Anything goes as local artists work music, poetry
February 13, 2020
Several years ago, Grays River writer Robert Michael Pyle was listening to a friend on a radio show on KMUN, a radio station out of Astoria, when he heard something he liked so much, he was inspired to share a similar experience with his community.
Little did he know where that would take him.
Krist Novoselic, a founding member of Nirvana, was the deejay that particular hour, and the format was “anything goes.” That meant he had room to experiment, and more importantly, to have fun.
“It’s called a mash up,” Novoselic said, before referencing a Beck song. “Two turntables and a microphone…”
A collector of vinyl records, Novoselic decided that evening to play a spoken word album of Ed Begley, Sr. reading Song of Myself by Walt Whitman simultaneously with a John Fahey album. Fahey was a guitarist, known for his fingerpicking style.
It doesn’t always work but this time, magic happened.
Unbeknownst to him in that moment, across the airwaves, Pyle had heard the magic too.
Pyle approached Novoselic at the next Grays River Grange meeting, where both are involved. Novoselic is Grange Master, and Pyle is Lecturer.
“Why don’t we do that for the Grange?” Pyle asked his friend. He would read Whitman, and Novoselic could play the guitar.
The Grange master answered in the affirmative, but with a modification. Pyle should be reading his own work, and Novoselic would compose his own music. And so it began.
The pair worked separately, Pyle with his pen, Novoselic coaxing a gentle melody from his guitar.
“Krist sent an MP3,” Pyle said, “it was a fully composed song, not background music by any stretch of the imagination.”
They were both surprised to discover that their work was immediately compatible.
“Somehow the cadence came together,” Novoselic said. “It was uncanny.”
That was 10 years ago. Both have been busy with other projects, but they have found time here and there to collaborate on more pieces. In 2016, another local musician, Ray Prestegard joined them. The three have performed a few times, and recently, they worked with music producer Jack Endino to record their first album, Butterfly Launches from Spar Pole.
The collaboration has allowed both men to stretch and grow. Novoselic, who plays the bass and the accordion, was a lifelong fan of John Fahey and took up the guitar and fingerstyle 12 years ago. Most of the music on this album is an expression of that.
“It was something spontaneous,” Novoselic said of the collaboration. “If it captures my imagination, I’ll go with it.”
As for Pyle, he’s found himself in places and situations he never imagined, like recording studios, or making videos.
“I’ve been asked to do things I’ve never done,” Pyle said. “It’s been wonderfully enlivening and rejuvenating.”
Pyle’s next book will be The Tidewater Reach: A Field Guide to the Lower Columbia in Poems and Pictures, published by Columbia River Reader Press. It’s another collaboration, this time with local photographer Judy Vandermaten. His book, Where Bigfoot Walks, was adapted for a feature film, coming out this summer.
Novoselic, who played bass for Nirvana, is also a Grammy winner, an inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and is currently a member of Giants in the Trees.
Butterfly Launches from Spar Pole, their new spoken word/music collaboration, is available on most streaming services. Compact disc and vinyl are available at butterflylaunch.com. They can also be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at Butterfly Launches from Spar Pole, PO Box 1, Rosburg, WA 98643. Check out their video, Man Turns Into Cloud, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6IyaH3ahcU.