Pere Ubu
Drive, He Said 1994-2002

Fire Records FIRELP469 May 26 2017 4 lp box set

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Drive He Said Links

Lyrics to Raygun SuitcaseLyrics to PennsylvaniaLyrics to St Arkansas

Drive, He Said 1994-2002 Release Notes

Raygun Suitcase, Pennsylvania, and St Arkansas were written to be a trilogy. That they are grouped in the 'Drive, He Said' box is fitting.

"For the longest time I have considered Mark Twain's 'Life On The Mississippi' to be the Great American Novel," David Thomas said. "It's influence on my writing began to appear with The Tenement Year. By the 90s I was determined to write my own Great American Novel based on it. That was those three albums. The mistake would be to look for a linear construct. There is no such thing as a 'linear' Ubu story or construction. Pere Ubu winds and snakes back on itself like the Mississippi. There are hidden dangers just below the surface. The boiler might blow at any moment, or the River decide to cut itself a new course through the wilderness."

These three albums were the catalyst finally uniting critics and the establishment to recognize that the band's music was a force to be recognized, prompting a four day David Thomas/Pere Ubu festival at the Royal Festival Hall in London and a three day festival at UCLA in Los Angeles. The Knitting Factory in NYC and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame similarly honored Pere Ubu with special events.

'Raygun Suitcase' was the winner of the 'CD Review' Editors' Choice Award in 1995. 'Pennsylvania' was voted #1 in the 'Village Voice' Music Critics Poll in1998. In 2002, 'Mojo' said, in reaction to 'St Arkansas,' "It's difficult to think of a more important band currently working."

Noted American critic Greil Marcus wrote about 'Pennsylvania in 'Double Trouble' (Faber & Faber):
"What comes into view is a secret country: barely recognizable, and undeniable. And it's a thrill to hear, now, all of David Thomas's voices swirling around the listener, on the street. Pennsylvania seems to draw out of its own spectral geography and that street can be wherever you find yourself.."

Current band members Michele Temple and Robert Wheeler joined Pere Ubu during the 'Raygun Suitcase' sessions, Steve Mehlman immediately thereafter. It was a defining period for Pere Ubu.

Drive, He Said 1994-2002 Production Notes

The albums were remixed and remastered by David Thomas and Paul Hamann at Suma in 2016 and 2017.
Box packaging designed by John Thompson and Alex Hornsby.
An A3 sized 'Raygun Suitcase' poster designed by Johnny Dromette was included in the box.


Notes from David Thomas
The three albums were remixed from scratch using up-to-date technology and techniques. Also significant is an increasing fluency with the 'black arts' of what's happening up beyond the range of human hearing.

Over the span of years, 1994 to 2002, I set out to acquire and master tools of production. At the same time, engineer Paul Hamann and I experimented with differing methods of production.

'Raygun Suitcase' was the last album to be recorded in its entirety on Suma's Ampeg 24-track 2-inch tape machine. The recording relied heavily on the use of 'Junk-o-Phonics' - a system based on the stratagem 'The way out is the way in.' A variety of speakers and broadcast enclosures were rewired by Paul to function as microphones. These included:

The Fan:
Paul added a vari-speed control to a box fan. On one side of the fan would be the sound source and on the other a microphone or a junkophone. The fan rotation would be adjusted to match a song's tempo. The Fan is prominent on 'Turquoise Fins' and 'Don't Worry.'

The Horn:
A metal high end speaker salvaged from a PA cabinet.

The Box:
A wooden sound reinforcement enclosure from an old radio cabinet.

The Fly's Eye:
A transistor radio speaker.

The 15 and The 18:
Speakers pulled out of guitar amps.

There were other attempts at devices. We tried to turn a door into a microphone but it didn't give us anything desirable. I wanted discrete bands across the frequency spectrum. Suma has two Altec passive filters which we've used for decades. I wanted to expand the idea and nullify transients.

The Junk-o-Phonics produced a degree of undesirable collateral noise. As well, I found the analog tape / mix desk interface bewilderingly restrictive of where I wanted to go with the song construction. The entire album was recorded to a click track, in the hope that Scott Krauss, who had quit the band, would reconsider. That added a level of uncertainty. On the last weekend of the session, Scott Benedict came in and recorded the drum parts in one of the most inspired and professional studio performances I have witnessed. He retired from music soon after to become a landscape gardener.

For the box set reissue, Paul transferred the RGS multitrack tapes to the digital realm at a 192khz / 24-bit resolution. I went through the individual tracks cleaning them. I don't like the sound of a gate, which is the automated way to eliminate undesirable noise, so I shaped every snare, every tom and foot drum hit, etc., by ear. Professionals were bemused - I was clearly nuts to spend weeks clearing out stuff no one would hear. My response is and was, 'It's there and if you pile up all the stuff no one is ever gonna hear, you're either gonna hear it or it's going to mask the listener's ability to see all the way to the bottom. Gating imposes a corrosive uniformity.'

The remix process for both 'Raygun Suitcase' and 'Pennsylvania,' which was digitally recorded at 44.1khz on daisy-chained DA88s, uncovered 'lost' vocal and instrumental parts. Some of these were reinstated, including the original vocals to 'Electricity,' outro vocals to 'Woolie Bullie' and other bits and pieces. Edits were made to a number of songs on both albums for one of two reasons: (1) to shorten the songs, when appropriate, in order to achieve an overall length suitable for vinyl, and (2) to tighten song structures in ways that were beyond my abilities at the time of the recording.

'Pennsylvania' was Steve Mehlman's debut album and the drums were recorded with the standard ten to fifteen inputs. Some junkophonics were used, as well as cardboard boxes substituted for toms in some instances. We nixed The Fan because we'd already done it to death. 'St Arkansas,' on the other hand, was recorded with just four drum inputs, one of them being The 15. Somewhere along the way I started nagging Steve about his 'damn cymbals' - why he had to use them at all and what was the point of all that noise splashed everywhere. This was an issue we eventually worked out by using muted dummies, but that took ten more years. Along the way we agreed to disagree, though, as always, I was right and he was wrong.

By the time we got to 'St Arkansas' I was up to speed with the sequencer I was using, Digital Performer, and a home studio, the two of which gave me time to think about what I was hearing and the facility to record vocals when I felt like it. As a consequence, the remix of STARK yielded no alternative versions or out-takes.

I work fast and intuitively. Being able to study at leisure what just happened makes all the difference. In 1982, I spent fifteen hours recording the vocal to 'Semaphore' from the album Variations On A Theme (1983). That's fifteen hours straight, one take after another without a break. I remember a vast stretch of time trying to punch in for an 's.' I started at 11 in the morning and ended at 2 the next morning. Paul was a wreck. I'd probably gotten it within fifteen minutes but I couldn't know that. These days I do vocals at home in no more than five takes, the first to get levels and voicing, the second and third produce the bulk of the final composite vocal track and with the fourth and fifth takes I try to pickup weak words or phrases, usually without much success. If necessary, I will manufacture words and phrases out of individual syllables, if I have to. I'm good at that sort of thing - hours and hours of brain numbing detail work.

"What did you do today?"

"Oh, nothing."

Drive, He Said 1994-2002 Songs

Raygun Suitcase
Folly Of Youth
Beach Boys
Turquoise Fins
Vacuum In My Head
Three Things
Don't Worry
Red Sky
My Friend Is A Stooge
Down By The River II

Woolie Bullie
Urban Lifestyle
Silent Spring
Mr Wheeler
Muddy Waters
Monday Morning
Fly's Eye

St Arkansas
The Fevered Dream Of Hernando DeSoto
Slow Walking Daddy
Mr Steve
Phone Home Jonah
Where's The Truth

Back Roads [bonus disc]
My Name Is Ellipsis
Surfer Girl
Electricity (board mix)
Dr Sax
The Duke's Saharan Ambitions
Ray Gun Suitcase
SAD,TXT (live) 3:49

Press Reaction

"If underground rock had a Hall of Fame that gave awards for influence and creativity, Pere Ubu would be more decorated than Magic Johnson." Rolling Stone, review of 'Raygun Suitcase,' May 1995

"From the beginning they obviously understood the nuts and bolts of popular music, and then loosened them." Mojo, review of 'Pennsylvania,' April 1998

"Uncompromising is an epithet bandied around with frightening abandonment these days, and one which should really only apply to those who strive to push beyond musical boundaries and bend the parameters of modern music. Bands such as 70s art-punk collective Pere Ubu." Kerrang!, review of 'St Arkansas,' August 2003

"David Thomas' cryptic man in black hints at what these things dotted across the land mean." Mojo ****

The Vinyl District heartily endorses the box, at some length.

"The titles Ubu issued during this period are overdue reappraisal; not least 1995's confident Raygun Suitcase which includes the strident Memphis and muscular My Friend Is A Stooge. Though a shade gnarlier, '98's Pennsylvania features the fabulously itchy, Beefheart-esque Fly's Eye and the evocative, David Lynch-ian Perfume. Also above par are '02's St Arkansas which welcomes original Ubu guitarist Tom Herman back into the fold and Back Roads: a mercurial collection of outtakes 'n' oddities which countenances the hypnotic, Krautrock-y My Name Is Ellipses but also condones Thomas' heinous desecration of Brian Wilson's Surfer Girl." Record Collector ****, Tim Peacock