By Matt Coker
By R. Scott Moxley
By Charles Lam
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By Gustavo Arellano
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Photo by Jeanne RiceLob knows a lot about records. At Huntington Beach's Vinyl Solution, he sells them. And in his band—for lack of a more accurate term—Instagon, he sets them.
"At this point, I haven't contacted Guinness yet," he says thoughtfully. "But I should. I have a rock band that's had more than 300 members in eight years."
And that's just the start. If there's a record for the shortest time needed to drive out 80 lanes' worth of patrons at an Anaheim bowling alley show, Instagon's got it: 20 minutes flat. Or maybe for the most people simultaneously playing instruments onstage, if the Guinness judges count hand drills and vacuums as instruments, which they should: 25 at a 1994 Goldenwest College show that was so insane people were wandering in from blocks away just to see what was making that sound. Or for longest uninterrupted performance, at Lob's old house: nine brain-shriveling hours, with around 40 people filing through, playing until they got bored, and then making room for fresh replacements. And then there's those 300 members, everyone from members of Sublime and the Adolescents to poets local and international to, um, me, and pretty much anyone who has ever clambered on a stage somewhere in Orange County. Really, this isn't just a band. It's the end of music as we know it.
"When you start a band, and you all just turn on and jam, that's what creates a band—that's the creation," says Lob. "And the next time you get together, it's like, 'I don't like this part,' 'Let's change that part,' and egos start to get involved. I never have that problem. I always have the rawest, most basic aspect of a band, and I throw that at an audience."
This is how it works: Lob finds you, maybe by using his immense Insta-base (visit it online at www.tif.org and see if you're in it), maybe by seeing you at Vinyl Solution all the time and finding out that you're a fan of something he likes (which could be anything from Flipper to psychedelic jam bands to the B-52's). He tells you where and when Instagon is next appearing. You show up with whatever you play—guitar, hand drill, vibrator, whatever—and you all start playing, usually letting Lob lead the way. The lineup changes every performance, depending on whom Lob has rustled up. The songs change every performance. The instruments change every performance. Even Lob isn't the constant you'd think—three times, he says, there have been Instagons without him anywhere nearby. Simply put, it's chaos by design: anarchy with a beat; expression at a wild, primal level.
"The concept of Instagon is based in chaos magick," explains Lob. "Chaos magick is a theory of magic that says to take from any form of mystical aspects that will suit your needs at any given point and use it. Instagon is based around that theory as a musical concept—I took music and applied chaos theory to it." Strictly speaking, he doesn't even like to call Instagon a band. Instead, it's an "audio demon," he says, "invoked by multiple participants. Sometimes they're aware: sometimes they aren't." And it makes sense: after all, the Instagon thing tends to have a life of its own.
"No one in the band knows what I'm going to play next," he says. "I don't even know. I pick songs out of the whim of what I'm feeling at the moment."
It started out with a tribal sort of feel back in 1993, as a West Coast offshoot of Thee Temple Ov Psychick Youth, a mystical organization with deep roots on the fringe that dovetails nicely with the chaos magick aspect of Instagon. And then it went through an ambient phase, highlighted by a 1994 show at LA's Club Sinamatic with 400 tipsy fetishists boogying to the demon Instagon. And then it went through a breaking-things phase, and then a Hawkwind-esque prog. rock stage, and now it's settled temporarily—since about 1998—into what Lob calls "garage jazz."
"I take a garage band and approach it like Sun Ra," he explains. "I have really simple melodies that I can lead anybody through, and then we just flow off it. Lately, I've been playing Miles Davis riffs. And I really like to play Black Sabbath riffs—there's nothing better than playing 'Hand of Doom' in a jazz version." Obviously, he can't say where it's going next; only the demon knows for sure. But there is a record-setting direction he'd like to pursue.
"I'd really like to go more places, to have Instagon happen with more people," he says. "For me, it's all about being able to interact with more musicians—more than any other musician known to mankind."