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.

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