Tim Heidecker discusses his second soft-rock album with Heidecker and Wood, his online beefs, and blurring the lines between his various public personae.
“Will someone say something that is funny or interesting?”
An exasperated Tim Heidecker, in a rare stand-up comedy performance last week, was climbing through rows of seats at the front of Bowery Ballroom, begging the audience for a bone. Part of the appeal of Heidecker is his myriad of characters, whether he’s playing a pathetic film critic in the online series On Cinema, a pathetic television cooking host, or in this case, a pathetic stand-up comedian, who’s homage to bad standup falls somewhere between Andrew Dice Clay, Andy Kaufman’s Tony Clifton, and Tim Allen. Last week, his set revolved around catchphrases like “Gravy Baby!”, the differences between people who choose Pepsi and those who like Coke, and riffing on audience member’s names. (“Rich? Well, you gotta be ‘rich’ to live in New York City these days!”)
Heidecker & Wood features Tim—and frequent collaborator Davin Wood—playing a character once again, this time a ’70s singer-songwriter. This might be the reason that the project is so incredibly misunderstood. Heidecker & Wood has confounded critics and fans of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job alike, and though their music is a homage to soft-rock FM radio heyday of the ’70s, the project is not a parody at all, but rather a songwriting project, a fact that has proven to be very confusing to some. I spoke with Tim recently about the process of making a second album, the context of this second Heidecker and Wood release, and his various online beefs.
Gary Canino You’ve mentioned before that your first album, Starting From Nowhere, wasn’t really connected from song to song. Some Things Never Stay the Same sounds more like a thematic piece.
Tim Heidecker Oh, that’s nice to hear. I think that might have to do with the songs being written more closely together in time. I was thinking of a certain kind of sound, and we had gone into it thinking it was going to be a heavier record, and didn’t want to get labeled as a soft rock parody band again.
Elisa Ambrogio, Pete Nolan, and John Shaw of Magik Markers on songwriting, the ideal live venue, and their incredible new album Surrender to the Fantasy, out next week.
When Magik Markers started out, “noise,” and “experimental” were labels that followed them around the DIY touring circuit, as they went off on semi-improvised, squeal-heavy jams in basements from Baltimore to San Francisco. Since the 2007 release of BOSS, they’ve had to deal with being called “rock n’ roll.” The blissfully fuzzed-out Surrender to the Fantasy (out November 19 on Drag City) is their tightest record yet, and further frustrates the attempt to pin the band down.
The album’s nine tracks shift gracefully between dark punk blasts and meandering, quiet, almost folky tunes. “I’m American,” guitarist and singer Elisa Ambrogio sighs flatly over blazing feedback on the album’s seven-minute centerpiece “American Sphinx Face.”
For Ambrogio, drummer Pete Nolan, and bassist John Shaw, being part of a musical tradition that is distinctly American is enough to contend with. Though all three members come from a background in the experimental/noise scene, their subversion of the time-tested vocals/bass/guitar/drums is constantly flirting with song craft. The band is so wholly comfortable in this in-between space that they rarely think to define it as that. I got them on a conference call, with John and Elisa dialing in from their homes in Holyoke, Massachusetts and Pete from a craft fair in New York City, to talk about what has changed over the years, what is, and what should never be.
Jacob Forrest Severn Where was Surrender to the Fantasy recorded and how long did it take to come together?
John Shaw I guess it’s been incubating for four years or so. Some of the songs are a few years old and some of them are newer, but it got recorded in a lot of different places over that period and I guess built up that way, rather than having one session.
Multi-media artist Clifford Ross remembers the late musician.
Lou came into my life, not on a pedestal, but at ground level. He was a New York icon, but I met him in a very relaxed way in the early ’90s, when he was with Laurie Anderson, an old friend. For a guy who was famous for being grouchy, he sure was sweet.
Mick Turner (who has a new album out soon) and Jim White discuss the Melbourne post-punk scene of the ’80s and ’90s, as well as their transition to playing in Dirty Three.
Melbourne’s Venom P. Stinger might best be described as the deviant offspring of two prevailing climates in the Australian underground of the 1980s: too tough for the art-drenched status quo, too formally estranged from the American-indebted hardcore emerging earlier in the decade. When the band was formed in the mid-’80s, Drummer Jim White (who, with guitarist Mick Turner, now comprises 2/3 of Dirty Three) had envisioned a project opposed to what he considered the “hegemony of chords [and] notes” in underground music, while still retaining the shape of a rock’n’roll band. He recruited Turner after hearing a cassette by the guitarist’s post-harcore band Sick Things and, along with Fungus Brains throatist Dugald McKenzie and bassist Alan Secher-Jensen, assembled Venom P. Stinger.
The result was nothing less than the rapid decay of rock music into VPS’s unique brand of discordance, punctuated by McKenzie’s guttural snarl: “I started swimming in my own blood/I saw my friends get taken/I don’t even like swimming/I wish I wasn’t tripping.” This summer, Drag City reissued the complete McKenzie-era recordings, from their debut LP Meet My Friend Venom (1986) through to the Waiting Room EP (1991). Mick Turner’s incredible new solo album Don’t Tell the Driver is out November 19 (also on Drag City).
I recently corresponded with Turner and White about the cloudy history of Venom P. Stinger, post-punk in Melbourne, and the band’s transition to the Dirty Three.
Tyler Curtis How did you two come together for Venom P. Stinger?
Mick Turner We knew each other from the music scene in Melbourne, and often shared the stage in various bands. I had recently returned from living in the UK and playing in the Moodists. Jim approached me about joining a band with him, Dugald, and Al. I already knew Dugald from playing with him in Sick Things.
Jim White Fungus Brains and People With Chairs Up Their Noses played together on some bills. Around that time, I’d heard about Sick Things and tried to see them, but they’d broken up. Mick and Dugald had gone on to be Spew Forth. I bought a Sick Things cassette from the counter of Greville Records, it was on Mick’s label Maxcass. Anyway, I really liked Mick’s style, also we both loved the Laughing Clowns. I went around and borrowed the Laughing Clowns record from him to tape. It wasn’t until some time after that we played together, after he joined the Moodists, went overseas, and came back.
James Ferraro discusses DIY aesthetics, apocalyptic visions, and his new album NYC, HELL 3:00 AM.
In November 2011, James Ferraro flooded a stack of end-of-year-best-of lists with the sharply produced sound-abstraction Far Side Virtual. The laptop-produced masterstroke spawned a slew of genre-bending digital releases and an ongoing discussion surrounding its conceptual themes. Ferraro has kept out of the race for editorial consensus, instead keeping himself busy pushing toward totally new vistas in music.
Since his days releasing scummy CD-Rs as a member of pioneering noise duo The Skaters, the music world has been paying close attention to Ferraro’s activity. His latest opus NYC, HELL 3:00 AM is out on October 15 by way of LA-based electronic label Hippos in Tanks. In this follow-up to last April’s online mixtape release Cold, Ferraro continues to work his moody, atmospheric deconstructions into a framework of cultural critique—describing in disturbing detail the psychological structure and decay of the American consumer economy.
James discussed the album’s dark matter, his fascination with post-apocalyptic dystopias, and how the landscape of his mind has changed since Far Side Virtual.
Catlin Snodgrass So you’re back in LA?
James Ferraro Yeah, I came to LA to record Far Side.
CS And you decided to stay?
JF Yeah, it kind of set itself up like that. My label’s out here in LA so I’m back-and-forth between here and New York a lot. I was also working on projects that were related to Far Side so it kept me out here for a little bit longer. But I’m out here post this album, NYC, HELL, to kind of get out of the inferno a little bit.
Mike Donovan discusses analog nostalgia, living in the garage, and Wot, his first post-Sic Alps solo album.
Mike Donovan is a musician from San Francisco. His band Sic Alps recently called it quits after roughly a decade, though their legacy can’t help but live on. That legacy consists of five albums and almost three times as many 7” EPs of sometimes-scorching, sometimes-sweet garage rock released on such labels as Woodsist, Siltbreeze, and Drag City. Indeed, the lo-fi movement that rode its own wave through alternative music shoals of 2000 and beyond was forged by the likes of Donovan, along with Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, Kelley Stoltz, Tim Presley of White Fence, and the Fresh & Onlys.
But now Donovan is set to release a solo album. Wot sees release on October 15 via Drag City. The sound field has been cleared, the overdubs and instrumentation have been paired down, and what’s left is a man, his acoustic guitar, and his songs. Not too much else. Donovan talks here about transitioning to solo mode, living in a garage, and why the Internet makes you seem more interesting than you actually might be.
Listen to a collaboration between Bill Orcutt and Loren Connors, recorded August 30, 2012 at Georgia NYC. Following the session, Keith Connolly conducted a brief interview with Orcutt and Connors.
Keith Connolly A part of the premise in arranging this session was to investigate the nature of the blues as it exists in the present moment. At the risk of attempting a definition by that which it is not, I’d like to ask the both of you about some of your extra-musical pursuits: Loren, you are also a painter and have a vested interest in history, especially that of nyc. Bill, I believe you were involved in operating an art-house cinema in San Francisco, and have exhibited a strong, almost pop-art design sensibility, which belies an interest in, dare I say, fashion, or at least a kind of sarcasm about the retro-contemporary. How would you say that these pursuits inform or are interwoven into your music?
Loren Connors It’s all me. One thing affects another. Everything is an aesthetic exercise or a physical exercise. It keeps me going.
Bill Orcutt I agree with Loren – it’s all interconnected. Also for me, I have a ton of interests and tend to do a lot of pseudo-research before a making a record – reading and listening which generally has nothing to do with the task at hand, but usually winds up expressing itself one way or another. Right now I’m reading everything I can find on minstrelsy, a subject I know practically nothing about. I have no idea how this “research” might work its way into the thing I’m making now, but I’m sure it’ll find a way…
Eli Kezler on endless installations, raw composition, and the spatial limitations of large-scale art.
Like fellow percussionist/visual artists Walter de Maria and Brian Chippendale, there are many intertwining components to the work of Eli Keszler. As an installation artist, a virtuosic percussionist, and an accomplished draftsman, Eli has explored prevailing themes, such as the passing of time or the rawness and root of materiality. He does this kinetically—his installations churn and yawn like depowering machines, and yet his playing sounds too quick to be human. His pen on paper drawings are meticulously detailed with small laborious marks that collectively add up to singular, strange, hypnotic objects.
A week prior to this interview, I had visited Eli’s studio, a large white windowless room filled with sketches and diagrams for installation pieces that had somehow carbuncled into abstracted masses. Two test dummy installations were set up—one a wire installation, and another, automated mallets on boxes that sounded like sped-up morse code when activated. One of these—a massive lace of interwoven piano strings played upon by micro-controlled hammers—is currently up at the South London Gallery, and on August 22, Printed Matter will host a launch party for Eli’s first collection of drawings, Neum, at which he will perform a special percussion piece using crotales, bows, and sticks on snare and floor tom.
Michael Barron You’ve just put out your first book of drawings, Neum.
Eli Keszler That’s right—drawings, diagrams, and sketches.
MB Where did the title come from? Something you made up?
EK Neum is a variation of the word Neume, which was a medieval music notation, still used in plainchant. It essentially outlined the contours or a line and then evolved slowly toward the five-line staff system that we use now—its vagueness is what appealed to me about it.
Angel Olsen on writing a song in twenty minutes, playing with Bonnie “Prince” Billy, and the difference between recording a 7 inch and an album.
If you go see Angel Olsen headline—that is, the crowd is there to see her—you’re going to encounter The Angel Olsen Phenomenon. This is where the audience’s collective pair of lungs gets sort of vacuum-sealed, or maybe replaced with packing peanuts and silica gel packets, and all of their focus is squarely directed toward Angel and her band. Read any review of one of her shows and you’ll find someone describing the same thing. I know I’m not imagining the Phenomenon because I also know that the human race isn’t categorically polite—they leave each other at bars without saying goodbye and they have loud conversations in the bathroom and most notably will talk through every show they go to . . . So what I’m saying is, for the air in a room to actually vaporize, a performance has to actually have intensity, it has to actually have some sort of emotional impact or value or purity. Leonard Cohen used to cut concerts short if he felt at all that the performance “wasn’t getting off the ground.” Angel and company get off the ground regularly.
I should note that this happens the old-fashioned way, not with antics, pantomiming, pyrotechnics or posturing; just put her and her songs and her voice and a venue together, and it happens. I met with Angel before a show, and over chocolate cake donuts, we discussed recording, Russell Crowe, and the nuts and bolts of songwriting.
Gary Canino I know playing your songs with a backing band is still relatively new for you. How does it work, do you bring your songs to them and work out arrangements?
Angel Olsen Yeah, everybody kind of suggests different things and if it doesn’t end up sounding the right way, we can change it. But it’s especially cool with the older material, because they can really bring new life to it.
Steve Gunn on instrumental vs. lyrical songwriting for Time Off, shaking the habit of “shy singing,” and meeting ODB in the parking lot of Grateful Dead show.
Steve Gunn is in a particularly good mood today for two reasons. Firstly, his second “songwriter” record, Time Off, recently debuted to particularly glowing reviews, bolstered by his celebrated cameos opening for and playing with Kurt Vile and the Violaters, and secondly, we’re at one of his favorite Polish restaurants, Lomzynianka, on Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint. Like his music, he’s low-key and gracious, taking time to carefully answer each of my questions. Time Off is the kind of record that patiently waits for you to catch up to it, and when you eventually do, it creeps into your consciousness, due to his evocative six-string work as much as the meditative tone the record sustains throughout. Steve and I sat down over pierogies—boiled and fried—to discuss square dances in Virginia, his songwriting process, and the unlikely similarities between the Wu-Tang Clan and the Grateful Dead.
Gary Canino So you grew up in the suburbs in Pennsylvania?
Steve Gunn Yeah, it’s a Western suburb of Philly, probably ten miles out. It’s called Lansdowne and it’s part of Upper Darby.
GC Your record comes out tomorrow.
SG Yeah, it’s been a long time coming.
Andrew Cedermark’s unique perspective on sauerkraut and writing lyrics for his forthcoming album Home Life.
I first met Andrew Cedermark over four years ago, somewhere on the Corner in Charlottesville, Virginia. I was a first-year studying at the University of Virginia, and his former band Titus Andronicus was on tour, playing in town that night, and my old band was opening for his old band. Even though quite some time had passed since he lived in town, word had spread that we bore a resemblance, and initially, that’s all we had to talk about.
Four years later, the resemblance is all but gone with the passage of time, and now, we have a lot to talk about. Home Life, his second album, comes out next month after a long gestation period, and it delivers a more polished set of the early promise that Moon Deluxe suggested. His guitar heroics detonate nearly half the tunes on here, and when you sift through his pages of lyrics, it’s only the heavy words that come to mind: regret, remorse, loss, and regret again. But who ever listened to John Phillips, Tim Hardin, or Roy Orbison for the happy stuff? And weren’t Sinatra’s last words, “I’m losing?” Andrew and I met at the Polish restaurant Lomzynianka on Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn to discuss the last four years of our relationship.
Gary Canino In your recent interview with SPIN, you said the album was titled Lean on Me, but I see it was recently changed to Home Life. What’s the story behind that?
Andrew Cedermark Yeah, that was sort of unfortunate. It was going to be named after that Bill Withers song, but Sawyer [Jacobs] at Underwater Peoples, who studies intellectual property law, got cold feet in the 11th hour and didn’t want to get sued, and this is supposed to be a good, nice, fun thing, and it would have made it not that if Withers came and sued us, though that would have been a good story. You can even have [Home Life] written on your knuckles.
Brooklyn musician Ashley Paul on lyrical development, the conservatory, and the Third Stream between jazz and classical.
Line the Clouds, the latest album from Brooklyn-based musician Ashley Paul, is bewitching. It combines familiar elements (the guitar and vocals of the singer-songwriter genre and the techniques of the veteran improviser, for instance) but mixes them in such unusual ways, and takes them from such seemingly incompatible sources, that the result is a unique personal aesthetic. It could be confounding if it weren’t affective at a gut level—on repeat listens any initial strangeness gives way to reveal her intuitive sense for melody and a disarming emotional directness. Though musically inventive, the record is a humane experience filled with moments of rare grace.
When we met near her apartment in Brooklyn, Paul had just performed at the release party for Line the Clouds. Over the course of a few hours and a few beverages, we talked about topics including: playing music that doesn’t fit in, intuition, music’s slow evolution in relation to art, busking, singing, and how to disguise your nerves while playing the saxophone.
Sean Higgins So I was reading through the description for the record, and I wanted to ask you some questions about that.
Ashley Paul OK, I didn’t write that description.
SH Who did?
AP I think there are two descriptions, and all the press stuff I feel a little crazy about. But I think Eli [Keszler, Paul’s husband and head of REL records, the label that released Line the Clouds] partially wrote one of them and then someone who works with the person who is helping me out—like my publicist—wrote the other one.
Jan St. Werner, of pioneering electronic music duo Mouse on Mars, discusses his forthcoming solo album, Blaze Colour Burn. Stream exclusive content from Blaze Colour Burn, due out June 11th, 2013, below.
Jan St. Werner may be best known for his genre-defining work in the electronic duo Mouse on Mars, but listening to his new solo album, Blaze Colour Burn, one hears an artist redefining his unique approach to sound. Site-specific composition, field recordings, and film scores are carefully complied into an album which transcends the material and space into an acoustic reality all its own. His collaborative work with MoM and Microstoria, as well as his solo projects Lithops and NoiseMachineTapes, span decades of experimentation, yet didn’t prepare me for the full spectrum of depth in this new work, which is the first release inaugurating Thrill Jockey’s new Fiepblatter series.
Gregg Kowalsky and I were interested to speak with Jan since our new album at Date Palms is coming out the same week on Thrill Jockey. Gregg was first introduced to electronic music while interning at Beggar’s Banquet, the label that distributed the first MoM records which were a huge influence on his early work. I came to Jan’s music through a more classical avant-garde route—through the music of composers like Stockhausen—eventually making my way to more popular dance forms in the 2000’s. Speaking to Jan over Skype, we discussed how recording has transformed the electronic musician into a curator and archivist, how the manner which the individual manipulates sound reflects his inner prism, and his time as Artistic Director at STEIM (Studio for Electro-Instrumental Music in the Netherlands).
– Marielle Jakobsons
Gregg Kowalsky Three of the pieces from your new record Blaze Colour Burn are from film scores, and one of the pieces, “Spiazzacorale,” was a long-form public performance. But I felt when I listened to Blaze Colour Burn that you managed to create a really cohesive album from such varied material. Was it a challenge to do that? What was your approach?
Jan St. Werner I’m constantly producing musical ideas which are never played or used in a score, so I kind of forget about them. They happen, they disappear—some of them are never really used. I just keep them as sketches. But eventually I went back to this archive of material and realized that apparently there is something in common there. Of course there is something in common with every piece of music you do even if it’s super eclectic or is as varied as you can imagine—still there is something that holds it all together, that connects it all.
Stephen Pastel looks back on creating a new Pastels record, fanzines, and his courtship with film music.
The years between 1978 and 1985 saw a cluster of bands pop up around the world, similar in sound and approach, but initially having little to no contact. Largely unknown to each other, for the first few years, at least, Dunedin, Olympia, and Glasgow and London all nurtured their own, particular brand of post-punk. Groups like the Clean in New Zealand, Beat Happening in Washington State, and the Pastels in Scotland employed curiously similar kinds of jangly (or “shambling,” to quote John Peel) guitars, flat vocal melodies, and odd pop kernels, and the innumerable fanzines and cassette tapes orbiting their respective scenes further highlighted their compatibility. Glasgow’s the Pastels formed in 1981 and are arguably the definitive group among the movement that would be known as C86 or Anorak pop. Despite this, their ambition, prolific output, and regular shift in sound effectively distanced the band from the self-consciously amateurish, twee aesthetic associated with some of their contemporaries and other C86 alum.
The band’s frontman Stephen Pastel (neé McRobbie), who intermittently worked a day job as a librarian, and musically, is also a curator of sorts. Stephen spent the 16 years between the last full-length Pastels record and Mobile Safari follow-up, Illumination (1997), and their latest, Slow Summits (2013), forming Geographic Records with fellow Pastel, Katrina Mitchell, organizing screenings for the Monorail Film Club in Glasgow, and, most notably, writing soundtracks for theatre and film, also with Mitchell. Understandably then, Slow Summits's sound is a veritable blend of the melodic pop they teased out of punk rock’s wake and something quite cinematic. I was lucky enough to chat with Mr. Pastel via telephone about his time between records, producing fanzines like Juniper Beri-Beri and Pastelism, and his initial correspondence with other progenitors of the genre.
Tyler Curtis Between Illumination (1997) and Slow Summits (2013), most of the Pastels’s output has been collaborative. Illuminati consisted of remixes. You worked with directors for soundtracks to a film and a play, and you did Two Sunsets with Tenniscoats, and “I Picked a Flower” with Jarvis Cocker. Was there any impetus behind that? And why you didn’t move forward with more singularly Pastels releases?
Stephen Pastel It was just really responses to opportunities that came up. I think we always had a strong sense of our own identity and wanting to do new Pastels things, but also, I agree with you, I think that’s a good point about a film soundtrack being collaborative with the director, and the same with theatre music. In a way, you’re responding to directions and it’s made with some kind of limitation, even though I think that kind of limitation can be really good sometimes. In a way, it suited us, because when Annabel left the group, we weren’t sure about how we’d progress things, and I think we needed time to take stock. And it was good that we were able to do some work, no matter how intermittent, and define a new sound for a group. Tom started playing live with us when we were touring after Illumination and he became a really central part of things, and Gerard became really important, too. So I think it’s incredible, you know, to take that long to make a record, but in another way, it didn’t ever feel too desperate. I think we always thought that we’d be able to make another record, and we’re with a record label that’s very supportive and happy for us to work in our own way. We were doing Geographic, the label, that was another thing that took up a lot of our creative time. Probably eight or nine years ago, we were doing that quite a lot. You know, releasing four or five records a year. I think after a while we just decided that with Geographic we’d try to release one record a year, but concentrate primarily on the Pastels.
Channeling neurosis into haunting dance beats, Autre Ne Veut’s newest release Anxiety helps bring us all in on the healing process.
Autre Ne Veut (the brainchild of Brooklyn based artist Arthur Ashin) is an amalgam of sounds, a pastiche of both beats and emotions. Its mastermind and uber mixmasterologist wafts between krautrock and the kind of unique blend of self-deprecation and faux bravado that’s come to characterize much of the more ground-breaking forms of R&B. In short, Autre Ne Veut escapes definition. With a popularity that has soared to astounding heights this year, recent world tours, a growing and loyal base, and the approval of esteemed music outlets like Pitchfork, 2013 is truly looking to be Ashin’s year. Energetic, enigmatic, and tinged with the outlines of a sinister force propelling his heavy loops and falsetto-inflected vocals, you’d expect Ashin to be something of an elusive mad man. Rather, he is a down-to earth New Yorker with a background in psychology, who uses his innate intellectualism and perceptivity to zone in on emotions we’d rather forget: anxiety, fear, depression, and turns them into something that connects his work to the entire human experience.
Laura Feinstein I hadn’t realized your family was from Kenya. How do you think this multi-cultural aspect of your background has affected your music?
Arthur Ashin Saying my family is from Kenya is a bit of an overstatement. My mom spent a number of years the Peace Corps and my dad had been out in the Kakamega district for years before that, teaching at and running secondary schools. I was actually born in the United States, though. The biggest creative impact that it had on me is that my parents listened to African music while I was growing up (King Sunny Ade, Ladysmith Black Mambazo) and obviously Graceland was a big player. But really, the music that they listened to was filtered through a sort of Kenyan lens. That’s what trickled down to me, and as with many things that we grow up with, it created an implicit foundation for my musical tastes as well as my internal melodic and rhythmic sensibilities.
Video by Veronika Vogler.
Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and Aaron Dilloway perform at one of the last Wierd Records parties at Home Sweet Home.
In many Eastern philosophies and religions, one of the essential lessons of meditation is to realize the Oneness of being by overcoming the distance between the self and what surrounds it. In Hinduism, the term Ardhanarishvara signifies the confluence between the Self (purusha), which is male, and the Universe (prakriti), which is female. The union between these two energies translates into the very essence of Creation where Love denotes itself, and not the space between two entities. The idea is that by eradicating distance, difference is no longer perceived. And if there is no difference between us there can only be Love. While the end result of this stream of thought is enticing, it is onerous to reconcile the idea of a symbiosis between two people, let alone with the entire reality of the world. This is what makes the performance of Genesis Breyer P-Orridge creatively transcendental and aesthetically ceremonial. Over two decades ago, Genesis and his wife Lady Jaye began their most prolific collaboration by undergoing numerous surgeries to look like one another. The end result being this Oneness of being which they titled the Pandrogyne Project—the creation of a new gender through the synthesis of their two entities to be known collectively as Breyer P-Orridge. If the body is the personal property of the soul, can bodymates become an extension of soulmates? The one step beyond the Platonian concept of androgynous beings—both male and female confined to one form.
Deerhunter discusses automatic writing, Monomania, and setting the record straight on Connie Lungpin.
“Keep him in the bathroom! We’re not done yet.” Bradford Cox yelled as I entered the hotel room where I’d be interviewing Deerhunter in just a few moments. On Late Night with Jimmy Fallon this week, Cox, dressed in drag and covered in fake blood, tore through his band’s latest single and album title track, and prominently displayed what looked to be his own dismembered fingers. I was the last of a series of interviews they had done that day. The band was understandably worn down.
Monomania, Deerhunter’s fifth album, is described in their press release as a “nocturnal garage” album, and the description couldn’t be more apt: peaked guitars and distorted vocals evoke such classics as The Stooges’ Raw Power and Royal Trux’s Twin Infinitives in equal parts. From “Dream Captain”s bratty wreckage of a melody, to the serene middle jangle of “Monomania,” every song has the immediacy of a sort of punk rock Everly Brothers cover band, a far cry from their more abstract breakthrough, Cryptograms. Sitting down with the members of Deerhunter, I successfully avoided Cox’s infamous interviewer ire and discussed their recent lineup change, the writing process of Monomania, and the mysterious masked man they’ve been bringing on stage with them.
“You’re not hiding in the bathroom are you?” his press person asked a few minutes later. I emerged. The interview began.
Gary Canino I really enjoyed your performance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon last night. Who was your friend on the side of the stage with the tape player?
Bradford Cox (lead vocals, guitar) Paul! He’s the greatest guy.
Moses Archuelta (drums) He actually messed that up though, it was amazing. He forgot to rewind the tape—
BC I made this cassette, like these motorcycle sounds that are on the record, but Paul was so spaced out by the cosmic NOW of the idea of satellites and shit…he’s a great kid. He’s been with the band for a long time. He’s kind of like our little brother.
David Behrman, Tyondai Braxton, and Karlheinz Stockhausen took New York City by storm last weekend. Nick Hallett celebrates their interwoven histories and relationship to the cosmos.
Between March 21 and 24, 2013 three iconic Upper East Side institutions convened semi-ritualized multimedia gatherings of electronic music and art in celebration of the divine elements that define Earth’s relationship to the cosmos—lunar orbits, bodies of water both liquid and frozen, insect habitats—while in Brooklyn, opera audiences gathered in front of a giant video orb to celebrate all the remaining planets in our solar system. As the events of the weekend unfolded, I progressed from concert to concert as if at some kind of rarefied Burning Man festival, inscribed by the art world. Perhaps the synergy was due to the weekend’s proximity to Vernal Equinox or the Passover holiday. Whatever the reason, the music and art left me feeling evolved, ready to beam up to . . . somewhere, resulting in what I have since been calling Space Age New Music Weekend.
Consciousness, a performance lecture by Marcus du Sautoy featuring music by James Holden and visuals by one of us at the Barbican.
A couple of weeks ago in London, a mathematician sold out The Barbican. And the hall wasn’t packed with sartorially disheveled mid-career scientists, it was filled by a mass of frankly quite stylish twenty and thirty somethings. To be fair, Oxford professor Marcus du Sautoy was presenting his lecture-performance, Consciousness, with the support of electronic musician James Holden, founder of the highly danceable Border Community label. But clearly no one had turned up expecting a techno party. The enthusiasm for the event was another solid affirmation of the (relatively) recent and steadily increasing intertwining of art and science.
Added into the art and science mix were visuals by one of us. A film and VFX studio based in Soho, their recent projects include director Joe Wright’s 2012 adaptation of Anna Karenina. Sometimes their images consisted of supporting documentary clips or were purely diagrammatic, but just as often they were more intuitive reflections on the content—quirky, almost Monty Python-esque video illustrations drawn from scientific archives. While not making a particularly strong statement in their own right, these more interpretive elements definitely heightened the humorous curiosity that characterized the night.
Mike Polizze of Purling Hiss discusses his four-track roots, Ampegs, and letting his song-guts hang out.
Mike Polizze got a four-track recorder in 1999. He was 18 then, and fresh out of high school. Polizze spent a lot of nights playing around with home recording, and in 2003, he laid down the first tracks he’d release under the moniker Purling Hiss some years later. Each record since then half-buries two or three decades of influence, an amalgamation of Black Flag, Sabbath, and the poppier side of Dinosaur Jr. or Sonic Youth, all of it cloaked in a buzzy, white noise.
Between their first record in 2009 and now, Purling Hiss saw an explosive output of vinyl and cassette, roughly two EPs, a split 7”, one compilation, a live tape, and five full-lengths. The latest of which, Water on Mars, seems a bit of a departure from the band’s lo-fi roots: it’s bigger, it’s crisp, the lows are lower (much lower), shattering the transmission loss between Purling Hiss’s heavy live shows and the lo-fi (albeit ripping) pop of their back catalog. I spoke with Polizze about buying that initial four-track, making the new record, and the space between the two.
Tyler Curtis What’s with the higher production this time around? It’s not masked by the buzz and white noise of everything before. Maybe your intention’s different with Water on Mars? Or at least, something more fleshed-out?
Mike Polizze I feel like I shed my skin a little bit on this one. All the recorded stuff I did before was poorly lo-fi, with varying levels of quality. Most of the past recordings weren’t intended to be released when I recorded them at the time, because I didn’t know what it was going to be. A lot of it was first take, a lot of it was just poorly mixed. And I kind of did it on purpose. A lot of times I buried the vocals, not always on purpose, but just sort of kept them underneath. It was sort of like the learning process, before I was confident with the drums or the vocals. Plus, it was fun to experiment. Using the four-track recording as the tool itself in the process to give it it’s aesthetic. It’s like part of it’s own personality.
I bought a four-track in 1999. I was 18 then. So for the first few years, I just kind of messed with it a little bit. But around 2003, 2004, I really started recording. And there’s kind of where the backlog started. I was just recording stuff, and by the time Permanent Records put out the first Purling Hiss record, I had already recorded a bunch. That was kind of new at the time, so they kind of got me right when I was doing that. But we’re talking like 2004 to probably like 2011, of stuff you might hear, whether it’s on a tour-only tape cassette release or another record I did.
Julian Lynch on his new album Lines, the recording/performing dichotomy, and different ways an artist can make use of an influence.
Julian Lynch is a composer and performer from Madison, WI. Currently working on a dual concentration Ph.D. in anthropology and ethnomusicology at the University of Wisconsin, Lynch has released a handful of albums while still in school, including 2010’s mysterious and meandering Mare as well as the more focused, driving Terra (2011), both out on New Jersey’s Underwater Peoples label. His next album is called Lines and is slated for a March 23 release date.
As a denizen of a quasi-legendary Ridgewood, NJ high school music scene that spawned such successful groups as Titus Andronicus, Real Estate, and the Vivian Girls, Lynch still holds close ties with that cadre of musicians and songwriters; he often shares bills and band members with these bands and their offshoots. At the same time, where many of today’s popular groups with North jersey roots share a musical lingua franca of pop song structure and good-time party-dance rhythms, Lynch’s sound eschews these references to achieve an altogether different type of memorability—melodies that sneak up on you when you might least expect them and play on idioms from five centuries ago as opposed to five decades. BOMB caught up with Lynch to discuss balancing school and music, the recording/performing dichotomy, and different ways an artist can make use of an influence.
Andrew Aylward How was your first week of school?
Julian Lynch It actually hasn’t started yet but I’ve just been taking care of odds and ends before it begins next week.
AA So you’re doing anthropology and ethnomusicology for your PhD, right?
JL Yep, that’s right.
AA I didn’t you know you could do that. Is that like double majoring except for seven years?
JL Yeah, it’s basically like that. It’s called a joint PhD and it just took some fine-tuning with getting coursework requirements done for both departments. It’s been going pretty smoothly. I guess you could think of it like double majoring for a Phd.
Watch Matmos’s new video, directed by M.C. Schmidt, for “Luminous Rings,” a bonus track from their recent album The Marriage of True Minds, out now on Thrill Jockey.
Tres Warren of Psychic Ills on sonic exploration, making music in New York, and Gibby Haynes’s culinary choices.
Psychic Ills’ fourth LP, One Track Mind, fulfills the promise of their record prior: eschewing the improvised jams of their early catalog, Tres Warren and Elizabeth Hart instead craft each dark, blasted track with full intent. It’s only fitting to find contributions from the likes Gibby Haynes, Peter Kember, and Powell St. John throughout their body of work, situating them firmly in the American psych rock tradition.
I called Warren as he geared up for their North American tour, now underway, and chatted about the record, living in Austin, and the density of New York.
Tyler Curtis How did you and Liz Hart first link up?
Tres Warren I met her in school, at the University of Texas at Austin. We were in the same Art History class. Psychic Ills happened a few years later.
TC Your earlier work, the Mental Violence EPs and stuff on The Social Registry, was based around drum machine and a lot of jamming. What facilitated the shift to live percussion and more song-based material?
TW When the band first started, I had just gotten this Roland TR-707 drum machine, and I was getting into programming drums and kind of writing songs along to drum machine stuff. And that’s kind of how that happened. There wasn’t really a course planned ahead, and it just evolved into a live band, you know? And at certain points there was still some stuff with drum machines, and there might be again. But it definitely turned into more of a rock band.
A lot of times it would be kind of jamming. And more recently, it’s definitely been more writing songs, almost like demoing them, and then recording them. There were definitely times where it was more of like improvised jamming, and seeing if you could write a song that way. And then sometimes improvising but not necessarily trying to write a song, just jamming. More recently, it’s just become writing out the songs and then recording them.
Spencer Clark of Monopoly Child Star Searchers on brain music, The Garnet Toucan and sick jetski videos.
Spencer Clark is a contemporary musician known for his work with James Ferraro in their boy band, the Skaters, as well as his solo recordings as Monopoly Child Star Searchers, Vodka Soap, Black Joker and more. The Garnet Toucan is his latest release, out now on Underwater Peoples, and is the final work in the “Romance Audio Trilogy”, following up on 2010’s Bamboo for Two (Olde English Spelling Bee) and the CDr, Make Mine Macaw.
I first heard Spencer’s music shortly after being turned on to Ferraro’s own solo work. I assumed Spencer’s record would be of a similar vibe, but I was surprised to find that, while there was certainly overlap between their solo efforts, Spencer’s compositions were introspective in a different way than Ferraro’s. He’s on a much more solitary and heady trip than Ferraro, whose inspiration seems to be contemporary cultural detritus. Whereas Ferraro has been more and more interested in shimmering surface play, in internalizing and reorganizing cultural noise, Clark is more concerned with his own idiosyncratic obsessions in the pursuit of what he would call “internal brain music”.
In 2011, I learned that Clark had released new music—and had been, actually, for the previous 4 years—under the Monopoly Child Star Searchers moniker. I listened to Bamboo for Two and I loved it; it was ecstatic, tropical club music. It also sounded like some of the most accessible music I had ever heard from either of the ex-Skaters, but no less bountiful or expressive for that.
Martin Lynch Hi Spencer. Thanks for doing this interview.
Spencer Clark THANKYER YUR WELKER.
ML Your new record is part of a trilogy. What binds the three albums, thematically or otherwise?
SC The “Romance” trilogy highlights the way I feel and have felt in the past few years; with dedications towards freely experiencing the world and with expeditions at every corner one can find a more inherent meaning in things that are outside oneself, like for instance nature. When one is free of worry and guilt and regret I feel as though one can see the outside world more as it is in it’s own nature, and not what it has to do with you directly. So the keyboard solos on Bamboo for Two are meant to highlight the imaginary and the romantic side of the percussive nature of Monopoly Child. Make Mine Macaw has never been released, and it will be on LP this year.
Jennifer Herrema weighs in on her art work, fake reunions, Black Bananas, and sweating the Fiscal Cliff—and the Meatloaf/Gary Busey fight.
Jennifer Herrema’s artist’s residency at the New Museum—called “She’s Crafty”—featured the influential frontwoman—formerly of the legendary Royal Trux, currently leading Black Bananas—and several artists taking turns reimagining the storefront window of the New Musuem’s bookstore (several of the items in the window’s storefront are for sale and are, presumably, going to be part of her new Feathered Fish clothing and jewelry line). I met Jennifer on the street, where she immediately asked if I’d like to do the interview over a few glasses of wine next store at the Bowery Diner, along with two of her peers: musician Lizzi Bougatsos (of Gang Gang Dance) and videographer Jess Holzworth. It became clear pretty quickly that Jennifer was one of the least intimidating or pretentious artists I’d ever met. Even those questions that I was a little wary of asking, she answered with total ease. When I asked if she was going to the fake “Royal Trux” showNeil Hagerty’s low-key performance of Twin Infinitives that happened at St. Vitus last month—that, at the time, was only a few days away, she told me she was flying out that night, but gave me her own take on it. I think “The Needle and the Damage Done” was playing as we were seated at the diner. This appropriately loose and laid-back conversation followed.
Gary Canino I wanted to ask about Royal Trux and Virginia. I went to school down in Charlottesville, and have always heard rumors about the ’91 show at Trax . . .
Jennifer Herrema Yeah, I love Charlottesville, it’s just a nice place to live. Conducive to getting shit done.
GC You recorded in Virginia too, right?
JH Yeah, we owned a 15-acre farm with a studio built in. In Castleton, Virginia, right between Culpeper and Little Washington, out in Rappahannock.
John Cale discusses tour drama with with Eno and Ayers, hip-hop comedy, and what it takes to cover Nico.
At John Cale’s performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music last week – the legendary Welsh musician and producer (most known for his stint in the Velvet Underground) – I was struck by how casual the man seemed performing a lifetime of material. He walked out on stage, blew through his 1970 orchestral-rock classic Paris 1919 with precision, and then returned to the stage to play a set of challenging and obscure (even for Cale) material. It was clear that for Cale, this second half of the show was the focus: “Hedda Gabbler,” “December Rains,” and several other songs from his most recent album, Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood, proved to be the centerpieces for the night, as the sprawling (and often challenging) orchestral pieces filled the Gilman Opera House. The most audible reaction of the night was very obviously reserved for “Venus in Furs,” with loud cheers greeting the lone appearance of Velvet Underground material. I recently spoke to Cale about the concept for this show, his bizarre one-off 1974 tour with Nico, Brian Eno, and Kevin Ayers, and There’s Something About Mary.
Gary Canino With previous Paris 1919 shows that you’ve done, the second half of the show has been devoted to Vintage Violence. However, the second half of the show I saw at BAM last week was half Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood material, and half Sabotage-era material. What was your concept for the show?
John Cale Over the years I’ve been trying to add new songs every time we do it, to really take advantage of the fact that we have an orchestra. If we could only have an orchestra every time we want… so we did three or four new tunes the other night. This time we owed the new record some support, so I added some orchestral versions.
Holly Herndon on techno-optimism, the academy, and the computer as a compositional tool.
In the past year alone alone, Holly Herndon released her debut solo record, Movement, performed at a few high-profile festivals and at least one venerable modern art museum, and began studying toward a PhD at Stanford University. Once we managed to contact each other on Skype (both of us were tired enough to sleep through the first interview we scheduled), she was friendly and generous, speaking at length about a record that she must have been talking about for weeks already.
This generosity of spirit is characteristic of Herndon’s work, too. Though Movement has already spawned a dozen well-deserved think pieces, the record is incredibly listenable. With the music on this album, she broaches questions about the lines drawn between the body and the machine, the traditional musical instrument and the laptop, and dance music and academic music, but she does so without a hint of the opacity that tends to accompany such conceptually dense work. Her pieces, which include a cassette titled Car which features car sounds and is meant to be played in a car, and an audience-pranking collaboration with the Iranian philosopher Reza Negarestani, are just as sonically engaging as they are dead smart.
Where 2012 saddled the listening public with a glut of musicians who responded to the anxieties of the new millennium with a self-defeating nostalgia or by taking refuge in a dark and anxious aesthetic, Herndon’s response is refreshing—she expresses a deep and playful optimism for the technological possibilities of the future. We spoke about, among other things: day jobs, upright bass, the academy, electronic-music pioneers, gender, California, noise, and synthesizers.
Bee Mask’s Chris Madak spent the better part of the last two years constructing his new album. Now he reflects on the conceptual threads running through it.
There is a lurking strangeness in the music of Philadelphia-based composer Chris Madak, who records under the half-silly, half-terrifying moniker Bee Mask. Like sometimes tourmate Oneohtrix Point Never, Madak uses synthesizers and scraps of nostalgia to conjure a sonic world that defies the usual parameters of noise and pop. In part undeniably catchy and in part incredibly abstract, these tracks are constantly eluding their center. They are hauntingly subdued, quasi-human, and dramatic; far-out but felt. Bee Mask’s is an artificially intelligent music reminiscent of that moment in sci-fi stories when technology turns in on itself and gains a glimmer of human consciousness—think HAL 5000 or Johnny Five.
My talk with Chris—an e-mail exchange, actually—was surprising on a number of levels. To hear him wax philosophical on everything from Platonic forms to the evils of streaming video to the nature of time itself can be a disorienting experience. You want to think the guy behind a project like Bee Mask possesses a laconic minimalism across the board, but, then, that’s just not the case. After reading his responses to my questions, I was at first a little stunned. He had successfully gone in with a little scalpel and dug out the bits of the questions that seemed to him to ring false, and then filled in the empty space with his own ruminations. But then this approach is similar to the one that he takes to composition. Instead of hearing the music as ultra-minimal and restrained, I started to think of it as a reduction of sorts—a block of sound, bit by bit reduced of its superfluous parts.
Chris’s approach to this interview was unconventional as well. He responded to my questions—which became more like prompts—with an unexpected richness and enthusiasm. He talks a bit about his excellent new album, When We Were Eating Unripe Pears, out now on Spectrum Spools, and instead of offering the usual “mixtape” of YouTube videos, gives his thoughts on the shifting meaning of artistic responsibility. Feel free to read the small print.
A selection of pages from Elliot Sharp’s score Foliage, with an introduction from the composer.
“Using graphics software, Elliott creates the visual equivalent of what he does with audio editing software in a live performance. Altering what he sees the same way he alters what he hears, by modulating, distorting, filtering, stretching, multiplying, layering, inverting, blurring, and ultimately exploding the traditionally written sheet music.”
Excerpted from Christian Marclay’s forward to Foliage, London, August 2012
In its primary function, Foliage is a graphic score open to interpretation and realization by any instrumentalist or ensemble of any size; for an extended duration or a succinct hit; as a concert performance or sonic installation. Much of my composed work uses traditional notation, often the most efficient way to convey instructions to such ensembles as a symphony orchestra. Improvisation also has been extremely important for me, the best way to create social music. But there is another path between composed and improvised, that is often best represented with graphics. Foliage is a culmination of my work in this approach, the closest I’ve come to presenting the “look” of what I’m hearing when I compose in my Inner Ear.
Oorutaichi muses on the technology of music and the benefits of collaboration.
I first heard of Oorutaichi in 2005 when I was buying everything that came out on the Idjut Boys label, Bear Funk. Misen Gymnastics was a playful, poppy jam that seemed to come from another planet with focused distortion, strange vocal verses, original melodies, and a strong percussion laden rhythm. The track and its two smoothed-out remixes stayed in rotation longer than most. Fast forward to 2011 and the release of his third full length album, Cosmic Coco, Singing for a Billion Imu’s Hearty Pi. Released only in Japan, it is a colorful tapestry which sounds as fresh now as it did then. I want to call it future pop, but it proves that the future is now. The album also features amazing remixes of the single, Futurelina, by Daedelus and Eye from Boredoms.
Oorutaichi is truly an original artist with a unique vision. An ardent collaborator, his music seems almost ego-less, to be enjoyed by young and old alike, from a kindergarten to the dancefloor. On Friday November 16, Japan Society will host Cosmic Coco with Oorutaichi featuring an always energetic multimedia performance. We spoke briefly through email in October about the advantages of technology in art, the importance of collaboration, and the meaning of Oorutaichi.
Translated by Monika Uchiyama
Scott Davis What were you like as a child? Where did you grow up?
Oorutaichi とても人見知りでおとなしい子供だったと思います。 日本の奈良県というところの少し寂れた町で育ちました。
I think I was a very shy and well behaved child. I grew up in a slightly deserted town in Nara, Japan.