Sunday, March 30, 2014

Interview with Marissa Nadler

New Englander Marissa Nadler makes ghost folk music of the highest caliber. Her siren-esque voice couples with a honed, finger-picked acoustic guitar to lay out surreptitious Americana fairy tales. Her new album July, released on the consistently great Sacred Bones label, came out in early February to critical acclaim, and rightly so. Miss Nadler has released music since 2004 with her first LP Ballads of Living and Dying, which was put out on Eclipse Records, which boasted the likes of Charilambdes, Jack Rose (RIP), Acid Mothers Temple, and other excellent acts.

Nadler's albums are consistently highly-regarded and seem to effortlessly build on each other. There's a yearning - something unmistakably reaching - in her music. There are some big things at work in Nadler's music, as if she distills Cosmic American Music and weaves it into a synthesis of old and new. To me, her music possesses a mystique - pardon the hyperbole, but it seems bigger than big and it hits me very hard.

That's why I was more than ecstatic to have the opportunity to interview Miss Nadler. She is playing Chicago at the Empty Bottle (my favorite venue in Chicago) on May 11 at 7 pm. You can also pick up her record July from Sacred Bones' Website and keep up with her by "liking" her on Facebook.

I'm more than honored to feature her on here and can't wait to see her at the Empty Bottle!

Jordan: What kinds of music do you listen to? Do you have any artists that you've been listening to consistently for a long time?

Marissa Nadler: Sammi Smith, Catherine Ribeiro, Tammy Wynette – those are my current three favorite vocalists. I love the Dirty Three. I like any music with heart and passion.

J: Are there any lyricists who you think are particularly important to you?

MN: Leonard Cohen is at the top of my list in terms of lyricists that have impacted me. 

J: I know it's a bit like picking a favorite child, but do you have any songs or albums that you're more particularly proud of than others?

MN: I’m very happy with JULY. I’m also very happy with the self-titled record of 2011. I think with July, I’m making some of the music that I’ve always wanted to make. 

J: You seem to have been playing and touring a lot - what is the appeal of the live show for you?

MN: The raw energy, nerves, and grit make for a more emotional experience for the audience. 

J: Do you enjoy collaborating with other musicians? Do you have any dreams collabs?

MN: I definitely enjoy collaborating with other musicians. Jim Jarmusch, David Lynch, Angelo Badalementi are at the top of my list. 

J: What all is in the future for Marissa Nadler?

MN: I’ll keep touring for July, the new record, and then I’ll write another record. I’m interested in doing soundtrack work as well.

J: Tell me a little bit about your time in art school. What do you think of the role of schooling for art? Should people be "trained" about art? Does that affect the individuality of creation?

MN: I think in many ways its important to learn the rules before you can break them. I'm grateful for my background in the fine arts as it's helped in many ways with my music career. I think having a clearly defined aesthetic helps to create a complete artistic vision. Having continuity visually throughout years of photographs and videos helps to define the musical world which I've tried to create. 

J: In many interviews you mention film directors. What, in your opinion, makes for a good director? What is the role of film in regard to music? What overlap exists and how should that overlap be used to maximize the artistic effect?

MN: I take a lot of inspiration, at least indirectly, from cinema. It's such a complete art form and therefore provides endless possibilities. I hope to get into scoring films and contributing vocals to soundtracks in the future. 

J: You often talk about honesty and truth in your lyrics. There's a lot of different ideas about lyricism, like the storytelling of Nick Cave as compared to Mark Kozelek's autobiographical bend. Where some songs are fictional, there is also an underlying ethos lying in being genuine. How do you personally walk the line of poetry and honesty? And in general what do you think is the difference between being honest/truthful and genuine/real?

MN: I think there's a fine line between sincerity and sentimentality. That's where it can be tricky. I try my best to say what I mean and avoid purple prose. I try to use economy of language these days and get to the point as quickly and directly as possible. 

J: Similarly, a person's identity often gets interwoven with his or her songs. Is this true for you? How do you identify with your musicianship? 

MN: I try to write honestly. I think that's all I can say. 

J: Do you dream vividly? Do dreams/sleep/surrealism impact you or your music? How?

MN: Sadly, no! I wish that I remembered more of my dreams. I do think that real life often feels very dreamlike. To me, it's not so clear what's real and what isn't. For an imaginative person, the real world can seem like a dream and a nightmare. 

J: Do you like sleeping?

MN: Yes, it's one of my favorite things to do. 

J: I’ve heard you talk about "dark" music a lot. It's an adjective that reflects mood more than sound, in my opinion. Something I struggle with a lot is having people ask why listen to "dark" music. Why surround yourself with negativity. I usually say something about realism, but I'm skeptical of it. I also think of how it can be a tool for empathy, but I'm skeptical of that too. What role do you think "dark" music plays? What is its purpose? Do you think there is a positive outcome of creating or listening to "dark" music?

MN: I think my music hits on many different emotions. There is darkness in my songs, but also a lot of light and hope. I try not to pigeonhole myself into a particular genre as It can really limit the reach of my music to certain subcultures. To me, a good song is a good song. Writing the best songs that I can possible write has always been my main priority and always will be. I try to favor substance over style at all times. 

J: I often think there's something somewhat spiritual in your music. Is this purposeful? Is spirituality a big part of your life?

MN: I’m not a particularly spiritual person, strangely. That may change. 

J: You’re from the East coast, and have mentioned being from Providence, home of H.P. Lovecraft. Has the location there affected your music?

MN: I’m actually from Massachusetts, though I went to school at RISD and lived in Providence for many years. I live in Boston now. I think there's definitely an east coast vibe to my music. I'm absolutely influenced by the landscape, as well as the antiquity here. 

J: If you could have dinner with any single person living or dead, who would it be?

MN: There are so many people. Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Lars Von Trier, Joni Mitchell. 

J: If there were an apocalypse today (say a non-zombie/infection scenario) what would your role be after? What weapons would you have? Where would you go?

MN: Well, if there were truly an apocalypse, nobody would survive. If for some reason I managed to survive, I'm honestly not sure! Perhaps matches for fire. I'm not a violent person so I have a hard time imagining using any weapons. 

J: Who would you say is your favorite Dictatorial leader? Would you guys be besties?

MN: I have no favorite Dictatorial leaders! They are called Dictators for a reason. I'm a big fan of free will. 

J: Are wax museums overrated or underrated?

MN: Wax Museums? I think they're pretty cool. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Interview with SROS Lords

I got to meet Morgan and Jamie from Sros Lords on Record Store Day last year when they stopped by Permanent Records with their tour mates the Soupcans. Both bands had put on great sets and I had talked to the guys from Soupcans for a bit after they finished. Later that day, TV Ghost and Wax Idols played Permanent, but before they came on, I stopped by the comic book shop across the street to take a look around and ran into Jamie and Morgan from Sros Lords. Morgan was taken aback that I had not read Goon (And I still have not - I sincerely apolgoize, though I will eventually read it I swear!) and we talked for a while about music and comics, focusing on the music in their neck of the woods in Detroit, as well as what their upcoming plans for making music and touring were.

I totally took too long to put out this interview and I'm really sorry about that- I kept getting backtracked and I lost my handheld recorder, so I'm extremely thankful to the guys at Sros Lords for putting up with me. Next time they're in Chicago, I'm buying dinner.

Sros Lords are a garage punk band out of Detroit and have put out a 7" on the always excellent Urinal Cake Records as well as a new nine-song EP on their own website. Jamie and Morgan gave me a few good bands to check out when I first met them like Protomartyr, and referenced Midwest legends such as Timmy Vulgar.

We've stayed in contact since then and I got to see them in Pilsen earlier this Fall with their new band member Cait. They had a show the next day, however, and couldn't stay all that long. I understand that they recently toured with Whatever Brains, one of my favorite weirdo punk bands. It sounds like a killer bill and I'm sorry to have missed their East Coast dates. Knowing these guys though, they'll be playing back in Chicago soon enough.

They also have some of the consistently best artwork I've ever seen.

You can check out their Facebook Page, their Website, and pick up their 7" on Urinal Cake Records!

Jordan: Who all is in Sros Lords? When did you guys start playing?

Sros Lords: Old lineup: Phil, Al, Jamie ,Morgan. New Sros lineup:  Jamie, Morgan, Cait!

SL: Old Sros started playing in 2010 and the new lineup emerged in late 2013!!

J: What does the name Sros Lords come from? I'm unfamiliar with the word Sros...

SL: SROS stands for where we practice!  Sight Right Optical Studios! 

J: What kind of artists do you guys like? Are there any bands or artists that have kind of influenced your music?

SL: The artists we like are honest in their music and generally play music like dirt punk garage. Usually they’re crazy or weird - hopefully both! Every artist we come across adds to our influences.
J: What all have you guys released?  
SL: We have released three songs on Beehive records, two songs on a 7-inch for Urinal Cake records, and a self-released nine song EP on

J: How do you record a song? Are there roles for songwriting?
SL: We record with recording equipment. Just kidding. Guitar and drums get recorded live together, then we record synth and vocals separate. The songwriting roles are Morgan comes up with music and lyrics, I myself (Jamie) come up with the beats and Cait colors it all in!

J: You guys recently put out an album. How was that? How long did it take to record? What was the process like?  

SL: It was sweet! We got to work with Adam Cox who has recorded many a great Detroit act and Tim Vulgar from Human eye and Timmy`s Organism! It took about I’d say like sic months or so. We hammered our tracks down and with Adam and Timmy Controlling the Command station we focused on a trajectory all right for Spacecraft Liftoff!

J: You guys also got to play with Whatever Brains recently. Those guys are kind of hometown heroes for me since I went to school in North Carolina and got to see them a bunch. How was that? Any good stories?

SL: Fucking amazing! We did Three shows with them and Atlanta heroes Wymns Prysn! Watching Whatever Brains play was the story!

J: You’ve also said that you're currently in the recording process. What do you guys have in the works? 

SL: Were recording like six new tracks and then down the line we’ll record six more!!!

J: What are some good Detroit bands that you guys like a lot?

SL: Growwing Pains, Protomartyr, Johnny ILL band, Terrible Twos, Human Eye, Reverend, My Pal Val, Nebula Smile, Feelings, k9Sniffies, Moonhairy, Tyvek, Child Bite, Joe Dirty Show

J: I got to meet you guys in a comic book store after seeing you all at Permanent Records. Are comics important to you guys? What sorts of comics do you like?

SL: Yes, very important to us! We like Groo, Walking Dead, Marvel, DC. A general mix of superhero and modern normal dudes with abnormal situations

J: Do you guys have any plans to tour soon?

SL: We always plan on some type of tour! If Anyone wants us to play just hit us up!

J: Anything else you'd like to say?

SL: I just wanna say listen and get craazyy, spread the word, email us, talk to us, book us for your shows. Let’s have a fun time mixed with a crashing asteroid falling into a dragons Cave!

Interview with Oliver of Sonne Hagal

Sonne Hagal is a German neofolk band that put out its first recording in 2000, a 10" record called Sinnreger. Since then, they have released many singles, EPs, and LPs. Their music is astonishing from its lyrics to its orchestration to its precision. The Sonne Hagal Website gives a picture of the band as three silhouettes in a nearly black and white backdrop. This serves the purpose of demonstrating the mystery behind the band. Who is Sonne Hagal? How did their music come to exist?

These were a few of the questions I personally had before beginning this interview. Through the past few months, Oliver and I had started a sort of pen-pal-like correspondence. His first e-mail to me in the vein of an interview was "Well, we may try a step-by-step-interview, but I have to warn you. I am the worst interview partner ever, a grumpy old man, lazy and humourless." I found this to be an unfair self-judgment, as Oliver gave me a lot of really great answers and some recommendations to further my recent neofolk obsession.

As an outsider looking in, the beginning neofolk listener observes a fixation on Runology as well as European History and Mythology. I've learned a lot since becoming interested, though I have merely scratched the surface of neofolk's depths, as one can see after reading any interview with Ian Read (of Fire & Ice). Oliver is also very learned and gave me some good leads on where to continue my search.

In the interview, Oliver also lets slip that he has selected twelve songs for a new album. Unsurprisingly, I'm ecstatic as I'm typing this.

You can check out Sonne Hagal on Facebook and listen to their music on Spotify, or wherever you go to listen to music.

Jordan: When did you start making music?

Oliver: If I remember correctly I got an own guitar by the age of 12. But I found all those strings too annoying to deal with and put the instrument away pretty soon. Later, maybe by the age of 14 or 15 a schoolmate forced me to join his drum lessons during the vacations. He had occupied his father’s garage and built up a full drum set which looked like a mingle-mangle of scrap-metal and fossil drums… Well, those were probably my worst long vacations but along the way I learned to play the full drum set and ended up as a drummer for several punk rock projects in the local leftist and squatter’s scene. Later I rediscovered the guitar and together with our today’s keyboarder and bassist we started what later became Sonne Hagal.

J: When and how did you start Sonne Hagal?

O: It must have been the early nineties or mid-nineties when we changed our musical style totally. So far we had created and performed wildly improvised ritual and hypnotic noise collages and soundscapes. We had one synthesizer, a couple of drums (on which I played with human bones) and a drum computer. When we “rehearsed” we just checked our general concepts and ideas, no real song structures. We just followed each other referring to rhythms and melodies. The things we did couldn’t be repeated one-to-one when we performed in front of an audience. We just went deeper and deeper into the sounds and rhythms. Some of these performances must have been amazingly awful. Others went pretty well, depending on how well we interacted. When we were joined by our bassist and violinist we changed that noise terror into real song structures, repeatable melodies and lyrics. I found it pretty interesting to convey emotions and thoughts with rather “catchy” melodies instead of pure noise. At that time a good friend introduced us to neofolk, which we had never heard of before and we got to know music by Death In June, Sol Invictus, Fire + Ice. Their music strengthened our idea to walk this musical way.

J: How do you guys write lyrics? What do you focus on?

O: There are different ways that lyrics come off. Runic knowledge and Northern Mysteries have always been interesting for us though they are not the only topics we sing about. Sometimes I just come across good poems where more or less well-known poets have written wonderful thoughts and profound things that affect time, love and life in general. If these poems really touch me I try to find a melody that emphasizes, widens or sometimes even hides or thwarts the words. On the other hand I set to music things that have haunted me in dreams (as long as I can remember them) or things that move my heart or mind. Sometimes one single word I hear or read is enough to be inspired for a whole song. Sometimes I collect and rearrange ideas for a longer time until I am satisfied with the lyrics. Basically it’s not a rational process to validate whether the lyrics are good or bad, it’s rather a very subjective impression, the feeling that the verse is “whole” and expresses what I want to say. The feeling, the lyrics “suit me.” It is probably me alone who understands my own lyrics entirely (if at all), because it is in the nature of things that anyone will read, interpret and understand what he wants to understand. And that’s great - I love that certain “wiggle room.” There should be space enough for everyone to find something within the tracks.
J: Runes and Northern mysteries are something that interests me. What would you say to someone curious about them?

O: Well, the Runes and Northern Mysteries are wonderful things. To study and go into them means to search and find your history, your past, or even yourself. I personally see the Runes as a powerful medium to connect independent individuals and free spirits to create a network of people that are fully aware or awake. Children may find exciting stories about ancient gods; adults may see bigger relations between man and nature, between past, present and future. The Northern Mysteries and the Runes contain ancient knowledge and the memories of thousands of people that lived ages ago. Within the Runes we find everything that represents life itself like order and chaos, life and death, energy, emotion and will. However, they still enclose countless secrets and proof our will to go deeper and deeper into these mysteries and reveal one or another secret.

J: Do you think there are any artists who do a particularly good job of representing runes and northern mysteries?

O: There have been a couple of artists and musicians that have impressed and thrilled me. Of course I liked all the more or less obvious references to the Runes by Death In June, Sol Invictus or Fire + Ice. Particularly Rûna by Fire + Ice is a masterpiece. But I also liked less well-known artists and their runic influenced tracks such as Rob Crocker and Kate Waterfield. And last but not least, I love listening to Freya Aswynn’s The fruits of Yggdrasil.

J: How do you record music?

O: When we recorded our first 10“ record we hadn’t any professional equipment at all, I didn’t even own a guitar with pickup and had to borrow one for the recording sessions. We recorded on 8-track-analogue-tape. To get simple “special effects” like a distorted voice we used old speakers like those that are used in a doctor’s practice. Then we gave maximum input into those speakers, overrode them and got a distorted effect. The big disadvantage was that those speakers simply broke after two or three uses and we burnt up a lot of those speakers to get a proper result. There was also no way to correct a failed recording as we can do today with digital equipment. We simply had to start anew what was recorded poorly. Usually we start with the guitar tracks as all the music was written on guitar and add all other instruments step by step. We also like long-distance-recordings where we send single tracks to our friends and let them add their ideas and send the recordings back. Today we record digitally in a little recording studio that we built in our bassist’s apartment. Those digital tools offer several possibilities to experiment with sounds and effects to fulfill the ideas we had in mind.

J: Have you been working on new material?

O: Oh yes! Actually we are always working on new material. Once a sound carrier is released we start working on new tracks. But everything happens in slow motion. We all live in different cities and it demands skill to organize rehearsals, appointments for recording and mixing sessions or live shows. Nonetheless we have selected twelve songs for the next album. We’ve recorded the stuff already and recently work on a little “fine-tuning.” The sound of this album is even more organic, hermetic than before. Withdrawn, but with a lot of energy. We think it will be our best music ever!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Interview with Chris of Ex-Cult

Ex-Cult is a modern Memphis punk band, following in the impressive lineage of bands such as the Reatards, The Oblivians, and more. They have put out one LP and one 7" already on Goner Records. To make matters more remarkable, the band boasts production credits from the likes of the one and only Ty Segall. Live, they are a force to be reckoned with. On recording, they are equally immersed in their music. This band is going places and there's a reason for that - they tour with abandon, having played all over the United States and more with Ty Segall, the OBN III's, Mac Demarco, Acide Baby Jesus, and more.

I got hip to the band mostly cause I'll listen to anything on Goner Records. This record was no exception in Goner's legacy of putting out hits. I missed their two shows in Chicago. I'm still kicking myself over that one. The good news is that they're playing the Empty Bottle in May, my favorite Chicago venue, and the month of my birth. It's a sign.

You can check out the band on their FACEBOOK PAGE and listen to their singles on the Goner-Soundcloud. Here's the FIRST SINGLE. And honestly, don't be a dope -PREORDER THE RECORD.

Jordan: Who all is in Ex-Cult? When did you guys start the band?
Ex-Cult is
Chris (me) -Vocals
Natalie- Bass
Alec- Guitar
Michael- Drums
I think our first show was in 2011. I can't remember.

J: You guys had previously been called Sex Cult. Why the change in name?

C: These idiots started a label called Sex Cult Records, and they tried to sue us. In retrospect we should have let them sue us, none of us have any money. After much deliberation, we decided to just drop the 'S' and become Ex-Cult.

J: What is it like being a garage rock band in Memphis with a dynamite label like Goner and legends like Jay Reatard and the Oblivians?

C: It's really cool to have a label/store like Goner Records 10 minutes from your house. But I don't think Memphis bands from the past get as much local attention as they deserve. Bands like Lost Sounds, The Oblivians and Jay Reatard had a major impact on music at the times they existed, whether people want to believe it or not. I remember being 19 on tour and seeing Lost Sounds posters in people's rooms and being like what the fuck? I had no idea bands from Memphis registered on a national level at that point. The local scene is small, but it rules. You can go out to a bar and hangout with someone that used to be in The Reatards or Deathreat and not even know it.
J: What are some of your favorite bands from Memphis currently?

C: True Sons of Thunder have been my favorite Memphis band for some time now. JB and his wife Laurel play in a band called Moving Finger that I really like, Natalie plays in a band called Nots that is also really cool. She also plays in Moving Finger. Gimp Teeth are a new band that fuckin rips, check them out if you can. 

C: Past Memphis bands I like: Final Solutions, Reatards, Oblivians, Knaughty Knights, Porn and Grenades, Mutant Space Bats of Doom, Rednecks in Pain, Dead Trends, Pulltrigger, Staags, Sector Zero, Angry Angles, Lost Sounds, AAAA New Memphis Legs...I could go on.

J: How did you guys start writing and recording music? Did you have some song ideas floating around before?

C: We had an idea of what we wanted to sound like before we started, but no one brought songs to the first practice. The first time we practiced, Me JB and Michael got together and JB had the impression we were going to try do a hardcore band similar to my old band Vile Nation. After we told him we wanted to do something more psychedelic we started jamming, and everything else just fell into place.

J: Who writes your songs? Do you guys have certain roles?

C: We all write the songs, collectively. I have always written all the lyrics and named almost all the songs, but that's not a rule or anything. Alec helps write the lyrics sometimes, he wrote some of the lines in our song “Don't Feel Anything” and he came up with the concept behind “Catholic Entries.” Everyone plays multiple instruments (except me) so no one is stuck to whatever they play live when we are practicing. There are 5 of us, so everyone leaves their mark on a song. That's how we've always approached writing music.

J: What was the process of making your first LP like? How did those songs get made?

C: Some of those songs were really old, Young Trash is the first song we ever wrote.

J: You guys worked with Ty Segall on that record. What was that like?
C: It was cool. Ty asked us if anyone was producing the first record, and at that point no one had offered to do anything. He was real stoked on us from the start, and I think that probably made some people pay attention to us that wouldn't have otherwise. We are going to continue to record with him, I think we're playing some shows together this year too.
J: What can you say about your upcoming record on Goner? Was it different making this album?

C: Midnight Passenger is the only type of album that we could have made at this stage in our band. It's a reflection of the amount of time we spent locked-in last year, performing together. Last album we were in recording in San Francisco, sleeping in the studio and on Ty's floor, with the clock against us because we had to fly back to Memphis whether we were done recording or not. We recorded Midnight Passenger 15 minutes from the neighborhood where we all live in Memphis. We got to go home every night, go to work in the morning or whatever, then focus on whatever we were doing that night in the studio. That being said if we get the chance to record in San Francisco again I won’t think twice about saying yes.

J: Do you guys have any plans to tour after releasing the album?

C: Yeah we are going to tour both coasts again. Hopefully hit places we haven't been to before.
J: Are there any places you guys like to go to in particular while you tour? Any notable restaurants or haunts?

C: The whole time we were recording in San Francisco we would hang out at this place called Vesuvio during our off time. Allen Ginsberg used to get drunk there or something. Other favorite bars include Mr. Bings in San Francisco, The Roost in LA, Cha Cha Lounge in LA, The Shanty in Eureka, CA, Foobar in Nashville, The Lamplighter in Memphis, Santa's Pub in Nashville, Daddy's in Brooklyn, Otto's Shrunken Head in Manhattan. 

J: Anything else you'd like to say?

C: Shout-out to Rawkdonald. What's up to the girl wearing a nightie that kicked us out of her apartment at 4am. New York's alright if you like saxophones. What up to Cameron Higgs in the swamp. The Crocodile King.  Listen to Useless Eaters. Memphis Punk Forever.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Interview with Doug, Max, and Natalie from Good Willsmith

The Cover of their Upcoming LP
Good Willsmith is a deep zone. It’s the collaboration of three young music enthusiasts (Max Allison, Doug Kaplan, and Natalie Chami) who went to Northwestern and decided to play music together, albeit after they had graduated. They make experimental music that hovers in the realm of ambient, drone, and noise. It’s also breathtakingly beautiful. GWS successfully weaves guitars, synthesizers, voice, and more through loops and effects. No set is the same as the next, though similar overall structures or ideas may be present. GWS has put out several releases, some of which are on Doug and Max's label Hausu Mountain. In addition, they have a full-length LP coming up in about a month, which is distributed through THRILL JOCKEY

Hausu Mountain prominently features an homage to Obayashi's classic flick in its logo. The label puts out a lot of releases and I have yet to run across one that is lacking. I recently did an interview with their label's D/A/D who put out an excellent cassette called The Construct, which got press from the likes of NPR. These dudes have not slowed down though, as they recently put out Lockbox and Sugarm cassettes.

Natalie helps run a music-putter-outer of her own called Screaming Claws, which gives resources for experimental and improvisational musicians to put out music. Each week, a new session appears, which ends up being a fully realized piece of music.

This is a pretty in-depth interview because there's a lot going on with these three. It's been really rewarding working with these folks and seeing them at shows. I got to meet Doug and Max at a Ryley Walker/Circuit Des Yeux/Mark Trecka show and I met Natalie at one of her TALSounds shows. From a personal standpoint, these three are great folks too, which goes an awful long way with me, and I can't wait to see what they do next.


I've never posted so many links at once.

Jordan: Who is Good Willsmith? When did you guys start making music? Have there been any lineup changes?

GWS: Max and Doug met Natalie through a mutual friend in 2012. Though all three of us went to Northwestern, Max and Doug didn't know Natalie while we were at school. We started recording music together in February 2012. Our first session featured our dear bud Aeron Small (who also plays with us in The Big Ship, and solo as Ron Tubman) on guitar. We find that we generally have enough happening at any moment as a three-piece - but we're definitely plotting some collab ideas for the future.

J: First off. How did you think of that name? It's brilliant!

GWS: It just came to us randomly one night and we ran with it. We try to stay lighthearted and not take ourselves seriously. The name serves as a kind of ego deflater and bullshit detector, and it sticks in people's heads pretty well. It means nothing.

J: Do any artists in particular influence or inspire Good Willsmith?

GWS: Doug and Max are inspired by the many styles and eras of music they obsess over as listeners: the contemporary "noise" underground, 20th century electronic music, the holy triumvirate of Earth / Sunn O))) / Boris, minimalism, black metal, Brian Eno, Khyal, Dhrupad, Carnatic music, kraut and kosmiche, infinite etc. These traditions provide inspiration on the level of tone, structure, atmosphere, live performance strategies, but we try to channel these ideas into something more personal and idiosyncratic when we play together. We focus on dynamics, the development of the session, listening to each other, and responding empathetically, instead of dwelling on the supposed origin or heritage of our sounds. As a live performer and "lead vocalist," Natalie identifies deeply with Alice Coltrane, Björk, Terry Riley, Sade, Aaliyah, and the work of Portishead, Broadcast, and Blonde Redhead.

J: How often do you get to perform? What is the role of a live show for you guys? Do you plan out your set or do you improvise?

GWS: We play together as much as we can. Before a tour, we'll start planning a set by discussing ideas we've had, drawing out simple graphical scores that illustrate relative dynamics and instrumentation across the session, sometimes making lists of elements or tones we want to incorporate into a certain passage of the set. We never really write out set material in terms of melodies, progressions, harmonic decisions, looping decisions - all of this emerges in the moment during improvisation. But the conditions of each part of the session are loosely planned. When we have a structure kind of locked into place, we can workshop it over the next series of live performances - this is especially effective before a tour or a specific local gig we're preparing for. Then, when we've presented it live as much as we want to, we record the session as the "studio version" - which is still fully live and improvised, but happens to have all of our amps mic-ed. Doug mixes the resulting session, and that stands as a proper album release.

J: What else is in your future for Good Willsmith?

GWS: We're releasing a tape in the near future on Baked Tapes, the label run by our bud / legendary zonelord Jesse DeRosa (of Grasshopper and Hex Breaker Quintet) - it's called Aquarium Guru Shares the Secret Tactic, and it documents a set that we workshopped over a lot of local gigs and a residency at a gallery called HCL in Chicago (late 2012 - early 2013). On March 25, we're excited to be releasing our first LP with the amazing Mexican label Umor Rex - who produce truly beautiful physical items, and have always showcased music we love. The album is called The Honeymoon Workbook - and it represents material we workshopped over our 2013 summer tour, on the west coast with Black Hat and on the east coast with Date Palms.

J (To Doug & Max): What's Hausu Mountain? What kinds of acts or recordings do you like to release through the label?

Doug & Max: We've been running Hausu Mountain for the last two years. From the beginning, our plan was to release our own music and the music of contemporaries we love. We have no limitations on genre or style, but we release music that we find to be engaging and forward-thinking, by our standards. Other than our personal projects (Good Willsmith, The Big Ship), we work with friends like Moth Cock, Black Hat, D/A/D, Lockbox, and Sugarm. An early project for us was to get together a batch of solo improv sessions for our Mugen Series of split tapes: the first batch had the three of us in Good Willsmith, the dudes from Grasshopper, Natalie's bandmate Brian Griffith (Greyghost), and the aforementioned Ron Tubman and Sugarm.

J (To Doug & Max): What have been some of the most successful releases that you guys have had?

D & M: Recently, the D/A/D release "The Construct" - made by our best bud and bandmate Zach Robinson - has surpassed all expectations. We sold out of our first cassette edition in less than a month - and saw some great exposure for Zach's music.

J (To Doug & Max): How was the Hausu Mountain showcase at the Empty Bottle?

D & M: A great success. It was incredible to put together such a healthy bill of zoners from near and far. We loved having Moth Cock and Sugarm in town from the great East. Mind Over Mirrors, Bitchin Bajas, Quicksails, and Sam Prekop represented experimental Chicago at its deepest, and we were so pumped to get everyone together.

J (To Doug & Max): What's coming up for Hausu Mountain?

D & M: We're expanding in 2014 to release a lot of music we consider to be groundbreaking and exciting - like an LP by Grasshopper, a Form A Log / Moth Cock LP split, and a full-length from Eartheater (Alex Drewchin from Guardian Alien). We're issuing another batch of Mugen tapes - with performers like Plankton Wat, Head Boggle, Quicksails, the members of Moth Cock and Telecult Powers, Rob Frye (of Bitchin Bajas and CAVE), and Quidditas (Philly-based drum / noise wizard Raleigh Booze). We're stoked about our upcoming tape release with Mondo Lava - a project from Arcata, CA that we're truly obsessed with - and dub/rhymthic modular synth guru William Selman. Also, always more Moth Cock.

J (To Natalie) : What's your project TalSounds? How did that start?

Natalie: TALsounds came to be my solo project after Brian Griffith, my collaborator in ambient duo l'éternèbre, moved to LA in Sept 2011. We had a residency going on, and I really loved what we were doing. I immediately panicked when I realized he was really not going to be in Chicago anymore and started asking other improvisational musicians to play with me. Although it was super fun working with some of my favorite musicians, nothing was very consistent. Instead of changing group names on bills every time I played, I decided on a solo moniker, and perform under that name in collaboration with other artists too to keep things more consistent.

J (To Natalie): What kind of equipment do you use for your music?

N: My primary sound sources are my voice and analog synthesizers (Roland Juno-60 and Korg Lambda). I process my live input through some effects pedals, and loop sounds with an EHX 2880 4-track loop pedal. I also use a few small noisemakers and contact-mic based instruments, along with a dedicated oscillator called the Grendel Drone Commander (made by Eric Archer).

J (To Natalie):You studied Music at Northwestern. Has that impacted or influenced any of your music?

Studying classical music at Northwestern has definitely impacted the music I write/play. I studied Classical Voice/Opera and Choral Music Education. The program, like most music conservatories, requires theory, aural skills, etc. I also have studied classical piano since I was 3. I’ve always been so immersed in classical training that I couldn’t help but think about notation and theory every time I listened to any kind of music. There was no off switch. I still don’t think I have an off switch, but it’s the reason I love performing improvised/experimental/ambient music so much. The theory tools are all in my hardwiring now, but it allows me to just let go and react to sound again (within these genres). It’s the closest I can get to the off switch, and just enjoy it freely again. Don’t get me wrong, I still practice, study and teach classical music every day, but it’s in the l’eternebre, TALsounds, and GWS sets when I get into that meditative state of music.

J (To Natalie): You also help with Screaming Claws, kind of an artistic network. Tell me a little bit about that. What is Screaming Claws? How did you get involved? What do you do for Screaming Claws?

N: I started Screaming Claws with Brian Griffith. We wanted to create a network or collective for like-minded artists with similar aesthetics. Our main goals are to connect people (for shows, collaborations, networking) and also to motivate each other to really continue creating beautiful tunes! Since Brian’s move, we’ve spread our outreach from Chicago, to LA, and now to Vienna, with our later founder, Steffi Neuhuber. We do weekly digital releases by one of us or one of our friends, and put together “Delayed Improvs” where we send over an improvised track and pass it around until we have about 3-4 people involved. We also get people to play together in real life, too (Living Room Sessions held on the same day in LA/Chi/Vienna or just by telling each other about friends in respective towns that they should meet, etc).

J (To Natalie): What's coming up in the future of Natalie Chami?

N: Besides all of the GWS happenings, I have solo shows in Chicago at least monthly, and a split coming out this spring on Cosmic Winnetou (atay ilgun, alper yildirim & TALsounds, steffi neuhuber - split (cw19)). I’m also planning another tour/recording session in Europe this summer. I also plan to release another solo album in the fall on Hausu Mountain. Other than that, recording and mixing/sifting through a lot of older recordings and collaborations from this past year and figuring out what to do with them.  And just getting better at my thaang (learn the ms 20, maybe getting better at incorporate beats, figuring out a way to record my live looping in a way i can mix in post-production for better quality recordings). Finding more artists to release on Screaming Claws.

J: What all have you been listening to lately?

Max: Container, Lil Ugly Mane, The Residents (always), John Zorn (always), new albums by White Suns, Bohren & Der Club of Gore, Sunn/Ulver, The Body, Horseback, Actress, Jerry Paper, tapes on Orange Milk and Tranquility Tapes, everything on PAN, DJ Screw, Young Thug, Beyoncé, video game soundtracks (Mother series, Final Fantasy), much more.

Doug: I've been slowly digging through this magical box of Phish cassettes from 89-98. Guardian Alien - Spiritual Emergency and Greg Fox - Mitral Transmissions have been getting constant play. I got some weirder Residents tapes - Assorted Secrets and Cube-E - that have gotten me to dig deeper in the catalog. Safety is the Cootie Wootie.

Natalie: Lil Ugly Mane… Augustus Pablo. Nothing new really… Hella and Deftones haha, American Football, Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle.  I dont know, I recently updated my iPod with all of my old jams. It’s kinda embarrassing. Just heard Co La’s album Moody Coup. So good. Need to get into that some more. Also that new Jerry Paper ish. My friends' new releases. Everything Hausu is putting out cause it rules.

J: Are there any shows in particular that you are excited for?

GWS: Good Willsmith is performing on March 28th as part of Andre Foisy’s METAL YOGA series. More details TBA. We’re also performing on a bill with Crowhurst and The Auditor on April 22nd at Club Rectum. TALsounds plays solo on a bill with The-Drum at Schubas on March 11th.