Hmm...I've been in Philly for a few years now and every time I've come back, something new seems to be in the works. Fragments, for example, only really got going as I was leaving. Moth Cock (who are actually from Kent, I'm aware) and Synaptic Foliage have both done great things in the past couple years. As far as the actual milieu that Bee Mask was part of, new projects from old friends -- including Colored Mushroom and Radio People -- have continued to delight and I can't overemphasize the importance of Wyatt Howland and Ryan Kuehn's work in laying the social and aesthetic foundations of that whole scene. I'd say that any heads who really want to get at the crux of it should start listening to The Record Exchange on WCSB and scouring the earth for Thursday Club cdrs and old SKSK releases.
As usual, too many things at once. "The Alinea Book," Jon Sterne's "The Audible Past," Sadie Plant's "Writing on Drugs," and bits of "The Glenn Gould Reader," which is a perennial favorite.
These days, anywhere with a really nice soundsystem (depressingly rare in the world of experimental music) and a good spot where I can listen to myself through the mains rather than the monitors. Voice of the Valley 2009 is still the gold standard in both departments. I'm not exactly a prolific live performer right now and I don't find my way into too many basements anymore, but I have really fond memories of the old Diamond Shiners house in Akron, the Lambsbread house in Delaware, OH, and the laundry room of Wyatt's old apartment building in Lakewood. All places where one could relax and get weird sans the usual vibekillers.
The name "Bee Mask" originated in a private joke between myself and an old housemate, referring to a series of pranks involving an actual mask which was left at our house in the aftermath of a halloween party. At the time, I don't think I had any intentions beyond using it for a show or two and moving on to the next thing. Maybe a year or so later when I realized that I was truly stuck with the name, I figured that I had sort of assumed a responsibility to deal with its implications, or at the very least to work through my ambivalence within the context of the project itself.
It's interesting, then, that you pose the question of whether bees have been good to me. One of the results of this process of coming to terms has been the articulation of a private mythology that guides decision making within the project in what you might call a quasi-oracular fashion. The fact that this mythology is grounded in my very real visceral aversion to bees lends to the whole enterprise a faintly satirical echo of the great neurotic and prohibitive modernisms of Greenberg, Adorno, et al in that it is no more inherently ridiculous a creed than theirs. At any rate, not wanting to get into the guts of it at inappropriate length, I'll suffice to note that one of the questions posed by this mythology is whether or not bees have truly "been good to" anyone.
I'm a pretty superstitious person, but unless you count a conviction that everyone -- regardless of what they tell you -- is essentially an animist, no.
Gear is funny stuff, at once much more and much less important than its often made out to be, and my approach to it has been shaped by a really unhealthy combination of insane perfectionism and limited means. The other caveat that I'll add before proceeding is that studio gear and live gear involve wholly different considerations, or at least they do for me. That tendency of studio and performance practices to diverge has been a difficult one to manage, particularly as I'm really much more of a studio artist and not especially motivated to pursue performance as an end in itself.
But anyway, the raw material of Bee Mask records comes from a compulsive home recording habit that I've had as long as I've had the means to record myself at home. I got into taping over the erase head of my parents' tape deck at a pretty young age, was promptly given a four track for christmas (probably to discourage me from messing with their stereo any further) and went into the rabbit hole from there. My relationship with the cassette has everything to do with practicality and a basically contrarian bent and nothing to do with the pursuit of any sort of nostalgic patina, so I worked on various DAWs for several years, despite hating them all. I've recently reorganized everything around a hardware sequencer/sampler, however, which has been a really nice change of pace.
Not "extraterrestrial," no, but the SETI question isn't one that I find terrifically interesting anyway so perhaps I'm not really looking. If you mean "nonhuman"/"transhuman", yes of course, but anyone could say as much.
2011 is pretty wild so far! There's the reissue of "Canzoni dal Laboratorio del Silenzio Cosmico" on Spectrum Spools, which showed up on my doorstep a couple days ago looking and sounding incredible. John, Peter, Rashad, and everyone else involved in the process did amazing work and I'm very grateful for it! I've also got a split 12" with Envenomist coming soon on A Sounddesign in a completely bonkers package designed by Daniel Baird and a double LP retrospective which is sort of a guided tour of my favorite corners of the earlier Bee Mask catalog due later this year, also on Spectrum Spools.