The first thing I noticed about Brandon Elkins was his magnificent beard. Truly a man's beard. The second thing I noticed was that he frequented some of my favorite Chicago bars/restaurants. The third thing was that he was in an awesome music project called Auditor and was opening up for the Industrial group Youth Code, whose self-titled LP is a record I've been spinning fairly frequently as of recent.
I gave his new album Form Destroyer a listen while doing some journaling, which is something I've started to do lately mostly so I don't forget things. The first thing that you learn about writing/criticism/journalism is to avoid words like "good" or "incredible" or "awesome" because they're vague and commonplace. Well, I come from the school of punk rock and I say write what you feel and fuck elitist music criticism. Form Destroyer is good, awesome, and incredible. It's a hypnotic whirlwind of structured chaos. There is a well-thought form to it, in the sense that Sunn o))) or Earth have form. A sense of rhythm backed by dissonance. Vocals that appear from beyond swirl before completion. Lots of dread. And then there's almost a sense of helplessness - I say almost as opposed to full-on helplessness.
So I guess you could say that I'm a fan. Auditor opens up for Youth Code at Cobra Lounge on February 3 and tickets are available HERE. It's going to be such a rad show and I've already begun hooting and hollering. You can also "like" Auditor's FACEBOOK and listen to the music on their BANDCAMP. Auditor will also play with Crowhurst at Club Rectum in April.
Brandon explains the whole thing a lot better than me so here's what he said.
Jordan: When did you start making music? Have you always made industrial/metal/noise music?
Brandon: I started playing guitar when I was about 13. Initially I played in punk bands in my little shithole of a home town. Later on I met my friend Steve Lutes (Kontyx/Mall Security/The Red Falcon Projects) and he introduced me to electronic music production via Reason, Ableton, and any number of synths and drum machines he had. I started tape-splicing and recording using pedals, just fucking around, and then when I got my first laptop things really picked up. I recorded a few albums as A Crown of Amaranth, released one on Jason Walton's (Agalloch) now-defunct Audio Savant label and one full-length on Crucial Blast back in like 2003/2004 along with a handful of comp appearances. So, I've been making noisy, weird stuff for about 10 years now.
J: What artists influenced, inspired, or triggered your interest in the music you make?
B: With Iron Forest, I was really influenced by Author and Punisher and Godflesh. I wanted to take those heavy, dark machine sounds and add in elements of glitch, IDM, and doom/funeral doom with huge, pitched-down samples and guitars. Auditor was really influenced by Swans, some of the old noise projects I love like NTT, Luasa Raelon, and Gruntsplatter coupled with listening to a lot of Khanate when I first started the project. Noisy and fucking heavy, disturbing sounds.
J: What bands/projects have you been in? Have you ever played/made music with other people?
B: Solo projects are/were A Crown of Amaranth, Iron Forest, and Auditor. I've done one collaboration album with Robert Hunter Osgood/Conversations About The Light called A Crown of Light that came out on Italy's Eibon Records in 2006. I've also worked with a lot of hilariously-named projects (The Murphy Brown Sound, Jihad Daycamp) whose recordings are probably stashed away on tapes and hard drives somewhere. I've also been in a few more "conventional" guitar-based bands (Bisson Rheum, Plenum|Void). More recently, I've been working with the weirdos in Venowl and we put out a limited CDr on Altar of Waste along with playing a live show in July opening for Wreck and Reference. I also have some more collaborative projects up my sleeve, but not a lot of time to move on them just yet.
J: How did you decide to start Auditor instead of staying with your last incarnation as Iron Forest? What makes them different?
B: Iron Forest has always been a place for my more beat-oriented stuff that I don't really think is as harsh or has the same feel as Auditor. Auditor was a way for me to deal with some really dark shit that was going on in my head. Depression is a bitch and, a few years ago, it got to the point where I was honestly scared I was going to hurt/kill myself. Auditor came out of the whole process of dealing with that and getting it under control (sort of). So, I guess the difference is that Iron Forest has always felt a little more "whimsical" to me, whereas Auditor is dead-serious about its intent and where it comes from.
J: How has the move to Chicago been? Have you enjoyed the music scene around here?
B: Chicago is the greatest city in the world. I've made a lot of friends since moving up here in May, and it just gets better all the time. The only complaints I have are all the goddamn parking tickets I've gotten. The music scene is great and there are a lot of cool folks that make it worthwhile to go out.
J: Tell me a little bit about the recording/writing process of Form Destroyer. How did you write it? How did you record it? How long did it take?
B: The final version of "Form Destroyer" is actually about the third iteration of the album. The first few sets of tracks just weren't nasty enough for me, so I scrapped them and started all over. Any time I work on music I tend to just sit down and start plugging things together. I've amassed a pretty huge library of samples and sounds over the years, so I like to plug them into Ableton and start experimenting with sounds. Once I get a base sound set that I like I'll work on the track for a few weeks. Or, alternatively, I get really drunk and record songs like "Betrayer of Sleep" in one night and never mess with them again.
J: You also had a physical release for the album. What would you say to someone who doesn't know whether to buy the digital album or the physical one? What's the packaging like?
B: The physical release isn't out yet. It should be done within the next few months. Leech from Theologian has a great label called ANNIHILVS POWER ELECTRONICS. When he asked Iron Forest to come out and play the APEX Fest dates early last year I played him some Auditor tracks and we decided he'd release it on his label, which is a huge honor for me having been a fan of his for a long time. The physical release will be a full-color digipak with pro-CD pressing. I know we're going to include stuff in a deluxe edition but we haven't decided what yet.
B: I personally only really keep physical copies for the "artifact" properties of the thing. I want the physical release to look amazing and spent a long time on the design of the packaging, so if people are into that sort of thing then they'll be getting a good product. The digital edition will include a few remixes from Leech, Mories from Gnaw Their Tongues/Aderlating, and a few others. Hell, why not buy both?
J: You're opening for Youth Code at Cobra Lounge in February, which is really awesome. How often do you get to play live? How important is the live show for you? What differences are there between a recorded piece and a live piece?
B: Yeah, I'm super excited to be playing that show. It's crazy to be on such a great bill. Part of moving up to Chicago was to start getting more exposure for Auditor and playing shows. I've got this one with Youth Code, Coming, and Surachai and then another show on April 22 at Club Rectum with Crowhurst, Venowl, and Good Will Smith that should be pretty rad.
B: Live shows are weird, to me. They're a lot of fun, and it's really great to get to play in front of people that enjoy it. I tend to take my sequenced tracks and turn them into performances beforehand, which is what I'm doing in the next few weeks, so it's not just me pressing play on my laptop
J: What all have you been listening to lately? Anything stand out in particular?
B: I've been listening to: Ruins of Beverast, Wormed, Stomach Earth, Sadgiqacea, El-P, Dawn of MIDI, emptyset, Bon Iver, Theologian, Altar of Plagues, new Torture Chain, and Childish Gambino a lot over the last month. I spend all day at a desk with headphones on.
J: Are there any stand out restaurants or bars in Chicago that you've enjoyed since moving here?
B: One of the things I love about this city is the food culture. There's just so much! I love Boiler Room. That whole Logan Square area is just exploding with great places to eat and drink lately. Longman & Eagle was probably one of my best dining experiences ever, and that's over in that same neighborhood. Also a big fan of Racine Plumbing, Aberdeen Tap, and Headquarters.
J: What else is in the future for Auditor?
B: After the full-length comes out I'm going to be working on a split tape with Derek Rush (Compactor/A Murder of Angels) and a couple of other projects. This summer I'm going to work on setting up more live shows and working on the next album. Hopefully I'll be able to get out to the East Coast again for a few dates as well. I'm also going to continue growing a beard.