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By Dave Chamberlain

MARCH 2, 1998:  Punk rock is dead, but the point lives on. Sure there's still the rebellious attitude and a smattering of bands playing right-on hardcore and power-punk, but the "movement" has been lacking in influence long enough now that we can begin looking at its impact.

Presenting Casey Rice. It's hard not to find Rice's name on something recorded in the city these days. Going back as far as Liz Phair's first record (on which he played, and which is just a signpost among a slew of lower-profile efforts), Rice has been a floating musician and studio rat since he moved to Chicago from Ohio in the late eighties.

Rice is Designer, the drum-n-bass DJ ("I guess they call me a DJ," he says, "but that's not exactly it") who spins alongside DJs 3D and Snuggles, among others. Rice is also the permanent sound man for Tortoise ("I fill in the blank spots when the band stops playing," he says. "All this 'thanks for coming' bullshit in between songs has got to go.") Rice is also set to release "Super ESP," a collaboration with Damon Locke (formerly of Trenchmouth), and he's working on a dark, schizophrenic jungle track for release under the name Resigned on the local Kultbox label. You'll also find his name in the credits of recent records by Joan of Arc and Heroic Doses. And he's just getting started.

Having begun his music career in hardcore ("That was a long time ago, we don't need to go into that"), the DIY force is strong in Rice. "If you can't do something on your own terms," he contends, "then you've gotta find something else to do." That statement embodies everything Rice represents. He does his own thing on his own terms. He makes enough money to support himself through music (though he still works at the Beat Parlor record store), recording and experimenting with jazz, hip-hop, dub, jungle and, yes, even rock. And most importantly, he's able to do it at home, thanks to a home studio full of computerized electrogadgets, two turntables and records spilling from every unoccupied crevice.

"I've recorded all types of music," he says. "Rock, jazz, dub, koali music. I did this sound installation for a group show at the Navy Pier last summer. But I'm not all about anything. Whatever I have the opportunity to do, I'll do if it's interesting. I'd really like to record more jazz -- something I can do as an engineer that I haven't done a lot of. I'd like to record classical music, too, but those opportunities don't arise too often. But engineering isn't really me. I can do that, but I also like to go on tour with Tortoise, do my little art shit once a year, make my records."

With "Super ESP," set for March 31 release, Rice shows a shrewd comprehension of the music world, both its art and its business. "We got it done early, but we wanted to wait to put it out for various reasons, like to try and get it in print before it comes out. That's the way you're supposed to coordinate a release, theoretically."

But being aware of the business side doesn't mean Rice bogs himself down in percentage points and sales figures. "What it means to be in a band right now is really fucked up," he says. "It seems that there are really few ways to find out about any music that's not the lowest common denominator if you don't live in the city or if you're not in the music scene. You don't have to be 50 percent business, but you certainly need to address those concerns."

With the ability to work at home, Rice notes that, "I've been working non-stop, going into [the studio] for nine hours a day, and only coming out to eat." Which is his preference. "The DJing thing is pretty much just a hobby, a fun thing to do. But I don't want to be part of that. I don't want it to be my game and have to play Mad Bar and places like that."

Don't expect Rice to fade away any time soon. He's gearing up for a five-month tour with Tortoise, which should further solidify his standing as a go-to guy for local recording artists. And looking ahead, his Kultbox tracks, the densest, murkiest and most erratic jungle you can imagine, have the type of unique sound that creates underground scenes. But Rice isn't concerned with that. He's only concerned with the next project, and doing it his way. And that is punk rock.


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