The lo-fi/lo-art history of Cuddlebot begins with Port. Just before the Christmas of 1995, the kind ‘Cousin Jim’ of BBU and CPTR offered to let them borrow his 4-track and a Boss DR-550mk2 Dr Rhythm drum machine. On the 27th of December, BBU proposed the idea of recording a short EP. Over the next few months, they worked on the project on some evenings near Olympia, WA. The instrumentation consisted of Dr. Rhythm, a Casio CT-650, a bass purchased from Sears long ago, the 'I-love-you Board' (a Yamaha PSS 170), and the ‘'Supa’ Stang'’ (a Fender Mustang with a hole in the body that lets you grab and bend the pickups and connections for some really odd effects). Of course, it would rarely stay in tune for more than a minute. The ‘’Supa’ Stang’’ was acquired through a trade in exchange for BBU’s old skateboard so very little quality could be expected. BBU also found two old mic’s at a garage sale that same week. One was a standard $3.25 black rod mic, and the other was a quite classy looking mini 50’s-esque teardrop grey and chrome unit with a small table stand.
The name for the group, ‘Port’, was decided upon the same night the first song ‘Montego’ was completed. The teardrop mic was first used on the recording of ‘Love that Glove’, and it was placed into an old Yuban coffee can to make for an affordable reverb. At the same time, there was a very large cardboard box (bigger than a refrigerator) in the hangar, which they stood in and hit during the vocal recordings. The next track to be completed was ‘Wheel-a-go’, a solo BBU effort, which was based on a short story he had written years earlier. ‘Blanket of Smog’ featured eight separate keyboard parts, three drum tracks, two guitar tracks, two sample tracks and one vocal track. Once they were all bounced down on the four track it sounded like mud (and it was a learning experiment for CPTR). The final track, ‘DSM-III’ was written and recorded by BBU alone and featured a loving sample of Eddy Arnold.
After some consideration, BBU decided that 'Sounds for your Personal Psychological Adjustment' should only have music on one side, so that after an individual finished listening to the first side, the listener could then record whatever they wanted on side 2. Then, when they listened to the album a second time, they would listen to what they had recorded and self-analyze the recordings in order to make observations about their mental health. Thus, the track listing for side 2 features an outline of someone’s head with a question mark in it and the accompanying words, ‘Reserved for Sonic Self Analysis’.
Next, CPTR worked up with the face logo and BBU the Dodge-esque logo. BBU also worked on the cover art. Tapes were copied and printed in batches of about 10. The first avenue of advertising was CPTR’s car, a 1967 Plymouth Valiant Signet, Burgundy which cost $150. BBU painted 'Ask me about your personal psychological adjustment, only $4.00' across the back of the car in white Rustoleum-brand paint.
Soon after the first EP, ‘Songs…’, was released, BBU moved to Bellingham, WA. CPTR opted on moving permanently into Centralia for work and rented out an office, later to be christened ‘‘Port O’ Main’’ (and BBU’s place, ‘’Port-North’’). (‘‘Port O’ Main’’ was located in a building that used to be a police station many years before.) It was around this time that GGRG (CPTR’s friend) became an honorary member of the group. Although he never contributed to performing or songwriting directly, his artistic input, material contributions and feedback were indispensable.
Towards the end of 1996, BBU quickly discovered a way to record and easily transfer songs between Bellingham and Centralia by using Music Trackers, discs and the internet. During the recording of ‘Songs…’, Port had experimented with Midi, but found that the poor transposing and lack of versatility for sampling their equipment afforded wasn’t sufficient. Initially, CPTR primarily used Impulse Tracker and BBU, MODplug Tracker. With the .it format each could lay down a few tracks and then e-mail it or FTP it over the internet, back and forth, almost instantly and build songs together in an efficient manner.
Previously, after finishing ‘Donna’, which was an ode to Tori Spelling’s character on 90210, back on the 4-track in the hanger, the idea of a soap opera-influenced theme album had been considered. As they became more comfortable with trackers, BBU and CPTR thought it would be a good idea to start brainstorming some thoughts on how to go about doing a theme album. Teninotwoone0 soon became the focus of that plan. The name was a play on the name of a town, Tenino (WA), which in reality had its own speedway and a little-league baseball field with a GRAVEL infield (if that explains anything). However, a fictionalized Tenino would be the setting. The first track for the album to be finished (but wasn’t ever released on the album) was ‘Abalixer’, which had a narrative structure and talked about the titular flying cougar that haunted the town. ‘Headlice’ was the next track, solely written by BBU and was the first to really show the possibilities of a tracker over a 4-track. Eventually there were enough songs to complete the LP, but Port had no budget to get CDs pressed. To solve this, BBU ended up purchasing a CD burner. Homemade and lowbudget, but warm and loving, Port had finished their first LP, ‘Teninotwoone0’. Unforunately, they had spent almost a year on it and realized that only a third of the songs had really anything to do with the T90210 concept. So, after burning a few copies, the whole concept was reconsidered and postponed for a bit.
Conceptually, Port was interested in deviating from the tone of most of the electronic music at the time, which was largely house or industrial. ‘Deviating’, in one sense by writing electronic music ‘people could cuddle too’, without being too maudlin, and recognizing the lofty and likely unreachable goal. This idea eventually became the basis of a song idea by BBU which was to write a narrative soundtrack around two characters: ‘Cuddlebot VS. ODM’. The song follows a conflict between the two characters with Cuddlebot primarily represented in one channel and ODM in the other. Most of the robot sounds were done by recording bottles opening , as well as bottle caps and coins rattling around on a wooden board and a desk. It was decided that ODM, was a bit too on the nose of a parody of certain musical groups in a particular genre, and so the title was changed to “Stepping Out With Cuddlebot” and the listener was then invited to come up with an antagonist of their own.
Port grew quite attached to Cuddlebot, and he became the mascot of the label, which was ‘Cuddlebot Records’ at the time. Soon, it was decided to take the strongest half of the tracks on Teninotwoone0 make the ‘real’ first Port LP. Nearly all of the tracks that were carried over were reworked and remixed.
About two weeks after the release of ‘Cuddlebot Steps Out’, BBU visited Port-O’-Main with plans to go see Dub Narcotic Sound System with GGRG. BBU and CPTR decided to go to Goodwill first to look for old keyboards. After finding a slew of great little keyboards for $2.88 a piece, they dug through the records and tapes. BBU found some good tapes for sampling and realized that they were late to meet GGRG. Gathering their gear and heading for the counter, they passed the answering machines on the way and couldn’t resist quickly checking them for tapes that might have bits that could be sampled. They bought four tapes and returned to Port O’ Main. (GGRG was there waiting patiently, likely listening to the Art of Noise in his car.) They tried out some of the keyboards and then moved on to the tapes. The first few had some decent recordings which might be usable for short samples, and thus the general opinion was that the $.28 spent for each was worth it. They then popped in unmarked answering machine tape #3 and entered a new world. They let it play for a few seconds, not believing what had been found. Then they rewound it and let it play a bit more. This was done a few more times in order to see how long the recording was. What they had discovered was a conversation between a young woman and a young man, approximately 19-20 years of age, breaking up over the phone for a good 40 minutes! All three were fixed around the tape player for the next 10 minutes and then they heard the girl on the tape say “...remember when I gave my number to that guy in port?...” At this moment they realized that this cassette must have been a direct gift from beyond. Backing up... an unmarked tape, taken at random from an answering machine, ended up having a conversation between a young women and her boyfriend breaking up for 40+ minutes, a tape which wasn’t erased but given to Goodwill to be stumbled upon by amateur musicians? It was a fantastic moment. ‘The Tape’ reinvigorated BBU and CPTR’s interest in Port and they worked nearly every night for the next year on what would become ‘Breaking Up (with Cuddlebot)’. Ryan S. (from Candy Keep) kindly took the excellent photos for the cover art and liner notes.
After ‘Breaking Up’, JmUNdoK (musician and writer for the online zine ‘The Kettle Black) invited Port to join the (at the time) fledgling collective Tapegerm, where each month a group of musicians would create samples, pool them, and then create tracks using only (or primarily) those samples. After a few enjoyable collaborations, BBU decided to take a break from music and CPTR ended up spending the next few years working with his friends on a 3CD set titled ‘Half O’ Port: A Collection of Work’.
About six months after the release of the first Port EP ‘Sounds...’, in the Spring of 1996, CPTR joined a 4-piece indie rock group by the name of ‘Candy Keep’, serving as the bassist. Eventually the drummer left (Tyler, who was a super great guy) and it became a 3 piece with the lead guitarist (Ryan S.) moving to drums, with Mark D. remaining on guitar and vocals. A 4-track cassette EP was recorded, titled ‘Old Friends are the Dearest’. They got a 7” record deal, but the label folded before it could be released. The material for the 7” was recorded at Bandroom Recordings (Aberdeen, WA) with Brian Smith, the proprietor/engineer/producer. The material as well as a few tracks from ‘Old Friends…’ was later released as the CD ‘It’s Starting to Snow’ on Cuddlebot’s Recordings. Candy Keep later split up in the summer of ’98, with Mark and Ryan going on to form ‘Lands Farther East’ and then form/join some well-respected math/indie-rock acts (e.g., ‘The Rooftops’, ‘Sunset Riders’).
After leaving Candy Keep, CPTR joined his friends Brett and Adam in starting a group called ‘Zillion Kisses’, which was interested in writing minimalist poppy post-punk music. After 3 EPs (‘released’ on Cuddlebot’s Recordings) and playing a prom, they split up (very-amicably). (GGRG appeared on the 3rd EP playing keyboards.)
After releasing the Half O’ Port collection, CPTR continued to write and record electronic music. Eventually, in 2015, he decided to revive Cuddlebot, the friendliest robot, and work on very sappy, and slightly off-kilter, electronic pop (mostly instrumentals). In early 2016, Cuddlebot then released an EP, ‘Forestry’, followed by the ‘Weeks’ EP in late 2016.