Thursday, March 23, 2006


Moral Crayfish, first in the lineup, is the recording project of Philadelphia’s Dan Cohoon, whose haunted guitar-drones were, on this night, accompanied by the free-percussion of Scott Verrastro, with whom he had never previously played. Cohoon built up a colossal wall of doom but allowed wraithlike shimmers to sneak through and softly cry. Verrastro’s bow-to-cymbal technique, gong-hits and bell-clangs provided a Silvester Anfang-esque, funeral-procession vibe that pushed the screeching guitar spirits out through the cracks around the edges of the windows and ceilings of the chapel. (Tiny Mix Tapes) (Elliott Sharp)
Terrascope UK reviews
Moral Crayfish's I am fully aware of my own unreality. (5/08)
See Review Below:
Recorded in November 2007 for the National Record a solo Album Month, the experimental soundscapes of "I Am Fully Aware Of My Own Unreality" - Moral Crayfish are both disturbing and engaging, the harsh scraping and rattling softened occasionally by chimes and swelling washes of noise. As the album progresses it becomes both denser and tenser, the highly unsettling "Witches on Cop Cars" being a fine example of sonic paranoia, whilst closing track "Limpy Barker No Longer Roams Cabot Street" is a metallic drone with a coating of rusty noise, the end result creeping under the skin with unforgiving purpose.(
Terrascope On-line review of MORAL CRAYFISH: Month of the Dog
See Review Below:
The beginning of Rumbles for March 2007 found me in the good company of Cageian scholar Dan Cohoon’s Moral Crayfish, so to maintain a semblance of continuity, it seems only right to open this splurge with the follow-up to his self-released ‘Catastrophic Success’ 3 inch CDR. ‘The Month of the Dog’ was produced for the NaSoAlmo contest, which required an entire LP to be recorded in the month of November. Instead of relying on President Bush’s shorted-out electric head for titles, this release, his first for another label, employs randomly selected, although equally puzzling, headings from the online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia.

Using roughly the same sound sources as before (prepped guitar, violin and household knick-knacks), those once free-falling noise pixels have, with richer production values, found themselves forming into more ordered and in some cases more unsettling shapes. ‘Euthalia Nais’ is a good example of this development, as the faux railway goods yard backgrounds present a vast backdrop against a bank of zithered longstring textures. Echo units play an important role this time round too, especially in ‘Lato Regia’ and the nightmarish ‘Asopus’ where obscured / unearthly sighs are found leaking from its laptop-adjusted surroundings.

And the further we head into this collection, the darker things become – the closing tracks, the aptly named ‘Broom Filefish’ and ‘Camarophillus, inhabit a peculiar undersea dronescape which is as claustrophobic as it is strangely compulsive. (Rumpus Records, Notteberg 12, 7500 Stjordol, Norway or Moral Crayfish, PO Box 171, Glen Mills PA 19342 USA )
Moral Crayfish is Dan Cohoon and whoever else he happens to rope into the process. On Catastrophic Success it doesn't appear that anyone else has felt the taste of the rope, but hey - that's OK. Using guitars and stuff he finds around the house, Cohoon creates a web of sound that rattles around as well as the bones in anyone's closet. Broken into six tracks, the material ranges from what sound like tape splice experiments, to random clots of little instruments ganging up on strings. It's a thoughtful, funny-sounding exploration of various electroacoustic theories, done up with all the panache one guy's bedroom can muster.
(Byron Coley) (
The Wire)
Moral Crayfish Interview
conducted by Jim Ebenhoh via e-mail

Jim Ebenhoh: Who is Moral Crayfish?
Dan Cohoon: Moral Crayfish is basically me, and whoever I play with at the time.

JE: When did Moral Crayfish start, and how has it progressed over the years?
DC: The name “Moral Crayfish” was my sister’s imaginary rock band name when she was in college. My brother and I stole the name when we entered the battle of the bands in high school at West Chester East High School in PA. At that time my brother John and I were making sound pieces by recording over tapes of sermons from the Alliance Bible Church (our former church in San Antonio, Texas). The first tape piece consisted of distorted classical musical samples, distorted violin recorded to tape deck via a headphone mic and a sample of Thurston from a bootleg
Sonic Youth disc asking, “Are you into the groove?” I am sure this confused the football jocks, cheerleaders and field hockey players who were judging the competition. We were not asked to play.

In college at
Montserrat College of Art I did an independent study in sound. I basically did it as an excuse to play with the schools four track recorder. My advisor suggested that it would probably be cheaper if I just bought the equipment rather than paying tuition. I was always more interested in playing with technology than concerning my self with assignments. The sound from that era consisted of me using samples from the old sermon noise tapes I made in high school, field recordings of my family, along with my own primitive guitar and piano playing.

In college I had a second musical project called Moniker. This was a live improvisation-only project. The rules of Moniker were simple. Rule #1: you can not practice with the person you are playing with before the show. Rule #2: it is better if you don’t play the instrument at all between shows. Rule #3: Continue playing until at least half the audience leaves. We imagined it to be like
John Zorn’s Cobra but for extremely lazy people. Moniker played three times. The project stopped because it became harder and harder to follow the third rule….the audiences began to stay for our performances.

At the turn of the century I moved out to Portland, Oregon where I started playing my first real shows. I played several ad-hoc improvisational shows at a hippie-run pizza joint It’s A Beautiful Pizza. I also played with more rock orientated bands… I ran the Amplitude Music Series, for my zine
Amplitude Equals One Over Frequency Squared, which featured such artists as Hochenkeit, The Holy Ghost, Celesteville, The Exposition of Light, Amy Annelle, & Solo Dos En Tijuana.

JE: What releases has Moral Crayfish done?
DC: I feel for you, but I can not find you (dead-fish tapes) 1997
It could be worse, it could be you (self released) 1999
Pain’s Temporary Glory (un-released) 1999
If you build it, we will burn it. (
nilla cat) 2002
We did not do it, but we dug it! (self-released 2005)

JE: How would you describe the Moral Crayfish sound?
DC: I hope that it sounds organic. I use prepared guitar, various household objects manipulated to make appealing and evocative sound environments.

JE: How do you "prepare" guitar?
DC: The way I prepare a guitar is I shove metal or wooden objects, under and through the guitar strings. I then use other objects such as metal tubes, screwdrivers to vibrate the strings either through rubbing, plucking, twirling, or hitting. Prepared guitar playing comes out of the tradition of
John Cage who would insert objects into a piano to alter its sound for his chance operation pieces. I also owe a deep debt to Dean Roberts (a New Zealand guitarist) who I first saw use a screw driver to activate the strings of his guitar. I later learned about Keith Rowe’s style of table top guitar playing which I adopted for awhile.

JE: What is your recording technology of choice?
DC: My technology of choice is any technology I can get my hands on. When I started out I did not have an amplifier so I duct-taped headphones to an acoustic guitar and fed it through a mic jack of a boom box and then connected that boom box to a second boom box to get a distorted guitar sound.

I recorded a whole disc using a Sanyo boom box and a third tape deck. With the Sanyo boom box you can play two tapes at once so you can “multi-track” dumping it to a third tape deck. Using three tapes in constant rotation you can build up a denser and denser sound.

I have used more traditional recording technology such as four tracks and computers. I love the over modulated sound quality you can get with four-tracks. I like using computer based recording technology because the ease of editing and manipulating sound files. I am not making pristine recordings so the whole idea of analog vs. digital is not that important to me. My main concern that whatever technology I am using that I use it to its maximum effect.

JE: What are your favorite instruments to record with?
DC: I mainly use prepared guitar. I love the infinite possibilities you can achieve using just wood, wire and metal. I also love using a piano. I am totally untrained, but if there is a piano in the room, I can’t help but play on it.

JE: What would you say to critics who suggest that most of your music is "unlistenable", or at least "unhealthy"?
DC: I would definitely say that my earliest work could be categorized as such. Moniker’s goal was to get a visceral reaction from the audience. Moral Crayfish has always been more abstract. With Moral Crayfish I am interested in creating a fascinating sound environment. I have always found things such as feedback pleasing. My goal is not to make something that sounds unpleasant….that is very easy to do. I genuinely find the sound of detuned guitar feedback, metal scraping against strings very interesting and pleasant.

JE: You are also a visual artist and photographer. Are there parallels or linkages between your visual work and your audio output? DC: I think there are parallels between my visual and audio work. In both I am not interested in perfection. I do not want my work to be seen as precious or sentimental. Making a perfect print or musical piece is not honest, nor is it interesting. I like finding success in failure; whether it is an out-of-focus negative that somehow holds together to make an engaging print or a sound piece that uses discordant elements to make a cohesive whole.

JE: Tell us a bit about your collaborative effort "Taken Girls"
DC: The
Taken Girls are Jacob Anderson on guitar, Eric Matchett on percussion and myself on prepared guitar. Jacob is in countless bands including Celesteville and Gang Wizard. I first saw Jake at a Celesteville show in the basement of a hippie pizza joint where he did a heartfelt cover of Iron Maiden and then threw his shoe at his guitar. I met Eric and his wife on the bus ride home from a noise show in North Portland that we both attended. Both Jacob and I share a great fondness of obscure New Zealand music from the late 1980s and early 1990s. Eric and I knew each other because we both like to attend Free Jazz shows around Portland. When Jake and I advertised for a drummer for our new project, Eric was the first to reply. Jake is probably one of the best musicians I have played with. He has a great ear and a plethora of guitar pedals and other noise making devices to play with. Eric’s style of drumming does not draw attention to it self, but it is always spot on. With the Taken Girls we hope to combine our mutal love of droney, murky Xpressway style rock with free improvisation. The Taken Girls should have a new EP called “Easier Than Hope” out shortly on Tape Mountain.

JE: Has Moral Crayfish ever played live? What about Taken Girls? What has been your favorite Moral Crayfish or Taken Girls live performance? The worst?
DC: Moral Crayfish and the Taken Girls have both played live. My favorite Moral Crayfish show was at a speak-easy called
Disjecta in Portland, Oregon. Each performer was set up in a semi-circle and each performer had 5-10 minutes to play a set solo. The time limit was the perfect amount so one could explore a theme, with out becoming over indulgent. My favorite Taken Girls show was a live set we played on KPSU at Portland State University. I think it was amongst the best stuff we ever put to tape. Both the worst Moral Crayfish show and Taken Girls show was when I became despondent on stage on two separate occasions and decided to break all the strings on my guitar.

JE: What's been your favorite band to see live?
DC: By far
Bardo Pond is my favorite band to see live. They have an ability to alter your whole being totally through their music alone. I have had several near religious, almost out of body experiences while watching them play. Their music is all about beauty hidden beneath gobs of transcendent sonic sludge.

JE: Is it true that you were in a Portland band called Montgomery Park? What was that about?
DC: Montgomery Park was a band that was all about toy instruments and malfunctioning recording devices. I played with this lovely couple Jim Ebenhoh & Kelly Joseph (perhaps you know them?) who were from Cambridge, MA. They moved out to Portland a few weeks before I did in the summer of 1999. Kelly, who is originally from New Zealand and attended
Montserrat with me, and her hubby Jim, who is originally from Ohio, attended grad school at faire Harvard. We met because of my photograph of Alastair Galbraith that was hanging up at a local coffee shop in Beverly, MA. Alastair was a local musician from Dunedin, NZ the town that Kelly and Jim lived in prior moving back to the states.

Montgomery Park was named after an old office building in Northwest Portland that had a great neon sign on top. With Montgomery Park we attempted to have a naïve approach to music using toy instruments, beer bottles (sometimes with disastrous results) and various other household objects. If we only had a drum machine we could have beaten the Animal Collective to the punch.

JE: Who are the friendliest musicians you know? Does friendliness help or hinder good music-making?
DC: It would be a close tie between
Bardo Pond and Rollerball. Both those band make excellent music as well as being excellent human beings. Being friendly can only help in making good music. There are plenty of artists who make great music but are assholes (I won’t name names). It is always disappointing when an artist you like turns out to be a jerk.

JE: Name five records that have most influenced Moral Crayfish's sound.
Lou Reed: Metal Machine Music
White Winged Moth: Ribbon Arcade
Bardo Pond: Bufo Alvarius
Dead C: Clyma Est Mort
Glen Branca: Symphony No. 2

JE: Name five records that you love but which sound completely unlike Moral Crayfish.
Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Arc/Weld
Dinosaur Jr: You’re Living all Over Me
Pavement: Westing by Musket & Sexton
Bob Dylan: Street Legal
Palace: Days in the Wake

JE: Is Moral Crayfish political? Is there a message behind "We Did Not Do It, but We Dug It"?
DC: I don’t see how anyone could not be political when the fascist Bush Régime has been destroying our democracy for the last five years. I would not say that Moral Crayfish are overtly political in the sound pieces. I have used several slogans that I stole from various radical movements to name a few Moral Crayfish releases.

The quote “We did not do it, but we dug it!” was the funniest line in the
Weather Underground documentary about the radical group from the 1960’s the Weathermen. After a bombing at the U.S. Capital building a hippie girl states, “We didn’t do it, but we dug it!” I love the quote because it can be applied to any action that you approve of.

I released an EP on
Nillacat, Mini-Wagonwheel’s CD-R label called “If You Build It, We Will Burn It.” I got that quote from an Earth Liberation Front action when they burned down a ski resort. They spray painted that slogan on the sides of the buildings they burned. While I would not take part in the destruction of private property, I loved the simple and direct message of that slogan. There are no overt political messages in the sound pieces themselves I just like using borrowed texts to name both my musical enterprises as well as my art work.

JE:What have you been working on lately?
DC: I have completed an as yet untitled E.P. It is less dependent on the guitar for sound. It is mostly manipulated sounds of everyday house hold objects such as glass & plastic bottles, chopsticks, bells, wood, and screw drivers

JE: What record label should sign Moral Crayfish?
DC: Well if
Xpressway still existed I guess it would be nice to get signed by them…. Siltbreeze just started up again, which is the label the most closely shares my own aesthetics.

Moral Crayfish
Nilla Cat
Tape Mountain