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.

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