It all started for me when I was very young. I used to hit the demo button on an old midi keyboard I had laying around and dance to it. I had actually traded an electric guitar to my dad for that keyboard, probably my first conscious effort at saying "fuck you rock and roll, I just wanna dance to cheesy electronic music!" I did a lot of playing around with computer programs that produced sound or let you manipulate audio, like Acid Pro, Fruity Loops version 2, things like that. There was also this weird thing called New Beat Trancemission that was probably my first experience with sequencing. I played alto saxophone in school band and received private lessons too, but I didn't write anything for sax during that period that I can remember.
As far as really making serious electronic music, I got a MicroKorg sometime in 2002 or 2003 and would use it along with a Moog Concertmate that my dad let me play around with to record cassette tapes... I had to play both synths by hand and make sure it was perfect because I lacked any other gear at the time. I think I ended up with probably 5 or 6 tapes of nothing but music that sounded like the theme song to Dark Shadows or Star Trek TOS!
Which artists changed your vision of music when you was young? What's the first artist/ band you remember to have listenned when you was a little kid (no lie :D !!!) ?
I will not lie, haha! I have no guilty pleasures. The first song I ever heard that I liked enough that it made a huge impact on me was Tears For Fears' 'Everybody Wants To Rule The World.' I was very obsessed with synthpop when I was really young. Their album Songs From The Big Chair was also the first CD I ever owned. I also remember being 13 and a friend letting me borrow his copy of NIN's album The Downward Spiral and I sat and listened to the whole thing all the way through with rapt attention probably 100,000 times. Of course, since then I've been massively influenced by so many different artists throughout time and genre that my tastes are literally all over the place. Everything I do feels like a composite of all my strange listening habits.
I know 2 project of yours? Alex Spalding, of course, & also Material Action! Could you speak us a little about this 2? Do you have some others?
I do have some others... on Sirona-Records specifically, the only other one was Mars Of The Thing, with Josef of GCLTD. When I first started releasing music I worked under a large number of aliases, the major one for awhile being Geräuschangreifer, which was the name under which I had my first two releases on the NORTHAMERICANHARDCORE and Floppy Swop net labels, respectively. I would come up with different names and use them mostly to help me sort out all of the material I was making in different genres or with different sounds. As of late I just stick to releasing all my solo stuff under my real name and try not to make anything that sucks so bad that it ruins my reputation!
Material Action is a project I have with a close friend named Eric Sexton. We first started doing music, very experimental stuff, a few years ago. We called ourselves ÆMS, which was both of our initials combined. We had two albums, unreleased, one called Totemic Abyss which was just one long jam session using two Microkorgs and two ZOOM Drum machines that we midi synced with an MPC-2000. The other one was titled Videodrome and was an experiment in running VHS tapes from a VCR into synthesizers and creating a very odd tapestry of sound clips. Material Action didn't start properly until Eric bought an EDP Wasp and I picked up a USB dual pre for him as a birthday gift, which not only gave us a lot of cool sound possibilities but let us put sounds together more smoothly, opening the door for us to do more complex music with live gear. The first track on Mixed Emotions was actually the first track we made in this way. After finishing it we took kind of a roadtrip together and listened to it over and over again while holding a manic and elated conversation about where we could go from there. I came up with the name Material Action due to my kind of obsession with the Viennese Actionists, who were like extreme Situationists... it took a little while for me to think of it, though. I just like band names that relate to avantgarde art, or literature, or extreme politics. One of our original concepts was to go by the name Baali Boys and do sort of electro-exotica type stuff with Bollywood samples, hahaha... another friend of ours, Dan Kilmartin, was someone we bounced ideas off of all the time and he didn't like that name, so we realized we probably needed to come up with something else. He was actually the one who came up with the album's name, and for awhile had probably the biggest archive of Material Action music in existence. As the first album was being developed we would burn him discs and all sit together listening to the sounds and throwing up ideas and criticisms. Then we'd figure out what we might want to change. We owe him a large debt of gratitude, because the album probably wouldn't have come along quite so well without his encouragement and insight!
We're currently putting together the final master from tape of the 2nd Material Action record, to be released on Sirona-Records hopefully, titled Another Emotion... I hope it will go over well, it's a very ambitious work.
You run with Kai Nobuko the fantastic website Yeah I Know It Sucks? How did you started this adventure, for which reasons? Could you speak to us more about this review website and his philosophy?
I don't know exactly how the blog started, but I responded to a help wanted posting of Kai's which said something about contacting him to get on the payroll. I quickly sent him a message inquiring about the payroll and was told that it was actually just a used roll of toilet paper. I'm still waiting for him to send it! I had been wanting to write music reviews for awhile... I had a friend, a fellow anarchist type who invited me once to review albums for Heathen Harvest, but I turned it down. I'm just very gonzo sometimes with my words and like having total freedom to go nuts if I'm going to review something. I think Kai and I work really well together, and the philosophy - as far as I know - is that we just listen to and write about all the great music we discover from musicians who release their music for free on the web. We've branched out a little to covering music that is released on physical formats, too. We're both just very alike that we love music and enjoy writing impassioned, lunatic things about it. It is obsessive love! Kai is really great, though, I'm really happy to be working with him on the Yeah I Know It Sucks project... and it's been really blowing up incredibly!
You ran the label Noise Joy some years ago, did you miss this time? Have you ever think to restart it at a point?
I do miss it and would honestly love to bring it back again except already so much of my time is spent doing so many other things. I don't believe it would ever be the same as it was, though. Instead I've taken to just re-hosting the albums we released during our run on the wonderful Archive.org and spending time talking about a lot of them on the blog. I was unemployed and completely broke when I ran Noise-Joy... I only had the money to pay for the domain once, so it was an impulsive decision. I had to learn html in a night, my only previous experience with it being those terrible MySpace layouts and all that, which was why the site used to look so minimal, haha! I also ran the label out of a library for the first 3 to 5 months... it was kind of insane! I'm always so happy and surprised that it made the kind of impact it did on people, it was a total labour of love and I never expected it to get as big as it did, with so many quality artists involved!
What's the funniest moment you had in your musical life?
Any time I've ever performed live in some function it's been very funny! Performing live is probably the point in music at which goofy stuff really starts happening, the rest is all very unglamourous really. My first experience with it was totally spontaneous, too. I had been talking off and on with a guy named Paul Huang on some silly website, probably Xanga, and he invited me to play a gig with him and a random assortment of other people he knew. I said yes and showed up with a synthesizer... it was at some local venue I'd never heard of that turned out to be this horrible Christian Emo hangout spot, and I had no idea. I endured a hushed prayer session in the back before we went on, shooting uncomfortable and incredulous glances at Paul who pretty much acted as if he had no clue about it either. Our set consisted of me, generating as much white noise and feedback as possible, a guy playing cell-phone ringtones through the pickups on his guitar, a young female viola player who seemed somewhat of a virtuoso, Paul screaming into a mic and jumping around, and then a drummer who got confused and fled halfway through our 2-minute set! Everyone there was laughing... we got the plug pulled when Paul jumped into a drumkit that someone had intelligently put right in front of the small stage. It was very ridiculous, and unforgettable.
The next time I played live, I was simply running the backing track for an awful local "industrial" rock group... I messed it up and caused it to stop completely for a couple seconds because I was trying to change the visualizations on the media player out of boredom. That threw their whole show off for a moment... because I didn't really like the lead singer very much I kind of left it ambiguous whether I'd done it on purpose or not!
The last time I did a live set it was a DJ session. I teamed up with a friend of mine at the time named Zach who was really into Minimal techno and Tresor type stuff. He and I put a lot of thought into doing something cool, talking about all these concepts we had for an amazing, personal show. We got some black construction paper and a label maker and made business-cards with very vague information about the show we were doing. Eric bought some lights for us to use, this was before he and I started doing music together actually, and one of them was this really cool thing that created wave type effects of blue and green light. We were playing this place called The Blue Room, which is this actually very horrible, shitty small venue connected to a billiard hall. We brought several cones of incense, all of them ocean-themed scents, and lit one in each of the ashtrays. I played first, a set comprised of a bunch of atmospheric chillout and ambient music, plus a lot of stuff from different artists on my Noise-Joy label. Very, very few people showed up because we didn't work very hard at spreading the word that anything was even happening that night. It was like, this really amazing event and we had managed to transport for a brief time some shithole room at a billiard hall into the depths of the sea, but it was a mostly wasted effort! Like writing poetry and throwing it away. One of the people who did show up, though, was this girl who's music I had released - and I had actually used some of her music in the set - so afterward she and her boyfriend were talking to me about music, we had some laughs and then they took me on a surreal drive around downtown in their car while smoking blunts and drinking jungle juice! I felt totally out of it, kind of frightened we would get pulled over really, but it was fun. Would have made a very bizarre episode of Cops!
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
I hope to continue writing a lot more reviews, definitely for more albums on Sirona-Records and SPNet! I'm working again on some more music and have a lot of ideas in my head that could be cool. One by one I'm putting the Noise-Joy catalog back together and will have surely made good progress on that in a year's time. We've got a couple people asking me and Eric to do something live as Material Action, and I think it would be cool but feel we need a little more demand for it. My idea is to continue on in the way of transforming shit places into magickal zones of freedom and art to hang out in for free and hear music, and my other idea is to transform Material Action material to suit whatever environment we play in, in keeping sort of with my own interpretation of what a Material Action is or should be. Other than that, I'm just going with the flow!
You have a coming EP called "Obelisk EP One" in Sirona-Records, could you speak to us more about this one? How do you record it? What this one means to you? Some sort of symbolism?
Obelisk EP One is the first part of a 2 part series. I had the idea to do 2 albums that mirrored each other in terms of titles, sounds used, lengths, concepts, etc. so that they could kind of be taken as a whole or understood by how they play off of each other. They represent duality... I consider them to be sister albums, feminine, but Obelisks I am amused by because they are so obviously phallic, probably the most overtly penile of all statuary. Both EPs will have 11 tracks total, meant to symbolize the 2 obelisks standing side by side. There will be a total of 22 tracks then, which is supposed to be an important number in mysticism. Beside that, all symbolism and meaning to the albums is forming in a way that I'm mostly unconscious of. How I recorded each of the tracks is a little different. I use a lot of digital effects and mastering, plus several vsts, but it's hybridized with live synth sounds and hand playing. I'm trying to incorporate a lot of bass frequencies, too, even though the material is largely ambient. Some of it was taken from the cutting room floor of my first album on Sirona-Records, Amos In Flames... I'm still really happy that album got as much praise as it did at it's release because it was definitely a personal album for me. Lauri Iltanen's review I can remember vividly for thinking how incredible it was that he picked up on certain elements of it, like when he mentioned how so many of the tracks sounded unfinished. I started working on that album and carried it through two breakups, the loss of a job, a bout of homelessness, off and on drunkenness, all the way back to the light for a period of 3 years. It became very full sounding, "completed" halfway through that ridiculously long recording period, but because I never stopped working on it it got to the point at which my recording sessions, during which I'd maybe add sounds or little bits here and there to a track to create interest or even add whole tracks usually, started to become more like removal sessions. I would sit and take sounds out of tracks, like lead sections, all of the major harmonies, or sometimes entire tracks would just get scrapped. If I didn't like how a preceding piece flowed into the next, I wouldn't even spend time moving it around to make it fit elsewhere, I'd just decide it was "bad" and toss it. The end result was an album of mostly those little things that you add during the tail-end of recording an album. Flourishes, lots of space and such. I would elevate those aspects, removing most of the real body of the material. Very few tracks evaded my scalpel. Conceptually, all of the titles, as well as the title of the album itself, are just like those meaningless little bits and pieces of my life that are of little relevance, except in relation perhaps to larger currents - all of which are omitted. You're left with ghosts, really. So, with Obelisk, I've been taking some of those things that were dropped out of that album and re-working them, mutating them into something new. It could relate in some way to where I'm at right now, mentally, in comparison to then.
Last words are yours!
Keep supporting the free music scene, because it's awesome! Also, big <3 to Sirona-Records!!! And, um... HADOUKEN!