“Ah, what can I say? Well, I can surely say What can I say? And surely. And and too. And too too. And I can surely say I can surely say. And of course, Ah…And of course…”
These are some of the riffs Andy Kaufman and I rambled through when he visited me in my dreams 14 years ago. The night I turned 35, not coincidentally the same age he died, he announced to me that he had been collaborating with my subconscious for years (not behind my back: my subconscious was into it with or without my conscious awareness, he said) and that he wanted to ‘hang out’ together.
Andy asked me to wait awhile before I disclosed our collaboration or shared the recordings with anyone and that I would "know-the-right-time". Now seems to be the right time for a variety of reasons that have been triggered by a conversation I had recently with Donald Rubenstein, a new friend. Donald described a long-term multi-faceted project that he is developing. One of the many stories that will be included is an early encounter with Andy Kaufman.
In the original dream and following dreams, we worked together just as I do with people who are presently living. In this case, he was primarily responsible for the words, and I, the music. The dreams always started with Andy sitting on the side of the bed, his wi(l)de eyes waking me from a dream within a dream (a strategy my dog Rex used when he had to take a leak in the middle of the night). We were like old friends from the start, laughing continuously as we talked and worked.
He also told me that he wanted to experience through me what it was like to be a struggling artist since he had had so much notoriety early on. When I was 22, I dropped out of everything, including my main musical pursuits, for grassroots activism most of the remainder of my 20s.
2002 was the first year I really began to come back into my music with full focus. In many ways, this was a result of my collaboration with Andy, though not necessarily with the songs we created together.
I usually recorded immediately after our collaborations and we both agreed it should be a lo-fi project. He wanted these recordings to be quick and raw and easy to make. Some of them have degraded over the years, giving them an 'archeological' sound. They were all recorded with different equipment, on different pianos with different intonations and states of disrepair and very little rehearsal. I edited them all these years later and they were mastered by Myles Boisen to make them bearable to listen to! Someday I hope to record them properly with a big band, perhaps.
13 Billion Years and a Half was the first song we worked on. Pretty fun to drum with Andy! After that was Zero Bottles Of Beer On The Wall. He used to perform 99 Bottles of Beer On The Wall all the way down to zero, "so finally, with you I am going to take it further!"
After this came LOVE Is Of The Essence.
Then “What Will Be Will What”, which is a message from Andy to Bob Dylan.
Most of this music is being published here for the first time, though some of it has crept into previous recordings of my song-related projects like Tsigoti, The Hand To Man Band and Thollem/Rivera, mostly as borrowed ideas and in totally different contexts.
Andy said he’d like the music to be inspired by crooners, tin pan alley, and vaudeville.
My father is a pianist, who played for years in piano bars, so I realized this was an opportunity for me to draw from those experiences and therefore to dedicate the album to him…and my dad's got a great sense of humor!
Certainly you are wondering if this is all true, or if I actually believe I’ve been collaborating with Andy Kaufman. Unfortunately, those are questions that are impossible for me to answer, but I do wonder sometimes who my subconscious might be collaborating with now…
released April 8, 2016
Collaborations with Andy Kaufman
Recorded on various crude devices around the turn of the century
Mastered by Myles Boison