Thursday, January 29, 2015

Interview with Justin Hubbard of Germ House

My friend Chris DeFusco, who runs Negative Fun Records, was an early advocate for this blog, and a big help in getting this site off the ground. First and foremost, without him, I would never have been able to interview Tara from Mr. Airplane Man, a real dream come true, but I also wouldn't have been able to meet Justin Hubbard, Tara's husband. Justin's no stranger to music, as he was in the band Turpentine Brothers. He is also in Far Corners, which is currently active, and now Germ House who put out their excellent debut LP, Showing Symptoms, on Trouble in Mind.

Germ House in a live setting features Justin on vocals and guitar, Tara on drums, Sean Bond on a synth, and Joe Ayoub on bass, but the record was by and large a solo effort by Justin in his home recording studio. Showing Symptoms boasts ten garage nuggets over the course of thirty-two minutes that seem to get better with each side flip of the side.

Below, Justin talks briefly about the possibility of an upcoming West Coast tour. Until then, however, we've got a fantastic slab of wax to hold our appetites! The mailorder ltd. edition version was only pressed in an edition of 500 so order soon!

Jordan Reyes: Germ House started as a solo project, didn't it? When did you decide to add Tara to the recording process?

Justin Hubbard: It did, but I never really intended it to be a solo thing necessarily. I just wanted to get these other song ideas on tape. They weren't really fitting in with our other band and I just started doing demos of them myself. Some of the songs I couldn't pull off on the drums, believe me I tried and it sounded terrible! I guess in a way I was being stubborn, I wanted to play everything myself. 

JR: I assume most of the songs from Showing Symptoms probably started as home-recordings on your own. When did you get to the point where you knew you wanted to put out an LP with your songs?

JH: Yeah definitely, I always wanted it to be a functioning live band though. Music is weird, it's like it doesn't exist unless it's in a physical recorded format. I needed it to be out there somehow so I could move on.
JR: What do you use for home recording by the way?

JH: I record to 4 track cassette, it's a Tascam 424 MKIII. I have a Studiomaster mixing board and a few decent mics. It's a lot of fun and insanely frustrating at the same time. I have to record on a regular basis or I totally forget how to do it. I'm just barely keeping it together! My buddy Curtiss back in Boston really has helped out a lot with gear and advice. He recorded our old band a bunch. 

JR: When we did the Far Corners interview in October of 2012, you had mentioned to me that you were also in Germ House. At that time was Germ House performing live with Joe and Tara or is that a more recent thing?

JH: I think we had played a couple shows at that point.
JR: I was actually surprised when Bill told me he was putting out your full-length because I just hadn't heard anything for a while. Had you considered putting out singles or an EP first? Personally, I think it's awesome you started with an LP, but I guess I typically expect a debut to be a 7" rather than an LP.

JH: I was expecting to do some 7" at first but was really happy they wanted to do a full length. Travis at Windian was initially going to put it out, but after he died things were kind of up in the air. Really bummed I never got to meet him face to face but everyone I've talked to that knew him said he was a great person. I felt really weird even thinking about what was going to happen with our record after such a horrible thing happened to him and his family. 

JR: I know that you and Tara have been friends with the Roes for a long time. Do you remember how you guys met?

JH: I think we've known them since about 2005. I think those guys (Cococoma) wrote our old band back in the Myspace days about maybe a song we both covered or something. We wrote back and forth for a little bit and started to work out some shows together in the Midwest. I think I met Bill (and Mike from Headache City) for the first time when he was playing drums with The Latest. We played with them in New York and they were incredible. I think the next time I saw him we were all playing together with the Cheater Slicks in Columbus. That's when we first met Lisa I think. Cococoma and Headache City killed it that night and the Cheater Slicks were life changing. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I had seen them a couple times before that and they were incredible but this was like nothing I had ever seen. That was a really fun tour.
JR: I also know that you and Tara have children and I'm sure that makes touring near impossible, but have you guys ever considered doing a tour? Is it at all feasible for someone outside New Mexico to see you?

JH: Yeah we have a 4 year old now and it's great! It definitely makes some things harder. We just have to be smarter about how we plan things like out of town shows and stuff. But yes, it is definitely feasible for people outside NM to see us! I'd love to set up a west coast thing soon.
JR: Does your kid like your music? When I was your kid's age, I pretty much only listened to broadway musicals, church hymns, and the Parent Trap Soundtrack. Would you say that your child has a better taste in music than me at that age?

JH: Yeah sorry man, he's way cooler than you were. He posts on Now Playing all the time, all OG pressings of course. No, I mean, he hears what we play around the house and we're kind of all over the place. Lots of jazz, soul, dub, African and experimental stuff. He really responds to high energy music and "spooky" songs as he calls them. If you blast AC/DC or Coloured Balls or something like that he's out of control! He's got an old Fisher Price record player with his own little stack of LP's and 45's he can mess around with. "Pay You Back With Interest" by The Hollies is definitely his favorite.

JR: What are ya'll's favorite horror movies if you watch horror movies?

JH:  Definitely The Shining. Tara can't watch scary movies.
JR: Anything else you'd like to say?

JH: I'm always recording new stuff, Far Corners has a new EP coming out on Limited Appeal soon. I've got another noisy solo recording thing I do called Broodsac and Germ House has some new stuff recorded too. Hopefully this year we'll have have a bunch of new stuff coming out!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Interview with Daniel Bachman

American Primitivism is a guitar style started by John Fahey in the 50s, reconciling the avant-garde with bluegrass finger-picking. Many noticeable guitarists have come from this tradition such as Jim O'Rourke, Richard Bishop, Jack Rose, and more, but the style owes itself to the folkloric tradition of Appalachia and other rural American sites. Appalachian guitar is obviously not an oral tradition, but it does seem to share its quasi-hereditary aspect not unlike a would-be ninja tradition of mainland North America. It is either heard and mimicked or instructed. Monkey see. Monkey Do. Monkey learn to play guitar too.

That's not to say that aping a technique is the same as excelling in it, which is what Daniel Bachman, originally of Virginia, does. Simply put, Bachman is an excellent guitar player. He's got witchfingers that seem to make a very strong case for how the speed of sound may actually be quicker than the speed of light...or is that the speed of human perception? Regardless, take a minute to watch his Tiny Desk concert on NPR and you'll see what I mean: it's hard to keep up with the dance of his hands.

Bachman's got an upcoming LP on Three Lobed Recordings set to emerge from hibernation around the time leaves begin to reappear on trees. Before that, though, he will be continuing his relentless perma-tour, doing a couple weeks in February, a week in March, two weeks in Europe during April, and finally a three week US tour in May. He's playing two shows in Chicago on February 15 & 16 and you should be there! I'll include the rest of the dates below the interview.

Daniel Bachman: What’s up, man?

Jordan Reyes: Hey Dan, what’s going on?

DB: Not much, I’m just working on this radio show that I’m doing tonight. I’m putting down tracks and getting stuff settled, which is kind of stressing me out. Today is fucking insane.

JR: What’s the radio show?

DB: I’m doing this program with my buddy Grant. I've got a lot of White Gospel records, which I guess can be considered Pentecostal or Mountain Gospel. We’re doing a three hour show tonight on the Chapel Hill station. It’s going to be fun, but I’m somewhat crunched for time. I usually am not this busy, but I've got this interview and another radio thing at four, so it’s just a wild day.

JR: I actually lived in Durham for four years so it’s funny you’re in Chapel Hill.

DB: Oh, I live in Durham now. I live on North Roxboro on the other side of 85.

JR: Awesome! Do you know Chaz at Bull City Records?

DB: Oh, fuck yeah, dude! Chaz is from Richmond!

JR: Yeah, he’s a buddy of mine! I used to spend hours at his shop.

DB: He is a great dude. I haven’t been in the store for a minute, but I should go this week. It’s just that today and tomorrow are fucked up for me. I just got back into town last night actually.

JR: From tour?

DB: No – my family took me and my girlfriend to the Outer Banks for a couple days.

JR: Oh ok. I was actually talking to your friend Ryley Walker last night.

DB: And what did he have to say for himself?

JR: First of all, he said to tell you hello, and that I should ask you about food, so…are you a fan of food?

DB: Yeah, I love food. I’m cooking food right now. (laughs) I’m cooking my lunch right now.

JR: Nice. What’s the meal plan for Daniel Bachman?

DB: Well, I haven’t been grocery shopping in a while so I've got some eggs and some sausage, which I’m going to eat that for breakfast and lunch, and then I’m going to get some soup for dinner with my buddy after the other interview stuff.

DB: (laughs) That’s really funny about Ryley. He just knows that food is very important to me. I always look forward to eating and going to different places. He’s had to go around with me before when we've tried to find something just to get sandwiches or something.

JR: Yeah, he specifically said to ask about sandwiches.

DB: Just yesterday we tried this new place in Greensboro called B’s Barbecue. They had typical Carolina barbecue but also corn sticks and all the sauces for sandwiches were in Seagram’s gin bottles. It was a country-ass fuckin' place, but it was really good.

DB: I’m always on the lookout for that shit. I have a long list of places that I really like. I actually don’t have one for Chicago. I’ll be up there for two days next month.

JR: Nice! You should fix that.

DB: Yeah, totally. Let’s fuckin’ do it. I’m playing at Ryley’s house and also at the hideout. The house show is going to be crazy – it’ll probably just be a big party.

JR: Have you been touring a lot the last few years?

DB: Yeah, I go out every month for at least a week. This month is kind of my vacation month: I’m only playing local shows, but I’m playing a lot of them. I’m doing two weeks in February, a week in March, two weeks in Europe in April, and finally three weeks in a US tour in May.

DB: But I’m going back to college hopefully and working for the park service all summer so I won’t be on tour for the summer, and if I get into school, I won’t be able to tour for a while.

JR: Do you think you’ll still be able to put out records and stuff?

DB: Oh yeah. That’s not going to be the problem. And I’m going to be paying my bills by doing weekend gigs, driving up to Baltimore or down to Atlanta, but I'm not going to be able to go out for two weeks and hitting an entire coast.

JR: What are you going to study?

DB: I don’t know yet. I want to get into the American studies program at UNC and then see where that goes. I’ve always wanted to go there since I was a kid, but we didn't have the money when I was a kid. Out-of-state tuition is very expensive. Who knows, though? I’m trying really hard to get in and I’ve got the time and energy now. I can always go on tour, but I don’t know if I’ll always have the opportunity to go to college.

JR: I've always had a desire to do something like that – really submerge myself in the arts. I wish I had taken a year maybe between college and high school and done it. I think you've made a great choice.

DB: Yeah, even my mom was asking me the other day if I were disappointed that they weren't stricter on me to get stuff done for college. I dropped out of High School and they let me. I did two years at a university in Virginia but dropped out to start touring more. The whole time my parents were very emotionally supportive of my decision, but my mom was honestly asking me if I wished they had been on my ass a little more, and I had to reflect and say “No, I’m happy, but I’m ready to go back to school and also keep doing what I’m doing.”

JR: Tell me a little bit about the upcoming record you have for Three Lobed. What was the process behind it? What’s it like?

DB: Well, naturally it’s a series of songs and it’s probably the best sequenced record I've ever made. The playing on it is my best too. It’s very slow and the album’s pace is different from what I've done before, but that was the goal. I wanted to make slow, sad songs.

DB: There’s one side-long song that’s about fourteen and a half minutes, which is on the A-side. It took me a couple months to write. The rest of it is pretty slow, lazy river music.

DB: I’m really happy with how it turned out. It was also the first time I went into a studio to record so that’s exciting. I worked with a guy named Brian Haran here in Durham. We did it all in a day. Everything was a first or second take. It has a very live feel to it. It doesn't feel like we were dwelling on anything, which is what I wanted.

DB: (grunts) Here I am, putting my arugula in the pan. Sorry, I’m trying to be time conscious. It’s crazy. I haven’t played guitar in two weeks either. I've just been touring so much, and I have this live recorded show at four and I’m nervous about how it’s going to sound since I haven’t played in two weeks!

JR: Do you think Virginia and North Carolina and Virginia have any impact on the music that you play?

DB: Oh yeah, totally. Not so much North Carolina because I’m not from here. It’s similar sometimes and different in others. The plants look different. The trees and soil are different. But as I get older, I get more into that stuff. Fredericksburg is right between Richmond and D.C., for instance, which has a ton of history. It has definitely impacted me, whether it’s music or food or whatever.

JR: Why did you start playing guitar?

DB: It was kind of by accident. My dad was a guitar player and I never wanted to play the guitar. I played the banjo for three or four years, which are in open modal tunings. But when I got into that, I realized it was somewhat limited. Anyway, I ended up hearing some solo guitar music – Jim O’Rourke. And I remember that I thought to myself “Oh, I could probably do that,” so I started tuning to an open tuning. I didn't know about the other guys that did that.

DB: Slowly, the banjo started fading out and the guitar became a bigger part of me. But I never wanted to since it was my dad’s thing, and I didn’t want to be like my dad. Everyone feels like that.

JR: You’re totally right, and then you realize that your dad is actually somewhat of a cool person.

DB: Yeah, I've got a shitload of his records from the 60s and 70s. He had great taste.

JR: Did your dad put out any music?

DB: He did in the 90s and stuff. He lived in New York for a while in the 60s and ran around that Greenwich Village scene, but didn't play out a lot because of Vietnam. He had to get a job to avoid the draft so he didn't have the same experience. Maybe if the war hadn't been going on, he would have had a similar experience to what I've had. He was in blues bands always playing guitar.

JR: Who do you like to listen to now?

DB: It’s all over the place. All I’m listening to today is gospel. I've got a stack of about a hundred records in front of me and I have to go through each of them and pick out four songs each for the radio show tonight. That’s the stuff that gets me these days.

DB: Canned Heat has been a big fixation of mine for the last few months. I've just been jamming fucking hard to like every Canned Heat record.

JR: I've never listened to a Canned Heat record.

DB: Man, they’re so fucking good. Seriously. They have a great sense of humor and the best musicians. Bob Hite grew up with John Fahey. All those guys go way back. I’m learning some of the guitar player’s tunes. He’s got some recordings from when he tried to commit suicide – hospital room tapes – they’re pretty spooky.

DB: Damn, this lunch is pretty good.

February 2015 Tour Dates
Feb 8 - Durham, NC - The Pinhook 
Feb 9 - Athens, GA - The World Famous 
Feb 10 - Asheville, NC - The Mothlight
Feb 11 - Nashville, TN - The Stone Fox
Feb 12 - Louisville, KY - tba
Feb 13 - Bloomington, IN - The Artifex Guild w/ Tyler Damon
Feb 14 - Lafayette, IN - The Spot
Feb 15 - Chicago, IL - The Hideout w / Lagartha
Feb 16 – Chicago, IL – Ryley Walker Sponsored Party House Show
Feb 17 - Milwaukee, WI - Cactus Club # presented by Acme Records & Music Emporium
Feb 19 - Iowa City, IA - The Mill
Feb 20 - Minneapolis, MN - 7th Street Entry w/ Steve Palmer

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Release of the Day: Rectal Hygienics - Ultimate Purity

Album Art by Ted Sweeney
Have you ever kissed a loved one's tears at a moment of tenderness only to realize that, perversely, you enjoy their salty viscosity? And when you begin to kiss the rest of your cherished one's face where the trace of saltwater makes slick trails of pain, are you kissing to sooth or to lap up one more drop of that tantalizing, cascading cocktail?

Rectal Hygienics is a band that sees the base of human behavior, where a lingering hug is the symptom of an underlying sexual craving, a smile conceals a forked tongue, and all the cellar doors in the world hide abuse and hurt and anguish. Let's not kid ourselves either: these are realities. The boogeymen and ghosts that lurked in our childhood closets pale in comparison to some of the very real people who walk our streets every day. These are the characters who haunt Ultimate Purity, Rectal Hygienics' sophomore LP, out February 17 on Permanent Records.

The record begins with a sampled exposition detailing an aberration men in high-powered positions of prestige often have. Without explaining the corruption, Rectal Hygienics launch into their dirge-laden noise rock while vocalist Matt Ibarra, seemingly level-headed, begins speaking. Ultimate Purity features a band willing to experiment with the formula that made Brainbombs infamous. Matt is unsatisfied with harsh barks of distaste; perhaps more disturbingly, he's going to try and coax you into camaraderie. You might even find yourself singing the mantra "Rid all emotion" along with him during "Esteem." Music this irredeemable shouldn't be so catchy.

So why should we acknowledge something so charged with darkness?

Because the truth is that I find myself wondering why I shouldn't walk out of 7-Eleven without paying for my Coca-Cola or why I shouldn't stab the guy who cut me in line with my house key or what would happen if I pushed a stranger into oncoming traffic. Because there's a yin to every yang. And because we couldn't see in three dimensions without shadows. And because there are bullets not being fired in a gun range on the South side of Chicago. And because even though curiosity killed the cat, sometimes I spend minutes staring into a mirror trying to figure out what's staring back.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Release of the Day: Pleasure Korps - Blessings

Jes Aurelius is a busy dude. This last year has seen him put out music as a solo artist, as a part of Marshstepper, and as a guitarist in Destruction Unit. I'm probably missing something, but who gives a rat's ass? One of the cassettes that snuck up on me out of nowhere was his first release under the alias Pleasure Korps, Blessings. Blessings is a nine-song concoction of mixed electronica and field recordings, languishing somewhere between industrial, techno, and musique concrete.

I'll say right off the bat that it is probably my favorite of his solo releases. At times harsh and at others danceable, Blessings is hard to pin down, but that's what makes it really great. I personally love field recordings. I collect them. It's one of the big pros of the traveling lifestyle - I can find sounds from places that many people wouldn't. Jes does the same thing. You only need to take a look at Destruction Unit's tour dates or even just the Marshstepper Europe itinerary from this previous fall to know that he has taken in a lot of sights and sounds. It fucking shows. I can't claim to know what most of the samples of Blessings are, but I can tell you that they are striking in their beauty and discomfort because the truth is that this release is not tied together by one mood but by one mind and a mind can be a frightening expansive thing.

Blessings is out on Nostilevo from California. This release is definitely worth a listen and if you ask me, it's worth a purchase.

The first hyperlink goes to the release, since I can't figure out how to embed Bandcamp links. Anyway, I'm going to embed a live set that Jes did with Chris Hansell as Pleasure Korps.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Release of the Day: TALsounds - Medium Strong

TALsounds is the solo project of Natalie Chami of experimental, improvisatory trio Good Willsmith. In GWS, Chami takes on the role of vocals, which makes sense since she is an operatically-trained singer. TALsounds moves towards the more nuanced New Age style of experimental music. These sounds caress as opposed to corrode or control. There's a deeply therapeutic nature to new age music on the whole, though sometimes that factor goes a little bit off the deep end. When I listen to New Age music, I don't need to have a monotonous voice telling me to visualize my spirit animal (a cobra, if you were curious) sunbathing in a forest glen. I'd rather be allowed to carve my own path in the music.

And Medium Strong allows this. I don't think I'm alone in thinking that Natalie as a siren has an inviting, coaxing voice. But unlike those from The Odyssey, this siren exhibits no insidious, sadistic behavior. Brittle, aged bones don't litter the inhabited island. Rather her voice transports to a blanketed, gentle realm.

The cassette is comprised of two tracks each around the ten-minute mark. Orchestration is based on synthesizers, though confining it to that obviously limits the pieces, and that's in part because of her voice, but it's more the result of her layering expertise. This is perfect music for meditation, reading, or for a simple drone-bath, and recommended.

I can't figure out how to embed bandcamp - for some reason it's not working, but if you click the hyperlink to Medium Strong above, you should be able to stream the release.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Interview with The Ukiah Drag

What's noise and what's music? Is it simply a way to bide time until death or is there a desperate hope inexplicably tied to the act of creation? I was born with the expectation to speak and listen. Communication and communion. I'm a student of the sublime - that feeling you get when you're on a flight and the PA clicks on and the pilot says, "Well, folks, we've been notified that the next thirty minutes might be a little bumpy so you had better fasten into those seat-belts lest you float from your delicate position and concuss yourself on the cabin ceiling," and you realize that even in our most powerful machines, on a whim, the dynamics of storm and wind have the wherewithal to snap their fingers and, like a candle flickering at the mouth of a lonely cavern, turn out the lights. But I'm also a student of beauty. In Edmund Burke's A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, he pits these two ideas and feelings against each other, but if I'm going to preach for a hot minute, I'd say that music, along with other artistic media, often succeeds in being able to capture both.

Which is, of course, what The Ukiah Drag does. You might be thinking me a wee crazy now, and you'd be right, but not because of the previous claim. Beauty is created by way of a dedication to form while the sublime is an overflowing. I'll give an example. At the moment of genesis, noise music began was sublimity in effigy, but as noise became familiar it was able to fill a form dedicated to the genre, which also makes it beautiful, like how a duck fits into our form of waterfowl. To an extent, there are familiar song forms here, but there's also a tint of controlled chaos that circumnavigates those forms: guitars and other noisemakers may, out of nowhere, decide to stray from the main piece for a bit and carve their own paths.

If we're going to play the genre game, The Ukiah Drag falls into a lot of categories. Punk, Blues. Psychedelic rock. Country. Noise. And this failure to pin the band down makes it that much more exciting. Just give their newest record In The Reaper's Quarters a listen, which you really ought to, and you'll see what I mean.

Jordan Reyes: Ukiah is an interesting word to choose in a band name. I only know it as a city in California. Why did you choose it? Where does the drag come from?

Tommy Conte: Ukiah is the county seat of Mendocino County where wine flows like blood through the Russian River; it was a sordid hotbed for burnt out hippie ruralists in the sixties. Jim Jones held his first Peoples Temple congregation in Ukiah. Charles Manson was a demigod there at some point, giving his LSD sacrament to runaways and with low self esteem; he and Susan Adkins were arrested there in June 1968 for peddling drugs and fucking underage girls. At one point the locals referred to Van Damme State Park as “Dog Blood Beach” because of satanic cults sacrificing animals there. And ad nauseam...The dark side of hippie culture is one hell of an American cultural priapism, a hard cock that was useless and bulging. Hence, DRAG.

Zack Arrington: Yeah we get our name from the town, I've never actually been to but have heard stories and folklore that really builds this image of a haunted rural town, somewhere where people have a lot to tell but don't say much... and the word Drag just puts a stamp on that vibe.

Brian Hennessey: Zack named the band, it works well.

Drew: Because The Zombies was taken.

JR: There are a lot of interrelating sounds in your music. There's psychedelia, noise, punk, pop. Where do these sounds come from? Were they conscious?

ZA: We draw from an eclectic palate, and write on a conscious plane so when we're writing songs there is a well rounded pool of influences that pours out and we let it just come out as natural as we can. Never forcing anything - that's a real pet peeve of ours. Letting the song grow into its own and allowing it to align it self instead of relying a formula or assumed structure.

BH: Most of us have been playing in bands for a substantial period of time. As artists that have a continued interest in the outlet of making music, it only makes sense to keep your palette varied and fresh. Some decisions are made with a clear vision in mind, but we have a natural chemistry as a band, and this is the most important creative factor at the end of any day.

TC: I only listen to hip hop and country so personally I have no consciousness of the above mentioned music genres let alone music consciousness in general.

JR: Tell me a little bit about your new album. How did you write these songs?

ZA: For me, this record has been in the works for several years, a slowly focusing vision, very squinty-eyed, and trying to craft the pieces, some of these songs were written before the band really existed and it has been a process of first finding the band to write them with, allowing the band to form and come into itself and then having the perfect facility to record them in. It has taken a couple years, written between a couple of towns and cities but now it's finished. A period is marked and now it's time to move on.

BH: We recorded it in a church-turned-studio in Hudson NY. It was wacky. The band solidified this batch of songs over the last 18 months or so, and were able to embellish them nicely in the studio.

TC: We wrote them with our ass in the air catching a breeze, Ben Greenberg holding a very sensitive, expensive microphone between his teeth and Sultan’s carpet absorbing the large pool of jissom. As for writing, what happens when four Floridians lock themselves in a basement? We don’t have those in Florida so you go a little stir crazy.

JR: Are lyrics important to your music? What themes or topics do you find importance in?

ZA: I mean to me they are. Its like the accompanying narration to the music - it gives it a little personality. Not just filling in blanks with some sort of vapid karaoke routine but giving it a little bit of a soul. The lyrics are typically pretty personal for me but vague enough to assimilate to the listeners imagination and they can do what they want to do with it from there

BH: Sure, I care that they sound good to me. Anyone's interpretation though is up to them, and in earnest they are usually the last thing I hear when I am listening to music. I've heard it said that any song is about love, war, death or sex. While I don't think that's EXACTLY right, I'll say that all of those themes do resonate strongly with me.

TC: I like karaoke and sex and you’ll have to believe my word.

JR: Do you guys read a lot? Any favorite authors or poets?

ZA: When my attention span allows it, I love reading. It's a very fundamental stimulus for me but I usually need something that just hooks into my brain and doesn't let go until I've read the whole book or whatever or I'm liable to just shelf it and will come back to it like 6 months later... Been on a heavy WS Burroughs and Harry Crews thing the last year or so. We also pass a lot of books around among ourselves.

BH: Same here, my attention is a hard thing to wrangle. A biography on Tom of Finland by F. Hoover Valentine reeled me in real hard last year. Michael Chabon writes some entertaining fiction that I enjoy.

TC: I very much have to read, and there is a fine line between indulgence and compulsion. That’s why I can read the Holy Bible and a Haynes automobile manual and react on a visceral wavelength to both. A few slabs I've read recently that have resonated deeply into my cold, brackish heart: The Family by Ed Sanders (beat poet turned hard-boiled gonzo journalist), A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor; The Process by Brion Gysin (Nothing is true, everything is permitted); You Can’t Win by Jack Black; The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson (The Exploited ain’t the only idiots who like sex and violence); Ted Morgan’s revised biography of William S. Burroughs; Freedom is a Two Edged Sword by Jack Parsons; Hollywood Babylon by Kenneth Anger; any and all Antonin Artaud, whether it be an absurdist manifesto or a dinosaur-like cat (cat-like dinosaur?) drawn on a napkin; Paul Krassner’s The Realist; Monster Men Bureiko Lullaby by Takashi Nemoto. I have no life so I must indulge vicariously through literature.

JR: What differences were there between this record and the cassette releases that came before from labels like Ascetic House and Night People?

ZA: Well "Jazz Mama" and "Variations of Candy" were recorded in the basement of the apartment me, Tommy and Brian lived in in Boston. We were more of a recording project at the time wide open with a lot of ideas but still coming together as a band.  

ZA: When Drew join in, he kinda served as a backbone for us and since then we have really grown and matured and really started to articulate what we are doing with our music, so after a couple of tours and recording a single it was time to do the LP in a studio, we really wanted to give justice to these songs and were more than adequately facilitated to do so    

BH: Home recording vs. a studio environment was definitely the biggest difference.

TC: Mood, drug choice, tape hiss.

JR: Where did the art for the record come from? Seems somewhat similar to the recent zine you put out.

ZA: That's because I did the art for both.

JR: There seem to be some mystic or spiritual tropes in the artwork, maybe more archetypal. Do these themes have any impact on your music?

ZA: Not necessarily an impact as much as they're parallel. Two outlets from the same source. Sisters  

JR: You recently toured with Merchandise. How was that tour?

ZA: The tour was a blast, those guys are kin. It's nice touring as a roving herd because even if a city or show is a pit you still got 8 friends to get in trouble with, and when it's a good time it's even better because you have the crew, which is a mobile sense of the familiar.
BH: It was cool. I saw some places that I hadn't seen before, and got to hang out with a lot of old friends. I'll be hard pressed to go on a tour that is any more like a vacation than that one was.

TC: A highlight was eating Prince’s Hot Chicken in Nashville. Chris Horn from Merch is a fried chicken guru and that’s why he plays saxophone so well - the valves are lubricated with gristle. It was our first time in Canada as a band and I wandered alone in both Montreal and Toronto for hours, trying to get into sex shops and being denied. They knew I was not a Quebecois fuckboy, just a plain American one.

JR: What is the musical climate in Tampa like?

ZA: I would not be the guy to ask, I haven't lived there for over 2 years now

TC: Hip hop and country music

JR: Are you guys going to tour behind the new record?

ZA: It's looking like early next year were going to tear up the whole US

TC: Lock up your unibrowed sons and sweaty lawn boys! The Sultan is in heat...

JR: What all is in the future for Ukiah Drag?

TC: I want to play the David Letterman show

ZA: Sex? Drugs? Maybe some cash? Been thinking about getting a pet Tarantula but will probably settle for a ficus tree... hard to say.

BH: We'll write more songs and probably eat each others food on the sly until we leave for tour. A 12" EP coming is out sometime in 2015 too, so there's that.

Release of the Day: Public Health - Another Council For Life

I can't help but think of William Butler Yeats' poem "Sailing to Byzantium" when I think of Power Electronics. The poem begins with the stanza "That is no country for old men. The young/In one another's arms, birds in the trees/– Those dying generations – at their song,/The salmon‐falls, the mackerel‐crowded seas,/Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long/Whatever is begotten, born, and dies./Caught in that sensual music all neglect/Monuments of unageing intellect." It's where Cormac McCarthy got the title of his book No Country For Old Men and it's an absolutely harrowing meditation on mortality and relevance. 

My friend Andy and I were talking about power electronics a couple weeks ago, actually the same night I picked up this Public Health tape, and he was saying how he was somewhat over the whole genre, and I think that that's to be expected nowadays. You see, there's simply not as much compelling Power Electronics being made now as there was in its heyday - for every incredible contemporary project like Alberich, there's a dozen of minute merit. There is less territory to conquer. There are fewer controversial ideas to enumerate. And feedback simply isn't shocking. Every time I hear a grown man or woman with "shocking" lyrics, I think to myself that perhaps his or her parents never effectively stopped their child's temper tantrum.

The upside to this is that where older power electronics succeeded through gregarious garishness, the best modern power electronics, as conquerer worm, breaks through the top-heavy carcass of its ancestors by way of restraint, taking something like a middle path, if you will.

That's a long introduction to Public Health's excellent new tape Another Council for Life, another of the recent killer batch from Ascetic House. The four-song cassette covers a lot of ground, at some times mimicking the distorted warble of William Bennett of early Whitehouse and sometimes taking on the crunch of a Genocide Organ record. These songs, however, have a lot of structure. I mean. They're actual songs that include repeatable mantras. It's kind of a pop song's chorus, at least in analogy. A.S. Haas isn't satisfied with that, though. He also weaves in elements of other industrial/noise subgenres like dark ambient.

Unfortunately, I can't really find a stream of a song from the CS. If you have one, please e-mail it to me so I can update this with a stream, or feel free to post it in the comments below!

You can pick it up through the Chondritic Sound webstore like other AH releases, but these are also often usually stocked at Mount Analog and Heaven Street Records.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Interview with The Bringer of Everything

Despite the sound of The Bringer of Everything, Alec's a really positive dude. I don't really know where he gets his energy, but it's a total blessing for the noise community. The noise and industrial scene often gets colored as dodgy and dangerous. And yeah, there's something to that. I've met my fair share of people who think it's cool to embrace/endorse dodgy ideology and symbology - it's fine, albeit a little pathetic - I think it's generally a cry for attention out of a failure to assert dominance in other regards, but they don't pay me to critique society - actually they don't pay me at all. Anyway, the point of why I'm bringing this up is because Alec, The Bringer of Everything, and his Music for Downers collective are totally what industrial/noise needs - an inviting portal into the realm of the fucked up children of this world.

That's hyperbole, but it's effective because the truth is that transgression gets a bad rap. The nasty connotation, however, results from it

s common confusion with gratuity: gratuity often gives it a bad name. Check it: Gratuitous violence is transgressive, but it may not be tasteful transgression, if you follow my drift. That's not oxymoronic either. Transgression, in my opinion, is more effective when it's used to expand consciousness or other thought patterns, which is the goal for the musical and cultural archiver/enthusiast/documentarian. Music for Downers succeeds in this area. Some of the success results from its wide reach and some of it results from quality. For instance, MFD produced an art show where several Chicagoan noise makers participated in performance, but many new visual artists also displayed their work - this type of outreach ends up centralizing a mood or effect. Transgression becomes an event. Transgression becomes a place. Transgression becomes catalogued or at least catalogue-able.

The Bringer of Everything is a three-piece noise/power electronics group from Chicago consisting of Alec Eberhardt, Dakota Parobek, and Brad Rohloff tied to Music for Downers. The releases up until now have been solo works of Alec, but they're about to put out their first record as a three-piece, which should be pretty swell. Here's what they said when I put questions to them.

Jordan Reyes: If you're a person who's bringing everything, you've got to be pretty swole. How often does The Bringer of Everything go to the gym to ensure it has the strength to bring everything?

Alec Eberhardt: Me and Brad are currently looking for a gym membership and run every Wednesday.

Brad Rohloff: #NoiseJock

Dakota Parobek: I’m in terrible shape.

JR: TBOE started as a solo project, right? Alec, how did you know that you wanted other people to join?

AE: Yeah, I started the project in 2012 when I was 20, at the same time I started Music For Downers. Initially the project was going to be more of a harsh noise wall thing, but after I learned how to make tape loops and got a synth I wanted to focus on a more structured, composed sound. That never happened, but I played maybe three or four shows on my own before I asked Brad to do a set with me to see how it went. I'd always wanted someone else to perform with me so I could focus more on doing vocals and adding some chaos to live sets instead of being glued to my gear the whole time.

JR: When did you guys all join the group? How has it affected the music in recording and in performance? I've always found that playing with others is more fun, but do you think it makes things harder or easier in recording/composition?

DP: I joined after I played a show w/ Alec at a bar in Milwaukee in June I think. Brad was out of town so I stood in. The bar-people or whatever thought it was going to be a ‘rock show.’ A birthday party showed up. A bartender invited a stripper. I guess someone stopped a guy from throwing bottles at us. And Alex from Climax Denial caught a monitor on fire. So, now I’m here.

AE: Brad joined in the spring of 2014 shortly before I began working on the self-titled full length. I asked Dakota to fill in for Brad at a show over the summer that he couldn't make it out to. After that we decided to try things as a three piece and it worked out incredibly.

AE: As a trio, we kind of function like a more conventional "band." Brad focuses on percussive sound with contact mic'd sheet metal and low-end synths (like a drummer/bassist), Dakota controls feedback and tapes (like a lead guitarist) and I focus on vocals. We are not bound to these quasi roles, though, we all contribute to composition.

AE: Recording as a three piece was surprisingly productive from the start. I think that after maybe three practices together is when we recorded the split tape with Swallowing Bile, which was the first thing the three of us did together, and also what I consider to be the best material released as The Bringer of Everything thus far.

What background in music do you all have? Have you been in bands before? How does it affect what you bring to the table for The Bringer of Everything?

DP: I’ve been playing guitar for a long time – mostly jazz – and I’ve been listening to ‘noise music’ (Merzbow mostly) for just as long probably. But yeah, in high school I played in a math-rock band and accordion in this cute folk-punk group lol.
When Alec and I were in the dorms I started a solo ‘sad-noise’ thing called Father Christmas which I’m still doing.

DP: Feel like I know a lot of music theory / jargon which isn’t super helpful. I mean, it is but…I don’t know…I make a lot of hand gestures…

AE: I've been playing in bands since I was fourteen. The first serious band I was ever in was a powerviolence band I joined when I was 16 and living in Wisconsin. There wasn’t a huge grind scene in Milwaukee at the time, nor was there a huge noise scene. Peter J Woods and Jay Linski would put us on noise shows they booked, which was basically my introduction to noise music. Shortly after I joined that band, Jesse Johanning (co-founder of Music For Dowers) and I started a screamy-ambient-noisey-hardcore thing that we played in through 2011. I briefly played guitar in a punk band here in Chicago, too. In the bands I've played in, the prime focus has always been to be noisy, heavy, chaotic, and violent. Cathartic, if you will. I never really got much closure with that while playing in those bands, but I feel like I'm finally accomplishing it in TBOE because noise music has allowed for those things to be explored outside of conventional song structures.

BR: My main discipline is visual work. I tried playing guitar when I was in second grade but quit. I tried playing drums when I was in 6th grade but quit. Junior year of High School I bought a theremin. I’ve always tried doing weird shit by myself with music but could never stick with it. When Alec wanted me on board I was all in. I work better with other people. I never thought I’d be making noise but I am very, very happy about it.

JR: I'm not going to ask what specifically musical influences you guys have in your artwork, but I will ask what ideas or philosophies inform your outlook on music and art. Are there any artists, writers, or even symbols that you connect with that influence your creative process?

DP: We all read a lot – and like, very different things. I read a lot of poetry and plays – Sarah Ruhl, Christopher Durang, Lorca. Been reading a lot of Donald Barthelme lately.
My views on art…I really don’t believe in the idea of ‘bad art.’ Like, as long as the person gives a shit about what they are doing then I think it is good. So, everyone can be really good at anything if they actually try – I don’t know. And I don’t really know what ‘philosophy’ that falls under, I just get really fucking angry when people tell other people they aren’t good at something…like if that person really cared about making it, that’s all that matters. Criticism (keep thinking, ‘anything said w/ love’)  is one thing, but to break someone down…that’s what makes people not want to make art anymore…and making people stop doing art is fucking awful.

BR: I’m pretty heavily involved in the alt comics scene in Chicago and read a lot of work coming from there. I love the comix community because everyone is kind of in it together and is actually really interested in and supportive of what each other is doing. It’s pretty inclusive and weird. I do a lot of printmaking, publishing, and sculpture stuff. In my own work I am particularly interested in the concept of failure. I tried buying 36 engraved machetes for an art object edition but the manufacturer ran out of them. I’m going to make 50 photo books and shoot them. I’m about to order 100 air fresheners. I have 5 projects on the spring roster of my publishing house Bred Press. I’m trying to keep busy with work. My favorite artist is Martin Kippenberger.

AE: I study filmmaking in college and that contributes to the visual aspect of our work. We’re shooting a series of short pieces to promote the release of the album. We project Stan Brakhage’s films over us when we perform sometimes. I think studying film has helped me visualize our music and performances. I think that’s important. Some of my favorite filmmakers are Gus Van Sant, John Cassavetes, Antonio Campos, and Harmony Korine. I’ve been reading through Dennis Cooper’s “George Miles Cycle” and trying to make progress on Birds of America by Lorrie Moore, Chilly Scenes of Winter by Ann Beattie, and Taipei by Tao Lin. Nam June Paik, Chris Burden, and Yves Klein are some artists who have inspired me lately. I’m working on some video art installations that utilize space, projectors, and surveillance. Everything I read, see, or hear influences the shape of The Bringer of Everything in some way. Getting into that would take a few nights.

JR: You guys have an upcoming full album and I think it's the first one as the three-piece. Tell me about it. Is there a concept you have for it as a whole or are you all bringing individual ideas to the table?

AE: There are a lot of things that go into creating our music; just as there are for anything that a human being creates. For the first time in a release by TBOE though, I'm not going to try to direct the listener to any kind of answers or motives to our work. I feel like I've failed musically in the past by trying to make my intentions too clear, by not letting the listener interpret the music for themselves. Despite each of us dealing with our own shit, us all being about the same age, in the same city,  and having dealt with similar things in life gives us the opportunity to detach ourselves from what affects us personally and explore emotions collectively. Subjects we're dealing with on this album include grudges, mental illness, obsession, trauma, the fear of one's self, and addiction. These are, more or less, things that play a part in each of our lives, but in very different ways, and we hope to create music regarding them from each of our own perspectives. We're also going to be working with a handful of contributors on this album, a lot of which have never worked with noise music before. You'll find out who they are when the album is released.

JR: How are you guys going to release it?

AE: We'd discussed reaching out to other labels to release it, but I think we're going to put it out on our label, Music For Downers. Nothing's set in stone yet, but I can tell you that it will be more than a tape in a jewel case.

DP: Flexi disc. Exclusively.

AE: All right, I’ll come clean: we’re mailing you Dakota and making them sing it to you.

JR: Alec, tell me a little bit about Music for Downers. What's the idea behind it? Is it more of a label or an art collective?

AE: I started Music For Downers in the winter of 2012 with Jesse Johanning, the mysterious fourth member of TBOE and one of my oldest friends. I had thought about starting a label for a while, and I pitched the idea to him when we were both home in Wisconsin for Christmas break. That's where it began.

AE: We started the label because I guess we were getting bored of the Youth Attack-boutique tape label aesthetic, or at least thought we could do our own thing with it. I wanted to do a tape label that put out both punk and noise. We put out some cool releases, but lately I just haven't been in any kind of place to run a tape label. I'm too broke being a student and working a low-paying part time job that works with my school schedule to be putting in the funds necessary to run the label the way I want it to be run. When I graduate in May, MFD will become my main focus for a while. I need to accomplish what I set out to do with this label.

AE: While at the end of the day, Music For Downers is still just a noise label, I do like the idea of us functioning as an artist collective of sorts. We've curated one art show together, and have put on shows as Music For Downers. These are things we're going to continue to do. Also, if you're part of The Bringer of Everything, you're a part of Music For Downers. I've always wanted for the two to be directly connected. Brad and Dakota are just as much a part of MFD as Jesse and I are.

JR: How do you see MFD expanding? Do you want it to expand?

AE: Yes, and it will. When we have the time to focus on it you'll be seeing way more releases and events curated by us. Jesse and I have discussed big, probably overly ambitious things for the future, but you'll have to see how things play out.

JR: How do you guys approach a live show? How much is improvised and how much is written down beforehand? Do you prefer performance to recording?

BR: Alcohol and Amphetamines, mostly. We usually have a loose composition set out before we play live. We have structure for when each of us will play and interact with one another, but only as much as necessary. We really enjoy improvisation in our sets, and we often find ourselves going in directions that are unexpected even to us. We played a set at a Northwestern University Indie Music Festival recently that was probably our best set ever. First off, the bands immediately before us were smooth jazz and big band. The guy who booked us knew exactly what he was doing. I forgot my sheet metal so someone found us a metal trash can lid. We set up this big ladder right next to our table. Alec found a bottle of tequila in the green room. It was all downhill from there. We stuck to our structure for about thirty seconds. I have this thing where for the last 3 shows or so I always end up bleeding on myself and my equipment. Alec and Dakota were jumping on and off the ladder and fighting on the floor, I had blood smeared all over my face while doing vocals in the crowd. There was about ⅓ of the people still there after our set was done. We approach recording and performing in two different ways and there is often little crossover between the sounds. We know we can’t perform a recording, and we know we can’t record how we perform. I like playing live the most, though.

JR: I guess I sort of know the answer to the last question after seeing your art show at your house, but I figured you'd explain it better. How'd you get all those different folks to work with you on such a great event? Your cheese and cracker selection was incredible by the way!

AE: Well I had had a big party for my 22nd birthday in November and me and my roommate cleared out everything in our apartment. After cleaning up, the place was completely empty and I had the idea to use the space for an art show. Most of the people that participated in the show were close friends of mine and fellow noise musicians who I knew made art in some respects. Everyone I contacted about it was very interested. A lot of them had never participated in an art show before and they were stoked to have the opportunity. We’re already in talks about the next show, and we’re very excited to be doing more.

BR: Alec approached me with most of the artists already figured out. He and I worked together on a few more selections and the press release, and I worked on most of the brass tacks sort of stuff. I had a pretty clear idea of how I wanted to use the space, and I’ve helped set up apartment shows like this in the past, so I spent my energy acquiring and setting up lights, hanging the work, and other formal considerations like that. As for the cheese, my roommate brought it way after the show started. I told him in a stressed out phonecall to “buy whatever bullshit platter they had shrinkwrapped” and some Ritz. He ended up bringing like 3 pounds of cheese and a shitload of crackers. It was perfect. I’m glad you liked it!

JR: Somewhat pedantic question, but I always love hearing what people are listening to and I imagine others do too! What records did you guys really love from last year? Is there anything you're excited for coming up?

DP: I’ve been listening to a lot of PC Music…I’m stoked on whatever they’re gonna put out this year. My computer broke so I lost everything and am like, relearning music. But, generally, I’m really out of the loop with what’s coming out and like current bands. (I just learned about Witch house.)
Right now on my phone I have’ ‘King of Jeans’ by Pissed Jeans, ‘Electro-Soma’ by B12 (rules), and a few albums by this 90s ‘grind-pop’ band PEE. And I listen to the Boris / Sunn O))) split at least three times a week.

BR: I’ve sort of dropped off on keeping tabs on a lot of new releases this year for no good reason. I can’t stop listening to Kate Bush! My favorite band is The Knife. The new Taylor Swift is really good. Alec and I have been freaking out over the new Consumer Electronics. I’m currently trying the herculean task of going through Muslimgauze’s back catalog. Some day I will listen to an entire Bull of Heaven song.

AE: My computer is currently broken and the headphone jack on my phone is too, so the only time I listen to music is at work on my boss’s Pandora account. I really like the Wire, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Vivian Girls, and Death In June stations. There were a lot of good albums this year. I particularly liked some of the stuff Orchid Tapes put out, like Alex G’s “DSU,” Ricky Eat Acid’s “Three Love Songs,” and Mister Lies’s “Shadow.” Me and Brad have been texting each other quotes from Consumer Electronics’ “Estuary English” in all caps daily. I really liked the new Lust For Youth album. I’m excited to hear the new Climax Denial and Rectal Hygienics LPs and I will be spending most of 2015 praying that Marshstepper comes back to Chicago. I’m hoping to see Witch House make a comeback.

JR: When are your next performances? Do you think you guys are going to tour after the new record?

AE: We’re playing a benefit show in Milwaukee this weekend (Jan. 10) that my friend Tyler set up. We have nothing planned yet but we want to do a release show for the new album. And yes, we are going to tour this summer after Dakota and I graduate college.

BR: I’m already out of school and my work gives me 4 day weekends so I’m fully ready to do some big touring come summer.

JR: Anything else you'd like to say?

DP: I quit.

BR: Dakota's back in the band.

AE: I want to reach out to anyone, particularly younger people, who are curious about noise music and the noise scene, and invite them to get in touch with me and come out to shows. We promise you it’s a much friendlier environment than a bunch of punk babies will tell you it is. Most of us got here because we were rejected from something else, usually for no good reason other than superficial things. Everyone is welcome. Come thru.