Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Release of the Day: Spaces of Disappearance - Passionate Electronics EP

Chicago's Spaces of Disappearance began with songwriter/programmer Elaine Davis and bassist Zach Smith in 2013, but has since grown. Over the course of a debut EP, two singles, and several remixes, the band has become more confident and perhaps more curious. Though Elaine's tight synthscapes and vocals remain front and center, it now boasts Drew Balicki on drums. Their new EP Passionate Electronics takes the band to more danceable realms, seen through a glass, darkly: for music with such deep grooves, Elaine's lyrics are encumbered with discomfort, which is where the music transcends simple enjoyment to become deeply evocative.

The four songs on Passionate Electronics cover some serious ground. "Dick Cheney in the Light" is at once absurd and real. Then again, reality is pretty absurd. It's the song that lays the groundwork for the release, revealing the blemishes of our strange country and making them applicable to the people and events that surround us. For my money, "Valmont et Merteuil" is the best song on this record. "Can't have me, no matter what you do" chants Elaine over utterly compelling rhythms and a dynamite synthline.

Anyway, I've taken enough of your time. It's a great release. "Valmont et Merteuil" is now a permanent fixture on my running playlist, which is where all elite songs end up, duh. Buy it. Or at least give it a listen and see them live if you get a chance.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Interview with Jeff Zagers

Jeff Zagers - Still / Alive
There's something spectral, historic, and familiar to Jeff Zager's music, like the visitation of a lost loved one in a dream. I'm at once placated and disturbed by Still / Alive, his excellent, new LP on the perennially great Wharf Cat Records. There's a chance I feel this way because Zagers' music, like an ancestral tapestry, pulls from a wide net - I'll say right off the bat that I've never heard anything quite like Still / Alive, and I consider myself a fairly well-listened individual. There are jazz, folk, rock, and electronic elements alive and teaming under the surface of this disembodied pop record. Somehow it doesn't sound cluttered or overdone - it's moving, actually. A song like "A Hole to Hollow" is as heartbreaking as it is pleasantly pensive, and that's an indication of the record as a whole.

It's not surprising, though, when you consider how long Jeff has been working on it, having started writing back in 2009 and entering production in 2012. It shows. Aside from the intricate, layered song structures, Alive / Still is sonically impressive. Simply put, there's a very high sound quality on this release. Knowing that Jeff did the mixes himself makes it an even more staggering feat. Zagers recently completed an eighteen-day tour alone. That's serious commitment, but what else would you expect from an endeavoring, earnest, and exceptionally-talented individual?

Still / Alive is streaming on Spotify, but I recommend checking out the "Still Alive" single on Soundcloud and buying the whole record. It will surely be one of my favorites of the year.

Jordan Reyes: You play a lot of instruments! When and how did you begin picking them up? What makes you want to learn more?

Jeff Zagers: There was an acoustic 3/4 sized Kay guitar given to my family when I was born. Around the age of 8 or 9 I started attempting to play along to recordings. I stayed on guitar for years, taking lessons here and there from a music shop. Then I took lessons for a couple years by David Kimball in South Carolina. He taught high school classes in the morning, private lessons in the afternoon and performed in orchestras or theater plays at night. On top of that, I don't remember what his primary instrument was but if it had strings, he could play it. I learned a lot of things from him, but what resonated most was triads. 

JZ: I discovered multi-tracking and learned bass and drums. Moved to Savannah, Ga in 2005 and started diving into newer music outside of what was available to me growing up. I was finding kinship with folk forms. Jazz and country, and noise. The echoing of your surroundings. 

Photo by Shaye Garrigan
JZ: The situations on how a lot of instruments came to me are rather divine and hard to talk about. It was never to sought after, but rather a natural curiousness of wanting to learn an instrument and sometimes having it just show up. I have been stepping back from learning anything else and practicing taking care of the instruments I have and keeping them tuned up. 

JR: Tell me a little bit about Still Alive, your new record on Wharf Cat. When was this material written and recorded?

JZ: Hmm, what do you want to know? I was approached by Carson Cox about getting a record together of my solo work. He spearheaded the idea and later it morphed into him working with Wharf Cat to assemble it all.

JZ: I was working with decomposing material to make new soil for the surrounding area here. To ripen and to rot. The tidal wave that is humanity is teetering on its last resources. Wasting so much as a planet. A lot of thought was given to the ocean and the land of this earth. 

JZ: The material was written over a number of years going back to 2009. The production itself took place june/july 2012 - december 2013.

JR: I can't think of many other artists I know from Savannah, GA. Are there any names I should know?

JZ: The birds here are a kind of revolving door ensemble. There is an orchestra in my back yard on a nice day. They line up on the telephone wire and just sing. The coast has very nice sounds too. Maybe some of the most moving moments of my life were caused by the sounds and movements of the ocean.

JZ: It’s a very peculiar town where the art line is blurred due to the fact that you see everybody everywhere if you are out and about. You know them as people, not as personas. Being attracted to the type that stays busy is natural in most "artists". Mike Williams comes to mind. Might be hard to find online but you can find a few things. 

JR: The first thing that sticks out to me is the layering in your music. There's a lot to grasp before you fully understand it. Do you yourself do the mixing of the record once you assemble the component parts?

JZ: Wow, thats cool to hear. For the "discerning ear". Yes, I recorded and mixed the whole album. The mastering is a separate process with professionals involved, but I complete all final mixes on my own. I think I spent a good two months mixing the record after I finished recording it. No computers. Just a digital 8-track and a 4-track. Mixed down to a CD-R recorder. I really enjoy mixing and sequencing at the end of working on a record. It just comes together, and segues show themselves through listening back and I just follow what feels right. No fuss.  

JR: I often hear that people say there's not as much room for guitar-based music anymore in terms of music's trajectory. I don't really think that's true. You synthesize guitar and rock-based instruments with electronics and are successful with it. Do you think you have to combine rock with something else to be doing something worthwhile with music?

JZ: Wow, music's trajectory. A duality arises when thinking about this subject. No, I don't think music has to have guitar in it to be worthwhile. This is a pretty loaded question. I think people still really like guitars, and I don't think it is fading away in the grand scheme of things. But new music has been born for years. I enjoy minimal synth music, which sounds like dance music without the drums. It makes me dance more! I don't know why but without the all too common sound of a kick and snare, not hearing those very regular tones and just these new tones, is stimulating.

JZ: Most of this music was written on a keyboard or piano and was not written with guitar but simply has guitar as a rhythmic effect. 

JR: What makes music a worthwhile pursuit for you?

JZ: My fellow composers, past composers, present composers. The exercise of improvisation, the breakthroughs, the places you go, and the lessons you learn. 

JZ: I ENJOY music. 

JR: There’s also a bit of jazz in this record I think. Maybe that's just what I get from hearing woodwind instruments like a sax. Do you have any sort of history with jazz?

JZ: When I moved to savannah I was discovering Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Sun Ra, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk through a used/new record store and the public library's cd section. All of them just really blew me away and immersed myself into their worlds for years. True composers. I hold them very dear to my heart.  

JZ: I lived in Durham for a couple months in 2008 and was finding a lot more of their recordings available up there. It’s a great area to find music. I started mixing guitar/sax/bass/ and drums when I was living there and brought this sound back to savannah with me. I tried to make a more full sound. I called it Rock Band. It was a live set of songs consisting of guitar/ bass and dueling saxophones on tape. I would play drums atop of the tape with each track being sent to its own amp proper and it would have the effect of a full band playing. This was the era that those composers music started to make its influence in the sound. 

JR: Your previous solo ventures have come out as tape and CDs, I think. How has the transition to having a physical LP been? Are you pleased with it?

JZ: Yes I am very pleased! The transition was fairly smooth. I had released 3 full lengths before this record. I gave just as much time and thought to those as this one. 

JR: Along with the new LP, you also put out a music video directed by Carson Cox. It's really sort of fourth-wall-breaking at times and reminds me of Videodrome a bit - I don't know if I'm completely off but that's my read! What were some of your ideas behind the video? How'd you and Carson link up for it?

JZ: He thought it would be fun to do a video. While recording the album, I had a day out of the blue where I recorded tons of songs in my house. Different ways of hooking up the camera and audio. Just getting a feel for all the ways to capture something using an old video camera and an audio mixer running AUX into a VHS player. This resulted in a day of musical renditions ranging from lip-synching videos, acoustic numbers, pre-recorded music mixed with live vocal takes. I changed the scene/lighting for each song. So those original tapes are all full takes of songs. A good hour’s worth of material. I sat on that for a year or two and thought a video for the record would be cool, using new or different material. Around a year later I took the same camera and realized it only picked up light in the lens so I used it to capture windows, and bright objects. Kind of an infrared feeling to it with anything that exposes light. So I was moving the camera rapidly back and forth and sort of shaking it around to make trails using the VHS tape. I sent both those tapes to Carson and he edited them into what would become the music video for “Still Alive.” He did a great job editing it and made it really, really busy. I still have yet to see Videodrome. 

JR: You’re also doing a bunch of touring for the album. I haven't seen you so I have to ask. What's your set up? Do you end up having to loop a lot of stuff?

JZ: I just wrapped up the tour yesterday. Eighteen days on the road. Driving myself and performing every night. It was a blast. As I type this, it is 9:30pm and I just want to go somewhere because I am so used to being out at this time right now. But I am going to restrain myself and get some house chores done. :)

JZ: I used pre-recorded material and have a number of instruments to work with to keep it fun and alive. If you want a list, I was itching to see what this looked like in print and try to imagine it with out hearing. Here goes.

JZ: A CD dj player, sampler, mixer, microphone, acoustic guitar w/ pick-up, a synth, a reverb tank, and tambourine. Fully-mixed versions of songs with more instrumentation and samples on top. I have no shame playing pre-recorded songs for I would rather have it sound good then try to juggle so many things and make it sound half as full.

JZ: I can't count on my hands and toes how many sets I have seen with loop pedals lately.

JR: What all is in the future for Jeff Zagers?

JZ: I would like to get my green thumb back. It’s been too long.

JZ: I’m ready for the next record. Working on the pre-production now, which will take a while.  So much can be spontaneous, but it would be nice to finish the compositions and sound design before starting the actual recording this time around. Sometimes you get too far and can't go back when you realize that you might want to leave it open for change. I’m looking forward to it. Expect guests from the outer ground on this next record. 

JR: Anything else you'd like to say?

JZ: Thank you for this opportunity. Music is Still Alive!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Interview with Bichkraft

Bichkraft - Mascot
Bichkraft is minimal, intense, and rather danceable. The group, comprised of four Ukrainian boys - Dima Novichenko, Jenia Bichowski, Serzh Kupriychuk, and Jenia Machina - makes music inspired by both the industrial pop of Wax Trax and the DIY ethos of a band like Minor Threat. It's also psychedelic. I find myself wedged into the groove and creak of a band like Spacemen 3 at times - leaning and snapping along to a whirring, undulating bassline. Wharf Cat Records just put out their excellent debut LP Mascot, an eight-song meditation on being disoriented, but perceptive in an oppressive place

Coming from Kiev/Kyiv, Bitchkraft is fairly unique, at least to me. I personally can't think of that many bands from the area other than Pseudogod (from Russia) and Kino (from when it was all the Soviet Union) and this Soviet Punk comp. I know that it's both an advantage and disadvantage because a listener like myself may concentrate too much on context and not enough on the substance, which is more than compelling in itself. But on the other hand, it might draw in someone curious. To me, an already-more-than-a-little-paranoid type, I find myself in odd solidarity with the band. Trip Warner, one of the three people who runs Wharf Cat Records, sent me an English translation of their lyrics. The record starts out with "There are erased numbers on your road/Of flowers that fought all night when/Water was washing off their youthfulness/And all of them are with me/All of them are with me/I did not even know." And I can't help feel a shiver - does the narrator identify as someone watching the flowers or the flowers themselves? And where the hell are we if we can't read the numbers on the road?

I don't know. And I don't think I ever could until it's too late.

Jordan Reyes: Tell me a little bit about the bands in Ukraine. What are some of the bands that myself and others reading in the USA should know about?

Dima Novichenko: Bryozone, Indirect, Karr, Pree Tone

JR: What are shows like in Kiev? Do you guys get many touring bands that come through?

Jenia Bichowski: Shows in Kyiv are like anywhere else. It’s usually clubs or bars for about 50 people. Some people get crazy and some don't. We often have problems with local venue sound-engineers and we don’t have as much free beer for musician as we want. Also we have great D.I.Y festivals/gigs. For example we have annual festival in forest near Zhytomir which is pretty unique for Ukraine and other nearby countries. It's commonly believed that Ukraine is visited by a small amount of touring bands, but we’re not talking about RHCP. For example The Obits performed here for the same 50 people and Michael Gira drove through in his cowboy hat and his ex-girlfriend was here. Even Genesis P-Orridge performed here not long time ago.

JR: When did you guys start the band? How did you guys meet and know each other?

JB- We played in different bands before Bichkraft, on the fringes of the same scene. So we knew each other in one or another way. After we played in garage bands together, we started Bichkraft. We’re often moving from place to place, but it looks like we have enough equipment and skills to settle anywhere we want.

DN: We all knew each other except for me and Serzh. We barely understood that we'd play together when it all came about so when we first met for rehearsal I said “Looks like we’re going to play together today” and Serzh was like “Who the fuck are you?"

JR: When did you write and record the music for your debut LP Mascot? Did you record it yourselves or in a studio?

DN: It all started in the garage in winter. So it was always near -20c and we drank pu-erh tea all the time and just wrote songs. Then, as the snow melted, we moved to another place where we recorded the album. It was in the basement of one of our houses.

JR: Where did you get the name Mascot for the LP?

JB:We were just smoking cigarettes on the terrace of the house and figured out that “Mascot” is the name of cigarette paper we were using. So we named the album after it.

JR: How did you end up linking up with Wharf Cat records for the release? Seems like a long ways to go!

JB-They deal with bands we like so we just wrote to them. Now we have great contact, and even introduced our cats via Skype, so it’s really serious and we must continue to work together because of a sense of duty to our cats. Wharf Cat is inspiring us so we can concentrate more on music.

JR: Are there any particular ideas or events that influence or inform the music that you make as Bichkraft?

JB: We mostly play our music intuitively so it's hard to say what influences us at that time. Maybe it was making drum-machine for one or gardening for other. Even now we can’t say something particular about it, each day isn’t like another.

JR: Does the political climate, especially between Ukraine and Russia, have a big impact on your music? How?

JB: Of course it influences us, but indirectly like any people who live here. We don’t want to associate our music with politics because there's too much of that here.

JR: There does seem to be a bit of paranoia in your music. As much as I enjoy the record, it is unsettling too. Is that indicative of how you guys feel on a daily basis?

JB – Paranoia? Who is asking that?

JR: Do you guys get to tour at all?

JB: We already toured this year and we want to make it as far as we can.

JR: What all is in the future for Bichkraft?

JB- We are working on new album and when our driver will come back from Georgia we’ll tour for Mascot somewhere outside Ukraine.

DN: We need to get our shit together and make many new things. At the moment we moved at new place again so it’s all a bit gypsy thing. who knows where we'll find ourselves in the future?

JR: Anything else you'd like to say?

Bichkraft: Thanks!!!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Interview with Shawn Reed of Night People & Wet Hair

Shawn Reed
Night People Records has been around for ten years. Shawn Reed, label mastermind, put out his first Night People release, Raccoo-oo-oon's Is Night People in 2005 and has consistently exhibited, cultivated, and released compelling, invigorating pieces of art since. Though started in Iowa City, Night People has moved, along with Reed, to the Twin Cities of Minnesota as of a couple years ago. The label has a diverse sound, having put out artists like Dirty Beaches, Merchandise, Circuit Des Yeux, Raccoo-oo-oon, Wet Hair, Broken Water, Some Ember, and more. At the point of writing, Night People has put out more than two hundred tapes, CD-Rs, and LPs. Though prolific, the label also bats near 1.00 in terms of good material. I've yet to find a Night People release that I don't like, which isn't to say that I've heard everything the label has done, but I do have a pretty good running collection of its tapes and LPs, at least enough to say I have a fairly informed understanding of its ethos, outlook, and repertoire. And to be impressed.

Shawn Reed, no stranger to the musical underground, has also been active in the creative, auditory side of music. The afore-mentioned projects Raccoo-oo-oon and Wet Hair are both his own, another indication of his tutored, eclectic heterogeneity. He also designs the visual aspect of the label with psychedelic, geometric allure. So he's a man with many hats, but each one fits snug on his head.

The label recently released a new batch of material, including Broken Water's new LP Wrought and offers a deal on their website for the whole kit & caboodle (the first hyperlink at the top). I highly recommend searching the back catalogue if you're a newcomer and, of course, the new releases.

Jordan Reyes: How often (ballpark) do you think you have to explain that people still buy and listen to cassettes?

Shawn Reed: Not often at this point because over the years it's gotten redundant and annoying to try and explain it so I kind of avoid it ,navigate around it, and try not to go into detail about what I do or initially just keep it to the Vinyl and Digital end of the label. It's known again in a bit of a general way that vinyl is around and popular (supposedly) again, so I stick with that angle more. 

JR: Night People is hard to pin down. I'll hear a cassette from a post-punk project in Florida (Merchandise or Ukiah Drag at one point), a synthpop project from New York (Sandy), or a more ambient instrumental project from a not-exactly-tied-down project (Dirty Beaches). How do you meet these people? Who reaches out to whom?

SR: Historically, the label is mostly working with friends, mainly people I met through making music and touring. Dirty Beaches I don't actually remember clearly because it’s been so long ago. I might have just discovered it digging and got in touch with him. I definitely remember hanging out in Montreal and becoming friends pretty quickly from running into each other on the road and then just writing often and having so much in common or just sharing a good vibe. It’s usually been natural like that. With Dirty Beaches, it was just great music and Alex is interesting, charismatic, and to me just such a good person. It was weird his stuff had been overlooked at first. I got to know Merchandise via mutual friends. I was aware of the Tampa scene in general, initially through stuff like Russian Tsarlag and having Carlos be a friend. I started running into the Tampa people pre- Merchandise on the road in different cities, one year at SXSW stands out. Another time in Chicago when Wet Hair was playing some shows with Circle Pit, I ran into Neon Bluhd (a band with Carson and Dave from Merchandise and Zach from Ukiah) at a record store before the show. They had a day off so I invited them out to the show put them on the list. We talked a bunch, and I gave them some records from the label to take home. Soon after that, Carson and I started writing and sending music back and forth. It was really amazing for them to do a record with NP because by the time that record got going, they had so much attention on them. To stick to doing the record on a really small label like NP was really special. I love those guys. I was just down in Tampa recently hanging out with them just to hang out. So it’s usually just things like that meeting somehow and keeping in touch and having things evolve naturally. Sandy is a more rare case - Blanche Blanche Blanche being another stand out in this way - where things get going from getting a demo in the mail. Sometimes I get more demos than actual orders, which is frustrating. I don't have the time to write most back and it’s usually stuff I would never put out. People are often oblivious on how to approach the label - it’s a bit sad and funny. Sandy is that rare case where even through an email or as a package in the mail, it comes across right and the music is great so I get back in touch. Early on I did a bit of digging/ contacting bands I liked but didn't know, though steadily less of that happened as the label has become more established. 

JR: Wet Hair is similarly eclectic. I might hear a synthpop song two or three tracks away from a more kraut-influenced song. I think it keeps things interesting, but a person can run across listeners who rebuke straying from form. With Wet Hair, though, was there a form to begin with?

SR: I’m a bit puzzled on how to answer this question because everything has form. It’s a bit of a bummer if someone listens to Wet Hair at any point in the Discography and just thinks its random and unintentional. I really don't see how that could be possible with the later stuff but I guess if someone has a totally consumer radio/square version of what music is then maybe they could think that. I'll just say this - I'm not a person that is into being defined by one set of things or operates around cliche. I'm not going to ever be one dimensional or express one-dimensionality.  Refining and evolving aesthetics is important to me, but I don't want to be anything in particular. I'm not interested in gimmicks or pigeonholing something for the sake of profitability. If you are talking about form being the imaginary boundaries people put around things to define themselves and what they like in rigid, safe, boring and often times really unintelligent ways, then yeah fuck that. This kind of question is weird to answer because it’s so far away from my life or my brain because I don't see any boundaries. I think about passions/hobbies of mine like playing basketball or lifting weights in the same kind of  intelligent, artistic way I think about music or art. I have a sense of aesthetics, values, ethics etc. I know generally what I'm not interested in or don't like, but the list of likes is way more expansive. I just don't see any purpose into trying to cage myself in. I'm not into hanging out with narrow-minded people so I guess that the label isn't interested in narrow-minded listeners. 

JR: What do you think makes music interesting? Can you pin it down?

SR: Reality isn't something that is easily pinned-down or described, so things like art and music are outlets for expressing experience or culture in a way that is to me automatically interesting because of the relationship between being human and trying to understand really what life is. Music is interesting because of how affecting it can be, how all encompassing it can feel, and how it can change and affect your sense of reality, time whatever etc. There is something special about arranging sounds to create something to have an effect. Even songs created to be consumer and pop-oriented are still abstract if you think about it as related to human and cultural evolution or even the science of sound and time. Getting to the guts of it though, which I think is what you are asking, - what makes me love a song, a band or an album? It’s a whole bunch of factors relative to timing and circumstances, but a lot of it is gut feeling, for lack of a better way to describe it. It’s just feeling the music, and having it sound fresh and interesting. It’s like a point of potential in a lot of ways for me. Something that is still a bit raw, something in a state of flux that isn't fully figured out is what often catches my interest, something that is good on its way to being great. I love that build up of potential. 

JR: Why did you decide to put out your last two Wet Hair full-lengths on De Stijl as opposed to Night People?

SR: At the time it was about just trying to spread it out and hoping De Stijl had an angle, pull or direction NP didn't have, for variety I guess, and it had a majority to do with respect for that label too, feeling honored to be on it. Over time, honestly it’s not exactly a total regret but it is a bit because I think personally it was more about a friendship or relationship with De Stijl working with them, but long-run I don't think it was about that for De Stijl as much, which was disappointing to me on a personal level in the long term and I don't separate those things well.

JR: How’d you get to do that Deep Freeze Mice comp? Is that the first archival release that you've had on Night People?

Is Night People
SR: Yeah it was the first Archival thing. I stumbled on to them via a blog - maybe Mutant Sounds or DIY or Die back in the day, I loved them instantly. That zone of music late 70's early 80's DIY post punk etc. especially stuff from the UK, Australia, NZ  is an area of music I always gravitated towards and loved. I felt like they were an underrated band that not enough people knew about so I got in touch with Alan Jenkins, the leader of the band who had done other cool related bands and kept the albums in print on CD. It was really easy working with Alan and it ended up making sense to do a kind of “best of” for them because they had so much good material and it is all really hard to come across on vinyl. I felt like it needed to happen. I'd like to do more but its really just finding the right thing. A big desire is to do a different new side label that is all 80's Dancehall reissues - it’s something I think about, but is complex and perhaps a bit deeper water then I fully know how to swim in. I'm really deep on historical Jamaican music in general, but 80's Dancehall is my favorite. It's also an area of music I feel to be overlooked a bit. It's just something I wish I could rep or give back to because I have gotten so much enjoyment and positivity out of listening to it especially in the last few years. 

JR: Your first release, at least in catalog #, was Raccoo-oo-oon's "Is Night People." I never got to see you all play, but I know you were in the band. Did the label come out of a need or desire to put out music attached to your name?

SR: It came out of necessity at first because we had no other way to release the music than starting our own label and going from there, especially being from Iowa at that time period making that kind of music. It was also a way to release stuff related to the band but not exactly side projects like things our friends were making that we liked etc. 

JR: You do your own visual art for Night People. It's always striking and often geometric. I know you use screenprinting, but what is the actual process for laying out and putting together the artwork? Obviously the music on a release has a big impact on what guards the cover - are there certain elements of music that affect the art more than others?

SR: The process just depends on the project. For some LP designs, I end up using photoshop a bit in the final stages of coloring and working with transparencies, which is for covers that aren't silkscreened.  The tapes and silkscreened LP's are made by hand, using a light table, and working with xeroxes I collect from man sources, drawings etc. all done in an old school cut and paste way. I consider the music for sure when I am doing the art but the heavier influence is the evolving aesthetic of the label. I tend to work on art in batches, making many tape covers all at once one after the other and then not working on any visual stuff for a bit. I think I just try to capture the mood of the music and the feel, but not anything literal usually. 

JR: Are there many projects from Iowa City that end up working with Night People? It seems that you guys release a lot of music from other places, oftentimes very far away.

SR: I haven't lived in Iowa City for a couple of years now after being there in a very dialed-in way for 10 years, and before that being in orbit of Iowa City, so a lot has changed.  At this point, I have very few ties to Iowa City and most of the people I was close to there have moved on. I have a few friends still there: Brendan O'Keefe who does the Cuticle project being the one in a music context I would rep for the hardest. I felt loyalty to Iowa City when I lived there, but it was more in a way of trying to bring in good bands and put on good shows and put Iowa City on that map with underground music. That didn't translate over as much to releasing music from there because there wasn't enough that would have fit on NP.  Stand outs historically on the label outside of the bands I was in or side projects related to the bands I was in would be Evan Miller, Jeff Witscher projects (Rene Hell) as he lived there off and on for a while and the Savage Young Taterbug who I still work with. Those are stand outs to me. I toured so much that I felt just as much dialed into a sort of international underground thing as I did to Iowa City. 

JR: Asking out of near ignorance so bear with me. To a non-resident layman, are there any projects from Iowa City that you'd recommend?
Wet Hair - Spill Into Atmosphere

SR: In the next few months I am putting out a 12" EP by the Savage Young Taterbug. He lives mainly in N. Cali at this point, but will maybe always be considered an Iowa guy since he is from Des Moines and cut his teeth in Iowa City. The record is his best material so I recommend that and then my good friend O'Keefe and his project Cuticle his new record is really great. Overall though I don't have much of any contact with Iowa City really at this point. 

JR: Have you read any good books lately that you could recommend to someone reading this?

SR: I'm reading all the time with a pretty wide variety. I also keep up with sports, especially basketball and NBA (live as well, being a T-wolves season ticket holder), listen to a lot of sports-related podcasts. I'm also a movie person and, at times, I watch a movie a day. Lately I have been trying to go through and watch every Zatoichi film, which has been fun. Japanese cinema from the 60's and 70's is a passion.  So I am always consuming a lot of information and media between records, sports, books, movies. I'm an information junkie in a way. Historically, I haven't read much fiction but I have been on more of a tip lately reading two books at once, one fiction and one non fiction. I've been on a bit of a pulp western kick, reading a pile of old Louis L'Amour books my grandfather gave me a few months ago. Some science fiction too: Hyperion by Dan Simmons had been recommended to me for years by a few old friends and I finally read that and enjoyed it. I don't feel as confident talking about literature as records, or even visual art or film but am starting to get a little bit deeper with it. I'm often reading books about music. I read anything I can find about Reggae/Dancehall etc. I just got a pile of old Reggae Quarterly Magazines and am going through those. Beth Lesser from Toronto is connected to the mag and she has a lot of great books and photography concerning 80's Dancehall and the people who made it happen. I've enjoyed her pictures and books greatly and am so happy I finally got a hold of the magazines. I read an oral history of Rough Trade recently as well but was a bit disappointing. I am currently reading Last Night a DJ Saved My Life and feel sort of 50/50 on it. 

JR: Any records from this year stick out to you?

SR: Stand outs to me are what friends are making because I guess that is what I am in the most touch with. I ended up in LA in the fall on a trip and did a DJ spot at the Peaking Lights record release and that stands out because I was driving around a lot in LA in the rental car jamming the newest Peaking Lights and Merchandise records. Merchandise had been in the Twin Cities the day before I left for LA so it was nice getting both of those records in the same week and driving around listening to them in LA while going to the beach to go surfing or going out to the hills to go on trail runs with some buddies, blasting around in the rental and jamming new music by good friends. So those two stand out the most to me. I think whatever either one of those bands does next will be even better because both of those bands are mixing it up again. Both of their most recent records were a bit more straight forward, which was necessary from a creative arc standpoint, but maybe also as another way to then step in a different direction. Peaking Lights live really killed it. I don't even think the new record, although I liked it, did justice to the live vibe when I saw them the couple times I did. I mostly hunt for old records and then with the label being invested and interested in what I am releasing, it's hard to catch what is new and absorb it enough to have an opinion. I should mention too that I really love what Duppy Gun is doing - it's a very cool project or series of projects under one bigger idea. Wolf Eyes live at a small gallery was my favorite local show of the year. Those dudes never get old, and always kill it year after year. The show they put on blew me away. I'm still thinking about it, which is impressive because I have seen them play so many times. Another recent one was re-connecting with old friends the Twerps from Australia. It had a been a couple years sense I had seen them. I DJ'd their show here and then they played a late night basement after party and that was great. It was really special and nostalgic in a positive way to me. I Really loving the new LP by them Range Anxiety. It fits with the weather too as it leads into summer. 

JR: Have you seen the new Star Wars teaser trailer? What's your read on the situation?

SR: It’s getting old. Hollywood just keeps remaking things instead of bringing much of anything new to the mix.  

JR: What all is in the future for Wet Hair/Night People?

SR: The future is always right now for NP. It’s hard to know, and it’s such a hand to mouth thing. That isn't the enjoyable aspect but it is a big part of the label, trying to survive, stay afloat, and keep it alive not in terms of passion but just the amount money it takes. I hoped by now after all these years it would be more stable but it’s not and it’s something that takes a toll, but hopefully it can continue. That said, month to month and year to year it’s hard to tell. It takes so much time doing the label. The amount of work is so hands on and it’s just one person trying to do it all.  Right now it's all about this new Broken Water LP called Wrought. It’s a special record by a mature band that has been around a while doing things totally on their own terms.  Some of the songs on the record really hit me: maybe "Love and Poverty" is the standout for me because of the content and feel of the song and how I relate it to own experience. It’s a great record and people should hear it. I'm trying to make that happen. 

Broken Water- Wrought
SR: Wet Hair has one more record sitting in the dark, though it’s unknown if it will ever come out. It’s the final record for the project, and it’s probably the best record we made. It’s my favorite but it's also a record that sits almost too close to me in terms of feeling and subject matter. It’s probably the most directly personal thing I have ever been a part of artistically. There are many sore spots concerning the record for me, though, so it’s hard to visit. The end of living in Iowa City, the end of a major relationship, maybe even the end of the band itself expressed in that record for me. All very big, dense things in my life. I want to put it out eventually but again it’s just having the funds to it. The bass player of Wet Hair and I, after moving to the Twin Cities, had a bit of a falling out as well and that makes the process a bit weirder and it’s touchy: that situation is a bummer, losing such a close friend. Maybe we will reconnect. I hope we do. I think of all the years Ryan and I spent on the road together in Raccoo-oo-oon and Wet Hair and all the time making the music and recording, and how so much of our lives revolved around it. It’s a really dense thing to get into trying to sum up, describe, or even properly process. I've wanted to sit down and write about it all, the tour experiences, the ups and downs for 10 years spent touring and being so deep in the lifestyle of underground music. I haven't made any music in over 2 years. The last thing I was a part of or did was finish that record. I haven't been sure if I could make music again but I'm starting to feel much more inspired and I'm trying to create something in new territory.  It’s an electronic project that uses hardware and mostly vintage gear. I'm trying to get it going with my old friend Jeff Eaton, who is a pretty well known as the vocalist for the respected hardcore band Modern Life is War. So yeah, I think that project will probably be pretty weird and different and I'm really hoping it happens because I think it would be good for my life right now.

JR: Anything else you'd like to say?

SR: Life is beautiful, man, but it’s also a grind. Doing this label all these years has been great but it’s also a grind. I'm not sure the future looks so bright. It’s hard to imagine the label being able to survive maybe even too much longer, but I'm trying to maintain. I just appreciate anyone who supports it. I'm sorry I'm not better at it too, as far as just keeping up sometimes with things like correspondence and mail - it’s a labor of love - records are so big in my life, but they're a blessing and a burden. They really influence what I did and what I continue to do in the world, where I lived, how I moved around. It all boils down to being in love with records.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Interview with Alexandra Pharmakidis of Power Monster

Dissonance is a human concept, though largely an elusive one. The same notes that might sound out of place on a European piano piece might be perfectly tailored to a Japanese folk song on the shamisen. "Noise" as we think of it today has always existed, though it has not always been recorded. I briefly likened the sound of power electronics and noise to the great and terrible forces of nature in my interview with Jim Haras of Deterge and it's true - a good noise show transfers sublimity onto the listener like the sound of a dozen redwoods falling in unity. In Edmund Burke's A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, Burke talks about beauty as something that fits nicely into a form, like the gentle neck of a swan or the notes and harmonies of Handel's "Messiah." The sublime is something formless and unknowable. As far as sublimity in recorded music goes, I'd argue that while classical, baroque, and jazz can be sublime in grandiosity, the form in which the substance fits still languish in the Romantic idea of beauty. I think of the scores behind Fritz Lang's films as being both sublime and beautiful - obviously the visuals have something to do with the music being sublime, but it's not experimental or unexpected and at the bottom of everything, it's still nice.

When people like John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen began putting their mark on instrumental music, things began to get sublime as fuck and F-A-S-T. This trajectory of music as an unwelcome, nebulous, possibly destructive and monstrous force has continued to evolve through the 80s and 90s when artists like Incapacitants, Hijokaidan, Whitehouse, Merzbow, Atrax Morgue, Genocide Organ, MSBR, and Maurizio Bianchi did their best to keep the train moving-right-along.  All aboard the abstruse caboose.

Except now there are people who listen to noise. People are no longer shocked by noise. And sometimes noise fits nicely into a "noise form." So does that make it beautiful? Does that cheapen its effect? Does noise become both priest and heretic to its message?

Doesn't matter, but it's a cool thought exercise. If you listen to noise or are new to its call, Alexandra Pharmakidis' solo project Power Monster can be both sublime and beautiful. To the untrained listener, it can seem overwhelming, but it's also the sound of transcendence. Occasionally, Ali's vocals break through the static. The listener leans in to hear what secrets emerge from the small hole in the wall only to find the opening to have changed positions. It's a give and take interaction. The listener puts in what he or she will take out. I find that I enjoy reading while listening - for me, Ali's music has crossed the threshold of harsh into calming, meditative. The world takes all kinds.

Give her new tape on PopNihil a listen and a pick up on their bandcamp page

Jordan Reyes: The PopNihil cassette is actually the first Power Monster release that I own but I’ve heard your stuff online before. I was looking at the track listing and a lot of the songs seem very existential, conscious-based. Do you think about that a lot?

Alexandra Pharmakidis: Oh yeah. Constantly. It’s hard for me to stop, which can be exhausting. Working on noise gives the thoughts directions so they’re not just stewing in my brain.

Photo by Gyna Bootleg
JR: I couldn’t really make out the vocals on your tape What do you talk about?

AP: That’s a conscious thing. I like the vocals to be buried, chopped up, and as difficult as the rest of the music is. I feel like some of my lyrics are so goofy or personal. I’m pretty shy so it is hard for me to let them out and be heard for what they are.

JR: Why would you choose to put in lyrics if it’s so uncomfortable?

AP: I just feel driven to get those thoughts and emotions out: to release that tension and anxiety rather than holding it in all the time. That’s not really healthy.

JR: Is that why you sought out and decided to do noise?

AP: Well, I’ve been drawn to noise and experimental music for a really long time. I find creating it compelling. There’s no boundaries with noise: you can make it with anything - any kind of gear or trash and endlessly manipulate it digitally. That’s very meditative for me. I can do it for hours and hours and hours. I can read music and plunk out a tune on the keyboard. My piano teacher when I was eight actually told my mother to give up on me.

JR: Oh my gosh!

AP: Apparently the talent just wasn’t there.

JR: Wow, that’s like super cruel!

AP: Yeah. (laughs). And I have some minor nerve damage that affects my right hand so I can’t play traditional instruments as much as I might like to.

JR: Do you mind me asking what happened?

AP: No, that’s no problem. About two years ago I woke up and my right hand was numb. I thought it was Carpal-Tunnel at first, but I realized that the numbness was spreading up my arm and going down my body. It got to the point where I couldn’t make a fist. It turned out to be an inflammation of nerves in my spine that was affecting my hands. It’s much better now, but they still don’t know what caused it.

JR: Did you have to get surgery?

AP: They gave me steroids to bring down the inflammation, I got acupuncture, and then there was physical and occupational therapy to rebuild the muscles in my hands. The sensation in my hand is about 75% of what it was. That’s what it will probably stay at.

JR: Wow, that’s terrifying. I’ve never had anything like that happen. I’ve had a lot of injuries, but they’ve all been from doing stupid things. The idea of not having control over something that’s so physically affecting has got to be unsettling.

AP: It was and is. It was a rough few months right before I moved from Austin, TX.

JR: I didn’t know you were from Austin.

AP: I grew up in Providence, but I lived in Austin for about eleven years.

JR: Why the move?

Photo by Gyna Bootleg
AP: Oh no. It was because I had 50K in medical debt (laughs). I couldn’t use my hand so I lost my job. I got really depressed. My boyfriend broke up with me.

JR: That’s super rough.

AP: I was originally intending on moving back to Austin, but it’s gotten so expensive there and gentrified. It’s a completely different beast than the city I moved to. I decided to stay in Providence and put down roots, which I think was a good decision.

JR: I’ve never been to Texas or Providence. I’ve been to a lot of places around the country because I drive a lot. That’s meditative for me. One day. Does noise give you a sense of control when you play or make music?

AP: When I’m working on tracks and recording absolutely. When I’m playing live, it’s almost completely the opposite. I know I have a good set if I sort of black out. I go to another place, really. I’ll have to watch the video later to see what it sounded like and what actually happened.

JR: Do you get that sensation frequently?

AP: Pretty much every time I play unless it’s a really bad set when I’m tense, nervous and concentrating on everything too much. That’s usually when things go wrong and I remember every excruciating detail.

JR: Is there a ritual to gear your mind into that place?

AP: Not really. I try to have a couple beers before I play. Any more and I’ll be sloppy. Any less and I’ll be too tense. Then just making sure I can set up as early as possible so I know everything works and I know where my levels are. I hate having to set up right before I play and getting to check. I don’t like having people waiting around while I’m plugging in cables.

JR: I hear you. I do sort of a dark folk thing and I just have my acoustic guitar, a pick up, a couple pedals, an amp and I don’t have to check anything. When I’ve seen people prepare for noise it’s very, very intensive. It can take as long as the set.

AP: Yeah, yeah, it definitely can. And gear malfunctions are par for the course. I recently played at AS220 here in Providence. I don’t know how much you know about gear in noise, but I had a DOD Buzzbox, which is a highly coveted pedal by some noise artists because they don’t make them anymore. It’s gone through so much abuse that the shell has actually crumbled. I was testing it out, turning it off and on, and it literally fell to bits on the table. I had a little bit of a meltdown (laughs). I was checking Ebay and one in mint condition goes for about $300, which is not quite in my budget right now.

JR: That’s a ton of money. So, to answer your question - I don’t know that much about noise equipment - I know how things work in terms of circuitry but I don’t have any sort of mental catalogue of pedals. I would just know what makes what sound it would make if you told me what it was and how everything works together. When you do noise, you do have to know all these pedals though, right?

Photo by Gyna Bootleg
AP: Pretty much. I’ve spent many, many nights on wikipedia and pedal forum k-holes reading up on stuff because I’m always looking to change my set up a little bit. What tweaks can I do to make the sound more full? I read about pedals and gear a lot. By comparison, I’m not even a gear nerd (laughs).

JR: Do you think people are generally collaborative and willing to help when you have questions?

AP: Oh yeah. The noise community is an open, friendly place. A lot of the imagery is foreboding - lots of sex and violence, but most of the people involved are the nicest people that you could get to meet. There are lots of people who will answer any questions you might have about gear, or tell you where to go to get gear repaired or get new gear. There’s also noise forums for that. In comparison to some people, I’m not a big gear nerd. I don’t even have that big of a set up.

JR: What does “not that big of a set up” mean?

AP: (Laughs) It means my live set up is two pedal chains and a contact mic. I don’t have multiple synths or chains of twenty pedals or anything like that.

JR: The only noise I’ve really made is with people manipulating my guitar sound or using my electric guitar as a more percussive instrument.

AP: That’s actually something I used to do in a project I was in called Sex Bruises. It was kind of guitar rape (laughs).

JR: That’s really vivid (laughs). I think using things atypically is always interesting. So what was your first noise project?

AP: I had been messing around with noise without calling it a “project” for a long time. In my storage space in Austin, I have tapes going back to the early 2000s but I didn’t really have like a “project.” I was too shy to even name it! So Power Monster is my first solo project and then in Texas I was in a number of different projects. Sex Bruises was a duo project I was in with  Matt LaComette. I was also in Mucophagia, which is a really dorky name (laughs).

JR: I have no idea what that means.

AP: It’s the medical term for the compulsion to eat your own snot (laughs). That was me, Matt LaComette, and Johnny Cash. There were a few others. When I moved to Providence, I didn’t really know anyone when I first got here because I hadn’t lived here in years. I really went for putting out as much Power Monster material as possible. It was really the first chance I had had in a while to concentrate just on that.

JR: What ideas do you try to get across in Power Monster as opposed to in a group?

Photo by Gyna Bootleg
AP: That’s a hard one because it’s so abstract. It varies from release to release. I did a release last winter on Altar of Waste, which is a CD-R label out of Minneapolis called Love is a Lie and that was obviously an angry post-break-up thing because I had that to get out (laughs). I did another on the same label called Leviticus, which was me reflecting on religion and how women are just held down globally by it and have been for centuries. I have addressed the issue of being a female in noise because that is kind of an anomaly. It’s easy, I think, to go on a feminist diatribe about how it’s not fair that there aren’t enough women in music, et cetera, et cetera. It’s really easy to do something like that. It’s much harder and cathartic to put yourself out there and start making things and releasing things. People will pay attention.

JR: Absolutely. I was talking to my friend Lauren [Bach] in Chicago. I just moved to Miami and honestly just got an apartment last week (laughs) so it’s been very recent. She was a bit taken aback by the pressure for women power electronics artists to become this overly-sexualized woman. Both of us didn’t think that a woman should have to play into this trope and be objectified or let yourself be objectified to have success in noise. I think everyone should be able to do what they want, but it does make me feel a bit disheartened to see that as being the reason behind female noise musicians' success - being exactly what every noise nerd wants to see.

AP: Oh yeah. I’ve definitely used images of my own body on my tapes and releases. I have no shame about it. I used to get really annoyed about noise releases that had porn on them. You see that a lot, especially on 90s Japanoise tapes. It's just been done so much. It really bugs me. Someone asked me “What’s the difference? You’re putting your body out on display.” But it’s me. It’s not just some girl cut up from a magazine who has no idea it’s happening. I can express myself however I damn well please.

JR: There’s a difference between affirmation and exploitation too.

AP: For sure. And I don’t feel like I’m exploiting myself by doing that.

JR: I couldn’t help but read on your Facebook page that some shop refused to print some of the J-cards for the PopNihil release.

AP: Yeah! They printed part of it, but then they stopped! That was highly amusing. It wasn’t that big of a deal. Matthew Moyer, who runs PopNihil and is the nicest guy, just asked around “Where do the punks in town get their fliers printed? Okay, I’ll go there.” and he just went there and they printed them without even batting an eye.

JR: Yeah. He’s a total sweetheart. I met him one of the first weekends I moved down here at the International Noise Conference and we were kindred spirits almost immediately. But yeah, that was a bit funny to hear. Do you have any other Power Monster releases or shows coming up?

AP: Yeah! I’m going to be doing a release for Signora Ward Records - they’re a tape label in Italy. Omar from Rectal Hygienics asked me to do something for Depravity Label. Matthew Moyer is interested in doing a tape for a project I’m in called Mercy Gait, which is me and my friend Steph who used to be in Tinsel Teeth. That’s sort of a bondage noise project. We build contact mics into bondage gear. We have a few shows coming up on May 5th and June 1st. And then there’s a Power Monster show at the end of the month here in Providence.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Interview with Jim Haras of Deterge

Deterge means "to cleanse thoroughly" in modern dictionaries, though the word finds its origins in the Latin word detergere, which, more profoundly, means to "wipe away" or "to erase." It raises an uncomfortable question of purity and tabula rasa: can anything be immaculate after creation? At what point does a sick world's influence become noticeable? And how can you wash even the most seemingly insignificant marking away without losing a possible identifier?

I'm not arrogant enough to presume I know what goes on in Jim Haras' mind, though don't let that dissuade you in thinking I'm not arrogant. I do, however, tend to migrate towards lingual signifiers - words and their definitions help me sequester people, sensorial experiences, and ideas in different mental compartments. But a name in music is often at once fundamentally important as a bridge from artist to audience and fundamentally useless as any sort of defining attribute.

Except I can't help but liken harsh noise and even power electronics to the forces of erosion in nature. A waterfall. Wind. The friction from feet of sand compacted and piled on top of each other. These things make sounds too - monstrous ones at times. And they erase. And they cleanse. And they combine, touch, caress, and eventually destroy the vestiges of even our oldest gods. So yes, I think "Deterge" applies quite nicely to Jim's power electronics/noise project.

And that's all I got, sportsfans. Check out his label Fusty Cunt if you haven't and also be aware that he's got a Deterge LP coming out in the future. It's in Gestation right now. Haha. Just jokes, folks.

Jordan Reyes: You've been putting out noise-related music since 2009. Tell me about your beginning set up. What sorts of equipment did you use when you began? What sounds were you trying to create? Was this even a conscious decision or thought?

Jim Haras: I've actually been putting stuff out since mid 2000, but it was just never completely public. The early days was a lot of noisecore and (shitty) pedal noise. I started to get more into recording and distributing by the end of 2008. PTM basically became cut up and involved a lot of pedal work and acoustic sounds of junk. Around that time the set up consisted of contact mics, mics, a zoom 505, distortion and a degitech whammy wah. I more or less just used what was available to me at the time. All the old recordings were done on this karaoke machine that sounded like total garbage and I would record, then play the previous recording while recording in the second tape deck. I haven't used it in many years and now I kind of want to rediscover it. See if I can get anything new out of the device.

JR: How has your understanding of equipment and sound developed since then?

JH: I knew absolutely nothing of the equipment and a part of me wishes I could become willfully ignorant of it again. I used to make actual noise then, and now the stuff I make is extremely structured, even if loosely structured live. The actual sound development has ultimately become a style of my own I believe. There are certain aspects that, even in experimenting, I feel people would be able to recognize. It's all in HOW you do things rather than the actual sounds that are produced. I'm torn on whether I like that or not.

JR: How much of sonic growth and development is from self-guided exploration and how much is seeing another project and getting ideas from that?

JH: Mostly self-guided. I would rather not see someone and steal an idea to be honest. There may be little tricks that I pick up along the way because it's inevitable, but while seeing another noise/PE, I don't see the point. I do get ideas from other kinds of music though and try to work them into a power electronics format. I'm increasingly adding a hardstyle sound to certain tracks or passages as of 2010, but haven't fully realized what I wanted to do with it yet - that's why almost zero recordings have surfaced.

JR: Do you find that you listen to one particular style of music more than others?

JH: I listen to noise and PE way more than anything else. Every once in a while I'll listen to some black metal or electronic music. I'll always have a soft spot for late 90s-early 00s goregrind. I like a lot of stuff, I just don't listen as much.

JR: Are there any modern noise or power electronics artists from nowadays that you find to be of merit?

JH: Plenty from all different approaches. I don't really dwell on too many past favorites from the 80s because it just doesn't interest me. Aside from a lot of great 90s Harsh Noise like Skin Crime and Macronympha, I'd rather live in the now. Noise and PE are supposed to be experienced live so if I can physically be present, I'm more interested. That doesn't mean I'd shun going to see something like Whitehouse or Masonna, on the contrary; I just know I'll never be able to, so I keep it out of my mind. I get more excited over seeing things like Ahlzdeveloper and Action/Discipline than anything else. Friends that are excellent solo, but tearing apart shit in a collab setting is enticing. 

JR: I'll admit to being more familiar with Deterge as a live act than as a recorded project. For you, is there overlap? Do you find yourself summoning recorded material in a live setting or is it more improvisation?

JH: The live setting for Deterge is kind of weird. Due to my recording process often consisting of pieces to make a whole, I incorporate only parts of songs and try to meld them together in one continuous piece rather than play "songs." So when you hear a few recordings, then see me live you might be able to pick out parts from one tape and other parts from another immediately following or happening simultaneously. I feel in doing this I can still keep the set improvised because there are unrecorded/unpracticed passages intertwined also. I can appreciate people that make a great track, throw it on an iPod and do vocals over it because sonically it can be great. I like to play though. It's an experience not a cut-out. Every live set, to me, should be different than the last. I like the idea of me completely fucking something up and having to fix or accept it. It makes the experience more cerebral. I'd like others to be entertained by it, but ultimately a live performance is for me. 

JR: Is there an average amount of time it takes for you to start and finish a Deterge recording? What's your process?

JH: It can be as easy as hitting record or can take up to a year to get a track just right. All Deterge stuff is conceptual so when I recorded pieces they may remain dormant until there is a perfect combination of parts. I think I can attribute that to my background in cut-up Harsh Noise. If vocals are present they are almost always added after everything else is complete, unless the recording is live start to finish.

JR: Do you have a certain recording of yours that you're more proud of than others?

JH: I personally like "Roscosmos" on Collapsed Hole and "Always Around" on Danvers State. They are perfect examples of purely conceptual and purely personal, respectively. I'd like to get Always Around reissued on vinyl eventually. I am very excited about the (almost complete) LP though. It will stand out among all my other recordings I feel. 

JR: Your label Fusty Cunt does mostly cassette releases, something that's been a part of noise culture for most of its existence. Perhaps not the most sophisticated of questions but I'm always curious to hear what people say. What do you like about tapes?

JH: They are easier to make non-standard packages for because of their size. I don't do that as often as I'd like, but it's the best when I, or others, do. They also require you to take an active part in listening because you have to switch sides. You do with vinyl, of course, but noise has always sounded more at home on tape.

JR: I've always loved the slogan "No Coast, No Hope" that many Midwest PE and noise musicians have adopted. It's actually kind of catchy, if that's the right word. Do you think this idea or slogan is actually an accurate representation of Midwest noise musicians or perhaps the Midwest at large?

JH: In a way, yes. Mack (Koufar), Omar (machismo) and I basically came up with it without much thought, but it makes sense. We will never really get recognition like East and West Coasters do and we kind of get shit on. There just tends to be a dirtier, more hopeless vibe in the No Coast. Less positivity.

JR: Is having hope worthwhile?

JH: If you have something to look forward to, I say go for it. The worst that can happen is you will fail miserably. And at that point, whatever, it doesn't really matter. However, the act of having hope doesn't change the outcome of what you're hoping for in the first place, whether it good or bad. So, no, having hope is a waste of time.

JR: I know you have a pretty time-consuming job. I know you've toured in the past, but is it at all an option for you at this point?

JH: It's an option for sure. I work a lot, but I get paid vacation time so I can make it happen. There are talks of a Deterge/Machismo tour eventually as well as Deterge/Shredded Nerve. Also this summer I'd like to hit the west coast if I can. 

JR: What all is in the future for Jim Haras?

JH: Deterge LP on the way. Many more from Fusty including a single-sided Rectal Hygienics 12" and tapes from Terror Cell Unit, Ahlzagailzehguh, Frequensleep, etc. Some good shows including a Killed In Prison set at Scum Fest in Brooklyn this July. Me working and absolutely hating all customers that shop in my store.

JR: Anything else you'd like to say?

JH: Everyone needs to quit being a crybaby in the scene and learn to separate concept from person. Power Electronics shouldn't make you feel good about yourself or others. Nothing is sacred.