In 1988 I bought the soundtrack from the movie Rumble Fish on which Stewart Copeland plays a typewriter mixed with his drumset. Rumble Fish is one of my absolute favorite movies and my favorite record. Flash forward to 1993 and I'm driving home to St. Louis from Lawrence, Kansas, where I was in art school, leaving for my grandfather's funeral back home.
I was just with him the weekend before as we buried his sister, Aunt Bea. I spent his last day with him as he crossed the night after her funeral. His funeral was surreal and profound for me to say the least because he was the first person close to me to pass on. One of his last quotes was "It went by too fast.". His death taught me to live life to the fullest with no regrets. And so I did...
The day after his funeral I was doing laundry at my parents' house before heading back to KU. While carrying my clean clothes across my basement, I looked over to see my mother's aqua blue college Royal Quiet DeLux that had a blank piece of paper and a light beaming down on it in its cubby. I saw my life flash before my eyes as I dropped the plastic basket and stared at the beautiful obsolete machine for what could have been seconds or hours. I could feel my grandfather talking to me. "That is it. That is what you are going to do for the rest of your life." I guess that's what some people call a vision. I don't know. I came out of it and I ran upstairs and asked my Mother if I could have it. She turned around and said "We just got you a word processor, what are you going to do with that?" I told her I was going to play it and she said what everybody says when I tell them I play the typewriter: "You're going to do what?!"
I just happened to have signed up for my very first open mic performance on the eve of that fateful Sunday a week before, not knowing what was going to happen that night. That's how I roll. I took that typewriter, and my laundry, back to Lawrence crying my eyes out with that typewriter in the passenger seat of my little red pickup truck. I took it to the stage and the sound guy says what all sound guys say "What's that? You're going to do what? (pause) Okeeee... Never done that before." After that week by week different jams happened and it grew into an experimental improvisational DJ, performance art, jazz, hip hop, trip hop, rock, world beat, FUNK fest happening that was always different and never planned. It never has been and never will be. The Typewriter Band was a hit and the shows got big with Harley Davidsons sometimes rumbling onto the dancefloor or the KU drum corps blasting into a ripping beat for when I did the "Wild Rumpus" while reciting Where The Wild Things Are musically.
I was in a sculpture class about to learn to cut metal. I asked my teaching assistant if I could cut a typewriter with a blowtorch. He said No. Luckily, my sculpture teacher Richard Gillespie was walking by and told me to go get one. It was the perfect exercise because typewriters have many kinds of metal of different thicknesses. We finished and opened it up, took a step back, and said "%#@&!!!!!!!" Gillespie turned to me and said "Keep doing THAT!"
The second typewriter I torched in 1/2 was an older model and I played more with the drawing potential of the torch on metal. The older ones have better quality metal and are way more fun because of beauty of the lines and surface combined with the dance of metal cutting fire. This is all I wanted to do the rest of my life. Grandfather was right...
After a small stint as an apprentice glass blower, my teacher made me giant glass teardrops made of clear glass. I had no idea what I was going to do with them.
I thought it was a shame to keep them in the box they came in so I stuck them upside down coming up out of the 1/2 melted rusty antique machine, stepped back and said "%#@&!!!!!"
For 10 years I asked every glass place I could call to see if we could pour glass in typewriters to mimic the upward teardrops only to hear "Glass don't mix with metal. It won't work."
I finally gave up when I got the phone call. The Chef at a restaurant I worked at father's friend Jim Greunwald was on the phone asking when I could bring a typewriter to Third Degree Glass Factory and see about pouring glass into it...