The Tentacle Sessions Tentacle Session #25
Sunday, August 19, 2001

Tom Koch   [with opening sound by dAs]

Tom Koch:  circuit-bending, Omnimedia and MORE!

mp3's of the show from the Sessions' SOUND ARCHIVES!!

The show began with Tom confessing his disassembly fetish, explaining his connection to Neil Stephenson and to didjeridus, and tales of founding and working at CELL. In the second half, Prof. Werner V. Slack hosted Slack Can Hack, which included a look at the insides of electronic toys and what to mess with to horribly change the sounds they produce (hint: it's all about voltage). Tom explained to the audience what an optical resistor is and explained the risks involved in undertaking such an endeavor. He then told talked about Billy Bass and the origin of the Billy BASS-tard quartet idea. Peter Washburn's contribution was an incredible MIDI-controlled modified Billy BASS which made a lovely racket.

Tom Koch? OH! That guy!

Our August 2001 Session featured versatile multimedia artist Tom Koch. Tentacle Session #25 included an opening DJ set by dAs of Big City Orchestra, the debut performance of the Billy BASS-tard Barbershop Quartet, an exhibition of Tom's twisted invention "The Brain Control Drum Machine" and a lot more.

More about Tom

Tom Koch's past creative work includes professional photographer, musician, graphic designer, filmmaker, writer, videographer, street performance artist, sculptor, pizza delivery-guy, event producer, technical director, sound designer, electrician, and meat cutter. Tom is known by many other names including Prof. Werner V. Slack, God's Grandparents, Hoyt Shrimpfinker, bumpermeat, teknoDweeb, AirSickBags, and Univac (his online identity and the moniker for most of his solo art and music creations). But the long list of aliases isn't the only reason Tom still dwells in obscurity--though his shock of shock-dyed hair and trademark startled expression may seem eerily familiar to you. In fact, if you haven't seen him, it's probably because he's done his job well, so nothing went wrong. Because Tom Koch is "that guy".

He's the technical know-it-all guy who's behind-the-scenes making everyone else look good by keeping the lights, mics, projectors, and sound systems tuned to optimal performance. So, despite his stunning good looks, Tom often blends in with the PA or the A/V cart on which the projector he's tending is situated. He can fix a projector (whether it's 8mm, super-8, 16, or a 3-gun CRT) with certainty & speed and knows its year & make by sight. He has a bag with every gauge and type of cable and connector (Ethernet, thinnet, coax, RCA, XLR, RF-to-BNC, BNC, 1/8 inch, 1/4 inch) and more rolls of gaffer tape than is healthy. Perhaps you've seen him helping out at a show, pulling a MacGyver to get the buzz out of the monitors at the last minute and save the day.

Tom is also a mad scientist, constantly searching out and repurposing the detritus of trickle-down technology and off-the-shelf electronics and toys, in order to create horrible hybrids that cause the designers of the original items to shudder in horror. This obsession inspired him to produce the electronic music extravaganza known as Omnimedia (in which he also performs). Omnimedia is part garage-sale geekfest and part electronic nirvana; it serves as a fallout shelter for electronic visual artists and electronic musicians who share Tom's DIY, trickle-down tech aesthetic to huddle and threaten the world. There have been 13 Omnimedia shows over the last 5 years including a celebrated Intranational Tour. A 1998 article characterized Omnimedia as

an overwhelming collection of electronic media, audio, video, and assorted visual stimuli. [I wondered] how anyone trying to create sounds in a warehouse full of equipment junkies would have a clue as to which sounds they were generating themselves...this was exactly the point of the evening's festivities: a complete loss of the egotistical self-awareness that often plagues "new music" events. As you run out to buy the latest digital gadgets, remember Omnimedia's maxim: That bit of electronix you covet today, you will find in a garage sale or swap meet tomorrow. Good hunting!

Tom co-founded CELLspace and served as its Technical Director during his time there. He toured with Negativland as their Sound Engineer on the True/False 2000 tour, (his engineering work on the tour was written up in Pro Sound News, June 2000). He has worked as sound designer on web sites, CD-ROM games, films, and videos, for such clients as SIGGRAPH, AOL, Microsoft, NTT, and science fiction writers Alan Dean Foster and Neal Stephenson.

Recently Tom has shown work at the dadafest and created a SharkCow for San Jose's "Shark Byte Art. This ArtShark project is akin to municipal bestiary projects such as "Cows on Parade". On the map of all the shark locations, Tom's creation, known only as "MOO!", is number #18 (located in El Paseo Court). His absurd SharkCow homage to "Cows on Parade" is a 6-foot fiberglass shark painted like a black-and-white Holstein cow, complete with a fiberglass udder and cow collar & bell. When you approach MOO!, she lives up to her name: (solar-powered) motion-detector-electronics trigger her to utter one of 9 different "Moos". The sharks by Tom and the other 99 artists' whose designs were chosen will be on display in downtown San Jose through November.

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