LIARS SELECTS: Rick Potts

As guest editors this week, Liars present Rick Potts, one of the founding members of the Los Angeles Free Music Society

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It’s a strange question but think about where the roots of DIY and Punk lie. Not the anger or the venom but the ideals behind concepts like self-production. The fact is that before Rick Potts and the Los Angeles Free Music Society (LAFMS) the walls around what it was to be a musician were fiercely constrained – to the point of almost restrictive redundancy. Through the infamous Poo-Bah Records LAFMS were able to meet, discuss and throw away the rulebook. The society’s legacy has been to redefine what it is to be a record label and musician – the echoes of which are now firmly entrenched in today’s industry. "Still active today, LAFMS' members still explore and genuinely push experimental music. It is said that Airway's "Live At LACE" album inspired members of Hijokaidan and other Japanese luminaries of noise to activate," Liars says about the band. We met up with founding member Rick Potts, upon the recommendation of our guest editors, Liars, to find out more.

As for the name, it started off as almost a joke. We sent some of music to a highbrow festival in Norway and it was an attempt to try and establish some legitimacy!

Dazed Digital: Could you explain what you do?
Rick Potts:
Primarily I’m an improviser. However I also build and alter instruments. I use sound as a medium, which started when I began improvising. Back then we called it Noise because there were a lot of presumptions around what music was. That label gave us a freedom to experiment with sound. 

DD: Where does the Los Angeles Free Music Society come in?
Rick Potts:
The Los Angeles Free Music Society (LAFMS) grew out of a record shop called Poo-bah records. I was working with my older brothers and a friend who had access to synthesizers. We were inspired to put out a record when there weren’t self-produced records around. From that, we met others who introduced us to more improvisational techniques. We went from a few teenagers to a far bigger group. As for the name, it started off as almost a joke. We sent some of music to a highbrow festival in Norway and it was an attempt to try and establish some legitimacy!

DD: Why do you think so many consider LAFMS to be a seminal movement?
Rick Potts:
We weren’t trying to impress anyone and certainly didn’t have any sort of agenda. We weren’t trying to sell records or make a hit. We developed an integrity because we were doing what we wanted to do and that attitude developed more and more through the DIY and punk rock movement – which hasn’t really gone away – but at the time it was unheard of. In a way we broke the mould of what a label and a musician could be. It also comes down to timing. Things like cassette machines were available for the first time and there was a huge amount of very avant garde music being produced in the early 70s and late 60s.

DD: If you were to introduce someone to LAFMS, where should they begin?
Rick Potts:
That’s a tough one; there have been so many members! There was a CD collection that came out called ‘Unboxed’ but that doesn’t necessarily reflect all the aspects of where things have gone since. There’s also ‘Blorp Esette’ which was produced by Ace Farren Ford and goes back a long way. Right now I’d point people towards Tom Recchion’s new record ‘Proscenium’ or Joseph Hammer, who is a tape loop master. There is also obviously the first LAFMS record too ‘Bikini Tennis Shoes’.

DD: What are your current projects?
Rick Potts:
I’m starting to build standalone instruments that are more like sculptures which could be used in installations. So instead of having a performer attached to the object to make sound, I’m building more objects that can be in a gallery and either interacted with or perform on their own. I’m removing myself from the equation.

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