here's a quick list, with some explication, of the stuff tris has either recorded on his own or participated in recording. (there's other stuff, of course, but tris doesn't necessarily want you to know about it.) no matter who released or helped release these records initially, tris has gotten his hands on plenty of copies, so should you want one for your very own, just get in touch with him through the usual channels.
all by himself
the broken loom (compact disc lp, 1995)
straw man special (cassette and mp3 ep, 1998)
if one of these bottles should happen to fall (right now, silly)
*the broken loom,* a solo acoustic disc, was recorded at an eight-track studio in caldwell, new jersey as a christmas present for leslie speaker, and never meant for release. tapes fell into the hands of the wrong people, and before you could say unauthorised reproduction, it was pressed up and duplicated as tris mccall's first solo release. a horrified mccall, expecting to be pilloried for inept guitar playing, pedestrian vocals, and a cheap production sound, held his breath until the first reviews were written; to his immense surprise, the notices were quite nice. tris concluded that nobody was really listening. this isn't something that tris himself would ever put on, but it does contain some pretty love songs and "clock on the mantlepiece, ashes from the stars," a forerunner of the kind of epic, figurative piece that the favorite color began to play the next year.
the *straw man special* ep (released, also, under two other philip k. dick-inspired names: *pretty blue fox* and *beyond the dead eight*) is another case entirely. recorded by tris, d-scribe, and the dr. rhythm drum machine at mark roule's 33 1/3 studio in williamsburg, this five-track set of personal, semi-romantic songs was meant as an experimental session. tris liked the finished product so much that he authorized a limited, cassette-only release. a very generous review by jim testa in jersey beat encouraged d-scribe to make the tracks available as mp3 files. if you're curious about these sessions, and you have the required extensions, click on *straw man special* above and the link will take you to the appropriate site. tris asks only that you listen to "another planet" first, as it establishes the sonic vocabulary of the ep.
plays well with others
everybody's hooked (ep, 1992)
the critics (ep, 1994)
color out of space (lp, 1996)
denver zest vs. peekskill sizzle (lp, 1999)
the *everybody's hooked* ep was tris mccall's first foray into serious recording. that said, he wasn't responsible for much of it; he contributed two of the songs and all of the lyrics, but left arrangements and execution to other musicians. one of these others was d-scribe, and this ep marks the first collaboration between the electric guitarrist and tris mccall. but the major musical figure shaping *everybody's hooked* was synthesist kenny engels, now half of techno production team american space travellers. kenny shared tris's attraction to analog synths, but unlike tris, he could actually play them. he also favored soundscapes of the kind of synthetic density that was currently quite out of fashion, and much of *everybody's hooked* sounds like a collision between marillion and the cowboy junkies. with the sort of impeccably inappropriate timing that characterized everything about the *everybody's hooked* project, the synth-laden, theatrical and complex ep was self-released at the exact time that grunge was taking america by storm. sez tris: "nobody had any interest in a synth-prog-pop act, and to make matters worse, we had no clue how to promote ourselves. we were literally leaving copies of it on the street and running away." nevertheless, tris considers this a quite decent little cd, and perhaps one whose time has come. he's got a box of them in his place in union city, and he encourages old genesis and amon duul fans to get in touch.
the critics ep, on the other hand, is a pretty straightforward rock demo cassette -- six songs by mccall and one by d-scribe, performed with consummate dylanesque verve. recorded to secure interest and backing for the record that eventually became *color out of space,* this demo cassette took on a life of its own. one of the more positive cats who used to spin it (can you spin a cassette?) was former nyack and blue aeroplanes bassist bill stair, who introduced mccall's music to sound engineer tim hatfield. tim brought tris and his group -- now called the favorite color -- to studio 900 on broadway to cut two sides for a prospective single. enthusiasm spilled over, and more than a year and several miles of analog tape later, *color out of space* was completed.
the basic favorite color lineup featured tris on lead vox and rhythm guitar, d-scribe on lead and twelve-string guitar, rumson new jersey native and drummer tom snow (who had been collaborating with tris, in one permutation or another, for more than six years) and bassist martin severin. matrix (more to follow) added the wurlitzer electric piano that, to tris, sounded like coins dropping into a cash register, and tightly established the vibe of the project. tris needed that sound so badly because he wanted to write about money: what it does to people, how it affects the ways they see things and how they live their lives, how material concerns box people in and define their relationships. so snow tied a subway token to his hi-hat -- to get that characteristic sizzle, and to remind everybody of the recent fare hike -- and tris, always polemical, stood a little taller on his soapbox for this one. the chosen metier was neopsychedelia, but tom and martin were blur fans, and that's inscribed pretty indelibly on *color out of space.*
by 1998, tris mccall could play the analog synthesizers he had heretofore only looked at with admiration, and songwriter/old testament prophet jesse fuchs asked our subject to join denver zest. tris's mandate: to bring the sort of synth madness to jesse's cultural critiques that allan ravenstine once contributed to pere ubu. some of his nobler and more listenable attempts are present on the zest's debut: *denver zest vs. peekskill sizzle.* shockingly, jesse defied all rock band conventions by not being resentful and competitive at all when tris borrowed the zest rhythm section for *if one of these bottles should happen to fall*; and it's generally conceded that he'll never get anywhere in the music industry if he continues that sort of behavior. what is he, some sort of pinko spy?
beats, rhymes, and life
hundreds of bayliner boats (cassette, 1990)
put the oeuvre in the box (cassette, 1991)
seven speeds (cassette, 1991)
taking a lot of liberties (cassette, 1992)
like plenty of white kids in the early nineties, tris mccall had an irresistible desire to emcee and sample. these bedroom cassettes, made mostly with matrix and a few other jersey high school nutcases, actually contain some pretty decent musical ideas, and at least in one instance -- 1991's freewheeling *put the oeuvre in the box* -- some relatively major early work. of course it's next to unpalatable, but that's almost the point. few copies of these are floating around; tris believes that only three duplicates of the appropriately-titled *taking a lot of liberties* are currently extant. the bedroom four-track tapes are listed in the discography because, if given unlimited studio time, tris would like to revisit some of their musical ideas, or at least re-master the tapes. this is, perhaps, why tris is not given unlimited studio time, but it's hardly the most outrageous or unworkable idea he's had. in a perfect world where sound quality was an aesthetic decision rather than a requirement, we'd all be grooving to tapes like this.
the exception here is *seven speeds,* an oddly humorless, primitive rock recording that tris can't seem to suppress. after an initial run of one hundred cassettes, many duplicated on home boom-boxes, *seven speeds* found its way into the hearts of a brave few whom tris considers, quite frankly, insane. of all the recordings listed in this discography, it's *seven speeds* alone that tris encourages you not to ask him for a copy of; should you do so, he'll send you one, but he'll consider it your mistake, not his.