Friday, May 2, 2008

Ultivac in the Year 2000

Promotional poster for the album - released on Buddy System records

Here is our complete studio recorded output: Ultivac Album + Bonus Track

Ultivac started as a long-distance project when Jon Lukens moved to New York, and Ben Lukens (bassman for Hal al Shedad) and I wanted to work on a hybrid of the sequencer music Jon was making under Retconned (check his stuff out here) while we were on bass and drums, respectively. What resulted was a band that was neither Hal al Shedad or Retconned, but a unique band on its own. We would "write" songs by Jon transferring various sounds from his sequencer to mini-disc, and mail them to us in Atlanta. Ben and I would write bass and drum parts to the sounds, try to block them out into songs, and then send him the results. Also, some songs were initiated by Ben's bass parts, and Jon would "play" the sequencer like a keyboard and add layers of sound/chirps/noise/etc. Check out "No Results" for the best example, but "Unloaded" and "Impossible" have elements of this as well. A few times Jon would fly down to Atlanta and visit family, etc. but also bring his ASR-X sequencer and we would "practice". Jon added a special click track that was usually a high timbale hit (CHANK!!!) that I only could hear in my headphones, and it was a real challenge but a blast to just lock into that clanging in my head and play. There were no concerns about slowing down or speeding up, and live it felt like everything was going in slow motion, as I usually play things extremely fast in a live setting. Eventually we had enough songs for a show, which we played at MJQ in Atlanta and here is a picture:

I like how the speaker is the main focal point in the image, and we are just rocking our set in the background. I also have a recording from that show, which I will post soon. Luckily, thankfully, gratefully, Matt and Mark Owens from Buddy System records were into the music and helped us record and put out an album, engineered by Ed Rawls from Hal al Shedad at his studio The Living Room. These are included tracks 1-9 of this posting. Track 10 "2 X 2" was recorded in the GA Tech AV room by Alex from Ananke (more on them later). I remember that this was an extremely difficult song to record, and it was supposed to be on a compilation, but I'm not sure if it ever came out.

Here is what Phil Dwyer wrote about Ultivac on the Zen and the Art of Face Punching blog:

ultivac was 1 part retconned, 2 parts hal al shedad. and thats exactly what it sounds like. take jon and his toys from retconned, and team them up with ben from hal on bass and james from hal on drums. i was really knocked over when i heard this. its like the best elements from both bands combined into one. that's all i can really say about it. probably one of the least known atlanta bands of the time. but yet another in a long lineage of quality from all of these guys. warning: some of these songs drive my dogs insane.

We played one more show at the C-12 warehouse in the West End of Atlanta around 2001 sometime, and haven't played since. Ben moved up to New York and started a band with Jon called Amverts, and eventually both of them moved back to Atlanta and are living here now. There have been plans to resurrect the concept of Ultivac, but adding Josh from Deerhunter on guitar, as the technology has improved tremendously over the past 8 years and Jon and Josh have some interesting gear, so looks to be pretty exciting. I will keep you posted.

Here is the cover and lyric sheet for the Buddy System album (click images to enlarge):


  1. I always had a special spot for this record as well. It had a special project feel to it, and not like a real working band that played their songs to death live, etc. We experimented more with different things on this record, not afraid to let a song extend to 8 minutes or more. I like my drumming on the record a lot as well. I don't play like that so much anymore.

  2. The picture is totally photoshopped, and not even very well. I left it a little rough because I felt the digital artifacts of its assembly sort of reflected the sound of the band. It's actually a composite of three different photos: one which had me (Jon) and Ben and about half of the drums (up to about the middle of the kick), there was a second photo with all of James visible. I threw the big speaker into the foreground on the left so that the picture would be wide enough to fit the 9.5 inch spread inside the folder.

  3. Thanx for posting the WREK benefit flyer i made, lost that one years ago. - Mitch (Pineal Ventana, Tenth To The Moon)

  4. Hey Mitch - thanks for the comment. It's nice to hear from a person who also played that show. I wish we had played more with Pineal Ventana and other bands from that scene, but I guess it never worked out. It's good to see that you're still around in Tenth to the Moon, so hopefully I will see you play again soon. I missed you guys last Corndogorama.