"It's all about rendering these days; I don't go out of the house without setting up a render," says Jack Dangers, chief architect of post-industrial dub conduit Meat Beat Manifesto, by phone from his Bay Area home. Dangers is referring to rendering video -- the sometimes excruciatingly slow process by which computer graphics are generated -- as he is in the process of prepping his graphically intensive tour presentation for the first extensive Meat Beat Manifesto trek in seven years. But in the midst of discussing "mere" tour preparations, Dangers has unintentionally created somewhat of a mantra for himself.
"It's all about rendering these days." "Rendering" implies creation and interpretation. But at its core is also restitution and desecration. When Dangers talks about rendering, even the "innocent" act of rendering video, he brings up the intention of art to both create perspectives and destroy assumptions; arranging for the future by means of rearranging the past. His media-saturated vehicle Meat Beat Manifesto, an open-ended collaborative umbrella conceived in 1987, is simply the most technologically advanced project in a tradition of subversive collage that stretches to the British ex-pat's childhood.
"Probably when I was 5, I remember cutting up these magazines ... cutting a guy out and sticking him in a chair with money on his head," recalls Dangers. "And ultimately, two weeks later it would be destroyed. I'd do elaborate oils and destroy them, same thing with model airplanes. My favorite toy was a hammer."
A fan of science fact, not fiction, and self-medicated sufferer of OCD, Dangers parlayed his cut-and-paste aesthetic first into electronic music with a hip-hop sensibility and political overtones. That is, if I'm not misreading song titles such as "Your Mind Belongs to the State," "Genocide," "Give Your Body Its Freedom" and "God O.D." "So much of the world's now right-wing mind-set is arrogant, ignorant, abrasive," Dangers says. "I'm a miserable bastard, I am," he laughs.
Influenced by Cabaret Voltaire, Kraftwerk, Devo, Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa, Sun Ra, Lee "Scratch" Perry, et. al, Dangers unintentionally laid down prototypes for big beat, perhaps jungle (aka breakbeat hardcore) and certainly inspired former labelhead/collaborator/tourmate Trent Reznor. Additionally, from the beginning Dangers perceived the television as the retina of the mind's eye.
Unlike with the fantasy of the American dream, British television has known the phenomenon of reality television -- following the most mundane of people -- for more than 60 years. As well, British humor has a long history of simultaneously exaggerating and downplaying uncomfortable situations, from Monty Python to "The Office." Dangers took that working-class mentality of mocking "proper" people and eventually banded with visuals partner Ben Stokes (aka DHS; also half of audio-visualists Tino Corp. with Dangers) to carve a sizeable niche as an ace sampler of television and film willing to juxtapose source material until a new, possibly unsettling aesthetic was rendered. Live, especially, Dangers and Stokes forego the safety of factory synth presets and cleared audio samples for the doom and boom of spoken-word bits given new context as the duo has gone back and digitized the visual origins of as many dialogue sources as possible (up to 600, hence never leaving the house without rendering).
Perhaps Dangers' current favorite and most oft-quoted example of pixel-stitching is as follows: "The song 'Nuclear Bomb' [from 1996's Subliminal Sandwich], the visuals I use consist of the 'Dueling Banjos' from Deliverance superimposed on a speech from George Bush on top of Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove -- all being manipulated and terminated like scratching style. It's a medley of American life, eh."
Finding these not so disparate images and sounds and stacking them atop each other has always been the Meat Beat Manifesto aesthetic, whether in dense musical tracks, visual transports or Dangers' most recent explorations with 5.1 Surround Sound. Playing po-faced before launching laptops into outrageous, off-center exposés, Meat Beat Manifesto continues to dispense the all too real absurdities for those with confliction addiction. Even if it renders someone speechless.