|Past history round up:
1987: The original Hawai'i line up of PDP (including Abra Moore) came to the mainland
and traveled across north America for a year playing on street corners for gas and food money, and camped all along the way.
(Click here to see silent 8mm footage of PDP at CBGB's in 1988)
1988 - 1991:
PDP re-located to Austin and released 3 records: "Poi dog pondering", "Wishing like a mountain..."
& "Volo Volo". Toured heavily in the States, Canada, Europe and Japan.
PDP relocated to Chicago and developed it's big band Rock and Soul sound.
1995: PDP release "Pomegranate".
performs the album "Pomegranate"
from start to finish with the Grant Park Symphony
in Chicago's Grant
Park. (Susan Voelz, Paul Mertens and Max
Crawford score and arrange for the first time on this large scale).
1996: "Electrique Plummagram" (re-mix
1997: PDP release "Liquid White Light" - a live retrospective.
1998: PDP release
"That's the Way Love
Is" (re-mix e.p.)
1999: PDP release "Natural thing"
2000: PDP release the live
album " Soul Sonic Orchestra"
which captures the band re-inventing itself once again.
2001: Band Front-man,
Frank Orrall's interest in electronic music led him to become a member of Thievery Corporation's
live band as a percussion player and singer, along with PDP
percussionist El John, (which
they continue to this day, when not playing with PDP).
2001: PDP release "
Sweeping Up the Cutting Room Floor" a collection of
previously unreleased studio out-takes from 1987 to 1994
2003: PDP released
their 6th record "In
Seed Comes Fruit".
2004: PDP release the Marco Ferrari filmed and produced DVD "Audio Visivo" detailing
the present history and recording of "In Seed Comes Fruit".
2005: PDP / Chicago Sinfonietta collaboration of Dvorak's
"New World Symphony".
2007: PDP / Chicago Sinfonietta collaboration mini opera "Carmen" and the composition and
performance of an original score for the Brazilian silent film "Limite"
by Mario Peixoto.
2008: PDP finish and prepare the new
record ("7") for release.
20 plus years down the line there is a bolstered sense of history in the band now.
A swagger with 2 fingers up in the air (backwards) to the "industry". It is quite apparent that PDP has always been,
and ever will be in it for the love of it; creating and performing. Line
up changes are par for the course. PDP is an organic entity, it changes like life does. But there is a core with strong roots,
open to new ears and ready to experiment. That's what keeps it vibrant.
WHOLE LOTTA FOUNDATIONAL HISTORY:
from a cassette of 5 songs I recorded on my brothers 4 track. Two more cassette albums followed in 1985,
and then in 1986 the 1st version of PDP formed and played it's first gig at the Honolulu Arts Academy:
Photo: Jean Francios Berneron
the real adventure started when we left the stage. and played on the streets.
It all really began in a banyan tree in Honolulu.
After an evening of playing music for spare change on the street,
we climbed up onto the tree limbs with cans of Foster's lager and conjured an imaginary travel trip across the mainland
where we would have adventures and make our gas and food money by street playing. We liked the sound of it so much we decided
then and there to make it real.
Photo: Jean Francios Berneron
We sold our
belongings for airline tickets, flew to California and bought an old
GMC Suburban truck; loaded the accordion, marimba, tin whistle, guitars, mandolin
bags in the back,and
drove up to canada,
Photo: Jean Francios Berneron
down to mexican
border towns and across the states playing on street corners and in front of collegecoffee houses - sleeping on hay stacks,
grass fields and carpet floors,
and a year later we washed up on the beach of New York city with
no transmission left in the gmc. Exhausted.
That was the end of the Hawai'i version
This experience, however, forged Poi Dog Pondering.
The beginning of
the AUSTIN YEARS
Texas Hotel Records offered us a contract in 1988 - and
we relocated to
Austin to record because we had met some
the best musicians there while traveling, and we wanted them in the band.
it was easy to live on nothing in Austin.
Local studio engineer Mike Stewart knew
how to get a good warm sound from all
the wooden instruments... really cared for
the sound. We tracked it in a fist-full of days,
and when the e.p. came out, we played on the
street and sold it out of a card board box.
We were a self sufficient organism, knew
how to sing for our supper, ready for
anything, and free to cross a whole country
for a single gig.
We got one in NYC - opening for Hetch Hetchy. A lot of label
people where there.
We brought our scrap on stage and started a buzz. Soon there
major labels after us. We let them all take us out to dinner. When
used to subsisting on coffee and bread you take all the free dinners you can.
We listened to
their pitch and ordered the most expensive bottles of wine on
the menu. Max
used to joke: "Who ever takes us to the best restaurant -
that's who we sign with."
I didn't want to leave Texas Hotel Records, but it was just meant to be.
Managers and lawyers
have a way of making sense.
We had enough label interest to demand a fair contract, full of creative
We signed with Columbia/Sony and a whirlwind began.
Now we had a manager, booking
agent, and a tour van named "Isabella" (after Isabella Rosallini). We took out the van's passenger seats,
put mattresses down, and laid down like sardines. There were gambling card games, typewriter clacking hammering-out
new songs, people trying to read or sleep - all at once at 80 miles per hour down some interstate towards the next town, or
towards someone's houseboat or farm who had invited us to spend the night after a show.
Plugging our espresso machine
into gas station outlets along the way, we criss-crossed the country too many times to count.
made it to Europe a few times. Japan too.
Visual artist Luke Savisky was with us now, bringing his beautiful
slide and film loop projected imageries to the live shows, transforming them - making them multi-dimensional.
We had blood in our hearts that flowed with the road and a desire for
Dog-eared copies of "On The Road" & Woody Guthrie's "Born To Win" (along with
cassettes of Dylan, the Velvet Underground, the Jazz Butcher, Al Green, Nick Drake, Penguin Cafe Orchestra, and the Pogues),
were rolling around in the van with us.
Camper Van Beethoven took us out on our first
real tour as an opener.
We called it "camper van boot camp." They had a guitar tech who changed
their guitar strings, good beer back stage, played nice rooms - big rooms, they had a trailer w/ their gear in it hooked to
the back of the bus... we wanted that.
We also opened for Robyn Hitchcock, that was great, we'd knock
on his hotel room door after the show, armed with a bottle of red wine for him - just to hear his stories, he even came
and played on the street with us. Brilliant. Wonderful man.
The heart has always been more important to me than the mind. I wanted to talk to people's hearts -
by-pass the ego. I wanted to write as honestly as I could.
I wanted to make soul buoyant music.
We knew what the world could do to a soul -
we wanted to give people a reason
to keep on keeping on.
We came off the street, we knew where the life was.
It was those people we were talking to. It was their hearts we sang to. We played for them.
The circus of journalists mostly missed the point, thought we were neo-folk hippies 'cause we could sleep anywhere,
had acoustic instruments and dared to be exuberant - dared to play by our own rules. We weren't hippies - we were
romantic to the bohemian, wine-haggard, caffeine-pupiled - and lusty for life.
Our hero's followed their hearts.
That was how we saw it - how one was supposed to live it. Love it.
say "Yes" to the moment.
We found saints in every city: Vic Chestnut & Love Tractor in Athens,
Howe Gelb and John Convertino in Tucson, Arnie Saiki in NYC, Oneziem in Baton Rouge, Scotti Bolin, Patrice...
souls who looked after us, fed us beautiful stories, enriching the song writing.
Stole liquor from an R.E.M. house party. Twice.
Did shows without band members who
went missing from some adventure the night before.
It was always about adventure, putting ourselves out there on the road, ready to take whatever detour life brought
us. It was the people we met out on the road that made it all beautiful. It was pulling over to swim in a stream 'cause
you felt like it.
We watched bands try so hard to win commercial radio and MTV;
it looked goofy
to us, so we just played ourselves.
We got trapped into a few embarrassing videos,
learned our lesson,
decided to roll on the side of exuberance for life, and make a meal of experience.
there was college radio then - it was a force.
When you are following what you love
- life comes to you, the world breathes with you, that's how we walked it.
We rolled on under the instinct of impulse...
Showing up on the David Letterman show in
torn jeans, threadbare shirts, and a borrowed guitar.
John, Bruce and Dave Max waking up hungover under the Eiffel tower
after emptying the mini bar; in a single night - they were broke for the rest of the tour.
Playing the Montreaux
Jazz fest and seeing Miles Davis' last performance there, Gil Evan's big band & Quincy Jones
(conducting) were on that gig too.
Playing all the work horse touring clubs: The Blue Note, Lounge
Ax, the Metro, the 40 Watt, Liberty Lunch, Mississippi Nights,
the I Beam, Slim's, Cotton Club, Irving
Plaza, and the tiny (old) mighty 9:30 Club.
Finding clothes you could sweat in, that would
dry fast so you could wear 'um the next night and pack light. I had a pair of vinyl pants made, so I could wash them in
a back stage sink and wear the next night.
The wave of Manchester dance rock was surging and we liked
It influenced us. Ecstasy - I liked it... (not a lot - just enough).
Things were on
the move musically in the world,
There was fresh inspiration now, we started
broadening our sound.
We had our own discoteque on the bus ("the star kiss lounge")
on the Volo Volo tour.
Something else was emerging.
becoming home base.
This was the beginning of the end of the Austin years.
was a bit worn from constant touring,
and things were stirring at Sony - we were not
the "next big thing" everyone had hoped up at Black Rock.
us from contract in '93.
We decided rather than sign with another label,
to go fully independent and
start our own.
Thus beginning the Chicago years,
but that, my friend, is
a whole 'nuther story,
and would require another bottle of wine.
We'll pick that story
up on the 20 year mark of this ever morphing organism called Poi.
with love in our hearts for all those who have listened,
and gratitude for
those who let us sleep on their floors,
Aloha nui loa,
Frank Orrall & Poi Dog Pondering
the way love is", Manchester and the partial
story of dance music's influence in PDP's history
(Note: this is loaded with links to some classic videos including Daft Punk's first
stateside live performance at Even Furthur in Wisconsin 1996!- enjoy)
Being a band for over 20 years means that you are going to go through a lot of phases, and get interested in a lot
of music. Along PDPs way through it's eclectic rock journey it has had a very enjoyable flirtation, or "thing on
the side" with Dance music... a sort of affair if you will. This is a rumination on that.
I got a summer job working in California as a production assistant on the set of the movie "Breakin". On the set, cassettes of Malcolm McLaren's "Duck Rock", Run DMC's first record and Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five, and Kraftwerk's "Tour de France" started circulating around our beat boxes. That was the first wave of this new sound that washed ashore. I went to
the Radiotron in L.A. in 1983 and stood at the edge of the circle and watched the nylon hooded
break dancers do there thing - and I had my mind blown! I went home -
and the new sound was in my blood.
( Photo: me back home
in Hawaii practicing dancing on the patio / lanai - with the beat box - I forget who took these photos now.)
1989 PDP was deep in the Austin music scene and the Pixies were fresh on the turn tables.
Meanwhile in Chicago, unbeknown'st to us at the time, the band TEN CITY was emerging from the House Music culture there
and released a classic song that PDP would cover 10 years later: "That's the way love is"
Early glimpses of club music:
The term "Dance Music" has always been a goofy one - Hell, Benny Goodman was
'dance music', but the term has a connotation now - (negative or possitive, depending on which side of the fence the
person talking is on) - and we've had to sort of adjust and know what people mean when someone uses this term. So in light
of this - there was always disco - and I always liked it. I liked all my school dances. "Flashlight", "Serpentine Fire" ... I won't even start. And all that New wave had
it's roots in disco even though it tried to hide it.
But this story is about the next dynamic wave....
So onwards... to 1987... Sitting on Michael Corcoran's front stoop in Austin (with his
stereo speakers on the porch blasting towards the street) and
him beating Public Enemy's (brand new) first record. This was juicy. Something was stirring.
Then 1988 - Gretchen
Lono was visiting Austin from Europe and she was telling me about this new thing called Raves that where happening in the
country outside of London where people would set up sound systems far away from the police - and d.j.s would play and everyone
just enjoy'd themselves and danced. I liked the sound of it.
89 we were on tour in England (right around "Wishing like a mountain...") and we were in
Manchester or Leeds and the club owner put a record on the turn table while we were setting up... it was
"Bummed" by the Happy Mondays,
with the single "Lazyitis" and "Wrote for luck". It was rock, trying to be a bit dance... but it was fucked up, brash and sloppy. We liked it. We didn't pay it much
mind though. We had a gig to play. But it registered in our brain.
Back in Austin John Nelson turned me on to Soul 2 Soul ('Jazzie's Groove" and "Fairplay") and that opened our minds for sure - got the juices flowing. There was something in the air - you could feel it.
Then De La Soul and Deee-lite hit and made it all fun. Even the rock kids were having fun with it on the floor. Club music was kind up for grabs
and it was coming so fast and furious that nobody had a chance to catagorize it and make it sterile yet. All that music coming
out of the speakers made the world feel close internationally.
Then in '90 we back in England for a few shows and Dave Max and I were in our hotel
room watching the BBC and we saw the Charlatans video for "The only one I know" and we both dug it a lot. I went to the record shops and bought the Stone Roses & the Charlatans.
We went home and started working on "Lack Luster",
"Jack Ass Ginger" and "Get me on" with all that inspiration. And so the writing for Volo
But then the Happy Mondays pulled
the trump card and released "Pills 'N' Thrills And Bellyaches" and blew everybody's mind, and that was it.
I knew I needed someone to work with production wise in the studio who understood how
to bring a dance element into the mix. I met D.J. Casanova in Austin and heard him d.j.ing "The 900 Number" (by The 45 King) - and he was shaking the dance floor - and I thought "I wanna work with this guy". He came with us to
England in '91 to put the final touches on Volo Volo. And while there we went out to the dance clubs
and heard NOMAD "I WANNA GIVE YOU DEVOTION", and The KLF - "3AM Eternal". We also went to Soul to Soul's night at the Brixton Academy and it was all exciting. We went back into the studio and Casanova put a nice drum loop form "Impeach the
president" under "Be the one" and made "Take care of your thing" come alive with some turntable work and a few choice samples and an
808 kick drum. He took both those songs into another world.
Back in NYC my friend Arnie Saiki was turning me on to the Brand New Heavies and the whole acid jazz scene. He would take me to all the good nights at Nell's night club which was a fantastic little club with amazing music and everybody dancing. We also regularly went to
the acid jazz nights of Giant Step. Dancing was a part of every
day life again - and it made everything seem to sparkle. On my visits home to Hawaii D.J. Daniel J Ward and Lloyd Kandell were keeping me up to date on the new and classic cuts.
we were waiting for Volo Volo to get pressed U2 released Achtung Baby and it just heightened the excitement - even the big boys were falling in love with combining rock and dance. There
was a sense of momentum of something new cresting.
On the Volo Volo tour in Chicago at the Metro in '92, we went downstairs to the Smart
Bar and danced our asses off and had a great time. Austin seemed slow on the up take as far as dance music was concerned
so that just helped make the move to Chicago. Austin taught us so much when we were exploring acoustic rock, but now with
this new inspiration, Chicago seemed like an exciting move, and so we relocated there in 93.
We went to work on the record Pomegranate ('94) which was more
groove oriented than any of our previous records and yielded PDP's quasi rock/house anthem "Complicated". While we were working on re-mixes for Pomegranate I heard Robin S singing "Show me Love" on Chicago's B96 and I was so inspired I tried to re-create the organ keyboard bass line and you can hear it's
influence in "God's Gallipoli (the Arqueen re-mix)".
Mel Hammond introduced us to Lady D, Jevon Jackson and the real Deep underground sound, and brought me into the Chicago House Community - I fell head over heals. The
people were so nice. Welcoming. And proud of their History.
In '96 Carolynn "Chaka" Travis introduced us to David Prince & Matt Adell. Matt turned us on to Derrick Carter and Dub-tribe (which were on
his label "Organico"), and David was the founder of Reactor Magazine and co-founder of Even Furthur.
Chaka and David suggested that we perform some of our newer more electronic songs at
the EVEN FURTHUR rave in Wisconsin. So we did. We went up there and performed a live set as Poi Energy inc., and camped out and enjoy'd 3
"ecstatic" nights of house, techno and bass and drum, and had our minds blown. Daft Punk played their first U.S. live set there that year too
One night David took us to hear Byron Stingily and he sang
"That's the way love is" and it blew me away. Mel and Justin tracked down the cassette of the original for us from their basement collection.
Powerful lyrics and beautiful melodies, piano and bass. It brought me right back to the beginning. Back to 1989 where the
Dance world seemed to open up again.
In the mid to late nineties
Chicago Producers Mike Dunn, Maurice Joshua, Lego, Jevon Jackson, Mel Hammond, Matt Warren, Bunky
& Jesse De La Pena did some real nice Re-mixes for us. We also saw a transcendental
live set at metro by Orbital that was the apex for me as to how truely powerful a live electronica set could be in the right hands.
There's a whole lot to talk about here, A whole 'nuther history of the Deep house
era of Chicago that was going on in the clubs and at the after-hours parties in the 90's - a lot of late nights rolling
on into the morning, X, dancing & 8fatfat8 .... that would be hard to really express but I will try and compress some of that feeling into these words below:
The blue light of dawn will always remind me of Chicago:
with condensation on the ceiling,
the rattle of lose screws
in the bass bins,
the crackle of phonograph needles
on favorite records,
and fluttering in the sound waves,
bodies jumping and yelling,
heads bouncing and concentrated
hands held up into the air,
or one hand over your face,
the other on a friend's
when things got good and subconscious.
every friend greeted with a hug.
you could be free
to lose your mind,
for a night - release the day,
get down deep inside your self,
as you wanna be,
if you got too high -
someone would look out after you,
we were all there for the same reason,
to get deeper,
to see each-other,
a congregation of a culture
free to be,
encouraged to set
sleeping all day,
out all night,
in the blue light
From 1999 into 2004 we
let the band morph freely between rock, Jazzy R & B undertones, philly era disco production (ala strings and live
instrumentation), while trying to include the emotional and technical things we learned from more modern house and electronica.
The result was a live recording "Souls Sonic Orchestra", a more orchestral studio
record "In seed comes fruit" and a beautiful re-mix of "A love Rains Down" by California's
Around 2005 it felt like we had come to the
end of the ball of string with all that experimentation, and just felt like it was time to get back to basics. So we set out
to make a straight up Rock and soul record, which became "7".
Dance music is like an elliptical orbit, it is always around me, but sometimes it swings in real close and sweeps
me along full force for a while. And I have to say 89 to 91 was a magical spark, and that magic sparkled on through the 90s.
I look forward to the next wave. In the meantime I'm digging the rock again. Taking a break from guitar based music for
a while brought back the freshness for me. God I love music. All of it.
I gotta go to bed though... I've been up all night on this journey, and it's almost noon.
PART 3: THE CHICAGO EFLUORESCENCE (coming soon...)
Photo: Matt Carmicael