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A man of the cloth and the steel he wields

On the Acoustics of Church Baptism Pools

NLM-JohnVan-31987’s version of No Laughing Matter: Nate Stiffler (drums), Ted Worthless (guitar, yeah that’s me), Scott Roman (vocal/synth), Rod Glaze (bass). From at least the late 1970’s, the church I was raised in had a very progressive view of youth ministry. That church community launched several bands over the decades, with NLM being just one. They let us practice at the church during the weekdays – and we took advantage of that by experimenting with the acoustics in various rooms, including the pulpit area which had a built-in Baptismal pool in the rear of the pulpit area. It was usually empty, and so I’d pull up the floor and point my amps into the concrete pit to take advantage of the reflected sound waves to create some pretty wicked feedback harmonics and sustain. This effect could not be re-created on stage, of course, but was a great deal of fun to play with in practice. We managed to get some boom-box recorded songs out of those sessions which made it onto 1988’s “Brains For The Stupid” cassette release:

NLM – Torn

NLM – Requiem

bfts-1 bfts-2presentnlmsticker NLM-JohnVan-4 screamsticker NLM-JohnVan-7 someone you can trust NLM-JohnVan-5Then in 1988, I bought the Otari 8-track recording deck and we proceeded to record our first real studio-ish album (if you consider recording with an ancient reel-to-reel deck in an abandoned house in the middle of an orange grove to be a “studio”) which was self-released first on cassette in 1989, and garnered enough interest to result in a label re-release on CD by REX records in 1990:

nlm-monstro-cdNLM – Monstor

NLM – I Can See It Coming

NLM – You See It All

NLM – Tuesday’s Child Awakened

nlm-nelsoncenterx-1…And that was a fun ride for awhile, until we discovered that signing to a label was oftentimes a circus of misery, with the label doing things like asking you to drive the band and your gear to California to record a new album, and then completely forgetting to actually schedule studio time or even bother to remember that you were coming. It didn’t take much of a taste of how the industry works to convince me that music was just not something I was ever going to make a living at, my tolerance for idiocy being what it is. After the turn of the century, any music I attempted would be just for my own enjoyment and those in my immediate vicinity who could stand it. NLM continued for many years without me after 2001’s self-released “In God We Rust“, but I don’t think they ever tried to get back into the industry again.

Anyway, this one’s for Joe, who wanted to hear some more tunage…

Updated: November 1, 2015 — 12:57 am

9 Comments

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  1. Wow! I love this genre of music, and especially the indie vibe. Your early work I really like its cassette-based sound. Reminds me of Jandek. I had a Tascam Portastudio for awhile, though I’m no musician. The printed material for the cassettes is absolutely great, very zine-ish. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Ooh, comparisons to Jandek are quite complimentary – thanks! :D

  2. Ted: I had no idea we shared some of the same experiences. Wonderful article and thank you for the music.

    By the by, is the TWDB donation link still available? Kind regards,

    1. I’ve had the donate link down for awhile, since we’ve been doing pretty well on on ad and auction link revenue, but if you’d like to drop something in the donation jar, I just now activated the donation link in the very lower right corner of the TWDB home page. Thanks! (:

  3. Brings back many good memories when I was doing sound for several bands from Eastern PA. I first started using building acoustics after a trip to an ‘acoustically perfect’ auditorium (as in very dead room) and discovered a real acoustical room in an old theater in town. Great echoes and all kind of neat FX without a modern FX generator.

    Some church baptism pools are good for naturally generated ambiences that are not able to be made any other way.

    Ever use an old tape-driven Echo-plex?

    1. ahh, you recognize the Echoplex sound, eh? :D
      Yes, I had one of the 70’s vintage solid state preamp ones, which was used to create the “backing wash” sound in “Torn”. The tape loop was a constant problem though – breaking at inopportune times and keeping faint “ghosts” of whatever was previously recorded on the loop. It had an incredible preamp sound, though. I made the mistake of trading it for an early digital delay, which I pretty much always regretted.

  4. Good stuff! Thanks for posting it. Sounds like your church was very cool.

  5. Great story about baptismal pool band practice at your cool church. Love the tracks from Brains for the Stupid. It’s too bad that your “music industry” experience was such a bust, but I hope you’re still playing guitar and making funny noises in your spare time.

    1. Oh, I still make funny noises from time to time. It’s funny though that I haven’t really tried using typewriters as musical instruments yet. That gives me some ideas, though..

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