Born 1954; died July 17, 2017
Peter Principle, who has died suddenly in Brussels aged 63, was the rhythmic pulse of Tuxedomoon, the San Francisco sired electronic avant classical ensemble he joined in 1979, forming the core of the group with saxophonist Steven Brown and violinist Blaine L Reininger. This was the case throughout a wilfully singular anti-career involving various exiles and hiatuses. Alongside fellow collaborators in video and performance, the trio constructed a back catalogue of nouveau primitive punk modernist cabaret that sound-tracked the ruins of an imagined Europe's past, present and futures. When Tuxedomoon played their first ever concert in Scotland in 2016 as part of a tour that saw them recreate their 1980 Half-Mute album in full, the choice of Edinburgh's multi-arts space Summerhall sat perfectly with the group's underground experimental aesthetic.
Such sensibilities were evident too on Principle's four solo albums, which fused electronic beats and off-kilter exotica to beguiling and sometimes troubling effect. Principle's bass playing was muscular, minimalist and insistent, and formed the bedrock of a form of art-rock that demanded its audience's attention.
Originally named Peter Dachert, the name Principle was inspired by the so-called 'Peter principle' management theory formulated by Laurence J Peter in his 1969 book, The Peter principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong. Here, Peter observed how many corporate managers “rise to the level of their incompetence.”
Dachert was born in Queens, New York City, and started his musical career by taking drum lessons while still in the sixth grade of Andrew Jackson High School. Aged fourteen, he joined psychedelic garage band Zod, and played a winter residency with them at the Cafe Bizarre in Greenwich Village. After being gifted an old reel-to-reel tape recorder, he made experimental sound collages using guitars and found objects in a way that set down a template for his future recordings. Following a performance by Zod, his high school dean advised him that his future was probably in music rather than academia, and he dropped out. Moving to San Francisco, he took up bass, and, as Peter Carcinogenic, performed with a group called the Doctors.
After joining Tuxedomoon, following the release of Half-Mute on Ralph Records, Principle relocated with the band to New York, before they decamped to Brussels the following year in response to the election of Ronald Reagan as U.S. President. As Americans abroad in classic literary fashion, Tuxedomoon signed to Crammed Discs, who also released Principle's first two solo records, Sedimental Journey, in 1986, and Tone Poems in 1988/9. In 1990, LTM released Principle's third album, Conjunction, which saw in a decade in which he and the other members of Tuxedomoon would go their separate ways, before reconvening eight years later. Principle's fourth album, Idyllatry, appeared in 2005, and, with stints living in New York and Virginia, he continued to work with Tuxedomoon on all projects since then .
Principle's passing was announced by Reininger on Facebook after he was found in his room at Les Ateliers in Brussels, where Tuxedomoon had convened to prepare new music for a tour which was due to take in London's Jazz Cafe in August. All dates have now been cancelled. The cause of death appears to have been a heart attack or stroke. Following the passing of Tuxedomoon's film-maker and visual co-ordinator Bruce Geduldig in 2016, Principle's loss leaves a huge void, and has left the band devastated. YouTube footage of what has turned out to be Principle's last live appearance with Tuxedomoon in Lublin, Poland, reveals a form of driving avant-disco way ahead of its time, and which put Principle's contributions at the music's heart,.
The Herald, July 22nd 2017