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Illusion of Safety

Illusion of Safety is the extraordinary 20-plus year sound project of Dan Burke. Founded in 1983 by Burke and Mitch Enderle, IOS has changed remarkably over the years, with Burke collaborating with a variety of musical co-conspirators, such as Jim O’Rourke, John Mueller and Kevin Drumm. The music itself has evolved from harsh, industrial noise to austere, minimal soundscapes. This Thursday, October 23, IOS will perform a special extended live set on Rare Frequency. The week before his scheduled appearance he answered a few questions by email.

I’m interested in the origins of IOS. When did you first begin making music / working with sound and how did Illusion of Safety first come together?

My first experiments with sound were inspired by seeing the final 2 performances by Throbbing Gristle in 1981. After that experience I really wanted to work with sound/noise/music and began working with my friend Mitch Enderle for some years who shared my same musical (industrial) tastes. Later I began working with the jazz-improv group Dot Dot Dot in Chicago. While working with them, I came up with the name Illusion Of Safety, and the first performances under that name occurred in 1983. Later I continued to use the name while working again with Mitch and others, as well as Chris Block and Thymme Jones (members of Dot Dot Dot, who later formed Cheer-Accident). Mitch put out a cassette in 1985 called Dead Tech that we recently performed live together for the first time. we also posted a site on Myspace:

Is IOS now strictly a solo endeavor, or are you open to collaborating again in the future? To what degree has collaboration been important to what you do as IOS?

Not strictly solo, but the last 5 years have been primarily so. Just last December was the first time in 10 years that I performed with Thymme Jones again as IOS. Collaboration has always been as important as pursuing my own individual vision of the kind of sound art that I wanted to create, I enjoy and need both means of expression. I find them equally as satisfying but in different ways. There has been many satisfying collaborations over the years and I am looking forward to many more in the future.

I’m less familiar with your early output than with you’ve done in the last ten years or so — how would you compare what you did in the eighties to what you do now? Do you see your work as having distinct phases?

There has been very distinct phases and they have been informed by not only the type of music I was exposed to but also by the technology available and the collaborators I was working with. there was a distinct shift when sampling and sequencing became available (historical, inside agitator, distraction, rules of the game are some cds showing examples of this work). when DAT tape and a good microphone became available the work shifted again to more abstract/concrete (Probe, Water seeks its own level). The only east coast tour in 1993 with Thymme resulted in the CD release “From Nothing to less”, which was back to a more organic approach of improv but informed by the more drawn out & introspective work involving field recordings, real instruments, and music concrete. When I began working with Kurt Griesch for a European tour in 1995 which resulted in the first IOS Mort Aux Vaches series on Staalplaat the work took on a far more minimal/improv approach thanks to Kurt. That CD today still confounds me as it sounds more like AMM than IOS. After 2001 I began to use the computer as a tool and that changed the character of the music. Now as I get more familiar with Ableton Live and other software options the work gets more refined. I still use prepared guitar and field recordings and a mixer as a main instrument live, attempting to blend old and new methods & technologies.

The last three releases that I’ve heard of yours — 10” on C.I.P., “The Need to Now” and “In Session” — have been austere, spare and minimal. Are you working less with abrasive noise?

I am trying to work less with abrasive noise but it still occurs on its own. Perhaps it is not only my age showing but also my taste shift in what I like to listen to. When I perform live I can’t help but approach serious volume & power on occasion. I have always liked the contrast between extremes. I was never much into one approach even as a listener. I prefer more variety to hold my interest, and my performances are not only for the audiences satisfaction but for mine as well. I love performing live and these days especially in collaboration with others (mostly outside the context of IOS). But I must say that my goal at this point is to make beautiful music as well as interesting sonic structures. Just remember that beauty is in the ear of the beholder. And in my visual art as well I am trying to balance my tendency toward overload and with more negative space.

I know you are a photographer and video artist as well as a musician. How does your work in those media relate to what you do as IOS?

The video work has always been for use in IOS live. Photography I have been pursuing on and off far longer than my work with IOS. but it has been put to good use. A lot of my favorite photographic subjects and processes have lent themselves well to use in IOS. Decay, human condition, disaster, chance. Most of the graphics in the back catalog are based on my photos. Either in music or visual art I attempt some sort of transcendence or shift in reality, and sometimes they work hand in hand. I have recently begun showing my visual art. This is my Chicago Artist Coalition webpage: I am working towards a release of my new video work but for now some examples can be seen here:

What projects and/or releases do you currently have in the works?

I will be returning to the west coast for a few shows in December, one featuring another live collaboration with Thomas Dimuzio. Our 2nd cd release “Upcoming Events” has just been released by No Fun Productions. There are 2 more IOS releases finished and waiting. I am finishing the soundtracks to the Live video and would like to see a DVD release in 2009. There is a live collaboration with Al Margolis coming out on Absurd in Greece in 2009. I have just finished mastering the “Tertium Quid” cd which is my collaboration with Bill Horist and Dave Abramson in Seattle ( I recorded with Milwaukee drummer Jon Mueller ( and have yet to mix that material. I have collaborated live with Jeremy Bible & Jason Henry at electro-music 2008 and that performance will be released on their label Experimedia early next year ( Z’ev and I have initiated a collaboration via file transfer. I have begun an improv collaboration playing guitar & devices with Chris Block (bass) ( and Steve Burkholder (percussion) ( And I have joined the group Cheer-Accident (

—Susanna Bolle


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