Saturday, September 5, 2015

Interview with Matt Boettke of Scant

Photo by Nikki Sneakers
Much of noise gets its strength from tension and release: a lower frequency plays predecessor to a shriek of feedback or an interval of silence is bookshelved by harsh walls. To an extent, this is also what happens in a pop song's verse and chorus, and is largely what Krautrock was rebelling against in the 60s. When Holger Czukay of Can told drummer Jaki Liebezeit to play simply and repetitively, he wasn't asking for Jaki to be boring; rather, he composed songs of pure tension, where release was an option rather than a precedent. Matt Boettke's solo project Scant has a similar ethos - Scant isn't necessarily static, but it does draw power from consistency - tones and textures change at their own pace, not at a listener's beckoning.

Matt has put out tapes on Rainbow Bridge, Chondritic Sound, and Monorail Trespassing. He also ran Candle Haus in Fairfax with several other artists. He has played in both solo and group capacities on the East Coast, and recently released his first tape as Roy Wren with Rachel Nicole Foley on Beyond the Ruins. He is currently residing in Philadelphia, after spending an extended period in Virginia. He has more than a few releases coming up, but he's a much better spokesperson for his music than myself.

Jordan Reyes: Let's begin with the ideas of control and improvisation in your work as Scant. Are these two things mutually exclusive in your work? How much planning goes into a live Scant set? Do you know exactly how your set will sound before you play?

Matt Boettke: There is some improvisation in Scant sets, which I think is inherent to the style of noise music, but primarily all sets are completely pre-planned and as of late are completely sample based so there is an exactness to what I do live. I have started trying to replicate pieces from releases, and similarly record replicable pieces, live- my favorite set I’ve been doing live has been a re-working of my 2014 cassette, “In Simulating Drowning”.

JR: Do you think having "control" is important in noise?

MB: I think it can be- for what I do it’s important after all. However I have definitely seen some completely unrestrained performers who have left me wanting nothing, so it really is a case-by-case scenario to me. Acts like Twilight Memories of the Three Suns (one of the first real noise groups I was familiar with because they were local to me) is a complete free-for all, arguably, and their style of soundcraft has certainly resulted in countless amazing sets I’ve been privy to. Other times, in extremely technical performers like Jon Borges and Shannon Kennedy with Pedestrian Deposit, control is everything, and every time they come around on their (as of late) annual tour it has been the show of the year- never disappointing and always improving. Always getting more precise, always more impressive and a true testament to giving attention to detail.

JR: What do you think makes a noise or experimental piece compelling, either in regards to your own work or others'?

MB: For me, if you can really “lose yourself” in a piece, that is what makes it compelling to me. If you can have the tape or record on and lose track of time and temporarily be alleviated of your existence, that is the effect I am looking for in both what I create and what I seek out to listen to in the genre. Anything that almost becomes a sensory-depravation experience is what I consider “good noise”, and that can really be achieved in an endless number of ways.

JR: Like most solo projects, I'm sure that making music or performing as Scant can be an intimate endeavor. Is there a spiritual aspect to it for you?

MB: The spiritual element that I’d say exists with Scant is that I am probably in my most spiritually in-tune moments when I record the material for the project. Obviously it is hard to be in a state of meditation or dissociation when playing a live show, but in recording those are the states I tend to be in. I use recording as Scant as a chance to try and get to the most detached I can be, to really try and be “on the outside looking in” for lack of a better way to phrase it. My intent with the project is to create highly dissociative sound pieces that result in the listener feeling the same detachment through listening that I do while creating.

JR: You began Scant four or five years ago, if I'm not mistaken. Has your creative process in Scant changed at all during this time? How?

MB: I’d say it’s pretty much stayed the same the whole time. It’s always me in my room with a computer full of field recordings, some kind of synth, some pedals, and used to be a tape deck but lately it’s been a sampler. I always record and practice in my bedroom either with headphones or just out of my computer speakers. I always jokingly say if it sounds good on shitty speakers it’ll sound great on good ones, so that’s why I do this- truth is I just don’t have anything else to monitor with. I’ve had access to various better practice spaces several times and it’s just never been the same as playing alone in my room. It’s the place you go to detach, so it’s only natural that’s where I like this process to go down.

JR: You've also been involved with several noise "groups," such as Widow's Bath, Inferior Passions, and Roy Wen. Do you feel as though you have to "compromise" when recording or making music in a group setting? Is that a "bad thing"?

MB: In no way do I feel like making music with another is a compromise, and if I thought something was a “bad thing” I surely would not be involved in it, simply put. I feel like I certainly need to change my approach when making noise with others,and that the same sort of dedications to tone and microtextural changes cannot be what I bring to the table in a group setting. Since these things are so specific to a solo performance, if I were to try and bring those to the forefront I would just be drowning out my collaborators. Instead, each project of collaboration I am involved in takes its own specific approach, often time explicitly discussed at great length before a recording or practice session has even taken place. Once we both find common ground and a place to meet on the same page, playing with others can become as natural as playing by myself.

JR: You have a couple tapes coming out soon - one with Shredded Nerve and one as Roy Wren. Tell me a little bit about those two tapes. How did you guys meet and decide to work together? When will they come out? I know Shredded Nerve is from Cincinatti - did that make things difficult?

MB: The tape you are referring to as being released “with Shredded Nerve” is the collaborative project of Justin Lakes (who does Shredded Nerve) and myself, Inferior Passions. Our debut cassette of material will be released through Chondritic Sound, the primary home to both me and Lakes’s solo material as Scant and Shredded Nerve respectively. I met Justin sometime early into the time I was doing Scant, during my first tours out to the Midwest where he lived in Cincinnati and booked shows in that area which includes Dayton as well. From the moment we met we knew we’d be great friends, and for years I have been seeing Justin on our own tours either when I went to Ohio or he came to Virginia, as well as making the yearly trip to his Summer Scum festival historically happening every year in Buffalo, NY, where he briefly resided as well. We also have gone on several tours together, including flying out to the west coast together earlier this year for our first time playing shows out there. Whenever we are in the same place, we found time to either discuss or practice a collaboration, and a few times over the years we have performed collaborative sets live. We have long discussed doing a tape, but with Justin recently relocating to New York City and being so close to each other we decided to start a project since we could actively practice and play shows with more frequency. The first offering from the project is “Any Day”, 32 minutes of material so empty and lifeless that we deemed it to have been able to represent ‘Any Day’ of our lives, nothing special to it other than the fact it is a day the two of us are playing music together, which could be anytime, anywhere. Roy Wren is another project I am part of, with Rachel Nicole Foley who used to collaborate with me in Sex Complex as well when we both lived in the Washington, D.C. area. When she moved to Richmond, VA from Charlotte, NC in early 2014, we began living and playing music together on a regular basis, and eventually formed the project Roy Wren to record and perform what we had been working on almost daily out of our chaotic Richmond spot dubbed “The Leigh Hole” by friends who visited the apartment. Our first cassette was recently released on Beyond The Ruins, the philly imprint of power electronics artist Pleasure Island, who I’ve worked with as Scant extensively in the past as well. We are currently working on a second tape to be released as part of the reboot of Jason Crumer’s No Rent label. Rachel and I live together currently in Philadelphia, and practice and record in our home studio, the Heaven’s Gate warehouse which is often home to select DIY noise shows and shared by the other residents of the house.

JR: You've been involved with the DIY/noise/experimental scene for a while, from running Candle Haus to your many recording projects. What do you think people involved with noise/experimental music need to keep in mind in order to keep it moving forward?

MB: To keep this short, what’s best to keep in mind is yourself. Worry about your project, worry about yourself. Don’t spend time shit-talking or drama-mongering with the concerns of other projects in the scene- it’s just not a big enough scene for it to not end up sounding like a high school cafeteria when things get to that point. Worry about being good, book shows with like-minded artists, show mutual support and most importantly- be good. Noise is in in a fledgling state, the most important thing you can do as an artist is make sure your material is good… fuck it- great. That will help build the scene, not determining some arbitrary hierarchy based on juvenile bullshit.

JR: What all is in the future for Matt Boettke and Scant?

MB: I have a handful of releases forthcoming- another cassette due out on Chondritic Sound as Scant, solo material released under my own name by Ascetic House which differs in intention from the Scant project, and ultimately a debut full-length due out on Chondritic Sound as well, most likely released sometime early 2016. Greh at Chondritic Sound has been incredibly supportive of my work since we’ve become acquainted, so I really am focusing on working with him for future Scant releases, especially this full-length which will be the first definitive statement from the project since it’s inception in 2011. There have been a lot of short releases leading up to this, and I think it is time to fully realize the ideas I’ve been working with the past few years in album form for the first time.

JR: Anything else you'd like to say?

MB: I’d like to point out that the biggest influence on me over the years has been my friends, the people I know and the people who are working towards the same things I am with their respective projects. Over the years I have had the pleasure of living in artist households that without a doubt helped shape my identity as an artist, and there is nothing more encouraging than living with other artists and discussing ongoing projects and goals together on a daily basis. Starting with the Candle Haus I had this type of close working relationship with Jacob Knibb, who co-curates Select DC with Josh Levi as well as performing as Rosemary Arp and DJ’n as Kanon. At the house also resided Craig Hodgkins, who performers solo noise as Cincinnatus C but primarily focuses on his screamo band Annakarina, based in Pittsburgh, PA. Also living at the Candle Haus were visual artists Sam Walker, Alexa-Smith Francis, and Peter Lawrence, whose energy certainly contributed to the vibe I cultivated from living at that spot. As with any show house so many incredible artists came through and performed in our basement as well, people I’ve met through that time have come to be some of my best friends and biggest influences as well. After taking a break from this lifestyle to live with my partner at the time, I lived with Iona (Crack Bytch) and Rachel Nicole Foley at the aforementioned Leigh Hole- another spot whose shared environment helped shape my work, and then moved to the prolific Baltimore warehouse spot SDF America, which was populated by a multitude over the years far too long to list here, but I’d like to give a special acknowledgement to that whole crew for sure, especially Eric Trude (Stress Orphan) who I’ve known and worked with since before the Candle Haus days. Currently I am living at Heaven’s Gate in Philadelphia, and I am living with Rachel Nicole Foley (my partner in Roy Wren) as well as two of my best friends, Rachel Slurr and Chris QC, who record and perform as Stroker (Slurr) and Gene Pick (QC). Living with them recreates what I had at the Candle Haus, with fellow artists working in the warehouse and discussing their work on a daily basis, and there is nothing that helps strengthen me as an artist more than that. I want to acknowledge them as well as everyone I’ve met along the past few years for helping me realize myself as the artist I am today, wouldn’t be who I was without my crew, and I love you all.

MB: **Even though I never lived with them, a special acknowledgement to Gary Stevens and the Auxiliary/RVA Noise krew as well, stay strong and keep doing it up for the best spot in the city.

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