Monday, July 5, 2010

Ehnahre Interview

VP- Ehnahre plays some deeply disturbing music. Slow and deliberate. What is the concept behind it and

is it difficult to play at slower tempos?

Ryan - The idea behind Ehnahre was to make metal that really is truly dark and disgusting. I feel like a lot of metal bands who talk about "darkness" and "evil", are quite the opposite, playing power chords, and danceable beats. Dancing is not dark. Neither is consonance. We wanted to utilize extreme dissonance, serialism, improvisation, and a liberal usage of loose meter. Playing slow is hard, particularly when the meter is so lax, and we have to do everything by eye contact and visual cues. This also creates some difficult scenarios live, trying to watch the other guys, and do vocals at the same time.

VP- Where did the name Ehnahre come from and how does it tie into the band?

Ryan - The name Ehnahre is a sort of phonetic spelling of the letters N R. When we were in high school, we had a band named Negative Reasoning, which was taken from the title of an Eyehategod song (Non Conductive Negative Reasoning, off of the album Dopesick). Everyone called us N R for short, and now we took that, and just spelled it out. So now I guess it's just our little nod to Eyehategod.

VP - Tell me about your latest release.

Ryan - "Alpha/Omega" is a sort of concept EP. It was written based on two poems by W.B. Yeats. Side A, entitled "Leda and the Swan" is based on a Greek myth, which is often interpreted as a creation myth, the beginning of the world. Side B is called "The Second Coming" which is about the end of the world. We tried to utilize some of the imagery to text paint, and create a "vision" for these tumultuous events. We are now preparing to enter the studio to do our next full length, which will be entitled "Taming the Cannibals", and we are hoping to have it out by September/October 2010.

VP - What is a typical audience reaction to one of your performances? Do you find it more thrilling if they hate it?

Ryan - Typical reactions are confusion, people walking out of the room, and every once in a while, something in the music will pique peoples curiosity and they'll enjoy it. I guess atypically, compared to a lot of experimental musicians, I am quite troubled when people hate it, particularly if it's because they just don't understand it, don't care to try to understand it, or don't understand why we would make music like that.

VP – What plans are in the future?

Ryan -We have a new record being released in October on Crucial Blast so we're trying to finish that up right now. We're also hoping to do a lot of playing out this fall. We'll also be touring for about 3 weeks in October, and 11 days of that tour will be with PussyGutt, a drone/doom band from Boise. We'll be working on our next record after that, and hopefully going back to tour Europe in spring/summer 2011.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tom Smith

Tom Smith

VP: Immediately upon listening to you as a lyricist over the years, I’m reminded of the “beat” poets stream-of-consciousness writings. Does this style apply to your work, or does it all depend on the project?

TS: I was always much more attuned to the works of Breton, Artaud, Joans, Celine, and Pound, to name but five, than the writers lumped into the Beat bin. (Burroughs, however, was a profound early influence.) On occasion, a complete lyric will come to me in a dream. ("This Home and Fear," for example.) Other times, a title or fragment appears. But "stream-of-consciousness"? Never. Writing is for me a process steeped in rigor.

VP: That would explain your particular style of writing and word choices. In an age where the Dr Seuss school of rhyme dominates, your lyrics really stand out and challenge. Do you feel as a vocalist/writer that some times people aren't really trying?

TS: These days, I endeavor to resist the urge to critique others' efforts, at least in public forum. (I'm not always successful.) Am I rarely impressed? A fair question. (The answer, sadly, is yes.)

VP: Your no novice by any means, and have such a huge catalog of releases with many different artists. What keeps you interested in music?

TS: What keeps anyone interested in something (or someone) they love? Pleasure, intellectual curiosity, mystery, beauty, annoyance, pain, the acknowledgment of the absurdity of it all... If we're lucky, our passions engage and invigorate, in infinite degrees of ardor, until we die. I love having been born into this conundrum, and I've always felt extraordinarily lucky to have been blessed with the curse.

VP: What projects are you currently working on that you’d like to share with our readers?

I vacillate between wanting the world to hang on my every movement, and preventing anyone save for a super-dedicated few to know anything whatsoever of my efforts. The former urge is of course not just rooted in egomania, and the latter is more a bulwark than neurotic dogma.

I'd rather not mention Karl Schmidt Verlag, except to say that if people want to know more, they are invited to discover it for themselves.

As for the larger label releases and tours, there are two To Live and Shave in L.A. box sets forthcoming (this is the twentieth anniversary and final year of the group; one of the boxes is a five-disc retrospective, and the other is a three-disc remix compilation), two TLASILA live albums recorded during the 2008 European tour, a new duo album with Kevin Drumm, new recordings from Rope Cosmetology, another book, more collaborations, a trio tour, a live aktion in May from Three Resurrected Drunkards, a solo vocal tour of Europe in the autumn, etc. Always busy.

VP: The demise of TLASILA is on the horizon and another collaboration album with Sightings is forth coming as well talk of a “solo vocal” tour in Europe. It seams like a new era for ex-patriot Tom Smith. Do you plan to retire gracefully someday or will there be someone to sample and process your dying breath?

TS: TLASILA has to die so that everyone can catch up with it. (My central assertion shall thus be irrevocably proven.)

The logical successor and thematic extension of TLASILA is Rope Cosmetology. Ohne was the poison that felled the Pope, the clarion that roused me from the corporeal to the trans-temporal.

Sightings and I are very excited about recording a second collaborative album. The lads have very sharp knives up their corrugated sleeves. And I love singing stacked harmonies with the guys. (Richard and Jon also sing well.)

What is a solo vocal tour? No accouterments. No microphones. No amplification. At least half the dates will be performed in this manner.

I'm a proud expat. Once you've been disconnected from America, you never think of living there again. No place is perfect, but...

My father was singing on his death bed. I have his genes.

Not knowing is everything. There's so much I do not know. It's the sexiest place in the world to be...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Stephen Moses of Alice Donut Interview

VP: How did you first become aware that you wanted to be a musician?

SM: I grew up in a musical family. Mostly brass. My father plays trombone, brother and uncle play trumpet. Dave Taylor (bass trombone extraordinaire) is my second cousin. Those that didn't play music made/make visual art. My father's dad played tuba, mother's dad played violin. Jazz on my father's side, classical on my mom's.

I sucked in school being somewhat dyslexic so basically, I had no choice.

I always played trombone but when I was 11 I told my folks I wanted to play drums, so they got me a guitar (not wanting to deal with the noise) but eventually they gave in and I got my first set when I was 14.

VP: So you where exposed to a lot of different music and art from and early age. Do you feel that it was natural for you to take musical experimentation as a given or where you interested in a more rooted approach?

SM: As a kid I started taking regular ol Trombone lessons, at the time I liked big band jazz, Blood Sweat and Tears & Chicago (the band) but soon after I was rocking out on drums with records & headphones (self taught).

I was also plagued with problems with my teeth: first losing the front 2 on a trampoline when I was around 11 (after years of getting them "straightened out") then when I was 18 and going to Berklee for trombone, I had my then newly capped teeth punched out by a passing stranger which also cut deep into my bottom lip. This severely fucked my trombone playing. Luckily I had the drums to maintain some semblance of sanity.

VP: Quite possibly the most bizarre reason for switching instruments I’ve ever heard! It seams to have worked out well in the end! So did you stay at Berklee or did you venture out on your own?

SM: I always wanted to play drums (and trombone) but the punch in the mouth helped seal the deal and I put the bone down for a few years.

I went to Berklee for 3 semesters and just kinda hung out there for the 4th, not enrolled in school. At that point my musical interests had little to do with what was going on there.

I had my drums set up in a rented space in an indoor garage near Berklee and I was jamming with my friend Peter Borno who introduced me to a lot of cool music. We played together for many years in NYC.

VP: How did you meet the members of Alice Donut?

SM: An ad in the Village Voice: "Rock band seeks drummer. We have gigs." Sounded good to me so I went. They liked me, I liked them. They had a band called The Seabeasts. I was in "Giant Metal Insects" but the gigs were too few. After my second audition I lit a bone when we were packing up. This may have helped them with their decision... The name Alice Donut came later.

VP: Your still with them to this day. Most bands don’t last two years, what’s the reason behind the longevity?

I guess it's cause we love what we're doing and care about each other. There are no big ego trips or drug issues to get in the way. We're like a family together and it's been that way from the start. We're supportive of each other and know our individual strengths and weaknesses and understand that we all have both.

VP: What bands are you into right now? What is keeping your interest in music alive?

SM: Sleepytime Gorilla Museum completely blows my mind. I listen to them all the time and continue to hear new stuff [in the music] that knocks me out.

I also listen to a lot of 60's + jazz... Miles, Trane etc.

My interest in music is still alive because I still haven't gotten it where I want it. I'm still reaching for it.

VP: I guess that’s always the goal, isn’t it. Trane himself always claimed to be searching for something. What’s in the future for you now?

SM: Alice Donut continues to write new stuff. Michael and Dave (the guitars) and I get together every week to play and write, while Tom and Sissi (singer and bass player) who live in N.C. do the same and mail ideas back 'n forth. That's how we wrote and recorded the last album Ten Glorious Animals.

I have a trio called Lambic Jones playing gigs around N.Y. (Percy Jones on bass)

There’s one or two groups I play with once in a while and I'm working on my solo thing DRUMBONE. I do some gigs here and there and I've got a bunch of stuff "in the can" but it seems to be taking WAY longer than I'd hoped to finish the CD. Oh well.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Solar Skeletons

VP: The Solar Skeletons are a duo combination of RIPIT and TZII yet sounds completely different from your individual solo works. How has working together compiled this genre defying sound?

SS: We both have, for sure a different background: TZII, after drumming in his teenage years in a rock band, was more into the Free Tekno scene, while RIPIT started as a Black Metal guitarist then experimenting with cheap drum machines and FX. But both of us were playing different genres, with each time our personal touch, of course. We both met in the underground Parisian scene, where we both found a mutual accomplishment. Before establishing SOLAR SKELETONS, we did some collaboration, where our own styles had their places and functions: RIPIT banging beats and TZII laying down huge maps. We did tours together and on our USA one, in January 2006, at DC9, Washington DC, we performed together and found out a new way to do it: we wanted to start a project where we could play any genre of music we liked and further beyond. That's the prime idea about SOLAR SKELETONS, any genre, and any technique... but of course, you can still hear both of our personal touch in any of our recordings. As we know each other since a long time now, personally and musically, we are very fast to write music, as somehow we use the same language.

VP: You are both multi instrumentalists as well, applying bass, guitar, and trumpet to the Solar Skeleton Sounds. Do you find it easier to write music out before hand, or do you jam and experiment to work out your songs?

SS: Basically, Eric is playing the bass, trumpet, drums, percussions, synthesizers, and vocals; Nyko is playing guitars, synths, vocals, and both of us having also our noisy tools of our own.

We don't really have a proper technique of writing our music; the common point is that all happens in studio. For example there's the improvisation way, where we plug the gears we want to use in purpose to give a certain atmosphere to a track (all acoustic, all electronic or both); or the pre writing one, where there's a composition step before execution, but this composition is mainly talking and drawing of a time line. We record our part and there is, depending of the track, quiet a lot of post editing and mixing. So the whole process of composition is really a studio thing. And we also often collaborate with other musicians, or guesting them on some songs. We both don't really know how to write music on paper in the classical way, we prefer recording straight, which is faster as we skip a step. For the composition, it often happens like one of us as an idea, like a guitar riff or a synth sound, and the other one will come on top of it.

Our ideas also often comes from random discussions, where a vision of a track appears, like we would say "let's do a dubby track with the stuffs we recorded last time to test this gear", then both of us will think about it on his own and we will confront our thoughts after few days and start recording. But some other times, we will jam on stage and will come back in the studio trying to reproduce this jam (our at least its prime ideas) in order to construct it as several tracks.

So as you see, there are no rules or technique, everything is permitted and that's what is exalting in this project.

VP: Do you have a concept behind your album: “Scavengers Ov Beliefs”?

SS: "Scavengers Ov Belief" is a collection of 4 tracks exploring 4 facets of musical heaviness: from fast stoner with martial crooning, to bluesy sludge, from gospel black metal power noise, to synthetic drone core.

For this record, each songs can be taken as a musical concept: dedication to the soul-passing bird, the vulture, with some Sun worshipping blasphemy thru a heathen gospel telling the story of a disabused Christian who will turn his belief into Lucifer and will finally realize that none but the Sun has the power on us all. You can also find the French Magick sound: “La Baguette!” and also a Jarmusch's Dead Man reference, with a sample of Nobody himself: "stupid fuckin' white men!”

This LP is some kind of an absurd kaleidoscopic vision of humanity, in this sense it reflects the Solar Skeletons philosophy: we feed with the non-sense of human's beliefs and regurgitate it in an even more idiotic way.

VP: Do you believe humanity needs to be destroyed in order to be reborn?

SS: Well, not so simply (even if you can build beautiful things from ashes), the main problem with humanity is that most of people's beliefs are dead-ends! All obey the sun, if the sun explodes everything is finished, it's as simple as that!! So people should understand that they have to follow the sun archangels, the solar skeletons, if they want to be reborned. Otherwise they will be doomed to roam forever into the purulent ashes of their gone civilization.

VP: Is Music, Drugs, Love and/or Violence the new religion of the world and how can we gain enlightenment from this?

SS: These elements are double-sided... they can help to enlighten, but also can enblind your soul. They are all strong propaganda weapons. The mission of the Solar Skeletons is to use them as far as possible to enlighten human race until blindness, therefore they use those artifacts to establish the asservissement to the Law of the Sun. Human race is already a servant of this Law, but is too wrongly focused to other non-sense beliefs since too long.

VP: What would you like on your tombstone?

SS: We are sons of the big bang so our death should coincide with the end of our solar system!!! But there is billions of suns in the universe to establish new colonies and accomplish our crusade. So in some sense we are eternal.

Dig some tracks from the band and save your soul:

Monday, January 4, 2010

Andrew Barker

VP: When did you first pick up the drums and how did you become interested in Jazz as an art form?

AB: I got my first drum in 1981 when I was 10. My dad had a few Art Blakey records, and my Grandfather gave me some Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa records, so I was aware of it early on. But my first gigs were in church, and my dad taking me to fish frys to play with a local country band. Later I played in high school bands, and in rock and punk bands. But it was really from listening to records like Miles Davis' "Four and More" with Tony Williams, or any of the classic Coltrane quartet with Elvin Jones that really informed me of the possibilities of the drums, and seemed like a departure from the often corny elements of jazz that I had heard before. Hearing records by people like Sun Ra, Albert Ayler, or Art Ensemble of Chicago really opened my eyes to a new spectrum of music.

VP: Do you find that you’re free to apply elements of punk and rock style drumming into avant-garde jazz technique?

AB: Absolutely. We're all free to apply elements of any form into any music. Who's going to stop us? The music police? Wire magazine? Wynton Marsalis? But really, when people get trapped into tiny, carefully labeled music boxes...that's when the trouble starts. It's one thing to learn and appreciate traditional elements, but when the curiosity stops there, things can get boring. In fact, I don't like to present myself as a "jazz" drummer. I'm just as much of a county, rock, experimental, or metal drummer as I am a jazzer.

I've done recordings and countless gigs with vocalists like Kelly Hogan, Chris Lee, Faith Kleppinger, and groups like Melts, Delarosa, and The Holy when I hear "oh yeah, Andrew is a free jazz guy"'s annoying. I pride myself on playing in a wide variety of situations -- I can enjoy playing brushes on a standard like "Satin Doll" just as much as playing completely freeform improvisation, or a rock tune. Ultimately, it's more about how the music sounds, not prescribed genre specifications.

VP: The Music Police will try to stop you, but it's our job as musicians to destroy all concepts! More and more people with backgrounds in Metal, Punk, Rock, and Noise are playing Jazz or experimenting with elements of it in their own music. (Example: Zu or Mats Gustafsson's work) With this some of the older Jazz musicians like Daniel Carter are working with Noise Artists (Ghost Moth). Is any of this music being produced really Jazz or is it a new direction in music, yet to be labeled?

AB: I think it's up to the artists themselves to classify what they do...or not. Ultimately, those labels have little to do with music. Back in the 60's, certain jazz critics classified John Coltrane as "anti-jazz," and that was the so-called classic quartet with Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner, and Jimmy Garrison! Not even the really far out stuff with Rashied Ali, they were calling his music "anti-jazz"... music that is now considered "classic"! If musicians and listeners were to let feeble-minded critics decide how to classify their music, we'd all be doomed to a life of reruns and leftovers. Hopefully, there will always be music that defies classification.

VP: What's some of your favorite music to listen to right now? What bands are you interested in?

I listen to all kinds of music constantly, especially now with all the diverse content online. I'm still an avid record collector, and I just picked up some great LPs in Atlanta, GA while visiting my folks...records by Sun Ra, The Fall, Tiroro and his Voodoo drums, Wanda Jackson, George Jones, Cecil Taylor, Jimmy McGriff, and Lefty Frisell. In the last few years I've been getting back to much of the heavy music that I was into in my teens and 20' Melvins, Jesus Lizard, Slayer, and EyeHateGod. I just saw EHG on a boat in NYC! It was part of the Rocksoff boat cruise concert series. They played with Pig Destroyer and Goatwhore. It was kinda surreal listening to tunes like "Sisterfucker" while the boat floated around the Statue of Liberty. It was an insane show, a boat full of stoned metalheads and no one went overboard (that I know of), and it was the most fun I've had at a show in years!

VP: What are some of the projects your working on now?

One of my current projects is my trio called ACID BIRDS, an electro-acoustic group with Jaime Fennelly (The Peeessye) on electronics and harmonium, Charles Waters (Gold Sparkle, Go: Organic orchestra) on woodwinds, and myself on percussion. It's largely improvised music, with some of my graphic scores as a launching point.

I'm also involved in a group called "Light in August," with Ryan Ingebritsen from Chicago. He puts contact mics on my drums, and manipulates the sounds through his laptop, triggers loops, and creates textures and soundscapes that fuel the improvisations. I'll be performing with both of these groups on Feb. 26th at the Issue Project Room in Gowanus Brooklyn.

I also have a new quartet with Tanya Kalmanovitch (viola), Hill Greene (double bass), and Daniel Carter (woodwinds, trumpet). So far we've done one recording session, and one gig. I hope to do more with them in 2010.

Gold Sparkle still does gigs occasionally. We just played on December 20th; a memorial concert for our late friend Thomas Peake who was heavily involved in the Atlanta music scene as a writer, and music director of WREK in the 90's. He was an early champion of our music back in the day, and an all-around great person who will be sorely missed. There were a lot of great bands on the bill, including DQE, FLAP, The Purkinje Shift, San Augustin, and the Fourth Ward Afro-Klezmer ensemble. The concert raised a good amount of money for Thomas' favorite charity, the East Atlanta Kids' club.

The project that I have been most involved with over the last year is my slow metal band, HALLUX. It's been a great change of pace for me, as I'm playing guitar and writing all the music. I had been making demos of the songs by myself over the last couple of years, and then hooked up with my friend from the Atlanta days Hans Chew (D. Charles Speer) on drums to flesh them out. Later, we were joined by artist Jake Klotz on vocals, and the great Jason LaFarge (Pineal Ventana, Seizure's Palace recording) on bass. Since then, we've been doing about a gig a month, and just finished mixing our debut record. We plan to release a limited vinyl LP in 2010. I think I really needed a break from the preciousness and self-importance of the so-called avant garde in NY. Though I've played guitar a bit over the years, this is my first real band on the instrument.

HALLUX's music is decidedly simple, noisy, and heavy on the riffage. It's great fun, and a much-needed respite from the things I’ve been doing over my last 12 years in NY.

VP: A career full of diversity indeed. What final words do you have for our readers?

AB: Since I was a kid I've been very lucky to be surrounded by great musicians, and most of what I've been able to accomplish has a lot to do with what I've learned from them. I can't imagine my life without music in some form. I believe that music is in everyone, and it's a component of human existence that separates us from the beasts. People who spend their time denigrating or categorizing other people's music are just missing the point. People hear and relate to music in so many different ways that music criticism becomes a pointless endeavor. So many Frank Zappa quotes come to I'm gonna shut up and play my guitar now.