Transparent purple vinyl, first 150 copies come with limited edition 12×16 risographed print. Listen to a couple samples and pre-order HERE or in the player below.
Releases November 5th 2015 in partnership with Pleasence Records.
Transparent purple vinyl, first 150 copies come with limited edition 12×16 risographed print. Listen to a couple samples and pre-order HERE or in the player below.
Releases November 5th 2015 in partnership with Pleasence Records.
Erm & Nickname‘s Woodland Ritual fits into that oddly obscure-yet-pervasive niche of outsider music lodged in between free-jazz, early Faust-ian experimentalism, ambient electronics, primal therapy, and neo-pagan psychedelic rituals. It boasts a rich darkness as well as an ephemeral light, not unlike the campfire in the East Sussex woodlands it was recorded around. I chatted with the duo about their unusual, magical recording experience, which just happens to be the latest release in our Extra Limited Runs series (order it HERE).
Arachnidiscs Recordings: Tell me a bit about Erm & Nickname. Who are you and what’s up with this recording?
Nickname: Erm & Nickname are Andrew Newnham and Nicholas Langley. We met at the age of twelve and almost immediately chose the aliases Erm & Nickname for making radio-style tape recordings and comedy videos. We were both enthusiastic owners of recorder-Walkmans so we eventually accrued hundreds of hours of improvised radio, comedy, songs and general silliness, most of which will never see the light of day.
Fast forward about twenty eight years and the Erm & Nickname personas can become a useful psychological retreat for us. We escaped into the woods of East Sussex for four days armed with only battery-powered gear and the sole intention of making music. Not to record an album or work on a cohesive project, but to immerse ourselves in the therapeutic music process. We recorded rock songs, funk tracks, comedy numbers, but sooner or later the wood spirits always took over. They enveloped us, spoke through us. Our thin electronic sounds became one with the crackle of campfires and the wind through trees. The constant activity of arachnids, birds, insects and worms seemed to transmit both the life voice of creation and the deadly sirens’ call into the ground. The song cycle ends with Hope.
There’s this Buddhist proverb “Living without hope is like burying oneself,” which should be the album’s tagline really. It was truly an unintended deep, personal, musical and lyrical experience for both of us….
ADR: You say the cycle ends with “Hope” but it literally ends with a scream. Is “Hope” to you a primal scream in the wilderness?
Nickname: That’s not really a scream, just a thing we do at the end of recordings to make each other jump. We love to unsettle ourselves.
ADR: It definitely unsettled us every time it came around during the dubbing. EQ’d perfectly to sound exactly like someone standing on the walk outside our front door.
Nickname: A primal scream in the wilderness though? Sure that can symbolise hope. Screams for help, mating calls — making sound always involves some form of hope, I’d not really thought about it, but maybe that’s the main function of making music, to hold onto hope!
Erm: It’s almost that there is hope; getting through tough times and challenges… But around the corner something new rears its ugly head. Just when u think its all “gonna be alright” for a time it is… then the dark comes. It is like a cycle… with hands held; with support of others it is conquered for a time…
ADR: I’ve always wanted to record something in the woods but haven’t organized it. Tell me a bit about how you found it affected the recording experience as opposed to recording in a studio setting or at a jam space or something.
Erm: Didn’t feel influenced by life surroundings. We were shut off with no other human contact. Within the three days all life distractions faded. The only thing left was our subconscious. Working in solitude with limited equipment and resources allowed a more relaxed and spiritual result. Those limitations allowed us to let go of ourselves…within time our woodland surroundings, crackling fire, played it’s important part. We allowed the woods and our emotions to take over.
Nickname: Definately. It was good to be away from a computer. Limitations are really positive for songwriting. The play-to-work ratio improves.
ADR: I’m a big proponent of imposing limitations to spark creativity. So what is your usual musical modus then? When you say “good to be away from a computer” is it all Ableton Live and VSTs?
Nickname: Ha, God no, sometimes I think I should try that as I’ve only done three or four tracks that way. I used to just use internal ‘sequencers’ on synths and hardware, and quantised everything. No computers at all. Then I got bored with electronic music and stopped for five years. Since then I started using a computer to record mostly live stuff, as well as sound processing, mixing and mastering. But for this project we were using just a portable recorder, which is how Erm and I always used to record actually.
ADR: When you pitched the album to me, I noted what I sort of thought was a Coil “unplugged” vibe. When I was listening to it over and over and over doing the dubbing, I began to notice perhaps more of a Nurse With Wound feel, perhaps specifically the vocals from their collaboration with Stereolab, actually. You said the Coil comparison was interesting because Erm doesn’t know them, though you of course are a fan, as are most people you make music with. Over on your side of the pond is there a large groups of people who are into the whole Coil / Throbbing Gristle /NWW / Current 93 scene?
Nickname: I really don’t know. Whenever I’ve met someone that I wanted to do music with, it’s turned out they’ve been really into Coil. That’s happened with at least three of my longest-running and significant collaborations anyway. Now it’s happened in a different way, it’s the first time someone made the comparison I think. Other than my own particular kind of music-people though, nobody I meet seems to know who they are. I’m not that familiar with Nurse With Wound but I love what I’ve heard. They seem to be interested in some similar areas to The Vitamin B12. And I do music with somebody who’s friends with members of NWW too so I should pay more attention really. I know I don’t like Current 93. I guess there are thousands of very keen fanatics rather than millions of fans. Coil were just so inspirational. I think that anyone who hears them is compelled to create with sound. It’s the overwhelming freedom of possibility in their music. They were very generous and kind with their time — with their fans — too. I know this for a fact.
ADR: NWW have a pretty vast catalogue that can be hard to delve into. Results may vary. I definitely am not a fan of Current 93 either. They sound like Jack Black doing a goth parody to me, though clearly many would disagree. But I was asking about Coil precisely because of how you put it: “Other than my own particular kind of music-people though, nobody I meet seems to know who they are”. I’m fascinated by that odd mixture of their being a seemingly pervasive, universal influence for experimental musicians of, shall we say, a certain age, yet remaining almost entirely underground even with—or almost in spite of—all the Trent Reznor connections.
My question here is, with your own particular kind of music-people, do you think its hearing music like Coil’s that compels them to create sound or that a band like Coil appeals to a certain kind of music-person? Who’s the chicken, who’s the egg?
Nickname: I’m pretty sure they were all doing music before hearing Coil, but it’s very encouraging to hear music that is outside of genres that can also be very moving and intimate. Not sure if young people are interested in Coil at the moment, but they will be at some point I think, it’s quite prophetic, or futuristic, in some respects. Technological folk music, which is where the music-making process is headed I think. So, not so much chicken and egg as chickens watching one of their own fly over the fence.
ADR: I hope you’re right about their music enduring—it does have a timeless quality to it. Though I wonder without anyone in that camp still alive if anyone’s in charge of their catalogue. I’d almost expect there were clauses in their wills to burn all the master tapes [*during the course of conducting this interview we excitedly learned their lost mid-90’s album Backwards is being released by former—and still living—member Danny Hyde].
Anyway, you mentioned The Vitamin B12, which is another of many projects you’re involved with. Are these all different “nicknames” for you or are these actual bands?
Nickname: Not me. The Vitamin B12 is an umbrella term for a wide range of artistic projects that nearly always include Alasdair Willis. Mostly, it’s a free-improv group. I’ve done 14 complete albums with them but that’s basically piss in the ocean of a really huge body of work. Hz is just me. Babylon was also Erm & Nickname.
ADR: You mentioned Buddhism earlier. Is Buddhism something that informs your creative process?
Nickname: I don’t think so.
ADR: In that case, what does inform your creative process?
Nickname: For this project it’s very loose. It’s playing in the sense of children playing rather than instrumental playing. You could say the process is informed by our long history, reverting back to being kids. We also do a lot of jokey stuff which is the other side of this.
Erm: Working with Nickname for over two decades makes improvising more possible. We seem to know how each other are going to play. I find that starting songs by improvising can allow my inner self to come out. I’m quite spiritual; so allowing my inner self to flow into music seems to work.
Nickname: Spiritual yes, but you might also say witchy or seer-like. I think you described the lyrics as almost channeling at one point. It certainly felt like we acknowledged some ‘demons’ out in the woods. I think your stream of consciousness took a life of its own?
Erm: You’re right there! It certainly was music therapy in the woods…. [laughs] Well, maybe just for me. Maybe I/we needed to face the demons in order to move on? Whatever it was… it was a great escape, a good time out; and its inspired me to do more!
Woodland Ritual released on September 25th. You can order it HERE.
Interred Views is an interview series with Arachnidiscs Recordings artists. This interview was conducted by Jakob Rehlinger.
Pro-duped CD-R, glossy thermal print, lotus-fold envelope. 50 copies.
Based out of Hamilton, Ontario, LERO (aka Ben Dyment) is a solo project in operation since 2012. Shiftless, transient – secret gardens, slow drones and static hiss/hum, influence into expression. Plain hymns honest with pure truth airs.
CALL IT: Left-field folk, psychedelia, dream-pop, post-rock, ’90s revival, older bands ’90s bands were influenced by.
SONIC COUSIN TO: Low, Beck, Thurston Moore’s mellow-yellow side, Anamai.
Based out of Hamilton, Ontario, LERO (aka Ben Dyment) is a solo project in operation since 2012. Shiftless, transient – secret gardens, slow drones and static hiss/hum, influence into expression. Plain hymns honest with pure truth airs. We’re releasing his album Trichomes on August 28th, 2015, so we had a chat about The Hammer vs. The Big Smoke, inspiration and suede desert boots. You can order the limited edition CD HERE.
Arachnidiscs Recordings: Trichomes strikes me as having a ’90s bent. Perhaps not in the way many people think of ’90s music, but in the abstract dream-pop style of a band like His Name Is Alive or Labradford’s ambient post-rock. And, to me, “Cattleya” has bit of a Mellow Gold era Beck feel. Are you influenced by that era or those kinds of bands?
Lero: Not at all, but I find it really interesting that you’d make that connection. A lot of my influences from that era are probably closer to that general assumption of ’90s music, actually — bands like Unwound, Royal Trux, Joan of Arc, etc. I think I get where you’re coming from with Mellow Gold on “Cattleya” though, but for what it’s worth at the time I recorded that I was listening to a lot of SMiLE-era Beach Boys.
ADR: I’d be pretty surprised if Beck wasn’t listening to a lot of SMiLE-era Beach Boys back then, actually.
Lero: That’s a good point, yeah. I think everybody goes through a SMiLE phase at some point.
ADR: I’ve never gone through a SMiLE phase. Or Pet Sounds, even. I don’t get the Brian Wilson worship at all.
Lero: I think if you strip Brian from the band identity and really view his work during that mid ’60s period, you see someone with a lot of the same ideals that you find in current tape culture/weird music scenes. All the improvisational and avant methods that say you or I might employ in our work, he was doing in a studio setting with a full group of professional session musicians and a major label budget at his disposal. He tried to advance pop music into a higher art, but it was too complicated — his audience wasn’t willing to move with him in a way he understood, and I don’t think he even fully understood where he was looking to end up. What appeals to me about his music is that sense of abandonment; he’s pushing as hard as he can to get somewhere further away from his origins and closer to his ideals, and when it works it’s fantastic.
ADR: See, that’s what people always say. I’ve tried to listen to his music from that angle for years but just don’t hear it. It makes me feel like part of my brain is missing. Because all these people whose opinions I respect can’t be completely off-track, right? I think it’s something basic like I just don’t like his chord progressions and melodies.
Lero: I know what you mean. I think with Brian and musicians of his stature most people insist “you HAVE to like them!!!” which is the wrong approach.
ADR: Any other ’60s musicians you particularly respect?
Lero: There’s a lot of people [from that era] that I like. I listen to a lot of East Coast and West Coast bands from that period on an equal level, which is still seen as taboo by some people — the whole ‘if you like the Velvets you have to hate the Airplane’ bullshit. It’s my favourite decade for jazz, too — people like Pharoh Sanders, John and Alice Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Albert Ayler. Impulse is one of my favourite labels, and almost everything they put out then was great, which is a pretty impressive track record.
ADR: I didn’t know I was supposed to hate Airplane. That hip-hop feud goes back further than I thought. But yeah, that 1966-72 period for exploratory jazz is pretty infallible — whatever the record label. It’s hard to go wrong just randomly buying a jazz record with that copyright date on it. The profile photo on your Bandcamp is a picture of your guitar with an Impulse sticker on it. I noticed because I have one on my guitar too.
Lero: I was actually going to bring the sticker up — I saw yours when I was looking up Arachnidiscs online a while back.
ADR: We’re like sisters. I don’t hear a lot of actual “jazz” on your recordings. Does it represent more of an approach for you?
Lero: I think it represents more of an inspiration and influence on my thinking than my playing, and usually when it filters through it’s in a way that no one else would probably notice. Jazz makes up a large degree of my daily listening though, and the exploratory approach that you find in a lot of those records is something I try to always follow in my work, even if I’m not playing in an overt jazz style. “Ayler” is one of those tracks for me, how it sort of moves without a clear path and doesn’t wait for you to pick it up right away, hence the title homage. “Trellis” on Eye Hospital is another of those. I do want to get into a stronger jazz area with my work at some point, but I’d have to do it with other people—I wouldn’t be able to fully express myself in that way right now on my own.
ADR: When you’re recording, how conscious of influences are you? Is there a target you’re aiming for or do you just throw stuff against the wall?
Lero: I’m really conscious of influences when I’m recording, because I derive a lot of direct inspiration from whatever I’m soaking up at the time. There’s very specific targets, though I let them evolve as the process grows. I do try to keep each album fairly specific in its intent. If I come up with an idea that’s strong but really dissimilar to the other tracks, I’ll save it for a later project rather than force it in. I hope that the albums I’ve done carry the same sense of individuality in them that I feel when I’m making them.
ADR: Your Bandcamp displays a prolific output. In fact, you’ve released three albums since Trichomes. Are you one of those guys who’s never far away from a recording device?
Lero: You got me [haha]. I like to maintain a steady stream of output when I can. I’m the type of person who gets pretty obsessive with their interests, and I get inspired pretty easily, so I try to get as much as I can out of each area and see how I can adapt it into my own identity.
ADR: How do you see your identity?
Lero: I see identity as being something just slightly out of grasp, you know? If you reach too far it becomes intangible, but if you let it be it can surprise you with its strength. I hope that my music comes across as possessing some inherent traits and a healthy sense of personality at its core. Whenever I have to put down a genre I say ‘left-field folk’, which for me is a point of reference to the pure, weird sounds of Early American music. Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music compilation that he made for Folkways is an eternal well of influence for me, and it’s arguably the best source for what I’m talking about. Listening to those songs, you can hear everything filtered through the strange introversion of each performer. Each person sounds true to their own spirit, and that’s an element that I directly take as a guide for my own sense of self. The ‘left-field’ comes in with everything else that surrounds my music; you’d have to have a pretty obtuse sense of humour to take my lyrics as protest songs, and a lot of where I’m coming from is more Saturn than rural America, but that feeling of inward sustenance is what I strive for, no matter where I seem to be pushing the music towards stylistically.
ADR: Speaking of the American Folk tradition. In Canada it’s been an inescapable shadow since the 1950’s. Do you see there being a distinct Canadian musical identity?
Lero: Somewhat. I think it’s purity is usually either exported and distilled or else turned into a niche. I’ve never really been sure how to determine it, honestly. Do you see a clear identity?
ADR: I think it used to be more of a thing. Like Great Big Sea sound really Canadian. There’s no mistaking them for an American or UK band, even playing sort celtic music, they’re super Canadian sounding. And someone like Bryan Adams sounds distinctly Canadian somehow compared to his American counterparts Springsteen or Mellencamp or Tom Petty. But now it ‘s harder to pick out a Canadian artist out of a pile of new releases. So I don’t know anymore. I think that’s why I asked.
Lero: I agree with that a lot, yeah. A label like Arbutus is distinctly Canadian in its roster, but Braids or Grimes or anyone on there never really sounds ‘Canadian’.
ADR: No, Braids don’t sound Canadian. They sound Icelandic to me. Specifically, they sound like Björk.
Lero: Yeah, that’s an immediate relation to my ears as well.
ADR: Since we’re on the topic of geography, you’re based out of Hamilton, Ontario. For a few years now The Hammer’s been hyped as the “next Portland”, a sort of artistic oasis on the rise for creative types from Toronto who need to move somewhere less expensive. Does it live up to that hype yet?
Lero: I don’t think anyplace can really live up to its hype, especially when it’s coming from outside. To me there’s a clear delineation between the mindset of most people directly involved in the arts community here, and those just outside or far removed from it. The first group is focused on simply maintaining a level of creation/creativity, while the latter is eager to capitalize on it but a bit misguided (like when you have people proclaiming James Street North as an ’emerging arts scene’ for nearly 10 years now). It’s like any other city of its size, really — there’s a handful of good venues and good artists and a dedicated community to keep it going. I have noticed an influx of Toronto influence seeping into the general environment over the last few years, which can be a bit of a grey area, but then again there’s always been a bit of a complex relationship between Hamilton and Toronto.
ADR: Yeah, anywhere there’s always the capita-A “Arts” and then everything else that’s actually going on. In Hamilton is the scene the sort that allows for anyone who’s interested in taking part by just getting out there an doing it? As opposed to, say, Toronto where due to the sheer amount of competition in a huge city it can be pretty hard for a new band to get gigs when they start out. Is Hamilton a tough nut to crack?
Lero: No, nowhere near what Toronto seems to be like. Anyone can generally get something going here pretty easily, and people help each other out on a regular basis. What’s great is when the ‘weirder’ bands play bills together out of necessity/overlap and you get shows with a lot of diversity, rather than seeing 18 hardcore bands that all sound identical.
ADR: The other problem with Toronto—here’s where I inevitably get on my negativity soapbox—is there seems to be about a pool of 200 people into the weird music scene (perhaps more for the bands that skew punk). Recognizable faces you see at all the shows. But any given night there’s no less than three great shows drawing from that pool so everyone ends up with 17 attendees. Especially if you have the bad luck (or lack of foresight) to have your show booked the same night as something like Feast In The East. My feeling about smaller centers is maybe there’s fewer heads in the scene but you get them all out to your show because it’s the only thing going on that night. Or maybe I’m looking back at small-town life with rose-tinted glasses.
Lero: It’s true that with a smaller area you tend to get a higher concentration of people to each show, but there’s still a lot of times I’ve been at shows with 17 people here too. I think all those little factors that have nothing to do with the music, like the weather, day, venue, hype, etc, have more of an influence than we’d like to admit.
ADR: I don’t know about Hamilton but the slightest bit of rain in Toronto means you go down from 17 to 10 or less. But I wouldn’t know. I try not to leave my house for anything so I don’t go to shows if it’s raining. I’m pretty ecstatic if it starts to rain. “Yes! I don’t have to go!” But maybe people congregate to get out of the rain. So, I guess I wouldn’t know.
Lero: Yeah, there’s a bit of that here too. I get that excuse mentality sometimes when I’m going to Toronto for shows, when distance is an added factor. Rain’s good once you accept it, or if you’re not wearing suede desert boots.
ADR: Having grown up on the west coast, I actually kinda love rain. I just use it as an excuse. But speaking of desert boots, what’s on the near or distant horizon for Lero?
Lero: I just finished up an album last month entitled In Sunset a Glow Glory that’s largely improvisational/instrumental and plays as a soundtrack of sorts. Beginning work on a new album called Sapid Origin that might bring out some new sounds to the melting pot. There might even be some live Lero on the horizon too, which could be pretty interesting…
ADR: Live is life.
Interred Views is a series of interviews with Arachnidiscs Recordings artists. This interview was conducted by Jakob Rehlinger.
Arachnidiscs Recordings is happy to officially announce the release of the first batch of our Extra Limited Run (XLR) series. The XLR releases will run a mere 5-20 copies per title (usually ten), C40s, yellow-backed box, hand-labelled, dubbed at home in the arachnid’s lair and possibly blessed with incense (only because the incense holder happens to sit beside the tape deck).
Already the first edition of Heraclitus Akimbo‘s A Part of My Inheritance is sold-out, but another (final?) run being dubbed. Stay tuned. Final copies of the other releases are still available right now…
Louis Law: Hirudinea
Psychedelic, Beefheartian lo-fi blues from an Englishman in Utrecht. Bombastic and compelling.
Analog synthesizer and space echo meditations on the red planet and the god of war. Retro sci-fi soundtrack vibes for lucid dreaming.
UPDATE: SOLD OUT
Heraclitus Akimbo: A Part of My Inheritance
As mentioned, the 1st edition of this ambient/drone/minimalist composition masterstroke is sold out. But a 2nd edition is in production to coincide with the Zine Dream fair in Toronto on August 16th. Keep an eye out for announcements and in the meantime check the album out below—it’s pretty fantastic.
UPDATE: Two copies from the 2nd Edition are in the store!
While still seated on the patio of the Victory Café after chatting about their grunge-era regrets, it was suggested that Jakob Rehlinger (BABEL) and Heraclitus Akimbo (better known as sound archivist Joe Strutt of the esteemed Mechanical Forest Sound blog) should interview each other about their respective releases in Arachnidiscs’ new Extra Limited Run series. BABEL’s MARTIALIS and Heraclitus Akimbo‘s A Part of my Inheritance are both forty minutes long and both involve loops and keyboard-based music, but they are coming from pretty different places. These are the questions that they had for each other…
Joe Strutt/Heraclitus Akimbo: Tell me about the Extra Limited Run series.
Jakob Rehlinger/BABEL: As the name suggests, it’s very limited runs of albums or split tapes — five to fifteen copies per release. I decided I just wanted to get some blank tapes made with the pad-print of the label logo on it so I could just do limited runs of things sorta cost effectively, but still look kinda official. Honestly, for some releases, ten copies is all that’s needed. When I do a run of fifty of something, I give the artist twenty copies and maybe I sell fifteen pretty quickly. But the remaining five or so sit in my basement forever, slowly dwindling down until it sells out years later. Sometimes I think, “well, maybe I should have only made ten copies.” And this way, if need be, make another ten copies. That’s kinda the philosophy behind it, less waste.
[As it happens, the first run of A Part of my Inheritance has already sold out in pre-orders before the July 27th release date. Naturally, second run is planned and Jakob is wondering if he should’ve done it as a regular release.]
I think it’s very important that an album has some form of physical release, but does it need to be fifty or a hundred copies? Or does it only need to be ten copies for the real die-hards and it can have a digital life after that, but still with the legitimacy of once existing as a physical copy? Which is something I cannot let go of. I have zero interest in turning the label into a digital label. That’ll never happen — I’ll quit before that happens.
Joe: [exaggerated table-thumping for emphasis]
Joe: Turning to your tape, I guess I’d start by observing there’s a fair number of BABEL releases…
Jakob: There are! There’s probably too many. But they’re each unique, I think. They’re each a different facet. Some bands, on their bandcamp page there’s this huge grid of a hundred releases and you start going through them and they’re all exactly the same. And you go, “Why? Why do you keep making music?” Whereas I think for the BABEL releases — to pat myself on the back — each album is quite different. I go through phases: percussive prepared guitar, synth, the earlier postrock phase…
Joe: And the same sequential variation is happening in this recent burst? Why have there been so many?
Jakob: I’m always recording. But in October, for no good reason, on a whim, I started recording a thematic album a month. It goes OCTAL, NOVUS, DECIMA, JANIFORM, FEBRIS, MARTIALIS, APRAXIA, MAZE, and then JUNIPER.
Joe: The code! Unveiled! So if you line them all up, it’ll show this long-term musical story of your development? Or decline…
Jakob: Musically, it bounces all over the place. JUNIPER is an American Primitive guitar album. Mini-album or EP. As yet, nobody wants to release it. [laughs] So it might be an Arachnidiscs release.
Joe: You can send that anonymous submission off to Revenant and see what happens.
Jakob: That’s probably a good idea. Maybe I’m aiming too low.
Joe: How many months is it going to go?
Jakob: I haven’t recorded anything in July yet. Since Mandi’s away in Europe right now, I thought I would have a whole album recorded by the time she got back. Maybe two albums. Maybe a double July album, but no. So this might be the end.
Joe: Does MARTIALIS just happen to come along at the time you’re doing the extra limited series, or did you think, “this is one that ten people would want to listen to instead of fifty?”
Jakob: That’s kinda what happened. ‘Cause lately I’ve been going out and hassling other labels into releasing BABEL material to what I think is a shocking amount of success. That they’ve agreed to put these out. OCTAL, I got Kevin Haney to release on Inyrdisk. I did NOVUS myself. DECIMA‘s gonna be released by a sub-label of Jeunesse Cosmique. JANIFORM is on Assembly Field in the UK. FEBRIS just came out on Tymbal Tapes. I think I have a label lined up for APRAXIS. So for MARTIALIS I thought this is maybe one I should release myself, as opposed to trying to get an ambient new age cassette label to put it out. It just felt like one that would be good for this series as opposed to shopping it hard on another label.
Joe: There was no one else in that “heavy Vangelis” niche that you could find?
Jakob: Well, there’s a ton of labels in that niche but I think there’s so many other people doing that I felt like it would be a harder sell… I feel like it’s one of my least unique BABEL recordings. It has the least, “that is definitely BABEL, I can tell right off the top,” whereas some of the other ones have a bit more of a unique artistic slant to them. This one, it was a bit more… it’s a good one for me to do as ten copies and see how it goes.
Although as I was dubbing the copies of all these [Extra Limited Release] albums I really got to enjoy each of them more and more, which I didn’t expect — I thought I’d hate them all by the time I got to the tenth copy. By the end, I was thinking, “wow, I really should have shopped this album to another label to do something more substantial with.” I dunno, just Stockholm Syndrome probably.
Joe: I reacted favourably to it.
Jakob: [laughs] I do think it’s good, but it’s very much a retro-synth album, which is what I was going for. Using space echo effects in a looping style. It’s definitely an aesthetic I was playing with that is well-tread ground.
Joe: Yeah, I said it jokingly a minute ago, but it seems like you’ve torqued the [early period] Tangerine Dream sound of the OCTAL stuff into a more airy Vangelis thing. But then there’s a couple little abrasive moments to wake you up.
Jakob: Yeah. I think it really works well in that aspect. As opposed to just being straight mellow new age pabulum. I think I intentionally added enough stuff that would give it a little more grit. But I feel like it’s kind of an anomaly, at least when I recorded it in March I felt it was an anomaly for BABEL. But then in April I recorded another synth album that was very pointedly synth-oriented, so I guess it’s more of a phase.
But speaking of drone-y/synth-y music based on loops, your album is definitely in that genre. Was this your first stab at it, or is it something that you’ve been secretly doing all along and now you’ve suddenly made this stuff public?
Joe: No, I’ve had other bursts before. I spent a lot more time noodling around with music before I was going to so many shows. And that tailed off once I had the blog and was recording stuff.
Jakob: Which must take up a lot of your time.
Joe: Yeah, so noodling — or recording — has been something that just hasn’t been happening for quite a while. But if you dig back, if you go on my bandcamp, there’s an ambient album there that I recorded about seven years ago. And it’s kinda the same, since I don’t know too many tricks. But instead of the loop pedal, that one was made with this toy I bought from a guy I worked with, a Mixman DM2. It’s like a DJ controller that you could play tracks with and “scratch” on like a turntable. But I accidentally found a way to use it for ambient music, by playing around with the samples that you could load onto it. I generated all these synth tones from an Electribe — an old one, the first version — using it just as a monophonic synth instead of a sequencer. So I had all these synth tones on the Mixman and “played” those to create these drones. So I always liked doing that stuff. I own three Buddha Machines, and sometimes I’d just like to crank them all up at once and live-mix them together. I tinker. Playing with the cheap, low-end gear I have laying around, like the Realistic Concertmate-500, which is the Radio Shack knock-off version of the Casio SK-1.
Jakob: That’s one thing on your album — that keyboard sounds so good. ‘Cause I definitely made a lot of recordings with that. I used to have one of those and I could never make it sound as good. I don’t think I had the know-how at the time. I was probably too [sheltered] to really have witnessed how people do this kind of stuff. So, I’d put a reverb pedal on it and expect it to sound good.
But anything that produces a tone, you can you can make an amazing-sounding synth or ambient album if you just know how to tweak the signal properly. And have the taste to be able to do it. Right? Having an innate taste, as opposed to a talent… [laughs] Taste is the most important element, I think. My problem is ego. I always insert way too much of my own ego into my music. I always want to impress somebody; that’s, way too much of a motivation for me.
Joe: It’s probably not a bad motivation.
Jakob: It’s a good one to be able to push yourself, but I think good music isn’t made when there’s any kind of ego involved… whereas I wanna impress somebody.
Joe: I’d say mine isn’t that ego-driven, except in a backhanded kind of way. Obviously you want people to be impressed by it, but my assumption is, “why in the hell would they be?”
Jakob: It’s because it’s very nice to listen to.
[When Joe transcribed this interview, he apparently deleted a paragraph around here where Jakob tells him how, when Mandi overheard Jakob listening to it, she raved about how much she loved the music not even knowing it was Joe. And how that’s even more significant because she rarely has anything positive to say about music Jakob listens to. It appears Joe is uncomfortable with praise.]
Joe: I think because I’m pretty aware of my limitations I wasn’t doing stuff that would clash. Most of what I recorded, you can just mix all of it together because I was just playing, what’s the word, diatonically? Just on the white keys. And then when I had little melodic moments, it would just be two or three notes in that scale. it’s hard to come up with something that’s an audible clunker like that.
Jakob: I can achieve that. I can go on just the white keys and somehow manage to make the most horrible, discordant racket. So, a lot of people, when they’re getting into this kind of music, they don’t try for any kind of harmony or resonance, they seem to instantly go for the noise end of the genre, as a kind of safety net. “Okay, I’ll just make things discordant. I’ve got this analog synth and I’ll just go blee-oo-wee-oo and nang-nang-nang-nang and make horrible noises.” But you seemed to avoid that altogether and you’ve definitely gone for something that’s very serene and still interesting in that Philip Glass-y, minimalist composer kind of way. Is that a conscious thing you did?
Joe: Well, I have done the opposite. I have distortion pedals and so on. I certainly enjoyed doing that when I played guitar more. And when I had my four-track I’d do that, just layers of abrasiveness. But for this stuff? Not that I dislike noise, but I wanted to make something I could listen back to…
Jakob: You were consciously creating something you wanted to listen to, as opposed to, “I’m going to do something to get on the weird drone scene.”
Joe: I’d say maybe the most immediate thing that was in my head was a piece called “Watermusic II” by William Basinski. It’s an hour long, and pretty minimal and soothing, with textures gently rubbing against each other. it’s one of the things I keep handy to listen to when I’m trying to go to sleep. I think that probably would have been in my head as much as anything else. And I was successful, inasmuch as I find my recordings quite pleasant to fall asleep to.
And I love the infinite malleability of this kind of music. I’d record eight or ten minute “takes” and then mix and layer them together afterwards in Audacity. The funny part with this stuff is, you don’t have to line it up in any particular way for it to align in a way that works.
Jakob: In this kind of music, for sure.
Joe: So there was very little effort…
Jakob: …there’s that happy accident element. You have your take or whatever, and then you line it up with some other stuff, and you realize, “well, I never would have ever consciously thought of doing this, but wow, that works really great.” I think it’s kind of a thing musicians don’t talk about when they work in this field: how much of their music is a happy accident? Literally throwing it against a figurative wall and seeing what sticks.
Joe: For the two-and-a-half hour version of Variation and Variations, I had ten sections, so I made a chart: one through ten on the left channel, then ten through one on the right, and then randomly fill in the opposite channels. And then I just went and copied and pasted that all into Audacity. Move things around so the sections line up and that was the finished product.
Jakob: That’s basically what I do with a lot of BABEL recordings, but I don’t even bother to make a chart. I just organically start doing stuff. What works, works and what doesn’t, doesn’t. I tried doing a thing where I was just recording random synth notes, thinking that I could just put them into the stretch filter in Audacity and it would all work out beautifully. Didn’t work at all. I realized I have to put a little more thought into it at the beginning stage, you can’t just randomly make noise and expect to stretch it out and edit together and have it be this brilliant disaster of an accident that turns into art.
Jakob: When you shared the picture of the tapes I posted today, your caption said something like, “I’m a little uneasy about this, I don’t want people to think I’m passing myself off as a real musician.” So, how uneasy are you about putting your own foot into the pool?
Joe: Well, I spend a fair amount of time around people who are so good at music. So to me it just feels like sheer dilettantism to say, “hey, I’m a musician too!” And worse to say it to someone who’s put their heart and soul into it, and played every day for years and worked their chops out. Even for — or especially for — people who are good enough to play freely in a way that doesn’t sound like they have chops, but who have an amazing amount of musical knowledge to fall back on. So for me to put myself in any way on their level just seems too pretentious.
Jakob: But that would be like saying, oh I dunno, Einstürzende Neubauten should never have made a record or something like that. I mean, there’s a certain period in any musician’s life — and I will, against your wishes, call you a musician — there’s a naïve period, where you’re creating something that is really spectacular. ‘Cause I think your album is really good. I was actually a little upset about how good it is, cause I was like, fuck you, this is the kind of stuff I’m trying to do with BABEL all the time but it just sounds like weird noise or something when I do it. In the art world they call it “naïve art” and when you get a certain amount of chops you can’t create like that anymore. You can’t do it — you over-think things subconsciously. About knowing why what you’re going to do isn’t going to work — that kinda ruins everything. And then you have to get to another level to be able to pull it back.
Joe: When I was thinking about what name to put on this, before I posted the stuff online, I actually had on my list of names this German word, Laienmalerei, which basically translates to “lay painting”, which is basically the same concept as you’re talking about.
Jakob: In the early ’90’s, I was a Joe Satriani shredder kind of guitar player, and I consciously un-trained myself to not ruin everything I played with hair-metal lickage, horrible tapping solos, and whammy-bar divebombs and everything that would just come out subconsciously. Un-training my actual ability to play the guitar was a very conscious thing, but I can also fall back on that technical knowledge if I need to. But I kinda purposely don’t practice very much. Always trying to get back to that naïve period.
But speaking of band names, what is the story behind “Heraclitus Akimbo”?
Joe: Way back, in the time before I was even playing guitar, maybe 2002 or so, I worked at an office job and I’d shoot the shit with a friend of mine who was also really into music. One day, we were talking about what our punk names would be. And we spent the lunch hour or whatever just coming up with lists of punk names. And one of the ones that I came up with, and that stuck with me somehow, was Heraclitus Akimbo. Lingering shades of my big crush on the Presocratics as a youthful philosophy undergrad, probably. But it’s a great punk name: it sounds both awesome and a little goofy.
Jakob: It makes me think of that Kim Mitchell album, Akimbo Alogo.
Joe: I’m not burdened by knowing that specific album.
Jakob: It’s the one with “Go For a Soda” on it.
Joe: Ah. I was just a singles guy for Kim Mitchell. So anyway, once I bought my guitar and wrote all my bad songs, Heraclitus Akimbo was the name they were under. I’ve told this story before, but to recap:
In anticipation of the terror of turning thirty, I bought a guitar. My friend at work, who I had all those list-making rock conversations with, he had a guitar and played a little, so he went with me when I bought my Strat. And we jammed a few times and stuff. He was an English major who was always secretly writing a novel he would never tell anyone about and I thought, “this is great! We’ll start a band and he’ll write the songs, ’cause he was an English major!” So after a little while, once I’d learned four chords, I started asking where the songs were. But there were no songs. So I just started pulling things out from my notebooks — all those pithy bon mots that I was collecting — and cranked out a few songs. And when I made crappy recordings of them I needed something to put on it to make it look like a fake “real album”, so Heraclitus Akimbo it was.
So that was the origin, and it had really passed out of my mind. But then, earlier this year, my father passed away. I was out in Manitoba for the memorial service, and cleaning some of the stuff out his place. And in his office, where he had all of his music, he had this whole separate pile of all the CD’s I’d sent him, set aside in their own place. So it was nice to see he had some affection for my music. We weren’t always the closest, but we’d bonded over music, and I guess he liked the fact I was doing this stuff. And I also ended up with his guitar and his Boss RC-2 loop pedal. And it was in playing with the loop pedal that I ended up sorta accidentally creating all this music. So that’s why it seemed like the logical name to put on it.
Jakob: It’s not nearly as bad as a lot of names that bedroom recordists choose for their projects. But I wondered: where did that come from? It seemed so random. What is this alter ego? So you had a conscious decision not to put it under your own name. Because in the Toronto underground scene, most people know who you are, or know your blog at least. You’ve got a lot of good will, as evidenced by the response when you posted the photo of the tape… you could just use your name. Like, why not?
Joe: Bandonyms are just better than real names. Always. Even if my name sounds a bit like a fake, made-up stage name…
Jakob: True. if I was going to make a movie about a hair-metal guy who was trying to make it, like a Rock of Ages kind of musical, “Joe Strutt” would be an awesome name for that guy.
Joe: Or a Dickensian rock novel, where your name is your character: “Strutt”.
Jakob: In high school I used to jam with a guy named Clay Caesar, and my dad would say, “he’s got such an awesome rockstar name!” And he did, it was like there was no way that name was real… Clay Caesar! [laughs]
[What Jakob neglected to tell Joe about Clay was how, shortly after he graduated high school, he went into the wooded area behind the tennis courts near his house and shot himself in the heart with a rifle.]
Joe: But yeah, I guess it never occurred to me to put my own name. To use one’s own name just seems boring. If it was, like, singer-songwriter stuff, maybe you put your own name.
Jakob: I started using the name BABEL around the turn of the century, sort of a semi-gothic electronic noise thing, and then I sort of abandoned it for a while to do Moonwood. And [around 2010] when I started re-visiting the type of stuff that would again be called BABEL, I was putting it out under the name “Rehlinger”, as if I were a composer of some renown: “Mozart… Brahms… Rehlinger!” And that lasted for about two months and a few MP3’s I posted somewhere and I realized, “I’m going to start calling it BABEL.” I’m not comfortable using my name at all, and even though I knew for a while that there had to be a lot of other people out there using the name Babel — it’s too much of a common word to be unique — it just seemed like a better route to go.
Joe: Are you familiar with the “other” Babels? Do you keep tabs on their career arcs?
Jakob: I don’t really keep track of them, but I definitely discover a new one every time I sign up for some internet service as Babel: “that name is taken.” And then I have to find some weird spelling, like “Babelmusik” or something like that because there’s a “Babelmusic” already. They’re usually techno artists, though. Oddly, I have not found a single dub artist named Babel. I feel like the Babel/Babylon thing… too obvious? How is there not a dub artist named Babel?
Joe: That’d be like evil dub, right? Babylon Dub.
Jakob: It doesn’t have to be a good Rastafarian. It could be the Satanist version of Rastafarianism. He’s totally for the cops.
Joe: He gets a haircut regularly.
Jakob: He’s a skinhead! [laughs] Lotta techno artists named Babel. Lotta flamenco, and an Italian neo-classical sort of thing. There’s an Italian metal band. They posted a video where it’s just their singer screaming into the microphone. You can’t hear the band, just an isolated vocal track, fifteen seconds of him shrieking. I was like, “Wow, this is great!” When you go into youtube, the first hit under Babel is this guy screaming and probably somebody’s gonna think that’s me. And it’s awesome.
And then, also, the Brad Pitt movie, when you google “babel” it’s all Brad Pitt movie for two pages before there’s anything resembling me. I mean, for branding I should have gone with my last name and just stuck with it and persevered and not felt awkward about it but it felt like at the time it was too hard for people to remember or even pronounce correctly. It bothers me when people say “rell-in-jer”.
Joe: Oh shit, I always have. Until two seconds ago.
Heraclitus Akimbo’s A Part of My Inheritance and BABEL’s Martialis both release on 7/27/15 along with Hirudinea by Louis Law. You can order any or all of them HERE.
Joe Strutt of the Mechanical Forest Sound blog sat down with Jakob Rehlinger, of (BABEL, Moonwood, Reverend Moon and also) The Urbane Decay to discuss the ’90s, personal identity, mercurial nature of memory, grunge typography, and Canadian nerdcore.
In a moment of admirable modesty, Jakob realized that he probably couldn’t (or at least shouldn’t) interview himself for this column on the release of his Urbane Decay EP, so he asked me to pinch hit. Intrigued as I was by his liner notes (and, I suppose, the music as well) I agreed to meet up with him on the patio of the Victory Café. Jakob had some manner of fancy beer in a goblet-like glass. I had a radler and was not mocked for doing so, which I thought was a good start.
For those of us who know Jakob in his latter-day bearded/hooded weird-music making manifestation, it takes a bit of adjustment to realize that a younger/beardless*/hoodless version of him had a fairly straight-ahead grunge-inspired (and occasionally new wave) band. (* though there might have been a goatee involved) The “mainly maudlin and mopey” Urbane Decay was mostly active between 2002 and 2009, and its bandcamp offers a slightly-baffling variety of releases with a variety of Young Jakobs emoting furiously in various degrees of earnestness and glumness, his piercing gaze almost daring you to just fucking feel the depths of his angst and heartbreak.
A comeback single for the project last summer has now lead to a new EP. Unsurprisingly, this is the work of a different musician and songwriter, exchanging heart-on-sleeve emotion for a more refracted (and dare we say mature?) recherche du temps perdu. Is it nostalgia? Yes but no — there’s a nestling here into the past’s warm bosom, but at the same time also an intense awareness that our idealised reconstructions of the past are not at all like the past itself. This is something that I used to think a lot about, and this is where our conversation begins…
All right, we’re chatting about the Cellophane EP. So, besides the musical element, the philosophical basis of this release is: “identity is a lie”. Correct?
[laughs] Do you mean, like “the concept of the EP”? It’s not really the concept of the EP, it’s just how it ended up.
You got to that by accident?
I got to that by accident. I didn’t intend for that to come across as an artistic statement.
Maybe just because I totally engaged with that…
You’re referring to the liner notes, where I talk about going back to my late teens, early 20’s, and being like: “this is all the music I listened to and I’m paying homage to it.” Then I realized: no, I actually listened to Barenaked Ladies and Crash Test Dummies and MC Hammer at the time. I had Hüsker Dü tapes and stuff, but none of the majority of my daily listening is mirrored on the tape. So it ended up becoming a lie, trying to make myself seem cool. [pause] Street cred and all that.
So, you really need a tape that shows your Barenaked Ladies and Timbuk3 influences.
I guess I could record that… or maybe I did! Maybe that really comes through as well. In my mind, this sounds like a really bitchin’ kinda Sugar meets Bleach-era Nirvana/Chapterhouse thing but maybe it just sounds like a slightly-distorted Timbuk3. [laughs] Or like Chad Kroeger fronting Barenaked Ladies or something horrible like that. At a certain point, my conception of what my music actually sounds like to other people is completely off… like, I completely missed any kind of Bob Mould influence on that tape until Ken from Everything is Geometry said, “yr Urbane Decay tape is very Bob Mould. I dig it.” And I was like, “yeah, you’re right. It’s all Bob Mould riffs!”
Grunge will out.
Yeah. I intended it as grunge with a little bit of Madchester and all that stuff from that period that I still enjoy listening to. As opposed to what I was literally listening to on a daily basis. There’s not a lot of Pogues in there. I listened to a lot of Pogues. But there’s no tin whistles.
And so is this just something that was just dying to be pushed out of you? Or was it a theoretical exercise?
It was a complete whim. Last summer, I was going back to B.C. and I knew I’d be seeing Ken [from Everything is Geometry] and we’d been part of an indie-rock scene together, so it just got me thinking about that kind of music. And then I just had this urge to write and record some of that music. So over two weekends, I recorded the EP. With five or six other songs I abandoned, ’cause they were horrifically bad. I didn’t sit around and come up with a concept, just “I feel like recording some late 80’s style indie rock.”
Did you get into a specific mind-state to do this? Did you just sit and play riffs, or did you have a grunge notebook with ideas for these kinds of songs?
From being in grunge bands and stuff back in the day, I just knew how to play the riffs. And from all my other previous attempts at shoegaze or whatever, I just knew what kind of chords to use. For the music, I’d sit down and write some riffs and the more immediate and the less I thought about it the better it would work. Some of the lyrics were stuff that was left over from the Reverend Moon album and I just sort of tweaked it a bit to be a little less apocalyptic and a little more…
Well, there is a sort of… not quite a worldview, but a world-sense to it, ’cause “taste” comes up in almost all the songs…
I suppose. I didn’t really think about that. But there were a lot of references to pizza and vomit. There’s a sort of extra set of liner notes that are going in a cheaply photocopied fold-up, sorta of the time, and I was writing some pretty pretentious liner notes for each song as if it was a re-issue thirty years on, like Lou Barlow looking back to a Sebadoh album talking about what inspired his songs, and after I was like, “wow, it’s all about food!” Food and cars or something. Weird things that pop up that I don’t know are important themes to me, but somehow I associate them with those times. I dunno.
And sound-wise, did you have specific effects and stuff that’s different then your normal setup?
Well, the guitar sound is definitely very different than what I would do with Moonwood… I tried to make it as not-psychedelic as possible, but retain a little bit of that psychedelia that alt-rock had, the tracings… all grunge guitars have a bit of a Hendrix sound, or a Tony Iommi sound, just de facto by their influences. With Moonwood, I generally try and blow that out and make it as psychedelic as possible, so I tried to strip it back. I tried to make it sound lo-fi without it actually being lo-fi. That was probably the most contrived part of it, making it sound like it was recorded on a four-track cassette though it’s actually a digital recording.
You didn’t wanna go all the way back?
Considered it. But I wanted more editing ability. There isn’t a lot of editing I ended up doing, but I wanted the drums to not be all on one track and be able to have them sound… good. [laughs] I’m not really a fan of lo-fi. Mid-fi I like. Lo-fi, except for the times where it really works well… there’s only a few true masters of lo-fi sound out there. Maybe Lou Barlow.
And there’s a lot of crappy, crappy Lou Barlow.
Yeah, on the writing end and the recording end. I guess it was more when Sebadoh went more into that mid-fi range, before they went hi-fi, there was a lotta magic there, and that’s the kind of area I was trying to re-create, if anything.
I had some era-specific regrets about some Sentridoh stuff I bought.
Yeah, I don’t think I ever found a single Sentridoh album I could get behind. And the worst part about that is I feel like it spawned so many people who felt it was totally okay to do that, and it just killed lo-fi as a genre.
You talked about the idea of coming late to the cool stuff. I know I got into Sebadoh a little later. I never heard III or Freed Weed when they came out, but I was into Harmacy and Bakesale.
Bakesale is definitely the one I came in on. And I was resistant to get into it. I can’t remember why… I think I thought the graphic design looked so shitty… that intentionally cut-up bits of National Geographic ’90’s graphic design… the intentional slacker we-don’t-care aesthetic bothered me for some reason. But once I got over that, that album is amazing. And Harmacy is kinda bad.
I haven’t revisited it, which maybe is good. I remember it was still a fairly big deal at the time when it came out.
It’s not bad. In retrospect it’s kinda lackluster where Bakesale and the three before it really hold up.
As a designer, you must have essays to write about the evils of “grunge typography“.
[laughs] I don’t know. I think I kinda got over that. There’s such a nostalgic pull toward the really terrible typography that’s on Superchunk records. I really like it in its own way — the poorly-kerned used of Helvetica, and stuff like that… stretched type, like on a Mother Love Bone tape… it’s horrible but I have such warm, nostalgic feelings for it. What I didn’t do for the graphic design for this tape that is very 90’s is like a black box with reverse type on it. I was going for more of a shoegaze look for the graphics.
The British stuff I was mostly not into at all at the time. I somehow just missed out entirely.
In Vancouver there was a radio station that played almost exclusively Britpop and Madchester stuff, in ’89 to ’91 when they went off the air, I think. Maybe ’92. So yeah, I was totally into it, ’cause I turned on the radio and you’d actually hear it. This was actually a commercial radio station, which was a weird thing… that was where I first heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and stuff, just played as part of their top 40. Way early on, super-early adopters, it was bizarre. If I didn’t have that experience, I certainly never would have heard Stone Roses, probably. Just wouldn’t have been something that would have been on my radar, ‘cept for some reference I saw in a fanzine or something. But it was getting played all the time on the radio. And I was, “wow, here’s this great new band from Britain.” And I sorta got into that whole scene through them, and it was, like, all I would listen to. When I wasn’t listening to Crash Test Dummies, of course.
It was particularly resonant when you talked in the liner notes that the Barenaked Ladies being the true face of Canadian DIY, ’cause that was so huge…
Well, totally. That’s what made me believe I could put out my own tapes, and that that would be a viable option… At seventeen, I was so anti-major labels and getting signed, I had this idea in my head that if you were going to be on the major labels, first you had to have your own Yellow Tape. [laughs] And if you got a record deal that way, that was okay, but otherwise… [pause] I was seventeen. I was crazy. I had no idea how the real world worked at all. So my band had our Blue and Red Tape.
At that time, they had distribution at HMV, so even in Winnipeg — or B.C., I guess — you could go and buy this independent tape…
…which was on this shitty, photocopied yellow card stock. It was horrific, everything about it. What was the graphic, like a hot dog? A hamburger? Some sort of shitty, hand-drawn graphic.
They were a band with the worst graphic design sense ever. I mean the Gordon cover…
Well, that 3-D, CGI graphic of a bouncing ball? That’s amazing. [laughs]
Amazing’s one word.
“Regrettable” is another.
But that was all such a big deal! The Yellow Tape, and then, at the same time, that “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” video…
…which is actually really good. It’s, like, the height of their actual artistry. Maybe because they didn’t write the song. But also far, far better than a lot of stuff than Bruce Cockburn’s ever done.
And they had legit cred! Billy Bragg was covering them!
The worst thing about them, though was… I was a fairly big, without thinking about my motivations for it, Housemartins fan for a little bit. And I was driving a friend somewhere, and she goes, “is this Barenaked Ladies?” And I suddenly realized, “oh my God, Housemartins sound exactly like Barenaked Ladies.” Where in my mind, Housemartins were like The Smiths, but jauntier. But really, they’re like a happier Barenaked Ladies. And it just destroyed that band for me. They’re like Barenaked Ladies with good graphic design, maybe.
And a socialist agenda. But the real worst thing about Barenaked Ladies was that they opened the door for Jian Ghomeshi.
[laughs] Yeah. That Moxy Früvous tape is another thing I didn’t put in the liner notes but that… I mean, I had the triumvirate: I had Barenaked Ladies, Crash Test Dummies, and Moxy Früvous in heavy rotation in my car. As were N.W.A. and Nirvana, but I had a solid Canadian nerd-rock element in my listening, with no trace of irony. I thought it was bad-assed awesome. “King of Spain”, what a great jam! [laughs] “My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors”, that’s such a clever song!
That was where I drew the line. I did not fall for Moxy Früvous. I must have just had the right mix of other random influences.
I also had the misfortune of having a girlfriend at the time who also loved that tape, and I think maybe I could have skipped over it or had a passing fancy without her influence, but I think I kinda gotta own the fact that I enjoyed Bargainville. [pause] A lot. [pause] Probably wore that tape out. It’s… horrific. [pause] In my defence, I didn’t know who Jian Ghomeshi was, I didn’t have foresight or even know he was in the band when he was the host of CBC’s Play and I started hating him immediately. But there was no Moxy Fruvous shame in my hating him. It was genuine — I just disliked that man from the get-go. Except for Moxy Fruvous, which I apparently thought was delightful. [laughs]
And it comes out in the EP.
I think some of the lyrics are just as goofy as anything those bands wrote. I mean, I probably can’t get away from that. Or I dunno, maybe I did do a reasonable facsimile of cynical slacker lyrics. I find the lyrics on the EP quite hilarious myself, but it’s supposed to be more deadpan hilarity.
It’s also just the sort of hilarity that is also something that a nineteen year old could take so seriously.
And anyone else would be like, “dude, just take off the black shirt already.”
Interred Views is a series of interviews with Arachnidiscs Recordings artists. This interview was conducted by Joe Strutt.