Monday, February 25, 2013

Interview with Mount Moriah

When I don't know where to start with a blog post I start with the lines "When I don't know where to start with a blog post." When I listen to Mount Moriah, I am impressed with the restraint and precision of the backing music that can sometimes stand in stark contrast to the complex nature of Heather McEntire's words. Mount Moriah is about the quiet explosions that exist within a person's mind that are impossible to see from the outside. But they're also about a reflection process. They're about conflict, but they're also about beauty.

I remember hearing "Social Wedding Rings" for the first time and thinking about growing up in a deeply religious household. My mother still attends Bible Study conferences in Colorado Springs and is the leader of an amazing bible study for women, which I know gives a lot of people a support system and new ways to think. My mom puts a lot of time in it and does a really amazing time. I have always struggled with religion. Since I was fifteen, I have struggled with being both agnostic and being a good son in a religious family. I love my mom a lot and don't want to disappoint her. When I heard "Social Wedding Rings," and other songs on the self-titled album, a lot of Heather's words rang true for me - to put it simply, it gave me a connection, which is of course what Mount Moriah is all about.

There's a lot that leads up to the sound, ethos, and ideas that come from a Mount Moriah song. I see geography as the prism through which ideas get shot out onto a canvas, which becomes a song. So, say sexuality. You take the idea of sexuality and see how it can be sent through a Southern filter (likening to a camera this time) and see what the picture on the other side - the south is not the definition but rather an entity that defines. This is only a shallow reading. There is a lot of thought and humanity in the music behind Mount Moriah that makes them a very special band.

You can listen to their music on spotify, check out their first two full-length albums through MERGE RECORDS, or check out their WEBSITE

Jordan: Who is in Mount Moriah? How did you guys meet? When did you start the band?

Hether: Jenks and I met while working a record store in Chapel Hill, NC. At the core, Mount Moriah is me, Jenks Miller, and Casey Toll; we also work with other collaborators. Jenks and I started playing together as Mount Moriah in 2008, though he had used the name previously with another set of members. 

J: How did you get the name Mount Moriah? I know it's the mountain where Abraham was supposed to sacrifice Issac, but is there a significance behind that theme?

H: Jenks named the band. Yes, it's a biblical reference that we find intriguing and powerful. Coincidentally, it's also a road in our town runs between Durham and Chapel Hill. I pass by it several times a week.

J: How has it been signing to Merge? What was the process behind that like? I know Merge is in the area of you guys. How did you meet?

H: So far it's been wonderful and exciting. Merge has been really welcoming and enthusiastic. We are proud to be a part of their stable. Yes, they are based in Durham as well; it's quite convenient. Some of their staff have been coming to our shows over the last couple years, so we send them a demo of new songs we recorded on 4-track. They liked it and asked if they could put out our next full length. 

J: How did you end up deciding to repress and reissue the first record that you guys did?

H: We had always wanted it to be available on vinyl, but could never quite afford to press it on our own. We ran the idea of a reissue by them and immediately got the ball rolling. After touring so much on the s/t album, we knew it was out there in people's hands but that Merge could help cast a much wider net and give it another life cycle. The s/t album is an important piece in understanding Mount Moriah, in the chronology, the evolution. We wanted it to be available for folks to trace back to the beginning.

J: In terms of writing and recording, how has it been different from the first album and the second? Different people or ideas in the process?

H: The writing and recording process was much more cohesive on Miracle Temple. We had a clear vision of what we wanted these songs to be - it was very intentional and focused. Our membership was also more concrete with Miracle Temple; on the s/t album, we involved a lot of different friends and toured with a revolving a cast. From start to finish, the recording of Miracle Temple took one month, as opposed to s/t which took  6 months to complete and then it came out a year and half later.

J: Who inspires you lyrically? How do you make lyrics? What importance do you see in lyrics versus the music? How do you write melody and lyrics? How intertwined are they?

H: I have a BFA in Creative Writing, so I first fell in love with words. Lyrics are really important to me and a large reason why I am so engaged with Mount Moriah. Sometimes the words come first, sometimes the chord progression, sometimes the melody. Certain people respond to lyrics more immediately, some to melody, some to the sonic qualities of the music. We work hard to refine all of these things to sincerely and thorough represent an idea or subject.

J: What bands, ideas, events, and other things impact you when you make music? I know that there's a lot of new vs. old theme on the first record. Does that continue?

H: Most of my lyrics are inspired by personal experiences. I keep my eyes wide and ear cupped to it all. A seemingly simple moment can breed an elaborate concept. People and place seem to move me consistently. And, of course, we are committed to the topic of Southern identity - unpacking tradition and heritage, looking at the challenges of making art and being progressive in the South, trying to find a harmony.

J: I'm familiar with Jenks' other group Horseback, but not the rest of you. Are you guys involved in other creative outlets?

H: Although Mount Moriah has my main focus, I also play in bands called Bellafea and Un Deux Trois, as well as write and perform solo. I'm in a deep collaborative space right now, so when I have time I say yes to a lot of singing/music projects. Casey plays in a band called Spooky Woods and plays jazz music. 

J: What are you looking for the response to be to the new album? How do you want people to react to it?

H: I'm not looking for a particular response from listeners. They will experience it how they will, bringing their own perspectives and opinions. Miracle Temple was a genuine exploration for us, and we are very happy with what we accomplished with it. 

J: What else is in your future, or have you just been swamped with the upcoming tour and album?

H: This year will likely hold a lot of touring and promotion, but we're ready for it. I've been writing new songs this winter and will continue to do so on the road this spring. 

Mount Moriah Plays Schuba's with Blessed Feathers on March 18 in Chicago : TICKETS

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Interview with Chris DeFusco of Negative Fun Records

It's surprising to me that I never ran into Chris DeFusco while I was still in Durham. I "met" him basically as I started my blog and got a twitter account. I guess he liked the stuff that I was doing, which was really flattering and we shared a fairly similar taste in music and humor. So between seeing that Chris was in touch with a bunch of really awesome bands, a cool dude, and starting a record label, it was pretty easy to stay in contact.

I preordered the Red Hex 7" that he released pretty much because I trusted his taste in music. If you read my earlier interview with the gang at Red Hex, you can see that I was a huge fan and ended up picking up their debut single.Then I also picked up the other Negative Fun record at the time, which was the split 7-inch between She Rides and Dripping Slits, which is a really cool blast of punk, and a revery for what I see as theatrically huge vocals on the side dedicated to She Rides. Dripping Slits has a bit more thrash into it and some serious guitar playing. The vocals are spitfire delivered and reminiscent of an earlier iteration of Damian Abrahamson. It rocks, to say the least.

So yeah, I've been impressed with Negative Fun Records from the get-go. These two first records comes across as confident and engaging. To put it simply, they don't come across as the first releases from a label and it's really cool to see a rocket-launch start from something that has been a dream for a long while.

You can check out the label's website HERE, listen to the records on BANDCAMP, and check them out on FACEBOOK

Jordan: So you've been involved in music for a while? When did you first start? In what capacity did you start taking an active role in music?

Chris: I spent most of my high school and college years going to hardcore shows in the Boston and Providence area. I went to Providence College in RI, which was a pretty conservative school. Here I was, a vegan straight edge kid. I ended up becoming really involved in the local hardcore scene mostly because it gave me something to do other than sitting in my dorm room eating cheeseless pizza.  I published a fanzine and did a radio show, then I started booking shows at clubs, vfw halls and basements. I always liked doing more than watching.

J: Have you ever played in a band or made music yourself?

C: Yeah, I played in a hardcore punk band called Paindriver. Before I joined the band they were a three piece, but the bass player wanted to sing full time. I wrote something about the singers old band in my fanzine and he approached me at a show and asked if I could play bass. I lied and said yes, bought a bass and was practicing with them a few weeks later. They already had a single on Sound Pollution Records before I joined the band and not too long after I learned the songs we recorded a 12” with Kurt Ballou from Converge at the first incarnation of God City Studio. The guitar player and I decided to put it out ourselves. We basically sold all of our belongings to raise the money to put it out. We called the label Takeover Records, but when the band dissolved so did the label.

J: Aside from the new label what all have you done in terms of other music oriented stuff

C: I spent the better part of ten years working at a record store chain in New England called Newbury Comics. My label partner Jon and I worked together for years at a store in New Hampshire. I was his boss, then he was my boss. Then we started travelling all over the place together to see shows and festivals. When I decided to start the label he contacted me and asked how he could help almost immediately.

J: What bands or shows made you think that you wanted to start a record label?

C: I don’t know if it was any particular band or show, but I was definitely finding influence from a lot of small record labels. I’ve always been drawn to those labels with a distinctive look and feel to them. Trouble In Mind and Sacred Bones come to mind, as do old Sub Pop records, even Fucked Up records. That was the idea from the start, but we haven’t really figured out how to look distinctive without being a rip-off. I think its one of those things that just evolves. There was a while when I wasn’t really paying all that much attention to music, which was weird because I was working at a record store at the time, and some friends from Memphis turned me on to Mr. Airplane Man. That got me obsessed with Sympathy For The Record Industry.

C: Lots of local NC labels have been really inspirational and supportive, like Sorry State, Churchkey, To Live A Lie, and Three Lobed Records. Cory from Three Lobed has been super helpful while we’ve been getting our legs under us.

J: How did you start the label itself?

C: I had been trying to get a music and sports blog off the ground, but that frustrated me. I like to write, but I hate my writing, so it felt like work, and I wanted an escape from work. One day I just decided that I would take some of the stock options that I had from my day job and cash them in and put it towards this label idea. I figured I usually just used that money to pay bills or buy household items, why not do something productive with it? Then Jon came into the picture and we became 50/50 partners, so it gave us a little more to work with, financially.

J: Where did you get the name Negative Fun from? I love it!

C: I have a reputation of being pretty negative, especially on facebook and twitter, so I was playing with that idea. It basically just popped into my head one day. I did a google search to see if the name was taken and didn’t find anything. It sounded like it should be the name of something. I did a little more digging and then realized that it was a Simpsons reference from the episode when Lisa becomes a vegetarian. “Hi, I’m Troy McClure. You might remember me from such educational films such as 2-3 equals negative fun”. I mean...right?

J: How has it been starting a label when you have a kid and a wife? Seems like there's not a whole lot of time!

C: That gave me some pause at first. I thought my wife would think I was crazy, but she has been super supportive. I may have sold her by naming the label after a Simpsons quote.

C: One of the things I least expected from fatherhood was the creative rush it gave me. Its a lot of work, and I wish I had more time some days, but I’m a busy body by nature. I have a hard time sitting still. It helps that I have a partner too, if I was doing everything myself and working and being a husband and father it would be a lot tougher.

C: I guess this ties in with your question about my influences. A few months after my wife and I found out that we were having a kid I went on a road trip with Jon to Memphis for Gonerfest 6. Bill and Lisa Roe from Trouble In Mind Records were playing that year with CocoComas. They had brought their baby (and I assume their kid’s grandmother) with them and were hanging out at the Goner store and some of the day parties with their whole family. I couldn’t stop thinking about how awesome that was. I was still in “holy crap I’m going to be a dad” panic mode and it made me realize that I wouldn’t have to give up all my interests if I wanted to be a good parent. In fact, I think it makes you a bad parent if you give up everything for your kids. The last thing I want is to be resentful of my child if I look back and feel like I left something on the table, so to speak. Hopefully one day my kid will think its cool that her daddy runs a record label, instead of not knowing what I do when I go to work every day.

J: What have you released since the beginning of Negative Fun records?

C: The first thing I put up on our Bandcamp page was a digital version of the Paindriver record. It was out of print and I found it up on Mediafire, so I figured someone might want it. I pretty much put it up so I could start figuring out how Bandcamp worked.

C: In December we released our first record. The She Rides/Dripping Slits split 7”, then we followed that up with the Red Hex 7”.

J: What has the process behind getting bands to put out records been like? Has it been similar for the stuff that you've released?

C: When I started up the label I made a facebook page for it and posted an announcement. George from She Rides replied almost immediately that they were looking for someone to put out a split 7”. I had seen them play a poorly promoted Monday night show in Raleigh a month prior and they still played their asses off. It was impressive and I knew that they were the type of band that I wanted to work with. She Rides had played with Dripping Slits while they were on tour, so that pairing came together pretty naturally.

C: My friend Ashley from Tacoma, who I had known while we both lived in Portland, Ore., tipped me off to Red Hex. He sent me a link to a bandcamp compilation with their song Weird Bruises. I couldn’t get enough of that song, so I contacted Sam about buying their self released single and asked if they were looking to put anything else out. They were interested and took a chance on working with a brand new label. I’m really proud of that release. I’ve had rough versions of those songs since last September and they still sound fresh every time I listen to them.

C: The next release was going to be a Record Store Day exclusive, but there was an accident at the pressing plant that we use, so we’ve decided to take the foot off the gas with that one. Though we hope to make it a regular series of releases. Jon, the other half of the label, manages a Newbury Comics store in the Dartmouth College area of NH. There is a collective of musicians up there from NH and Vermont called What Doth Life. We’ve developed a nice relationship with those folks and decided that one way we could work together with them was to issue a series of split singles featuring bands from up north and bands from here in North Carolina. The label has two homes, so why not feature them?  One of Jon’s regular customers at his store is Ryan Hebert, who is a really talented multi instrumentalist. He’s had a pretty prolific recording career. People may know him from the psych/drone band Heavy Winged who have a bunch of records out. Well, Ryan was playing drums in a band which was breaking up and started a new band called Carton with some of the guys from this really great rock and roll band, Pilgrims It turns out that they are freaking incredible so we asked them if they wanted to be a part of this idea. With Alpha Cop, I had gotten to know Corbie Hill, their singer/guitar player through twitter and really liked what I had heard from the band, so I approached him with the idea. The funny thing is this could have been disastrous because we didn’t know what Carton was going to sound like when the idea hatched, and Alpha Cop was in the midst of evolving their sound, and adding members to the band. It came together beautifully. There is a really distinct mid-90’s Dischord/Quarterstick/Touch and Go Records vibe coming through the record, without sounding too nostalgic. I think people will really dig it.

C: Finally, we’ve got a seven inch planned with our friend Chris Pupecki from Doomriders new doom/psych project called Wormwood. Chris started this duo with the original Doomriders drummer, and it sounds massive. Hopefully they’ll put a live incarnation of the band together and play some shows. They’ve gotten some serious buzz in Boston already, and have a 12” coming out on Magic Bullet Records soon. Chris approached me about working together when I posted that first facebook update about the label. Jon and I have known him and his wife for years from working at Newbury Comics together, so it was a natural fit.

J: What do you find the significance of physical media to be?

C: I just love the entire package. I love that it sounds different through different record players and speakers. I like that artwork can have nuances. Its a thing, rather than a series of data. I like that its an old technology often made by one person operating a machine with care.

J: What else do you have in the future for Negative Fun?

C: We’re co-sponsoring a SXSW day party on March 16th at a tattoo parlor called Triple Crown Tattoo. That should be a lot of fun. Our friends from New Orleans play in a great rock and roll band called DiNola who will be on the bill, and The High Tension Wires are playing as well as a few other bands. She Rides was supposed to play but they had to scrap their tour at the last minute, unfortunately.

C: We want to try and sponsor or co-sponsor a day party during Hopscotch Fest in Raleigh this September, so we’re looking into what it takes to put that together.

C: We’ve got enough funding for the first four releases, so after that we just have to wait and see. The goal was to always roll our money back into future releases and not stretch ourselves beyond our means. We’ve got some feelers out there on a few future releases, but we’ll be concentrating on promoting the label and our releases for the near term.

J: What would your dream record to put out be? You can even do a top 5 if you'd like just so you can make it unrealistic.

C: We’d love to put out a Spider Bags 7”. It would be cool to do something a little outside the ordinary like a comedy single. Putting out an unreleased Mr Airplane Man single would be incredible. I’d kill to put out a Super Wild Horses single, or really anything from an Australian garage band would be killer.

J: Anything else you'd like to say?

C: Thanks for the interview and all of the support you’ve given the label. Buy records from record stores and support indie labels. Come say hi at South By Southwest.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Interview with Red Hex

I heard of Red Hex through Chris DeFusco who runs Negative Fun records, an awesome new record label out of Raleigh, NC. Red Hex was something that I preordered basically because I trusted his music taste. I didn't know anything about the band, but figured that he wouldn't steer me wrong. And boy was I right. I got a monster of a 7" record out of the deal. I remember getting it in the mail and popping it on my turntable and being completely unprepared for what was going to happen to my face. The face, you say? Oh, yes. Because my face was TOTALLY MELTED from the aural power that came from the impressive vocals, barking guitars, bullet-riddled drum part and an ability to tie it all together to make something presentable that didn't lose any spitfire from the many factors.

The word that came to my mind was that the 7" record was "special." In that way where a band completely takes you by surprise, rolls you over, and commands you to keep listening. I ended up flipping the record from one side to the other and so forth for over an hour. Non stop listening. I was so shocked that I hadn't listened to them before. So I bought their other 7" and that one was great too. A little less fidelity, but whatever. You don't listen to punk rock for the fidelity. You listen to punk rock for the realness and grittiness you might get walking down an avenue, stepping under an unused train station and seeing graffiti that tells you "8 million homeless in the U.S." - a painted body holding a painted Jack Daniels fifth of whiskey collapsed onto an imagined plane.

So yeah, I liked the record. 

This is what they said.

Jordan: Tell me a little bit about your band. Where are you guys from? Who all is in the band 
and what are your different roles in terms of writing, recording and playing?

Sam: "So we're sittin' around eatin' dinner and I say 'hey man, we should call the band Corn!, with a K!' and then Munky says 'Yeah!, and we'll flip the K around!". Red Hex, however was formed in Tacoma Washington, a small logging/gang city nestled in the shadow of  the Asarco smelter. For years the poisons flowed freely, gently raining upon three young boys. The boys grew and grew until fate finally united them. In the basement played. In the basement they stayed. In the bath-tub they also played.. Isaiah: The drummer who played the drums like they were a guitar, Sam: The guitarist who played a guitar like it was a drum and Spencer ate the sauce.. 

J: What releases do you guys have?

Sam: The Two 7"s, the "Black Hole" one we did on our own, and the Shoulda Known/Down in The Dirt one that just came out on Negative Fun Records. We also still sell/give away a 6 song CD that has some of our older stuff on it. That's it.

J: I love both of your 7"s that you have released. It seems like there's just consistent adrenaline in the new 7" as opposed to the slower b-side on your first one. Is this just more comfortable for you guys? Or just the kind of songs you have been writing?

Isaiah: I didn't even want that song on the first record..

Sam: haha yeah, I did what I thought I had to do to sell the records. The fans love Weird Bruises. We were gonna have Rat Boy on there too but it didn't fit on the record.

Spencer: We actually don't think about anything before doing it, and we have alot of slower songs at the moment too.

Sam: Yeah, Shoulda known is a really old song and we'd never recorded it, so we decided to put it the Negative Fun 7" since it would be out of place the album that we're recording/writing. Down in the Dirt was a new song we were stoked on so we decided to throw that on there too. Our new stuff is getting pretty weird..

Spencer: Yes, the album will be interesting...

J: How long does it take for a song to get written and finished? How do you record the songs?

Spencer: Oh god...

Isaiah: Anywhere from literally playing the whole song first try off the top of our heads, to years..

Sam: Yeah we've written songs where it seems like we didn't even write them, and we also have songs that we've been working on the entire time we've been a band. As for recording, I've recorded everything we've done, pretty much live, just pressing record and picking up my guitar. We've never recorded with anyone else around.

J: What's that sample at the end of the "shoulda known" 7" on the third song? I know I've heard it before but it's been bothering me.

Sam: It's from "Dead Beat at Dawn" the 70's new york gang movie. 

Spencer: I guess some metal band called Impetigo already used it, but who cares. 

J: It seems like you guys might be big into horror movies from what I've heard in your songs? Any particular movies or directors in particular you like? I'm a big fan.

Sam: We're all fans of film in general, but Zay is the real horror buff!

Isaiah: we like to watch everything. favorite horror directors off the top of the head would be murnau, lang, whale, hitchcock, early argento, romero, cronenberg, fulci, bava, carpenter, soavi, hooper, etc. tons of shit from silent films to the shittiest shot on video shitfilms. Film is probably my biggest influence when making music. Riefenstahl, kurosawa and herzog errday 

Sam: My brother is actually film maker, and Isaiah and I recently did the score for his new "German" Expressionist Horror/Comedy "Ich Hunger", check it out!

J: What do you guys like to talk about in your lyrics? Are there certain themes or influences that you guys take when you're writing lyrics?

Sam: I just scream jibberish at practice and try to form it in to words later. It usually ends up being about psychedelia, death and jealousy. 

Isaiah: Treacheris Succubinis

Spencer: Roman Holiday/Nautical Studies

Sam: Yes, pure-bred crystal falcon. 

J: How has it been working with Negative Fun records as opposed to just self-releasing the seven inch record you guys have done? What's the difference?

Sam: The difference is I didn't pay for anything and people are actually hearing our record this time. haha. I'm terrible at self managing the band and don't really work it as hard as I should to sell records and whatnot. Chris at Negative Fun is doing us a huge favor by dealing with our weird asses and we are extremely grateful.

J: How often do you guys play live? Where do you like to play? What bands in particular do you like playing with?

Spencer: We play often, at least a few times a month. We prefer house shows, since the crowd actually goes nuts.. We like playing with bands who aren't dicks and don't suck..

Isaiah: I prefer to play in the bath-tub truthfully... 

Sam:  We actually throw shows in our basement which we call "The Haunted Haus" because the scene in Tacoma is so dead. We've brought alot of great bands through like our pals the Night Beats & Criminal Code as well as Mr. Elevator and the Brain Hotel, Cosmonauts, Youthbitch, Guantanamo Baywatch, Big Eyes, Japanther (who sucked) and many more..

J: Do you guys have any more plans for shows or releases in 2013?

Spencer: MmmFasho!

Sam: We're planning a tour down to the Bay Area this April. This will be our first tour since we've never had any money or a van or anything until recently, and we're all 21 now. If all goes well we'll do a bigger one in the summer.

Spencer: Not to mention our upcoming split with Mumford & Sons.. No, but seriously, we're working on a full length record and some other stuff.

Sam: Yeah, someone put out our full length!!

J: Anything Else you'd like to say?

Red Hex: Shout outs to all the Friends, Girl Trouble, Ed, The Fams & The Fans! 

It's a helluva show..

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Interview with Purling Hiss

I discovered Purling Hiss basically because I trust Woodsist Records completely. I snatch up almost every release of theirs and I have never been let down. This label introduced me to Real Estate, White Fence, Woods, and a lot more. I picked up a copy of Purling Hiss' Public Service Announcement a while ago and really enjoyed it. When I saw that they had signed to Drag City I was ecstatic because Drag City is another label that does no wrong. It also meant that Purling Hiss was signed at home base for me in Chicago. For me, it's really inspiring to see a bunch of really great labels from Chicago doing some really incredible things. Big labels like Drag City obviously kind of spur the movement but with awesome labels like Permanent Records, Tic Tac Totally, Trouble in Mind, and Hozac all holding their own and releasing consistently diverse, incredible music, Chicago's doing pretty A-OK.

Purling Hiss is the brainchild of Mike Polizze from Philadelphia. Though it began as a home-recording project, it grew into a three-person band. The songs have become bolder, bigger, and recorded in higher fidelity. And Mike has released a lot of music, all of which I enjoy. He's been on a bunch of labels and played a lot of shows and continues to just hone his craft. The new band finds recordings that are a bit more collaborative, which Polizze admits.

I have been able to listen to the upcoming album and it is an absolute party. It's a well-rounded kick of adrenaline at times and also a tool of restraint, demonstrating Polizze's ability to a great song-writer in addition to a balls to the wall guitar player.

You can learn more about the band on their FACEBOOK PAGE or give them a spin on their BANDCAMP PAGE

Check it.

Jordan: Tell me about how Purling Hiss got started. Who all is in Purling Hiss and when did you all start making music?

Mike: Okay, I started off by myself without a band. For me, it’s something that I’ve always been doing. I’m almost thirty-two now but I bought my four-track when I was eighteen and I’ve always been recording songs on it for the last ten or so years. In 2008 I had another recording project I was working on and I happened to call it Purling Hiss. Permanent Records in Chicago found it because I had put it up online and I ended up working with them. I put a record out on Richy Records, Woodsist, and Mexican Summer too. Basically, because all of those small labels put it out. What prompted me to start a live band was being invited to do a tour with Kurt Vile and the Soft Pack in 2010. I’m buddies with him and he just asked if I wanted to take the show on the road. I had enough time to get the band together and it worked great. It’s the same three people now than it was at the beginning. Purling Hiss at first was a bedroom recording project but it’s cool because the new album that’s coming out is a big step up for us. It’s the first album that is in a studio. It’s the first album that has the band on it.

J: I just got into home recording too. I was thinking about getting a four track or something. Any recommendations for people starting with that?

M: Yeah, any basic four-track. I had a Yamaha - don’t even know what the model was. But just a basic four-track. It’s a good way to start out. I’m not the most skilled person when it comes to engineering. It was more about documenting my ideas. You do learn. In the time we’re living in, it’s easy to do everything on a computer but it’s nice to have some palpable - a physical four-track recorder is a great way to learn. It’s simple. You just get a tape and pop it in. I think that’s a good way to start out and then using that to export onto the computer. I personally would love to have a 388, a reel-to-reel. In the 70s and 80s they were the top of the home recording stuff that you could get, but I never used a reel-to-reel before but I’ve heard it’s easy. I love doing recordings at home. You get used to it and it’s fun to mess around with once you get into it. It’s funny - I don’t even remember the model, but you can’t go wrong with the four track.

J: Did your early output sound a lot different than the stuff you’re making now?

M: Yeah, between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two I was really slow. I would really only record a couple tracks, but probably around 2004 is when I would hold onto recordings. There is stuff that you can still hear now that I recorded then. I haven’t played anything earlier than 2004 because the stuff before then isn’t really complete or worth showing. It’s changed. Between 2004 until the last few years I’ve gotten better at it, but now I’m at a point where I’m with a band. I won’t stop recording at home but it’s not the only thing I do.

J: What’s the live band like? Do you guys collaborate on songs or is it still pretty much just you?

M: I just roll with what works. I laid the groundwork for the band and I guess I’m the primary songwriter. It’s cool because I’ll write a basic idea and then we’ll put it through the band where we work it all out together. I’ll basically write a song at home and bring it to the band and work it out there. That’s how we did this last album and then we’ll jam together and take it to the studio. That’s the basic dynamic. The band has a defined sound now, which is good. 

J: Do you guys have other jobs than this or is it a full time gig?

M: Right now I’m not really working. When I started touring I quit my job and I’m in between my mom’s house and my girlfriend’s house. The music is starting to work out with better money though. The other guys have jobs, and I do a bunch of odd jobs. I worked full time for ten years of my life from 19 to 29. When we started touring I had a couple odd jobs, but have been mostly concentrating on the music so we tour as much as we can and I think that when we do this album we’re going to try and stay on the road as much as possible. When we aren’t touring sometimes I do work too and the other guys have jobs too.

J: Are you guys gonna do anything for SXSW?

M: No, I don’t think we’re doing anything for South By Southwest. We did last year. It was fun - I’m glad we did it. I really don’t feel like there’s a need for us to do it. I think it depends on what a band really wants out of going. We went there last year and were doing an album with Drag City, but just figured we’d do it anyway. We played a show for Permanent Records at Beerland. We played the Austin Psych Fest party at the Spider House and we actually played Jack White’s showcase, but that was interesting since it was so different. He’s a big rockstar. But we got paid to play it. It was cool to be down there and see it with certain bands. Most of the shows I saw were at Austin Psych Fest. This year we have a new album and you’d think that we would go down and promote it. Like a rat race. But I don’t have that mentality. Everybody is going there, and instead we’re going to tour in April. The album’s out March 19, so we’re just going to wait and do it on our own terms. As much fun as it would be, it’s going to be a clusterfuck. Imagine loading in. Have you been there before?

J: No I actually haven’t even been to Texas.

M: Well, there are just so many people and vehicles and it’s terrible to park. There are no loading zones and it’s really exhausting. I’m not complaining because it was really fun but I just don’t think we need to do it right now. It’s more fun for people who are going to see music. They get a vacation out of it.

J: It seemed overwhelming seeing all the bands there and the crowds. I really want to go to Chaos in Tejas.

M: Yeah, I don’t want to speak to soon. We might play that. I don’t think so though. I’m not sure. I don’t know if we can make it happen because of schedules. I would love to play it.

J: The lineup is unreal every year. For me, being in Chicago and working makes it hard to take off time to go to Texas for just a short period of time. But I should probably grow some balls.

M: Yeah man.

J: So what’s the album like? What made making this album unique?

The new album
M: I think the fact that all these past albums were just me and home recordings. This time it’s a band and the old recordings were cerebral, but half-baked ideas. With the band and in a studio, we have more ideas. We can also let loose. I don’t like things to be too perfect either. I like to have improvisation in my music too. It’s cool to have the band to collaborate with. It’s really well-rounded. Some of my albums before were just blown out and shreddy and I had some albums that were more pop-oriented, with hooks. This is just the logical bridge. It’s meeting halfway. It’s a good opportunity to make a well-balanced album. There are some blown out guitar songs and there are some hooks in it too. The goal is to round it out and have both opposite ends on the spectrum without sacrificing anything. It doesn’t lean to much to one side, to be honest. It’s a solid half hour of a power trio playing hard rock. It’s got heavy guitars. It’s got a psych element to it. And it’s also got some great hooks and pop-sensibility. I think what ties it together is me mining from the same place in my mind. I’m being creative in the same way but the band puts their stamps on it.

J: What would you say influences the sound that you have? Can you pin down any bands?

M: It’s funny because I’ve said this in other interviews. I feel like a deer in the headlights when I get that question in interviews, but it’s a perfectly reasonable question. It’s something that should be asked. But you’re influenced by so many things. The guitar sound comes from my earliest memories, being a little kid listening to the oldies station. I’m influenced by my parents. My mom was very into rock music. My dad was too, but he was more into jazz. You could hear someone in the house playing music. He played saxophone. When I could watch MTV, I would hear Guns n Roses and when I was old enough to get a guitar, Nirvana was big. I had no mentor, like an older cousin or sibling. I had to try stuff on my own. I was a late bloomer in terms of cool music. In middle school I realized MTV wasn’t doing it for me. I had to turn to classic rock and discovered Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones. It’s guitar rock 101 - rudimentary fundamentals about loud electric guitar. I had to figure out what was cool and what wasn’t. Boston was not cool.

M: For me in High School I tried to imitate Jimi Hendrix. And then I get into punk rock. I was a kid with some 70s rock influence. Just a squalling stratocaster. Then I discovered Black Flag and Minor Threat and the Bad Brains. Eventually I got into Dinosaur Jr. You’re Living All Over Me is still one of my favorite albums. I know that’s a lot for me to explain to you, but for two minutes going off, that’s the history. Going from oldies to MTV to Classic Rock to Punk Rock then getting my own gear. The band I started really playing with when I was 22 was Birds of Maya. I’m still in that band now. We’re active when we want to be but we don’t tour all that much.

J: What other bands are you in right now? I haven’t heard of Birds of Maya.

M: Birds of Maya is the band where I really started out. I was in bands perpetually in High School. Birds of Maya is the first notable thing I did. I moved to Philly and became best friends with those dudes. We played more devolved, broken-down, fucked up classic rock but it feels really off-the-cusp. We’re kind of intuitive when we play since we’ve been playing so long. Songs don’t begin or end. We just jump into it. It stops when it stops. It’s a three piece that’s fuzzed out and fucked up. You’ll hear some stuff in 2013 from them. Nothing I can really talk about yet. But we’re definitely in the middle of some cool things.

J: So you have Purling Hiss, Birds of Maya, an album, and a bunch of tours. Sounds like 2013 is a big year for you.

M: Yeah, hopefully. Birds of Maya is awesome because we just get together and jam when we can. That’s a thing we always have. Purling Hiss is being done big this year. Got some recordings done and then we’re going to hit the road.

J: Do you guys have any tour plans yet?

M: Yeah, we are almost confirmed for a two week tour in the U.S. in April. We’re going to start with a record release show in New York and then we’re going to go to the midwest like Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Madison. We’re going to do a loop and as long as everything works out, we’ll go to Europe for a month in May and after that, we’re looking to go out to the West Coast. The summer and fall are pretty open, but we’re trying to fill it up. Should be cool.

J: Yeah. Psyched to see you.

M: I think we’re going to do a free monday show at the Empty Bottle. You know about those?

J: Yeah, those are the greatest!

M: Awesome. Well guess what? We’re doing it. If my memory serves me right I think it’s like April 15. I was just working on it the other day. We’ve got a couple cool bands that we’re booking some things with. It’s not confirmed yet, but if all goes well, we’ll have some touring bands yet. Chicago is like home base. Permanent Records is the first place we did a record and Drag City is in Chicago too.

J: Yeah Permanent is definitely my favorite record shop in Chicago. It’s great to see the proliferation of all sorts of labels here. It’s incredible.

M: Definitely. Fucking cool. It’s great to have so much and being able to go to Chicago whenever basically. Got me excited.

J: That’s about all I have to ask. You have anything else to say?

M: Not really. Just excited. Thank you for the interview. I’m glad that you’re excited enough to invite me to interview. I think it’s a real joy to have the album and happy you dig it and I can’t wait to get on the road. We’ll meet up in Chicago. Stay tuned. We’ll have more shit announced then.

Interview with Locrian

Over the last few months, I've gotten more and more into noise music on all fronts from drone to harshnoise. I began by asking myself what makes something musical. Is it chord changes? I thought about this a lot because the truth is that we end up hearing the same exact chord progressions in different songs several times a day, but by the nature of effects, vocals, instrumentation and other things, they become "new" songs. So I started to think about the things that were furthest from typical pop songs and I stumbled upon noise of all varieties. Granted, some stuff that gets labeled "noise" is more similar to a pop song and some of it is very far from that. For me, noise is an exercise in the ethic of music as well as a training ground for the ears. I had to learn to listen to music in different ways to understand it. But after I had gotten the hang of it, I found it an extremely rewarding process and experience.

One of the bands that helped me through my sonic journey was Locrian. Locrian is a band spread across a continent. The three members of the band are spread across the United States, but create a precise style of music. It's a darker style of noise that I found to be influenced by black metal a lot, especially the vocals when they emerge from the static miasma. I first picked up their collaboration album with Horseback New Dominions, which introduced me to their music, though didn't ready me for the bleak landscape that accompanies a solo Locrian album, though that album in itself is bleak. What I mean by bleak came from when I heard their album "The Crystal World," which features some seriously impressive vocals that ride the crest of a blackened noise wave. It was unlike most of the noise I had heard before. It's really an incredible album.

I got in touch with Andre from the band. He lives in Chicago and is also a crossfitter/rower like myself, which was pretty cool to see. We talked a bunch and he relayed the email to Terrence, who ended up answering all my questions. I really enjoyed talking to these guys. I was really impressed by how nice these guys were along with how multifaceted their talents are. A really incredible band and I'm honored to have interviewed them.

You can check them out on their FACEBOOK PAGE, check out their horseback collaboration ON SOUNDCLOUD and listen to solo Locrian albums on their BANDCAMP PAGE

Jordan: Where does the name Locrian come from? I saw something on Wikipedia on Locrian mode - like a diatonic scale, but am unfamiliar with it.

Terence:  André came up with the name when we started, but I liked how it was a now extinct Mediterranean people and the connotations of the difficulty of the scale and how dissonant it is.  I guess it set us up in a way.

Their newest album - It's a double
J: Who all is in Locrian? How did you guys start, how do you know each other, and when did you start making music?

T:  Well it just started with André and I, we had been introduced by our pal Aleks (who is now in the band OKO from Germany) and we were in a band together called Unlucky Atlas.  But we just kept it as a duo for a while and we collaborated with Andrew from the black metal band Velnias.  But I guess we had admired Steven's drumming for a while in different groups, like with Haptic.  So it was mutual, he wanted to work with us and we thought he was the only guy out there who could drone on drums and then be a heavy hitter.  Plus it is nice to be around him.  Then we made "The Crystal World" like a few weeks later.  It was crazy.  So its been the three of us ever since.

J: Do you guys come from a musical background? There's a lot of really interesting stuff going on in your records with different textures

T: I played guitar a lot, and was collecting synthesizers.  So I guess a musical background.  I went to school for visual art but always played music.  Even though most of my art is about the music experience in some way.  I think when Locrian makes music texture is the goal, we talk a lot about narrative in the song or even across an album.  I think often to certain progressive rock or kosmiche music was my main inspiration for that, or even like electronic music.  I think with the new record "Return to Annihilation" we really were thinking a lot about some of those influences.

The cover of New Dominions
J: You guys often get called bleak, which I totally get from the music - how'd you guys arrive on that darker style of noise music? Was it a conscious thing or just something that happened?

T: It is deliberate, we shoot for that sound.  For me, at least, I've always been attracted to the darker side of things.  Looking for those notes and tones, but even in what I enjoy listening too I always sought out stuff that was a bit more abject or occult or cast a pall.

J: 2012 saw a bunch of Locrian releases - how do you choose who to work with, like Horseback and Christophe Heemann?

T: Some happen organically like the Horseback collaboration and some are suggestions by labels like Christoph Heemann by Handmade Birds.  All are great learning experiences and creative endeavors, where we get challenged a lot.  They're all just so different, and Mamiffer too, just different people in these scenarios.  I think at the end there is always something about it that stands out, our touch is still there.

J: Contrarily, how do you decide on making a purely "Locrian" record - what do you think is the difference between a record purely from "Locrian" versus one with collaboration?

T:  Well we cut out a lot.  We tend to be very deliberate, like we'll collaborate for some times and then most recently or like when we made "the Clearing" we say "no other cooks in the kitchen".  I mean there are no extra voices in on the process.  Just the three of us and I think the three of us talk a lot even if we're not all in the same city and we discuss and shape what we want to do.  We're a very concept driven group, so we can kind of have this set of ideas and each of us comes with different approaches to instrumentation or structure.  But we can agree and work towards a big idea.  So the new record really is this unique expression I think.  And one thing is we're all very encouraging of each other like when one of us has an idea we always try and put it down and then we can decide if it works or not.  We're also pretty honest with each other so when it doesn't work there's a lot of give and take.

J: The first time I heard you guys was on one of your earlier albums "The Crystal World." The vocals in it blew my mind the first time I heard it. It seemed to take a little influence from a black metal aesthetic. How do you figure out when and where to use vocals?

T:  Well thanks, those are mine.  When we talk about dark music or bleak sounds I think certain black metal releases definitely had an influence on me.  I think probably Abruptum did the most for me or even some Burzum before prison just established these atmospheres.  When we use vocals, I always try and let the larger idea for the album or suite of songs guide me.  Though sometimes I have an idea and other times Steven or André will say they hear something so I give it a shot.  I like to let parts breathe and then fill up a spot with vocals and just try and make it unexpected.  It goes back to this idea about texture.  Like vocals are a texture as well.  So I can use a few different types of vocals or let the music dominate.

J: What kind of music, ethos, events, and ideologies influence the music that you all make? It seems like there is a ton of different stuff that end up finding their way on a Locrian track.

T: I listen to a lot of different stuff, I mean obviously the progressive rock like King Crimson, Yes, and Genesis but also the kosmiche music of Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, and Cluster.  But going back I am a big fan of extreme music like heavy metal and its varied offshoots and that can be from Black Sabbath to Suffocation to Voivod, power-electronics and a lot of early industrial to pure noise and ambient.  I think certain events definitely influence me like the Deepwater Horizon or the Kingston Coal Ash Spill, these cataclysms definitely inspired entire records.  I guess I came of age during a lot of very idealistic hardcore music and saw the failure of many of the ideals and realized a 7" isn't going to save anything or even direct action is pretty useless.  So to me I have a very pessimistic kind of worldview and there is always the struggle between the horror of an event and the beauty it creates.  To me that is sublime in a way.  The convergence of terror and awe.  I'd say most Locrian themes try to fold that in with an obsession with science fiction like Samuel Delaney, JG Ballard or Nancy Kress.  Just like a more confusing occluded vision that may not be positive for the future.  One of more uncertainty.  I mean we live in very uncertain times.

J: I've never seen you all live before, but I'm really excited for your show at the Burlington coming up! What is a live show by Locrian like? What can we expect and how does Locrian live differ or resemble a recorded version?

T: That's a great question: I'd like to know myself.  It's been almost two years since we've played live.  I know we'll be performing some new stuff from the new album.  There'll be no stage banter, I seriously can't stand that kind of stuff.  We tend to blur songs together and extend a lot of parts.  There's quite a bit of improvisation when we play and we try and make it more ritualistic, more of an event and not just another show.

J: Do you guys ever play shows with people that you do collaborations with?

T: No.  We used to intend to but it wound up being too hard to do it - I know we'd like to sometime but it is hard enough getting the three of us together now.  It can be done just needs some determination and organization from some benefactors I think.  But at the moment, especially with the new record coming out I am just excited that the three or us get to do what we do.

J: What's up for the future with you guys? Ideas for releases or live shows? Would you ever go on a "tour"?

T:  Well the new album will be out on Relapse in late May or early June.  And we're planning some shows in mid-June on the east coast.  Maybe something in August, again it is tough to organize with us so spread out.  But we're really committed to the ideas we've put down and playing them live when it works.  As far as releases we always have ideas but our focus is really on seeing "Return to Annihilation" get the treatment it deserves.

J: What are you guys most excited for in 2013 aside from Locrian? I'm simply excited to be in a year where the last two digits are a prime number.

T: My son turned one this year and my daughter will turn four in a few months, that is great - it is an accomplishment.  Other than Locrian I have my first book coming out called "Anno Yersinia Pestis Spiritus" on Kiddiepunk, and a solo LP and zine out on Shelter Press.  Also I am wrapping up a series of art books and cassettes for Accidental Guest Recordings, working now on the third one which is a collaboration with artist Scott Treleaven.

J: Anything else you all would like to say?

T:  Thanks for interviewing us and see you in Chicago.