Ferguson loved to sleep on the machines when they were warm. He’d walk across a line of tape machines while they were playing, carefully stepping from one to the next as the reels were turning around. He was a pro.
Fergie loved to sleep on the mixing console too. When you’re working, setting EQs & pans & moving faders, you tend to lean over the console - that’s when Fergie would hop up, come walking along the edge of console, arch his back, and rub it under your chin. This was followed by his tail, the full length of it rubbing against the bottom of your nose as he continued on by. Sometimes he’d stop, decide it was nap-time, lay down on the mixing board, and you’d say, “Come on, Fergie, quit it,” and pick him up and set him on the floor. We knew he was just looking for affection, so we figured out ways to work with and around him.
Then One Fine Day
A skunk got him. He’d never had an encounter with a skunk before, but oh god did he stink! We poured tomato juice all over him and let him soak for an hour … he got stiff as plywood. Then Fulton put Fergie in the shower, climbed in with him, soaped him up, and turned on the water. Fergie stood perfectly still, he didn’t struggle, but he kept up a low-constant-growl all through his shower. Fulton said he hadn’t realized a cat could cuss like that.
The tomato juice helped, but on rainy & damp days when you were in the studio mixing, and Fergie would hop up on the console, arch his back, and run his tail under your nose – oh god, there was the ghost of that skunk.
ZBS had an Artist-in-Residence Program, it ran for 8 years. Film makers, video artists, composers, poets, and performance artists would spend a week here working on sound for their projects. Terry Fox was working on a piece entitled, The Labyrinth Scored for the Purrs of 11 Different Cats. It was based on the labyrinth in the Cathedral of Chartres.
It’s a seventy-minute sound installation composed so that each of the labyrinth’s concentric rings is represented by a cat’s purr; at the center, all eleven cats are heard purring in chorus. As the deep, reassuring rumble suggests, Fox viewed the labyrinth as a means of self-discovery.
Terry Fox had recorded 2 cats purring, but he needed 9 more. We had 4 cats here. There was one next door, in the main house, he used to come over to the studio, snarl at Fergie, and eat up Fergie’s food. He was a big bully, with a wheezy, raspy, punk-purr. In the loft was “Berber,” Fulton & Gail’s cat, he was a Persian, with a soft, sweet, purr. Above the studio, where Richard & Charlotte lived, was “Heba,” a Siamese. Heba had a loud, lively, idling-along-ready-to-go purr. And below, living in the studio, was of course Fergie (a sleepy, dreamy, clouds-floating-by sort of purr).
Anyway, we went around knocking on neighbor’s doors asking if we could audition their cats for possible purrs (trying to explain “Why” wasn’t easy).
Fox showed us the ideal way to record a cat’s purr … hold the mike right under their nose, you’ll get a nice clean purr. BTW, if you google “Terry Fox Labyrinth,” you can hear some of this purr piece (Fergie’s in there too, somewhere).
Then Months Later
Fulton decided to listen to Labyrinth Scored for the Purrs of 11 Different Cats. Fergie was napping on the mixing console, sleeping through the low, rumbling purrs coming out of the big studio speakers - when suddenly Fergie was awake! He stood up, growling & hissing, he arched his back with the hairs standing straight up. Fergie was pissed! Fulton then realized, coming out of the speakers at that moment, were the wheezy, raspy purrs of that punk from the main house. Out of the 11 cats purring, Fergie heard his next-door nemesis and had a fit.