Sunday, July 4, 2010

Vacuum Records (1979)

Policeband: Stereo/Mono
A story and then facts.

Several years ago I went to a lecture at the Art Institute by New York curator/writer Bob Nickas. I’d met him a year or so earlier, liked him, respected him, and he seemed to get along with me well enough. We found a quick music and bourbon bond. A late November evening he gives me a call, and tells me he’s coming to Chicago, I should check out the lecture, and that he has a gift for me. “Something you’ll never expect and freak out over.” An obscure record that he learned only recently was actually produced and released by an acquaintance of his; and not just that, this person still had copies. So Bob bought a bunch to give as gifts to the appreciative.

This is great. Fantastic. I’m giddy.

Reality hits--shit, I should give him something. The day of the lecture I grab a copy of a recent book I had published by an artist I am sure he knows and likes. Dike Blair’s Again: Selected Interviews and Essays. Bob and I meet-up real briefly before the talk. He hands me this 7”, I hand him the book. He laughs. Bob didn’t know that I knew Dike and had been working on this book. Predictable really: Dike was the one who released Policeband: Stereo/Mono, the person from whom Bob bought a stack. I love a balance that blindsides you.

Back to the recording: there is a real truth in advertising to the band name and song titles on this one. A nice simple design all around. You can still get a copy.

I’ll let Dike speak for the record:
"Policeband was a one-man act - the man being Boris, a New York City kid and a classically trained musician who picked up on performance art while studying and teaching at Cal Arts in the early 70s. Boris became Boris Policeband after a live performance in 1976 during which he monitored, on headphones, police communications from a scanner and recited their chatter while he accompanied himself on electric violin. Boris was fascinated by cop culture and the often prosaic and sometimes poetic reality of law enforcement. Over the next couple years the cop-talk and violin-screech coalesced into discrete songs. His live performances were extremely loud/edgy aggressive/dissonant, and even though most songs were under a minute long and a set rarely exceeded 10 minutes, Boris could quickly empty a room; and that was something he took pride in. The rooms he cleared included CBGBs, Maxs and the Mudd Club; as well as other venues like the Kitchen and Artists Space. Boris, a self-proclaimed Materialistic-Socialist and Antidisestablishmentotalitarian, was a character and downtown club fixture. His days were spent combing thought thrift and pawnshops for material to add to his collection of used books, sunglasses (which he was never seen without), and wristwatches. Every night he was in clubs where he leaned against a wall while listening to classical music with an ear plug on his transistor radio and bouncing his pink Spaulding off the walls and deftly catching it; all the while engaging in snappy repartee and/or swapping insults with passersby. Boris put Policeband down in the mid-80s to pursue his classical viola practice. His present whereabouts are unknown.”


  1. I had this record back around 1979 or so. Have always considered Boris Policeband to be one of the most obscure and bizarre music acts I knew of. Always Googling him and seeing what's out there.

    An offshoot of Silver Apples, Suicide, Tim Blake, and MEV, Boris Policeband must be making extremely interesting music nowanights, especially in his head.

  2. Yes I saw him perform more than once. A very interesting disk even today.