EMPOOL / The Original Band 


ORIGINAL BAND MEMBERS:  All who ever participated in rough order of significance

                                                                                           LAURENCE MILLER: composer,  guitar
voice, and prerecorded analogue sounds-capes
                                                                                           ANDRE CYNKIN: guitar, bass, and organ
                                                                                           BEN MILLER: "electrified" alto saxophone, guitar, voice, bass, and drums  (Ben composed several pieces with recorded sound-scapes)
                                                                                           ROGER MILLER: drums, bass, guitar, and occasional voice
                                                                                           MAT SMITH: light-man (homemade color organ key triggered light system)
                                                                                           RICK SCOTT: electric piano
                                                                                           PETER (last name?): drums
                                                                                           ERIC (last name?): drums
                                                                                           T.R. "prepared" guitar
                                                                                           MARTIN SWOPE: guitar
                                                                                           DAVID SWAIN: Tenor Sax
                                                                                           LESLIE ORLIN: Viola

EMPOOL was Ann Arbor’s experimental existential psychedelic noise band with its own literary arts rag counterpart, EMPOOL III. The band survived in various battered forms with a mix of schooled and not-so-schooled musicians from 1976 through 1978 until finally merging with Ann Arbors’ Art-Punk band, DESTROY ALL MONSTERS. 

The group formed in August 1976 as a trio: two musicians and a “light man”. Miller had been introduced to Andre Cynkin and the two hit it off right away, forming the central hub of the group, with Matt Smith playing “the lights” by hammering on his homemade color organ system, keyboard operated. The three improvised thoughtfully over prerecorded background tapes which Miller would create, using sound on sound analog recording equipment. These multitrack collage soundscapes were an integral part of each improvisation employing SFX records (and other obscure vinyl pressings), guitar feedback, screeching wet rags rubbed hard against a window, etc. NOTE: These backing tapes were often treated during the recording process with the same analog foot pedals that EMPOOL members performed with; Tape machine echo, MXR, Electroharmonix, Echoplex, etc. Miller mapped out working guidelines to the various improvisations for the three to feed off. Matt’s “aurora borealis” enhanced Miller and Andre’s musical performance as they all improvised together, and always under the influence. This delightful cacophony proved to be an impressive sight & sound experience for a garage band at that time. Plans of a flexi-disc single were on the back burner, sadly never brought to fruition.

As fall 1976 progressed, a drummer was introduced to the band forming the only actual rock combo version of EMPOOL. Matt & Andre and the prerecorded soundscapes were temporarily shelved as EMPOOL experimented with a new bastardized fusion of the group. The excitement didn’t last and by late 1976 EMPOOL had launched its way back into psychedelic free-form improvisations once again – though Matt Smith was no longer involved.

Actual band mates came and went through EMPOOL’s carefree revolving door, with Andre & Miller always holding the fort. This collective was playing at higher volumes now, improvising with little or no attention paid to any mapped guidelines as before. Drums and bass were employed from time to time, though never acting as a traditional “time/tonal based” rhythm section. EMPOOL’s sound developed a densely layered wall-to-wall chaos, self-described as a “3D atmospheric collage happening”.

April 1977 brought about the long awaited publishing of local literary arts rag EMPOOL III with an in-house performance to celebrate the publication, as well as the band’s eventual demise. It was at this time that Cary Loren & Niagara (the nucleus of another local outfit from Ann Arbor, DESTROY ALL MONSTERS) began dropping in unexpectedly during EMPOOL’s jam sessions. Though some of EMPOOL’s members had jammed with them before on occasion in 1976, this was the official meeting of the minds as it were and instigated the eventual morphing which became what is referred to as Destroy All Monster’s punk years. For whatever number of reasons and explanations affordable, in a very short time, EMPOOL was now improvising over tunes written by Cary & Niagara, exclusively. Though far more linear and conventional by all standards, EMPOOL enjoyed the distraction because Cary & Niagara allowed them full artistic freedom to interpret their songs however they chose. With the rumor of Ron Asheton joining ranks, soon to be followed by MC5’s Michael Davis, and talks of financing a vinyl 45rpm single, EMPOOL and DESTROY ALL MONSTERS were soon to melt as one.

EMPOOL enjoyed a couple nice final sessions over the course of the summer and into the fall of 1977 with a few spare moments in 1978, but for the most part had fizzled out altogether as the year passed out into the world of punk rock music, gigs, studio work, and 24/7 pardy-hardy life style. The rest is D.AM. history. In closing, EMPOOL did not amount to much in the so-called Real World, with only three house party performances. Those days didn’t really offer coffee shops, loft hangouts, and house performances as in the case of today’s alternative scenes. Thankfully, EMPOOL recorded nearly all their sessions, if not poorly, and was certainly ahead of its time in the use of found sound, plunderphonics, and open ended free form improvisation – chuck full of innocent naiveté.

NOTE: In 1994 Miller reconvened the band for a one-time recording project, using what few original players to whom he was still in contact. Brothers Roger, Ben, Rick Scott, and Lincoln Yaco (a friend who never actually played in the band but was a major player in the EMPOOL III arts rag).  Sadly, Andre Cynkin (mainstay of Empool) was not present, though Miller did sample and use feature segments of Andre's playing, pulled off the master tapes. In this bastardized version of EMPOOL, they recorded their two avant garde rock songs; OPAQUE MYSTERY and AT GAME WITH THE LOGO. Plans were to get it pressed on vinyl to accompany the 20th anniversary publication of EMPOOL III, neither of which came into fruition.

ROGER MILLER  "... I always considered Empool to be WAY ahead of it's time: in plunderphonics, in noise music, etc.  EMPOOL was doing what is now called "noise music" years before that name was coined. I consider that in some ways Empool predated Byrne and Eno's MY LIFE IN THE BUSH OF GHOSTS, due to Empool's reuse of material.  And it was active the same time as, say, The Residents were starting up ..."
BEN MILLER  "... Empool had a significant influence on my musical sensibility ..."

December, 2014    CARY LOREN: Founding Member of DESTROY ALL MONSTERS

 "Laurence Miller had a band called Empool, playing free-psychedelic music -- very experimental ‘out there’ space jazz, and
worked with a revolving group of musicians. This was the only band we knew of doing anything similar to D.A.M. in 1976. 
Niagara and I essentially merged our songs into that scene which was a short-lived middle phase of D.A.M."

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