Captive Audience

An Interview with Craig Conley

Captive Audience

Craig Conley is a smart guy from North Carolina.


You seem to make a lot of references to books and literature, are you two bookworms?

Even our instrumental music seems to subvocalize suppressed words. I just read a good explanation of this phenomenon in the latest Jonathan Lethem novel, Motherless Brooklyn : “The words rush out of the cornucopia of my brain to course over the surface of the world, tickling reality like fingers on piano keys.”

What is this whole concept of Captive Audience about?

Our band’s name refers to the fact that when people come to visit, we spend hours subjecting them to our latest film, music, and other art discoveries. We thrive on having a captive audience to share our enthusiasms and passions. One time we subjected a friend to watching all three Godfather films in a row. But 9-hour media stretches are not uncommon for us. I think our record is watching all 30-hours of the Twin Peaks series in two days, followed by the prequel film, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me . We can be our own captive audience, too.

What do you think is your greatest achievement?

We discovered that when you transfer credit balances from one card to another, your overall credit limit gets raised to accommodate the new balance. Through a series of intricate balance transfers, coupled with an equally-intricate series of switches between long distance carriers (in which we were paid to switch and then paid again to come back), we were able to purchase $14,000 worth of electronics, allowing us to record music. So our very existence is our greatest achievement to date.

What do you think about rock stars?

We’re actually quite star-struck, and we get as happy as teenage girls in the presence of famous people. Dale Bozzio of Missing Persons leaned down and hugged me after I screamed “I love you” to her. I’ve also screamed “I love you” to Boy George, Adam Ant, Martin Gore, and Simon Le Bon.

What are your greatest influences as artists?

We’re most often compared to Orbital and Moby, though I think more tangible influences are Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode, Erasure, Dead or Alive, and Duran Duran. We are heavily influenced by early 80’s electronic music, British New Wave, and German EBM/techno. Our latest project, the musical Esperantoland , has a distinct Heaven 17 influence both in terms of vocals and minimalist electro-rhythms.

What kind of philosophical ideas would you like the listener to ingest?

Plato said that silence is actually a sound. He believed that the perfect motion of the planets around the earth produced a great tone — a constant sort of music. This glorious composition surrounds us all the time, so we tend not to notice. But now, as the earth itself agitatedly vibrates beneath our feet, we must listen within ourselves for the silent music which sounds at the bottom of creation.

What is philosophy?

I consider philosophy to be a system for coming to terms with one’s understanding or metabolism of reality.

Did you go to college?

Mike and I both went to college. Mike earned a B.S. in Mathematics, and I earned a B.S. in Mass Communications and a M.A. in English. We are also both trained in classical piano.

How old are you?

I’m 33 and Mike is 23.

What do you think will happen on Y2K?

I think a lot of people will wish they had bought a Macintosh computer. Actually, the entire Y2K-bug phenomenon makes me really angry because it encapsulates people’s shortsightedness and laziness.

Do you have any proof that animals are receptive to your music?

I tend to play music quite loudly, and I used to think that my pets simply tuned it out of their awareness. But when we recorded a remix of the Go-Go’s “We Got the Beat,” our cat, Eartha Kitty, had an unmistakable reaction. At one point in the remix, Mike does a yodel, and every time our cat hears that, she flees the room. I also noticed that my pet parrot, without fail, makes a shrill whistle at one precise moment during the early Human League song “Marianne.” I have heard that cows are particularly sensitive to Tibetan overtone chanting, but I haven’t taken those experiments into the field.

What would be the ideal way to transmit music or other creative media?

Music would be best transmitted telepathically, from one mind to another. For those of us who are still honing our telepathic skills, I am patenting a new system of musical notation called “Do-Re-Midi.” My system allows musical ideas, melody lines, riffs, arrangements, and even full scores to be easily shared via e-mail or other text-based English communication. Now, when a friend writes asking how that bass line of Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” goes, you can type it out and save humming it over a long-distance call. Or you can compose a new song on an airplane when all you have is a PowerBook with a word processor. No special composing software or music font is needed. Novices can read Do-Re-Midi more easily than standard musical notation, as no more than a rudimentary familiarity with the musical scale is requisite.

If you were required to live in another culture or century, what would it be?

I would prefer to live a century in the future. I stay up at night thinking about low-technology in absolute horror. Even wires repulse me, because electricity flowing through metal is so archaic. And microchips are so low-tech that I shudder to think of them. The computers of the future will have mirrors and lenses and beams of light. Look what’s happening in your head: little sparks. The state of our technology today pales in comparison to the as-yet-unimplemented inventions of Nicola Tesla a hundred years ago.

How do you envision dance clubs of the future?

I picture every club having a house acupuncturist who will fit the dancers with more and more long, hair-thin needles. He will transform them into human antennae, enhancing their club experience by helping them to conduct the electromagnetic energy from the air into their bodies. The needles will help them to “tune in” to the shared experience of eurhythmy — a perfect union of flesh, movement, and vibration. I also picture the dance floor being an enormous grid of Harmonic Coils. The coils are energetic devices which will work in conjunction with Kirlian holography technology to showcase an individual’s colorful aura in three dimensions. A dancer’s energies will be set into motion by the cylindrical column of light rising from the coil. The harmonic energy will travel up through the dancer’s intricate meridian channels, gracefully working its way through the body from feet to torso, from torso to fingertips, from fingertips to face, from face to feet, and then back again in a continuous, unbroken flow, pulsing with the heartbeat of the music. With such coils, everyone on the grid will be able to interact on the level of pure energy. As for the light show in the club, instead of shining colored bulbs onto the dance floor from above, the frequencies of the Harmonic Coils themselves will be adjusted to change the colors of the dancers’ auras, synchronized to the music. It will be a true manifestation of eurhythmy.

What is your opinion on all these porn stars becoming musicians?

I’ve always agreed with Camille Paglia that all art is pornography, so I can’t really make an honest distinction between what I do as a musician and smut. In fact, Electrozine described our music as sounding like “a trance soundtrack to a porno video game.” Porn king Jeff Stryker’s musical career hasn’t aroused much interest in me, but I adore porn queen Traci Lords’ 1000 Fires album. It’s the sort of dreamy, spooky techno that I love, and the album was produced by Babble (a.k.a. the Thompson Twins). People are always asking me, “If Traci Lords is so good, why hasn’t she put out an album since 1995?” And my response is, “Sheesh! Hasn’t she ‘put out’ enough already?”

If you were given a life-long grant to pay for your living expenses and creative endeavors, what would you do?

I would do more of what I’m already doing now, with perhaps a bit more travel thrown in. No doubt my lifespan would be reduced by about five years because I’d burn myself out doing things I love.

Plans for the future? What will happen to the human race?

We are exploring ancient technologies for using harmonics to heal and to facilitate spiritual transformations. I hope to continue recording music, but I never know which direction my creative drives will take me. Mike and I collaborate on many things, from video game programming to writing to Web page and graphic design. I write novels and college textbooks on the side, and Mike designs computer software for major corporations. Like the rest of the human race, I assume that we will continue struggling through daily challenges, and I hope that we can all remember to have fun along the way since life is a big joke.

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