The Austin Chronicle

Future Museum Salvages Un-CAN-ny Performance

By Kevin Curtin, November 9, 2020, 10:33am, Earache!

On Halloween, prolific ambient maestro Neil Lord, who records and performs locally as Future Museums, issued 39 minutes of high density cosmic Krautrock imbued with double drums and icy violin. The exceptional cassette, circulated by Aural Canyon, bears the title Damo’s Dream.

As in Damo Suzuki, 70, the Japan-born, Germany-based singer who splattered improvisational and often nonsensical words and sounds on the holy trinity of Can albums: Tago Mago (1971), Ege Bamyasi (1972), and Future Days (1973). Collaborations between Suzuki and Lord led to a single performance and resulting tape. On it, Future Museums expands into a seven-member unit including Michael C. Sharp (Sungod, Impalers, Uniform), Mari Maurice (aka More Eaze), and Peter Tran of Curved Light.

Impressive, given that Lord and Suzuki never actually crossed paths.

Austin Chronicle: Damo Suzuki was booked to play Barracuda in April 2019 and then that November at Levitation fest. Due to visa issues, both shows canceled. Tell me about your involvement.

Neil Lord: There were actually three collapses of this show. Before South by Southwest got canceled, they were trying to get him to play the Levitation showcase there. I’ve never had a scheduling fiasco of that magnitude.


This production company out of New Orleans was his U.S. representation for that tour and were setting up all his American tour dates. I had played a solo, improv ambient set in New Orleans a couple of years previous, which that guy had seen and really liked. So he reached out to me, like, “You know people in Texas, can you put bands together?”

Obviously, I immediately said yes: “Give me three days.” Then, I ended up heading up the front on shows in Austin, Dallas, and Houston. I was going to put together different bands for all three cities.

AC: What kind of preparation comes with being Damo Suzuki’s backing band?

NL: When he agrees for you to be his backing band, he sends a list of rules and it’s all based on the way you improv together. He does not allow anyone to meet him until an hour before the show – and then that hour is spent in silence meditating together and you don’t say anything until you walk off stage with him. He was even apprehensive about me having musicians who I’d played with previously, because he wants the improvisational music experience to be kinetic between strangers.

I’m serious, the rule book was three long pages.

AC: What made you decide to document an aborted collaboration?

NL: The night of the Barracuda show, [which the band played without Suzuki], Michael C. Sharp asked me if I’d brought a field recorder and I felt dumb for not even thinking about recording it. So I went up to the sound guy and saw that he had a laptop open by the mixer. I said, “Yo, you got ProTools or Logic or anything? I’ll pay you $50 if you just bounce every mic into ProTools,” and he was like, “Yeah, you got it.”

At the end of the night, he handed me a little USB.


AC: So you never got to record with Suzuki?

NL: No. This is a live album [without him]. I was deep in a phase of being obsessed with bootleg tape trading; old Grateful Dead tapes and how people would challenge each other to how close they could get to the sound booth in the Seventies. I took that performance home and spent a week and a half mixing it down, then I approached Matthew [Erik Hanner] at Aural Canyon about doing a rippin’ loud bootleg tape.

AC: This is more driving and heavy than Future Museums’ most recent work.

NL: We almost decided to go in a long form ambient drone direction, an ephemeral soup of sound where we’d be sitting down and encouraging the crowd to sit down as well. Then, last minute, with how good the chemistry of Mike Sharp and Rudy [Smith-Villareal III] was in a double-drummer situation, I decided to engage with that and just go hard. It wasn’t so much a conscious choice as it was feeling the energy of the night and knowing what was right to do.

We’d had one rehearsal in February of 2019 and the show was in late April, so it was all start-to-finish just me giving eye contact and head-nod cues to everybody.

AC: What does the title Damo’s Dream refer to?

NL: Essentially, the reason this guy’s famous and had a 40-plus year career is for a three-year period at the beginning. To this day, he’s still going around the world touring on those three years and is able to have this impact on musicians all over the world in this improvisation scene. And the guy still busks.

He walks around Germany busking!

The fact that he couldn’t come to the U.S. and perform this tour felt like a violent thing to someone who’s such a lifer and I just kind of wanted to acknowledge that. This guy has lived the real dream, spending his entire life dedicated to art and improvisation and his craft.

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