto on the air, consisting mostly of my own burgeoning collection augmented by whatever the record elves would send us and a few Revox tape effects.  Because the airtime was available and the livin’ was easy I split up my sensibilities into two on-air personalities: Lou Crimson, who would indulge the darker more progressive tastes with a loose and fractured playlist on his program Broken Hours, and Baron Landscape, whose mission was to rifle off the tighter and brighter new sounds on New Precision (named after the Bill Nelson’s Red Noise song).

A circle of friends at KUGS became big fans of the first Killing Joke and Heaven 17 albums and Iggy Pop‘s New Values.  And, as Joy Division and Gang of Four were bringing us the bad news about ourselves, Lou Crimson was laid to rest as the megalomaniac Baron Landscape covetously co-opted the “Broken Hours” name along with its notions existential.  The previous three years had seen more dramatic change in music than anything yet to come (in my opinion) and in far-flung Bellingham from 1980-1982 we were bleating at 100 watts trying to capture one mind at a time with our edgy, new records.

Every great party gradually becomes just another affair, however I stuck around long enough for one particular colleague, Lyle Pearson, to profoundly affect me with his use of multiple studio sources in the creation of imaginary on-air soundtracks — on one occasion it was E. Power Biggs playing a Bach cantata over which he layered some Miriam Makeba vocals and a recording of a Buckminster Fuller lecture, resulting in something otherworldly — something which completely changed my attitude towards radio.

It had become something personal again.

Upon leaving Bellingham I relocated in Portland, Oregon, curled up with my Associates and Marc and the Mambas albums, and began writing and recording my own songs.

I still had the non-commercial radio bug, and in 1983 I re-seeded my non-commercial sensibilities in the Sunday at midnight slot on KBOO-FM in Portland.  Baron Landscape’s Broken Hours enjoyed a run of ten years during which house, industrial, ambient, grunge, shoegaze, and post-rock all faded in and out of the sludgy fin de analogue mix.

At first it was only me, with my records and usually some production tapes that I’d made at home using a couple of two-track recorders, doing pretty much the same type of program I had done in the last year at KUGS.  It wasn’t too long before I began to spread continuing themes across multiple programs, such as Baron Landscape’s Dry Summer and The Broken Will of The People.  Along the way I drew upon the listening audience for collaborators, which is how I met and hosted Scott (0f The Antarctic) Cameron, Kirill Galetski, Billy Miles, Dan Grasvik, Larisa Zimmerman, Laurie Ballantine and many others.  The Miracle Workers and Rozz Rezabek-Wright from the Portland music scene were both guests .

Although the history and progression of Baron Landscape’s Broken Hours can be taken as a whole, I tend to view it in two distinct eras.  The first came to an end September of 1988, after nearly five years during which many of the basic premises and elements of the program were established.

I cannot fail to mention the contributions of my long-time partner Trish, as well as the sole applicant for the position of Air Assistant, Evan “The Subject (010x)” Morris.  Ultmately the three of us fleshed out some of my most ambitious ideas for radio: The Broken Cruise of The Landscape Liner, full of intrigue and adventure on an impromptu ocean liner voyage; Johnny Lansky and his Broken Youths, in which the troubled title teen fulfills his community service obligation as volunteer programmer (oh, the fan mail Johnny received!); and The Broken Continuum of Space, wherein KBOO’s signal is mis-directed into a time warp.  After a second, poorly-planned Broken Cruise ran on the rocks of apathy, I penned and produced an 80-page pledge drive script inspired by the Iran-Contra affair: The Landscape Liner Hearings.

Towards the end of this period I was drinking pretty heavily.  There were brownout and blackout shows and long drunken call-in segments.  There were bleary-eyed mornings-after when I’d listen to air checks of me singing to easy listening versions of Elton John songs – I would soon destroy those tapes.  In September of 1988 I took what would be my longest break in the ten years of BLBH, a one-month leave of drying-out.

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