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Lucky Dragons

Open Culture

Lucky Dragons, an experimental music/art group based in Los Angeles, is the moniker given to “any recorded or performed or installed or packaged or shared pieces made by Luke Fischbeck, Sarah Rara, and any sometimes collaborator.” Blending an organic approach to electronic music with a background in the arts, everything Lucky Dragons produces is released under a CC BY-NC-SA license, allowing others to share what they have made as well as rework it (much of their music is available for free download on their website). We recently caught up with the duo to learn more about their music and motivation to use CC. We also touched upon their experience participating in the Into Infinity project, their associated projects Sumi Ink Club/Glaciers of Nice, and what their plans are for the future.

Can you give our readers a bit of background on yourselves? How did you get involved with music and art? What is Lucky Dragon’s background as an artistic outfit?

Fischbeck: lucky dragons started as a “band” in the loosest form possible around eight years ago, as a way to structure our activities as a group in an easily understandable and distributable way, making recordings or books or videos or performances and putting them out into the world. for the most part, we have definitely used the existing structure of independently produced music to do this, but as this structure has been changing so much in our lifetime, we have been keen to look for new and positive paths and models, trying to contribute to a new definition of “band” that includes contexts such as public art, the gallery system, museum programming, blogs, and small-press publishing.

Rara: My entry into making music was initially through making videos and composing sound to go with a moving image until I became more and more engrossed in the production of sounds and the potential of music to bring people together in a very concrete way, forming transient communities and generating equal power-sharing situations. It’s interesting now to alternate between music and art contexts, to slip in and out of each world and to borrow from each various modes and identities. I enjoy slipping into a “band” identity that confuses authorship and opens up the project to various collaborators, even going so far as to dissolve the separation between myself and the audience during the performance. I’ve always thought of the role of the artist as more diffused and inclusive, it can include sitting on a stage and playing a modified kalimba for half an hour or it can include an everyday situation like having a conversation with a stranger. But somehow the means of distributing art in the world are not as inclusive and wide-ranging as music distribution. Music has a tradition of self-publishing and cheap distribution that I find very inspiring; it’s easy to produce something that is accessible to everyone and easily shared when operating within the form of a musical group.

On a basic level, Lucky Dragons is a musical group that records/releases material and tours. With that said, your works explore much more than just music and you are self-described “artists who use music” – can you expand upon this?

Fischbeck: i’ve been thinking about the shift in how music is made, distributed, and appreciated as analogous to the evolution of photography as an artform, for example–as a technology, as a fine art, and as a popular and easily accessible medium for communication. we’d like to contribute to the idea that music exists as all of these things at once, to celebrate the idea that music can serve not only as an end in itself, but also as a means towards greater social connection, and something that is immediately open to everyone. mostly it has been a matter of identifying which barriers (in terms of ownership, context, genre, or even terms like “expert” or “professional”) are artificial and unnecessary, and ignoring them! art can sometimes provide the viewpoint that removes these barriers.

How are you using CC licenses within your works? Which license(s) are you using and why? What are the benefits and obstacles you have encountered by using CC licenses?

Fischbeck: everything we produce uses a creative commons attribution-non-commercial-share alike license. the simple benefit to this is that it allows other artists to use anything we make in a collaborative way. so much of what we do starts off as a collaboration, and a creative commons license allows us to embed this original spirit in the work itself in a practical way, over the course of its life as something separate from us.

Rara: our performances often involve improvisation and audience interaction, so it’s important to us that the recordings we release not be static, that they be used as a material for other music and maybe become something altogether different than what we started with.

You participated in the Dublab/Creative Commons art instillation project, Into Infinity. How was that experience?

Fischbeck: the “into infinity” project is a perfect working example of the kind of unpredictable and infinitely changeable collaborations that can occur when something is put out with a CC license. one of the main reasons we make music is how mutable it can be: a song goes into the world and gets adopted and recontextualized and comes back to you with all of the new associations others have added to it. to see that happening on a microscopic level, as in the random pairing of images and sounds on the “into infinity” website, suggests the grander possibility of creating something modular and open–a process that is inherent in music making on familiar levels, but stripped away by existing commercial models. as for the experience, the dublab folks’ positive enthusiasm is boundless, an attitude that in itself is a model for what should come next!

Talk a bit about your affiliated projects, Sumi Ink Club and Glaciers of Nice. What are they? Do you use CC-licenses in either project?

Fischbeck: sumi ink club is a collaborative drawing activity we started as a way to get friends and strangers and accomplished artists and people-who-don’t-think-they-know-how-to-draw to all meet together in an open way and make a work of art together. half of it is the drawing itself–topsy-turvy page-fillers where all styles connect and overrun–and half of it is the actual experience of hanging out and talking and working together. the drawings themselves are given CC licenses and treated as raw material for zines, prints, clothing, animations, etc; while the visual record of our meetings are posted on the sumi ink club blog. the “rules” that make sumi ink club what it is (everyone draws on the same sheet of paper, it’s ok to add to what someone else has drawn, if you get stuck get up and switch seats with someone) are so simple that it’s been very easy to “franchise” the project and hold meetings anywhere in the world completely independent from us as mediators. glaciers of nice is our publishing effort, a way of tying together the different projects and packaging them and distributing them a little as hard copies–extending the CC license to physical objects that can be duplicated and re-distributed at will!

What is up next for Lucky Dragons?

Fischbeck: we will keep trying to have everything we do make sense… there is the impulse to do many different, unrelated things and then sort out how they are connected later…! we have plans to open a very abstract “museum” in the park near our house in los angeles called the elysian park museum of art, and we will be doing a number of gallery-type art shows that will hopefully provide more of that oscillation between tidy and coherent on the one hand, and completely ambitious and nonsense activity on the other! also we have just started a record label that will have no money involved called new other thing with our friend brendan fowler… there are some video projects we’ve been meaning to attend to… oh i dont know! there’s a lot to do.

Posted 10 November 2008