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ONO – An Unabridged History In Conversation | The COMP Magazine


ONO – An Unabridged History In Conversation

Initially established in 1980, ONO holds a legendary status in the experimental and fringe music scene in Chicago and beyond. After a 26 year hiatus, in 2012 ONO released Albino followed by Diegesis, 2014, and Spooks, 2015. Clearly, ONO have not tempered their artistic output nor performances in the slightest through continuing to present loud, provocative and unorthodox experiences. Last month, The COMP Magazine caught up with ONO during a practice session on the far South Side of Chicago to discuss their long history making music, their uncanny ability to organize sonic chaos, the innovative possibilities located in the intersection of Gospel, Industrial, Noise, and Punk, their process of arranging an album, and what’s next on the band’s horizon.

ONO For Al Jorgensen’s Silly Carmichaels Record Release, Club 950, April 30, 1981,
photo by David Magdziarz

Note on Speaker:
PM: P.Michael Ono
T: travis

You guys have been making music for a really long time as ONO. “Kate Cincinnati” was released in 1982, followed up with “Machines that Kill People” (1983) and “Ennui” (1986). There was the hiatus. Then you reassembled, added new members and released “Albino” (2012), “Diegesis” (2014), and “Spooks” (2015). Lets rewind and look at the history. Can you share with us a bit of ONO’s transformation over time?

PM: ONO began as an outlet to provide backing soundscapes / Noise for travis’s poetry.

January 5, 1980 — Original members were travis on voice and lap steel, Hallene Kathy Brooks on lead voice, Mark Berrend on guitar and Harvey on percussion. Harvey immediately left for Israel, after graduation from Northwestern. Hallene stuck around for a couple of rehearsals but was much too wild to be tamed. Leaving travis, Mark and me to man the ship.

And carry on we did for about a year till we came to the attention of Al Jourgensen while he was forming the Chicago Band Ministry. We met Al and his paramour Shannon Rose Riley at PopeFest when Pope John Paul II held a mass in Grant Park. We bonded over ART, intellectual pursuits and extreme Catholicism. We have remained close to this very day. Al J appears as a guest on our 2015 LP “SPOOKS.” As Mark was leaving the band for NOLA, AL offered ONO Shannon Rose to have and to hold in perpetuity; she agreed; and, she is with us still.

1981 — ONO carried on as a trio with Shannon, travis and PM. Then we ran into Ric Graham at many punk shows. He had recently graduated from University of IL at Champaign Urbana, and was temporally living in a Northbrook graveyard, after being tossed out of his parents’ North Shore suburban home. Ric joined us on guitar and we became a quartet. But that was short-lived. Shannon was working at the Candy Store by Night to pay for School (SAIC) and also performing with ONO. Till she left Al and met Jack Santee and became betrothed. Shannon and Jack set out for Jack’s hometown, Tulsa Oklahoma. Shannon was not seen again till 2007.

1981 to 1986 — ONO carried on as a trio with travis, Ric and PM. We released two LPs, “MACHINES THAT KILL PEOPLE” and “ENNUI,” on Thermidor Records and played all over Chicago and traveled to Milwaukee. Then, after having enough of this, we retired ONO in 1986; freeing up time to finish school, travel, and create a wide range of performance art projects.

2007 — ONO gets word that Steve Krakow (AKA Plastic Crimewave), who has a comic called “The Secret History Of Chicago Music“ in the Chicago Reader, was looking to do a comic featuring ONO and get and Interview as well. travis Ric and PM come together to do the interview. PM gets a MYSPACE invitation from Abe Gibson to come check out his band, called “The End Of The World Band” (Abe Gibson on drums and Jesse Thomas on guitar), at Elastic arts. travis and PM go and enjoy the show.

Abe Gibson curates several large band Noise projects with multiple guitars. travis and PM participate: PM on bass or keyboards, travis on lap steel guitar. travis and PM meet and play with future ONO drummer Ben Baker Billington. Plastic Crimewave curates the Million Tongues Festival and invites “The End Of The World ONO Band” to play (Abe, Jesse, travis, PM).

2008 — Plastic Crimewave curates a series of acts on Chic-A-Go-Go, a public-access cable television children’s dance show. ONO (PM and travis) reforms by enlisting Jesse as well as keyboard player Rebecca Pavlatos who had played with travis over the years in a band called Art Fiction as well as several performance projects. Dr. Shannon Rose Riley, now teaching in nearby South Bend, IN, rejoined ONO for the Chic-A-Go-Go show and began the reformation process. Soon after, Shannon accepts a teaching position in California.

So ONO continues with travis, PM, Jesse, Rebecca and Shannon when/if she is available.

2009 to 2015 — ONO plays many shows and becomes acquainted with DaWei Wang/Guitar. DaWei is then added to ONO. ONO then becomes acquainted with Mimi Wallman/Vocals. Mimi is added to ONO. ONO records “ALBINO.” Mimi leaves to finish nursing school.

ONO then becomes acquainted with Adam Wolack/Drums, and with Jake Acosta/Trumpet. They join ONO. ONO records the album “DIEGESIS” and the album “BLACK POWER MOVE.” Dr. Shannon Rose Riley flew in From California to assist with recording the albums. The two albums are fused into one and released as “DIEGESIS,“ leaving many tracks unreleased to this day. After 35 years, ONO tours for the first time.

ONO then becomes acquainted Brett Naucke/Modular Synth.

Adam announces he is moving to California. Ben Baker Billington steps in, and for several months, before Adam leaves, ONO has two drummers.

ONO records the LP “SPOOKS” with about 10 members, plus guests, including Shannon and Hilal Omar Jamal/Vocals.

2015 – Adam and Jesse move forward to pursue other projects. ONO then becomes acquainted with Connor Tomaka/Electronics.

The current ONO lineup is: Travis — PM – Rebecca — DaWei — Ben — Brett – Connor. Jake and Shannon appear when available.

ONO For EAROTICA Magazine, “VAdm Morrison”, Intro by Louanne Ponder, Club Exit, November 18, 1982,
photo by David Magdziarz

T: Rimbaud : The Nigger Queen : Why Are travis’s Lyrics So Insufferable?

I was born and raised Chickasaw-Black in pre-integration, pre-electricity, pre-indoor plumbing Itawamba County, Mississippi. On September 23, 1946, amidst by now done-deal U.S. land grabs, where runoff remnants of Mississippian > Chickasaw Nation intersected with the Natchez Trace, Rejatta Stegall (AKA “Rejetta” and “Jet”) birthed Travis Stegall in the same “Shotgun Shack” kitchen where, on January 28, 1927, Finous Mary Magdalene Wall Stegall (October 9, 1890 to October 8, 1971) gave birth to the irrepressible Jet (d. November 13, 2010). A few feet to my right, New Chapel Cemetery; to my left, New Chapel School (eight grades) which shared the grounds of New Chapel AME/CME Church, on a rambling, deep-in-the-country dirt road off MS25.

As a relatively curious 16-year-old high school graduate, suddenly transplanted to Akron, Ohio, I wanted to experience the world of My Weekly Reader. Captivated by advertising and signage, I fixated on walls, windows and doorways. A few blocks from Akron Central High School, the Post Office/Federal Building at 168 E. Market Street, black-and-white pictures and full-color recruitment posters, some old, always new: “Join The Navy And See The World!”

On September 23, 1963, my 17th birthday, I convinced Mother to sign my U.S. military enlistment contract which (completely unexpectedly) listed shocking questions, then laid down the law, about same-gender sex, sodomy, and active vs. passive anal penetration. Departure date imminent, Mother warned the world was burning in hell and no one in the entire world would help me way up in the middle of the air. Her proof: Televised casualty rates from raging Vietnam War debates; JFK assassination on Friday, November 22, 1963; and Jack Ruby’s point-blank assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald on Sunday November 24, 1963, which we watched, in real time, (LIVE!) on television, like another episode of “As The World Turns,” “The Guiding Light,” or “Search For Tomorrow;” expanded from 15 minutes to an underground railroad. Time to go. “Farewell!” Greyhound Bus trip to Mississippi; Greyhound Hearse.

From December 1963 to December 1969 I served as U.S. Navy Radioman/Data Communications Supervisor. Even though President Truman, on July 26, 1948, signed Executive Order 9981 in a begging attempt to “establish equality of treatment and opportunity in the U.S. military regardless of race, “desegregation” and “equality” were neither fully implemented nor respectfully accepted by LBJ’s U.S. Navy when I arrived at Great Lakes Recruit Training Command, December 27, 1963, for nine weeks of boot camp. Every day at Glakes presented new race-based survival challenges above and beyond the vagaries of assimilation within an armed unit whose leaders, administrators and civilian staff openly expressed, to me personally, their antipathy, and their racial hatred even to the extent of gleefully recounting gory, detailed lynchings or kidnapped Black males in Mississippi, dragged to their death behind pick-up trucks; or tied up, whipped and executed; for entertainment. Similar tales bonded Navy communicators everywhere I was stationed.

In 1955, Money, Mississippi was three hours drive from Itawamba County. In 1963, Birmingham was 60 miles away. A little over four hours drive to see friends in Tuskegee, or Nashville, or Memphis. In Amory, 30 minutes from my birthplace, Mommie Mae Carter Sarter, my paternal grandmother, drove year-round. She and my grandfather always, and at regular intervals, bought two cars; one for the family (four sons and three daughters), and one for grandmother. I sang Spirituals at Carter’s Chapel Church, at Pentecostal jubilees, at Apostolic/Holiness revivals and, occasionally, for prisoners in a Mississippi penitentiary. Church folks talked. Pullman Porters spread the word. Mommie Mae’s mother, Jennie Carter, and her Chickasaw “Indian” husband occupied traditional Chickasaw lands near the Tombigbee River. I was traumatized when, around age six-to-eight, Whites set fire to our substantial extended family property and animal stock; relatives killed. Fire raged for days. Jennie Carter suffered a stroke, paralyzing the right side of her body. I developed acute asthma, and lost my ability to speak until an all-female team induced a “White Egg Sweat” and healing ritual in Carter’s Chapel Church, previously settled by Jennie Carter, on the Black side of US278, on the Black side of MS25; on the Black side of Amory’s Kansas City, Memphis, Birmingham train tracks. Significantly, Mommie Mae’s youngest daughter, 90-year-old India Moore, lives there still. Aunt India became my surrogate mother when Jet ran off to St. Louis and became a radical basketball player/motorcyclist, shortly after I was born. Nearby, Cotton Gin Port, Mississippi, the first White settlement in North Mississippi after the Chickasaw Treaty of 20SEP1816, was absorbed by Amory, which became “the first planned city in Mississippi.”

[Noteworthy: From 1932-1972, the U.S. Public Health Service/National Institutes of Health experimented with gonorrhea, syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases using illiterate Black subjects; in the U.S. Penitentiary Terre Haute, IN; in Tuskegee, AL; and “Natives” in undeveloped Central American countries such as Guatemala.]

For nine weeks, RTC GLakes reinforced Mother’s vigilance. In addition to traditional tests measuring GCT/ARI, et al., I was obliged to sustain batteries of brutal “standardized” tests relative to “Behavior” or “Socialization” where I was always the lone participant. I reported (alone!) to Protestant religious lectures several evenings each week while other men in my Company enjoyed recreation hour smoking lamp lit. Nevertheless, batteries of MOS skills and security assessment tests resulted in my selection for Radioman A School/Bainbridge, Maryland. At RMA, perfect grades and “Outstanding Man” personnel inspection honors resulted in my selection to the RMA Drill And Honor Guard, composed of Honor students who, in addition to maintaining Honor-level grades, also traveled, representing the U.S. Navy by performing close-order precision drills at holidays, openings or special events, even when it meant not fighting back when verbally and physically attacked on our bus by Anti-War protesters; bricks, bottles and broken windows.

On a date forever emblazoned in my memory as “Forever Friday Night,” my Drill Instructor, a decorated Army and Navy career serviceman, attempted to sodomize me, as I studied in my rack, in the RMA School barracks (Bldg 517) while my classmates enjoyed weekend liberty. The tests never ended. And true to the Chief’s warning, delivered the first day at RMA: “… [O]nly half of you will graduate.” Reasons: Grades; Nervous Breakdowns; Suicide. I graduated at the top of my class, and was awarded my choice of next duty station. I chose Guantanamo Bay, CUBA. And with GTMO Communications came the clandestine world of U.S. preemptive infiltration>exfiltration>invasion; U.S. Manifest Destiny; NSA sex with machines.

Next: USS America (CVA 66), USS Liberty (AGTR 5) and Shellback Initiation en route to Vietnam.

In 1969, after six years of attempted sodomy by three superior officers, accusations of sodomy by the Office of Naval Intelligence (NSA), endless sodomy interrogations, and high-level lie detector tests, etc., from GTMO to Spain to Greece to S.E. Asia, proof of sodomy (“Penetration however slight”) never surfaced. But now, 50-year-old ONI scars, still deep, raw and bleeding, stalk my paralyzed isolation, diffraction and fragmentation. Even as pathologized nationalist historicity cleaves against colonized underpinnings, black market emotions inform, critique or oversee my artistic product.

Having fulfilled my military obligation overmuch, I became a U.S. Navy Reservist in SEP69, and returned to the University of Akron. On December 27, 1969 my Honorable Discharge became official, along with a fistful of awards and medals, and I infiltrated a civilian population which labeled me a “Baby Killer” and much worse, because I survived my Vietnam service. Five months later, May 4, 1970, nearby Kent State University erupted in National Guard gunfire and murder. I was visiting KSU that day, along with my UA Sociology class. UA closed for four days; “rallies, protests and vigils.” Around May 8, 1971, UA Administration Building, Buchtel Hall, burned. Gutted to the bricks!

By 1972, I split my time between Akron and Cleveland where I studied Kundalini and KunTao. With stunning regularity, I witnessed well-connected White students commit suicide by defenestration, at the YMCA at 22nd Street and Prospect Avenue, where I rented rooms continuously from 1972-1976. I worked as a Data Communications Supervisor at the Kidd Computer Center., Bratenahl, 15 minutes from Terminal Tower. Meanwhile, Cleveland’s poverty stricken Blacks were routinely beat back, herded ever deeper, into Hough; burnt-out but still seething.

Seeking creative outlets for a seabag full of obsessive, disruptive literary sketches, I studied what was later labeled “Poetry Performance” with poet-playwright-musician Russell Atkins at Cleveland’s Karamu House, America’s first Black theatre, from 1972-1976. International pop stars filled Cleveland Stadium/World Series Of Rock, and warned that life ends at age 30. At 29, I had lived too long. In July 1976, after surrendering all earthly desires, possessions, etc., I set out driving from Cleveland to New Mexico to spend the rest of my life studying Kundalini with Harbhajan Singh Khalsa JogiJi. But then, summertime Chicago seduced me. Northwestern University School of Law (NULS) hired me for the summer. They liked my work ethic and rapidly promoted me to successive supervisory roles.

At NULS I worked with a literary genius, A. W. Brooks, who introduced me and my work to state and local politicians, Hyde Park writers and MENSA thinkers. Her daughter, Shakespearean actress Hallene Kathy Brooks, introduced me to her friend PMichael Grego, Medical student at St. Xavier College. PM introduced me to radically creative Music and Art students. He knew and cared more about my work w/Peter Laughner/CLE, than I did. I fell in love with NULS. Decided to spend “a couple years” before moving on to Yogi Bhajan.

On Friday, October 5, 1979, I laced up my Chicago Skates and rolled from NULS to Grant Park where I met up with PMichael and two of his friends, Shannon Rose Riley and Al Jourgensen, for Catholic Mass celebrated by His Holiness John Paul II.

Roller skating home from work, I met Mark Berrend at Lincoln Park’s Theatre On The Lake, when Mark, quite literally, collided with me at the bike path water fountain. Invited me to view his art exhibition “Chicago Bug People At The Opera.” I bought my first original painting: “Sir Edgar Ravenswood Entered The Room (From The Opera Lucia di Lammermoor),” which he installed, occupying an entire wall in my NULS office. Big installation party with wine and cheese. We became roommates; never lovers. He created Abiogenesis Art Studio in our apartment, painted large-scale portraits of me and gave me my first hand’s-on “art” intro, alongside PMichael, as we held weekly training/creating sessions. I argued vehemently about the absurdity of Art “rules.”

PMichael switched from Medicine to Art, and proposed creating a band. I objected. Not interested in Music. No desire to compete with musicians. Other plans.

Ric Graham’s Front Cover design (Photo: A. M. Stanzler) for a 45 RPM “Machines That Kill People” backed with “The Model Bride.” Never released. Instead, ONO returned to Hedden West Studios on August 7, 1982, edited the audio, and the LP “MACHINES THAT KILL PEOPLE” became available on Thermidor Records, S.F., CA, and November 2, 1983, at Wax Trax Records, Chicago, IL

On Saturday, January 5 1980, PMichael proposed a band to create Noise environments and sonic accompaniment for my writing. I proposed the name ONO[matopoeia] and a guiding phrase: “ONOmatopoeia Before Music.” I suspect I was hurt by my surrender, and so I further sought to deny any pretense at Music and “to maximize flexibility, to act out various punishments derived from verbal inference, cognition and reinforcement, and to vigorously distinguish [ONO] organized noise from Music.” All agreed. PMichael sent me to Clark Street Pawners to buy a Fender lap steel he saw in the showcase long ago. “And,” he said, “don’t take lessons.” Around this period, I encountered a transformation. I met and chatted with Yogi Bhajan (and a squadron of Sikhs attending him) at a monumental conference “For The Soul Of The World.” He actually made a B-Line across the large hall, which was serving breakfast, and landed at my table, where I read, alone. For the next 10 minutes into eternity, I trembled. Highly evolved Sikhs, Saddhus and spiritual bodies chanted, meditated and levitated in a South Michigan Avenue hotel. From that day to the present, I have committed my life to PMichael’s vision for ONO. And, in a final act of transference, I proposed a codification of ONO’s raison d’être.

ONO STATEMENT OF PURPOSE: “Experimental Performance, NOISE, and Industrial Poetry Performance Band; Exploring Gospel’s Darkest Conflicts, Tragedies and Premises.”

ONO agreed. Then began nine months of PMichael’s rigid regimen of pre-perfomance rehearsals: Friday, Saturday and Monday (without fail!). And we have sought to fulfill ONO’s Statement Of Purpose from January 5, 1980 to the present day.

ONO: THE FIRST YEAR. (1) October 24, 1980, ONO opened the record release party for Al Jourgensen’s band Special Affect at Wizards Dance Club. ONO intro by Chicago artist Deborah Cadavre. (2) February 13, 1981, ”My Experimental Valentine” at NULS. (3) April 12, 1981, “Spring Fling” Palm Sunday show at NULS. (4) April 30, 1981, ONO opened for the first show of Al Jourgensen’s band The Silly Carmichael’s at Club 950/Lucky Number. ONO intro by Ric Graham of Clutch Cargo. (5) June 26, 1981, Benefit For Prop Theatre. ONO intro by Ric Graham. (6) July 8, 1981, ONO “Sacred Music” show for Irish Protestant/Catholic students touring USA, at Our Lady Of Mercy Mission. ONO opened for End Result. Intro by Ric Graham. (7) July 11, 1981, ONO played an outdoor show for WZRD/Northeastern University. Ric Graham replaced Mark who left for NOLA to work as a carpenter and set designer. (8) August 8, 1981 Private birthday party in Glencoe, IL. (9) September 12-13, 1981, Al Jourgensen & Iain Burgess produced “Machines That Kill People” b/w “The Model Bride” & “Bushy-Bushy” at Hedden West Studios. Planned as a 45 RPM, but not released. Instead, ONO returned to Hedden West on 07AUG82, edited the audio, and the LP MACHINES THAT KILL PEOPLE became available on Thermidor Records 01NOV83 in CA, and 02NOV83 at Wax Trax Records/Chicago. (10) October 2, 1981, ONO opened for Snakefinger at Misfits. (11) October 16, 1981, ONO presented “Farewell Farewell Thorne Hall”/”Woman After Death.” Monumental multi-media event sponsored by NULS the night before demolition of Thorne Hall, 800 North Lake Shore Drive, to make way for Rubloff tower. Featured: Invocation: History Of Thorne Hall. An epic recital on Thorne Hall’s original pipe organ, Ghost Stories, Art, Chants, Dance, Vintage film from Thorne’s vintage collection using the original projection equipment, Gossip, Sound, Music, Ritual of lights, Ritual of leaves, Submission theatre. (12) December 31, 1981, Misfits Canceled ONO show as “Too Avant-garde.” (13) December 31, 1981, ONO published the LIVE cassette “A Suite For Christmass.”

Ric Graham’s Back Cover design for unreleased 45 RPM “Machines That Kill People” b/w “The Model Bride.” featuring PMichael’s art depicting PMichael, Shannon, Ric and travis


In April 1982, Al Jourgensen recommended ONO to Thermidor Records manager Joe Carducci and Jim Nash of Wax Trax, resulting in two experimental LPs. MACHINES THAT KILL PEOPLE (recorded at Hedden West Studios; engineered by Iain Burgess; produced by Iain Burgess, Al Jourgensen and ONO (August 07, 1982). Distribution contract Thermidor Records (November 1, 1983). ENNUI (recorded at Acme Studios; engineered by Mike Rasfield, assisted by Todd Colburn. Recorded LIVE, in Acme Studios. No Overdubs! Distribution contract Thermidor Records (1985). See, Rock And The Pop Narcotic by Joe Carducci, pp. 33, 466. See also, Enter Naomi by Joe Carducci, p.64.

In 1986, NULS selected me Employee Of The Year; gave me a $1K savings bond, a personal computer, a UNIX account, advancement in pay and responsibilities, and classes at substantially reduced-tuition as long as I kept a straight-A average. Result: 1990/BS; 1993/MA both With Highest Distinction; completed while working full-time at NULS. Research: “The Role Of The Shotgun House In Afro-American Vernacular Architecture.”

I incorporated highly experimental ONOcentric sonic, visual and literary investigations into virtually every class project/presentation/performance. By then, Chicago’s underground and Art school media, and a smattering of international writers, documented ONO as “Chicago’s Gallery touring band” or “Chicago’s Premiere Avant-Garde Ensemble.”

From 1986-2007, ONO studied, collaborated, traveled and exhibited with a wide variety of local, national and international underground artists. That non-ONO work is also well documented.

The current ONO performance era began in 2007 when Steve Krakow (AKA Plastic Crimewave) interviewed ONO for “The Secret History Of Chicago Music.” The current ONO recording era began with ALBINO/Moniker Records (recorded April 14, 2012 at Minbal Studios; engineer/producer Cooper Crain, assisted by Patrick LaBahn).

ONO, “ZaDa”, (Dedicated to John Cage), NULS/Lincoln Hall, February 13, 1981, photo by David Magdziarz

Sonic and performative experimentation has been a mainstay of ONO. At times, there are lengthy poetic instrumentals coupled with narratives examining self, society and mindscapes that run for over 20 minutes to tightly knit accents that appear to be segues or directed statements. Can you discuss how the physical process of making music intersects with the narrative elements?

PM: For all performances ONO works within a well-defined Premise. All shows are worked out sonically and visually, from instrumentation and costuming to sampled interludes. ONO is telling a story and not just performing songs.

T: Evacuation : Greetings From The Prison Plantation. PMichael is tasked with writing each ONO performance, based in a clearly defined Premise. I perform a “Character’s” point of view. What does the Character want? What role does their Conflict play in the unfolding drama? Conflict is the heart of all art. I studied “Urban Festivity” post-Grad with Northwestern University ethnographer Dr. Dwight Conquergood. Prior to that, and following Russell Atkins/Karamu House, I studied under Chicago/Mississippi playwright Stacy Myatt, whose work is rooted in Lajos Egri’s The Art Of Dramatic Writing.

ONO signing their first Thermidor Records Contract, Summer 1983

While sitting with you at the recent practice session, I noticed that there was a great deal of improvisation occurring as you worked through your set. For instance, Da Wei was applying a pocket-fan to the neck of his guitar for a directed sonic purpose while P. Michael, Connor, and Brett were measuring treble, tenor, and bass electronically, Ben and Rebecca were keeping time, and Travis was developing lyrics. This process appeared to be simply organized chaos at the highest of levels. So, how do you organize these efforts into a coherent work you want to present to the public?

PM: Improvisation is a word that continues to come up a lot with us. Truth is, improvisation plays a very small part in what we do. What is really happening is that we have worked out our own vocabulary of sound and we arrange it to suit our purpose. Our sound and vision are actually designed and given much thought. It is organized chaos and only sounds like improvisation.

T: Home Brew : You Will Never Cover Dirt. Not sure I understand what “Improvisation” entails. Except for “Yam,” all the work you heard during ONO practice was old. At least two pieces were performed over 30 years ago. Any ONO songs that members feel should be “learned” and repeated musically are performed by another vocalist, not me. I am pleased to leave the stage. Everyone understands my “Characters” may overlay the emotional narrative, or, indeed false narrative where appropriate, of any work within the (recontextualized) real time performative limitations unique to space, time and audience. At this point, I do not understand Improvisation relative to Character Arc.

ONO, “Queen Of The Ministry”, Smart Bar, May 25, 1983, photo by David Magdziarz

Lets talk about your 2015 release “Diegesis”. Can you walk us through the development, process, and intent of your most recent release?

PM: Our albums are worked out before we enter the studio. They are recorded live with all of us in the same room, then overdubs are applied. The tracks are then edited by our Producer, Cooper Crain, in a style similar to Teo Macero, the producer of Miles Davis.
“DIEGESIS” was a hybrid of two recording sessions, one called Diegesis and another called Black Power Move. Tracks were combined from each source and the unused tracks remain in the vault.

“SPOOKS” is the latest ONO LP. It was also recorded in two sessions, one at Electrical Audio Studios with the band OBNOX, and a second session at Minbal studios with Cooper Crain. SPOOKS featured many guests assisting ONO, with Shannon in attendance.

Additionally, there was Lamont Thomas from OBNOX, Hilal Omar Jamal from Night Auditor and Al Jourgensen from Ministry, collaborating directly with Shannon. The LP featured a very large ONO ensemble.

For the recording at Minbal ONO was about 10 people strong. The band was divided into two bands of five members each, with each group hearing differing rhythms in their headphones. Thus, the members of each band played counterpoint to the other. The product was then mixed by Cooper so that the listener hears two different bands play against, or over, each other. It was a crazy experiment but somehow it worked.

T: Brown Paper Poke : Spooks Dupe The Color Line. [“Eli Whitney’s Cotton Gin revolutionised the cotton industry in the United States, but also led to the growth of slavery in the American South as the demand for cotton workers rapidly increased. The invention has thus been identified as an inadvertent contributing factor to the outbreak of the American Civil War.”/Wikipedia]

===COTTONGIN (1)Shot El Gato Negro / I.C.U. cotton gin / Critical mass fibre-fit fitbit fast ass harlequin / Forty acres and a cotton gin. (2)False teeth praise God / Fatback feedback fingerprint cotton gin / Friction on the surface undercover firing pin / Bloody Mary Hot Toddy next-o-kin cotton gin. (3)Her lats Her quads Her oblique tail fins / Radar love assisted living in the cotton gin / Critical mass fibre-fit fitbit fast ass harlequin / Forty acres and a cotton gin.

ONO For Al Jorgensen’s “Special Affect” Record Release, Wizards Dance Club, October 24, 1980

There’s a real physicality to the approach and interaction in your live performances. You just never know what Travis and the rest of the ensemble will do. What are your thoughts on the immediate experience in your performances vs. the listening of your music in solitary?

PM: ONO live has been described as a religious experience. There are elements of gospel music and people “catching the Holy Ghost train.” With ONO live the point is that you must feel it deep in your soul as we the band are feeling it. If there is no feeling there is no point.

Can’t really say much about listening to ONO in the home in private. I usually put ONO on my mix tapes and it just pops up.

T: I Dream Of Sodomy : Death And Transfiguration. I listen to ONO only when prodded to do so by PMichael. I have not heard SPOOKS, DIEGESIS or ALBINO in their entirety. Why? Pain. By the end of studio sessions, I prefer a personalized therapy; researching old wounds; illustrating new tragedies. I maintain a Tumblr account (djPTSD) and a SoundCloud account (travis_DJptsd) to which I regularly post head-space tantrums in an attempt to decipher traumas endured 50 years ago during my Vietnam-era military engagement; civilian anti-war attacks on my person (and my enforced restraint); as well as enduring persistent U.S. institutionalized racism back-boned by Black American self-hatred; or vice-versa. Therapy. Maybe even avoidance, panic and/or proximity, lo! 50 years on. That said, PMichael willfully, and with some frequency, snatches pieces from my accounts and reworks them for ONO presentation. I do not object. I work for PMichael. I am a good dog. I perform the triggers in Character, not “travis.” On some level, travis stands guard; a rescue agent. Yes, there is always suffering, dysfunctional emotion, episodic helplessness. There is, indeed, a razor’s edge of schizophrenic flashback. Art For Art’s Sake is unknown in my Itawamba County, Mississippi/Chickasaw heritage.

Nevertheless, after virtually every venue on ONO’s APR16 tour, attendees, both young and old, pulled me aside for “confessionals” dealing with dissociation, hyper-vigilance, emotional detachment and the persistence of memory. I live alone.

I Dream Of Sodomy

Napoleon! Andrew Jackson! ARTILLERY. And me?
Mississippi Itawamba Chickasaw Nation // ARTILLERY Penetration
Haitian Reparations! Indian Removal Act 1830! Smallpox ARTILLERY
IDO: NSA whips/Liberty ship === IDO: ONI Ass Cracks Unzipped
IDO: Penetration However Slight === ONI House Niggers Every Night.

© 2015 by travisDjPTSD

ONO for Al Jorgensen’s “Special Affect” Record Release,
Wizards Dance Club, October 24, 1980

What do you value most in your aesthetic practice?

PM: That ONO is based in Political Activism and Art. All Art Is Political!

T: Captivity : Old Age Black America! I am 70 Years Old!

ONO, “My Experimental Valentine” NULS/Lincoln Hall, February 13, 1981, photo by David Magdziarz

We’re in mid 2016. What’s the plan for the remainder of 2016? Do you have any recording plans, upcoming shows or just inspirational jam sessions on the docket?

PM: It’s mid-2016 and ONO is back in full force. We will play a few key local shows with G.W. Sok from Dutch group The EX; Helltrap Nightmare; The Hecks record release show; and a private wedding.

We will play a show in August at the Cleveland Museum of Modern Art, which is in conjunction with the Mark Mothersbaugh exhibit. In September/October we will tour the South with the Band Buck Gooter. Playing Kansas City, Houston, NOLA, and more. When we return from tour we start the next ONO LP.

T: Urgent Poverty : Strange : My Flower Bed Cannot Hold You. (1) Illustrating Here In The by Russell Atkins, 1976. (2) Illustrating passages from Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany. (3) Creating a short series of short Noises tentatively called “FRAG.” Bursts of human emotion. All instruments are INDEPENDENT. They are not permitted to synchronize. Drums not permitted any “steady beat” designed to “organize” or “order” other instruments. Nearly fascist. Voice determines beginning/end. Closest approximation: Symphony tune-ups? NAP? ASYLUM? PANIC? Perhaps lock-down prison wing. DEDICATED to Pedro Albizu Campos (Radiation), Frantz Omar Fanon (Radiation) and “Covert Economic Sabotage.”

ONO: DaWei Wang, P. Michael Ono, Connor Tomaka, Travis, Ben Baker Billington, Rebecca Ono, and Brett Naucke,
Chicago, IL, 2016, photo by Chester Alamo-Costello

For additional information on ONO, please visit:

ONO – []

Chicago Punk Database – []

Huffington Post – []

Moniker Records – []

Interview by Chester Alamo-Costello

August 7, 2016 Tagged with: Adam Wolack, Ben Baker Billington, Brett Naucke, Chester Alamo-Costello, Chicago Artist Interview, Chicago Band, Chicago Music, Connor Tomaka, DaWei Wang, Hilal Omar Jamal, Jazz/Punk/Gospel/Experimental Music, Mimi Wallman, ONO, P.Michael, Rebecca Ono, Travis
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