THE CUBBY CREATURES
Source Mirror Record Vol. 2
Source Mirror Record, Vol. 2: The World of Tina

Introducing Tina!

The Cubby Creatures debuted The World of Tina, their first rock operetta, on April 11, 1998, at a venue called The Peacock Lounge, in San Francisco, California, to a lively and colorful crowd of maybe 200 souls.

The World of Tina was performed only that once, and as of this writing, we don’t know of any extant recordings of that performance.

Twenty years on, founding Cubby Creature and bass player extraordinaire Brian Weaver wasn’t alone in regretting that nobody’d recorded that night’s historic, epoch-defining, one-of-a-kind extravaganza, but he was alone in his fierce determination to reanimate Tina by whatever means necessary.

He found hope to do so last year when he delved into the band’s archive on its 20th anniversary and yielded such a haul of primordial versions of songs long thought lost that he realized he had a multi-volume anthology on his hands.

While the wished-for recording of the live performance of The World of Tina didn’t materialize, a recording of an at-home full-band rehearsal of the operetta – complete with a rough but enthusiastic narration by young Joel Perez – did turn up. So did WoT’s four main songs, in various rough and low-fidelity states and stages of (in)completion.

With only these ingredients, Weaver set about making magic. On Source Mirror Record, Volume Two, he simulates and re-creates The World of Tina, that long-ago, long-forgotten operetta that few ever witnessed, and in doing so, he unleashes the little monster on an unsuspecting 21st Century futureworld.

The Cubby’s own Nag Hammadi

Last year, in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Cubby’s manifesting, Brian Weaver began his deep dive into the band’s archives, first gathering together every sort of cassette that ever contained any Cubby Creatures recordings. He hit up all the extant Cubby Creatures for whatever tapes they might have squirreled away for a couple of decades, and, having assembled as much as he could, he undertook the months-long process of listening for what treasures might be buried there.

And there was a mountain of archival material to delve into. An old tape deck was ever present in The Cubby Creatures’ rehearsal space to capture moments of jazzlike improvisation or to help in the development of the band’s regular batch of songs.

In addition, Weaver was an avid producer and practitioner of homemade recordings, so several 4-track and 8-track recordings of Cubby Creatures songs that were made during the band’s decade of activity were among the recently unearthed finds.

There were also recordings done by The Cubby Creatures’ great friends Ben Tinker, Yoko Kato, and Rico Dominguez, as well as by some students at a sound engineering lab who did the Cubby Creatures a solid.

And there was a recording of a very strange “KALX Live” performance in Berkeley from the turn of the Millennium.

Whilst fleshing out the concept for the anthology that would come to be named Source Mirror Record, Weaver soon realized that, considering all of the band’s recordings – which included the homemade low-fi tracks, the handful of studio-produced tracks, the ambient field recordings of the band made in their rehearsal space at Secret Studios, as well ones made in their moldy first rehearsal space on Harrison Street in the Mission, a few blocks from home, and even, as was the case with the entire narration of Tina, made right in the kitchen of the band’s official headquarters (which came affectionately to be known as Cubby Control) – he would have to enlist every inch of his librarian brain to work on organizing and preserving these sacred Cubby hymns.

Since 1997 was the year of the Cubby’s conception, and #Cubby20 had been the initial impetus for launching the archival dig that led to the SMR project, it seemed fitting to Brian to collect all of the music that was made in 1997 together to comprise the first installment of SMR. In December 2017, right around Christmastime, he quietly released the first volume of Source Mirror Record, fittingly subtitled “1997.”

For volume two, Weaver chose to focus on The World of Tina. Faced with the daunting problem that there was no recording of it, Mr. Weaver bit off the exhaustive task of finding all the ingredients, dusting them off, and weaving them all together into a seamless whole...well, maybe not seamless, but a whole nonetheless, with seams that are rather part of the fun.

Combining the narration recorded in the kitchen of the Cubby Creatures’ Mission District flat during the days leading up to The World of Tina’s public debut with a 4-track version of Mister, Mister, Mister (ever a crowd favorite and joy for the band to perform, as Brian’s “a man like you” line always evoked squeals of delight from audiences), a 1997 rehearsal-space ambient recording of Polyester Action Hero, a 4-track version of Hey Mister recorded in January 1998, and a 1997 rehearsal-space ambient recording of The Happy Song, Weaver cobbled together an approximation of what the operetta would, on April 11, 1998, turn out to sound like (sans the special guest vocals of Cubby collaborator Andren White, who, if memory serves, donned all polyester like Astro does in the story and gave voice to Polyester Action Hero on the night of WoT’s premiere).

Someday soon I might ask Brian to provide a link here to my personal reflections and memories of the performance, as well as my critical analyses of it. I do have a few, but they seem aside from the point at present.

For example, I recall, among other more important details, that young Joel was suffering from a terrible case of plantar warts at the time. (Those are the kind that grow on the sole of your foot and grow up into it, causing terrible shooting pain with each footfall). I hear some of that pain in young Joel’s voice, and maybe you’ll hear it too.

And there was a lot of other personal discomfort brewing as well, but for this introduction I will refrain from the self-indulgence of such reflections and focus instead on the Cultural (In)Significance of The World of Tina.

First, let me make it crystal clear that i accept no blame for the meth epidemic that has swept the country since The World of Tina debuted that April night, and I reject the notions that The Cubby Creatures were advocating, promoting, causing, or cashing in on the meth craze by producing this operetta. That’s just nonsense.

As far as I can tell, Tina, in The World of Tina is more of a reference to the Tao than to drugs, though I recall that Mark Taylor, a colleague of Cubby Creature clarinetist Karl Soehnlein at the Film Arts Foundation, projected film loops above and behind and right upon the musicians and actors on the stage that night, and among those projected images was a loop of hundreds of pills raining down at various speeds.

Also, I recall that the poster for the night’s event was a baby doll with pills raining down around it. And as I go down the rabbit hole of that particular memory, i seem to recall someone from Dolores Haze having been instrumental in making that poster, and the pills having come from their imagination.

Which is all to say that while I’m aware of several circumstantial facts which would appear to belie my denial of any connection between The World of Tina and the world of meth (among others is the singer’s exhortation to “take a line with me” in Hey Mister, which actually refers to a sung lyric, or line, of the song rather than to any illicit activity or substance in particular), I stick by my story, and would advise the listener to pay close attention to the text, to never make assumptions, and to make a policy of asking questions before jumping to conclusions.

Though it may appear that I’m trying to spread blame around for these misconceptions surrounding The Cubby Creatures’ WoT, I’m actually getting to the poignant point that friends really made a huge impact on the creation of this WoT experience that’s now preserved by Weaver, in his Cubby-induced delirium, in this strange Frankenform for anyone who dares venture into what I dare say is up there amongst the weirdest of musical recordings.

I recall that Dolores Haze and National Holiday shared the bill with us that fateful, epic night, when hearts were won and romances began and a stalker or two felt personally addressed by each one of the songs presented. Those bands were instrumental to our inspiration and happiness in those seminal days of The Cubby. They were composed of dear friends and cherished playmates who would come around often, play music with us, drink with us, watch weird films or hear esoteric records or read occult books or practice santerria in brian weaver’s room.

Usually there was something going on in every room of the house of Cubby Control, most notably and most especially The Kitchen. (I capitalize it because it felt like a place in its own right, and feels even more so now when I listen to these chunks of narration that were recorded in The Kitchen. Hearing these I can vividly recall the Cubby Creatures arranged in a circle in that cramped little room, playing their hearts out with the note of fresh tortillas wafting into the room on every chilly gust from the open window, and Bean the cat skulking underfoot.) Folks always seemed to be congregating there, and it felt like the “public” area of the flat, aside from the hallway, where young Joel had hung a series of found photographs of people he didn’t know on the wall, an exhibit which proved to be an effective conversation piece at gatherings.

At the world premiere, final, and only performance of The World of Tina, The Cubby Creatures were accompanied on the stage by a troupe of actors, who mimed along with the narration, and also a host of baby dolls strewn about the floor, and looped images projected above and upon the band and the actors and the baby dolls.

It’s hard to know from where i was standing what all was projected onto the band, aside from the falling pills, or what the cumulative experience of the music, the actors, and the film might have felt like to an audience member, but should a rumored video of the performance pan out to be truly extant, I should very much enjoy kicking back with whatever of my bandmates would tolerate my company, along with anyone who’d care to venture with us into this fantastic world, and together return to The World of Tina.

In closing, i’d like to express my profound and undying Gratitude to the individual members of the band and to all of our personal muses for all of the time and energies put into the creation of this magical musical experience, directly and otherwise, and for your part in manifesting these happy moments that Brian Weaver has so lovingly rescued, restored, and resuscitated. To all who exercised the presence of mind to make these recordings and safely preserve them through the onslaught of a new millennium – foremost among them, obviously, my esteemed colleague Brian Weaver, whose work on Source Mirror Record has reconnected me with some dear old friends and very happy memories.

The Cubby superfriends who helped stage, and who helped inspire, The World of Tina, must also be acknowledged, including the aforementioned Mark Taylor, whose psychedelic film loops took the performance to another level; Christine, for her dramaturgical input, and Andren White for his vocals; IRIS, who portrayed the Giant Saleslady with exhilarating menace; Bill Fisher, who embodied the operetta’s protagonist Astro and nimbly danced his way through the performance and into our hearts (the founding Cubby Creatures, along with their newly minted drummer, Jason, who introduced Bill to the band, would soon hereafter invite Bill to join the band as its keyboardist); and above all, Trismegista Taylor, the band’s unofficial muse, cheerleader, and motivational resource, who that night gave flesh-and-blood realness to Tina, the titular character of the operetta, who emerges at story’s end to deliver a message of universal oneness...but I spoil.

My gratitude and love also extends to our circle of supportive friends, lovers, stalkers, and queerdos, as well as anyone else who came that night, including any who might have ventured in mistakenly anticipating a tribute to methamphetamines, which The World of Tina, to the best of this co-creator’s memory, was decidedly not. I sincerely hope we didn’t disappoint any meth heads. I feel confident they might have enjoyed the show, and I suspect there were several that did. For sure, no one complained or asked for their money back, nor did they offer young Joel any meth.

To all who made that night so long ago such a memorable night, I offer thanks. Brian Weaver especially, who continues to persevere in this labor of love and never tires of spinning this weird, decades-spanning web of esoteric intrigue, and who has gifted my aged self with these treasures of memory, has attained a level of gratitude in my heart that i believe is called “overflowing.” May the Cubby bless his heart, hands, and ears, and all the rest of him.

To Brian Weaver and myself, these archival discoveries are better than money, sex, travel, fame, or whatever trapping of “success” you might name. They are little embodiments of love and joy, each one of ‘em. I hope the rest of the band might like ‘em a bit as well, and that a few other open-minded people will give this a listen and allow their heartstrings to be gently tugged by the wonder and joy and mystery of The Cubby. It’s been a pleasure being a conduit.

Bon appetina!

-- Jol Devitro, 27 april 2018

Assembling The World of Tina

It was 20 years ago this month (April 11 to be exact) that The Cubby Creatures performed their first rock opera, or rock operetta as we called it, The World of Tina. I can't remember if I've committed this thought to paper (or computer, as it were), but I've certainly lamented about it to friends – not recording The World of Tina in a professional studio setting, or even as a decent 8-track or 4-track self-recording, is one of my great regrets. I even dream about convincing my current band REPTIEL to record it. I'm pretty sure I could get Jol to redo the narration over this new version. But I doubt I could persuade Emily and Karl to play violin and clarinet, respectively. It's a pipe dream anyway. So this version will have to suffice, but I'm very excited that we do at least now have a version of the rock operetta The Cubby Creatures wrote and performed in the first 4 months of 1998.

I can't even remember now how the story of The World of Tina came about. I do remember us composing and rehearsing the theme music back in those early days after the band formed in 1997 when Matt, our original drummer, was with us and we were playing in that dingy rehearsal space on Harrison Street. We also wrote the songs that would be included in the rock operetta during that time: "Hey Mister," "The Happy Song" and "Polyester Action Hero." But "Mister, Mister, Mister" would be written later after Matt left and Jason Gonzales joined the band in January, 1998.

It was also at the beginning of 1998 that we got kicked out of that rehearsal space on Harrison Street, not because of anything we did, but I think because the landlord was running an illegal operation and had to close it down. Without a rehearsal space and The World of Tina show scheduled for April, our only option was to rehearse in the kitchen of Cubby Control to the displeasure of our housemates and neighbors. (But we always ended at 10pm and Jason only used brushes and a snare, not a full drumset.) And that is where the recording of the narration that is included in this version took place. Fortunately we recorded one of those sessions on our cassette deck with one room mic and a mic for Jol who did the narration. I think Jol's mic was going through a small amp which was picked up by the room mic. The result is pretty lo-fi, and I attempted to make enhancements to the recording, like putting some reverb on the narration and boosting the volume of the band in between narration parts. But the good thing is that the narration is prominent and can be heard well above the music.

The songs incorporated in this version of The World of Tina were taken from 1997 rehearsal sessions when Matt was in the band, a 4-track recording (of "Hey Mister"), and a 4-track mixdown (I never could find the original 4-track recording) of "Mister, Mister, Mister" with Jason on drums. I added some overdubs and effects in the last few months as I was putting all the tracks together to flesh out the recordings, some of which were unfinished or versions that didn't include all the instruments. The result is what I consider an odd, humorous, silly, psychedelic and altogether unique piece of music and storytelling. It is ultimately a bit different than how we performed it on that Saturday night in April '98, but then so would have been any other recording we would've made. I hope you will enjoy listening to this as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

-- Brian Weaver, April 2018