CALL IT: Indie rock, mid-fi, long-distance recordings, shoegazing riot grrrls and quiet boys SONIC COUSIN TO: Slumberland records bands in a literal blender, Superchunk, The Swirlies, Joanna Gruesome, Velocity Girl, Guided By Voices.
“…the EP is like an explosion…From then on, Holiday and Vosper make a hell of a lot of noise…positively pyrotechnic thanks to a slew of yelled phrases toward the end…if everything is geometry this year, it’s exciting to see what 2016 will bring.” ~ Gray Owl Point
Around about the turn of the millennium, back in Nanaimo, BC, the guys at a record store I hung out at told me they’d been to a great all-ages punk show at the youth centre and I should check the next one out. I was in my mid-to-late-twenties at the time and I remember recoiling slightly as if they’d just said, “That’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.”
But they were right. It was a great scene. This unpleasantly snarky punk teenager who’d come into the store and spew communist rhetoric had an amazing, violent, blood and vomit spewing band called The Crusties. Eventually I somehow became friends with Richard Holiday Cartwright and we started a dance-punk band called The Clap. That didn’t work out as well as we planned (probably my bad) so I started The Urbane Decay and he started Down With Everything.
To best of my recollection and understanding, Everything Is Geometry evolved out DWE. That was circa 2007 and roughly coincided with when I skipped town. Since then he and (other core member) Kristjanne Vosper have built up an impressivebody of workand he’s relocated to the far right hand coast of the country, New Brunswick. This is where I caught up with him via the magic of Facebook.
Arachnidiscs Recordings: So, I need to do an interview with you. About the tape.
Richard Holiday Cartwright: Sure. Fireaway. I’ll delay my burrito.
ADR: I don’t actually have any questions yet. Burrito it up.
RHC: Aight. I’m going to see dinosaurs in two hours.
ADR: You grew up in Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island. Now you live in Fredericton, New Brunswick on the complete opposite coast of Canada. How’s that workin’?
RHC: Its a different planet with different languages and different customs, all of which still confuse me. Three months a year its a pretty nice place. Fall and Spring.
ADR: Ontario, or Toronto at least, is only nice three months of the year too. We were spoiled back home. What about the indie music scene? I’m not sure I know what’s going on in F-town. Is anything happening?
RHC: There is a scene, one that veers in a very prog and gloomy direction… maybe not gloomy, but more gloomy than the west.
ADR: Like doom metal?
RHC: That is pure gloom. no… maybe not gloomy… but less sunshiney.
ADR: Do you think that’s influenced by the geography? Weather? Economy?
RHC: I would assume its weather related. It probably has some reactionary basis too, there’s a lot of jangly adult-oriented music on the east coast.
ADR: That makes sense. I think the reaction against Great Big Sea fuels many a band across the country.
RHC: Also, I don’t necessarily mean gloomy in a negative way… I live in a bubble where I expect everything to sound like an all ages show in BC sounds. Obviously things don’t and that’s not a bad thing and its not something I should expect. That being said, there’s a band from Sackville called the Mouthbreatherswho are pretty amazing and NVN from Saint John are pretty rad too and they do sound like a BC all ages show.
ADR: I know exactly what you mean by that. But for readers who haven’t experienced a BC all-ages show, describe what one’s like.
RHC: I wouldn’t know where to start. Ideally, Repoman-esque… I always expect every band to be a punk rock band. Or at least rooted in that
ADR: Repoman-esque describes the entire Vancouver Island scene perfectly. Though I haven’t lived there for over seven years now. Did it change much between 2007 and, say, 2014?
RHC: Nope. Maybe slightly more stoner skewing
ADR: More stoner? Vancouver Island got more stoner? How is that possible?
RHC: More dispensaries? It’s noticeably moreso.
ADR: Amazing. Are there more Bob Marley shirts?
RHC: I think that markets been over saturated for years.
ADR: That’s an understatement. But I know what you’re saying about the bands not sounding like BC all-ages shows. In Toronto the only ones that I notice really do, actually have BC roots. It seems to be something that doesn’t traverse the prairies.
RHC: Yah. It’s possibly because a lot of those bands don’t tour outside of the west coast and into the U.S.
ADR: It’s a weird thing I never really thought about before. Also the basic attitude though. Audiences and bands in Montreal seem to be more akin to BC audiences and bands. More genuinely enthusiastic and supportive.
RHC: I can see that. Halifax is similar as well.
ADR: Maybe it’s nothing to do with anything. Just small pockets of awesome.Speaking of the West Coast, KVis still there. What’s the status of EIG? Will there be a live version again?
RHC: We are in discussions of possibly doing something this summer or fall. I think the consensus is that we would like to but… you know… stuff. Time and space
ADR: It’s a lot of miles. We just drove to Montreal for a gig. That was a lot of time and space.
RHC: I saw. Did you actually play with that hood on?
ADR: It’s my new thing. The hood hides the audience from my gaze. Or vice versa.
ADR: I’m all about fucking with people’s expectations. What about new EIG material. All recorded by sending files back and forth through email?
RHC: I prefer in person, but we’ve done a few things by mail. I’m in BC twice a year. And I’ve still got half my recording gear there at my parents’. We’ll finish off a new thing in August.
ADR: Well, that’s actually more recording than Moonwood has accomplished this year. And we all live in the same city. Or same mega-sprawl at least.
RHC: I’ve asked a bunch of other people to help with the new stuff, so we’ll see if that puts a cramp in my timeline.
ADR: If I’m one of those people. And I think I am. I will do my best to mess things up.
RHC: Dinosaurs was kind of boring.
ADR: Yeah, I haven’t been very motivated to go.
RHC: If you’re not going to see it in a theater, it’s probably not worth seeing. It’s loud and crashy and full of computers fighting other computers
ADR: Like the computers get up and walk around and bash each other?
RHC: Something like that. Were your parents excited about that picture in the paper. Or were they are the ones that sent it in?
ADR: Very. People keep walking up to them in the grocery store, or where ever, and asking them about it. No, it was arranged by the NXNE publicity people. I have no idea why they thought it was something that needed doing. Just spreading the brand to retirement communities across the country I guess. I sent in that picture myself, actually. It’s from my wedding. It was the only one I had that met the insanely huge resolution requirements. They wanted an 8×10. If you play NXNE, there’ll be stories in the Nanaimo Bulletin about you.
Guelph, Ontario-based master guitarist M. Mucci has graciously agreed to let us reissue two of his out-of-print cassette albums on one C70 volume. Both The Secret is Knowing When to Close Your Eyes and Midnights are featured here in their entirely, the former with previously unreleased bonus material included. Mucci is one of the most exciting instrumental guitarists working today and we’re deeply honoured to be able to make these titles available in a physical format once again.
Guelph guitarist M. Mucci works in the American Primitive style—sort of a blend of classical, jazz, country and folk traditions. Or, since people have been playing acoustic guitar this way for 60 years now, the genre is more popularly knows as “a person playing a guitar.” Though most known for his acoustic works, Mucci also knows his way around an electric guitar. Indeed, the two albums Arachnidiscs is reissuing on one cassette (The Secret Is Knowing When To Close Your Eyes and Midnights) are electric guitar albums veering towards ambient post-rock.
The Modern Folk Music of America blog says about the release, “…the notes are soft and round and drenched in reverb…the songs, melodies and musical ideas fade in and out of one another. This one is recommended for both active and passive listening.”
Arachnidiscs Recordings: You recorded Midnights literally in the middle of several nights. Were the sessions shaped by their nocturnal nature?
M. Mucci: Yes, the sessions were very much shaped by the time they were recorded. The time of night was one factor – I didn’t want to wake my sleeping family upstairs, so I deliberately played very quietly. I was working in a mode somewhere between improvisation and song writing that I had first tried out on the other recording reissued on this tape (The Secret is Knowing album), where I try to quickly come up with a fragment of… something, record it without really any thorough composition and then in most cases, quickly overdubbing one or more additional guitar lines, hoping for some happy accidents. If a piece didn’t work in two or three tries, it was tossed.
The time of year Midnights was recorded was also a factor in how it turned out — it was one of the coldest winters I can remember, with really long stretches of sustained deep freeze. I really like working on music at that time of year because there isn’t much reason to go outside, even though I do like the cold and snow, at least for the first little while. I also distinctly recall hearing quite a few strange noises during the recording; at the time, I didn’t know what it was, but it kind of freaked me out the first few times. A couple of days later, “frost quakes” were all over the weather reports and I put it all together. After that, there was a lot of listening between notes to see if I could hear any during the recording.
ADR: Your notes for the Secret Is Knowing say “Words inspired by the island of Malta.” What exactly about the island of Malta inspired you?
MM: The Secret is Knowing tape was recorded after my second visit there. My partner is half Maltese and still has lots of family there, which we got to meet and spend time with on both occassions. The stories they told us, the history of the tiny island and the scenery were all in my mind. It’s a lovely place and we love going there to visit.
ADR: I used to live in Little Malta on Dundas West and read up a little on the history. Like all of European history, it’s very storied but seems like it’s not very widely known. I feel like there needs to be a “Knights of Malta” movie or TV show.
MM: That’s a nice little pocket of the city. Vicki’s grandfather still lives there in the house he bought back in the 1950s when he first came to Canada. The history of Malta itself is quite amazing for such a tiny little island – to put this in perspective, I think Toronto is bigger in area than the whole island. It seems like every empire has wanted a piece of it at some point in history, but they’ve still managed to carve out a unique culture.
Interesting facts: there are ancient temples and stone structures there older than stone henge. It hosted the ‘Malta Summit’ which was a meeting between Bush the first and Gorbachev and helped broker the end of the Cold War. Malta also seems to be a place for vacationing world dictators. We heard stories about people meeting Ghaddafi and Kim Jong-un water skiing there. And Brad Pitt seems to visit a lot and film there. I’m not making this up!
ADR: When I saw you at a show in Toronto recently, you ended your set with some unexpected drone metal tones. Are you planning a recording of that material?
MM: Since that show I’ve been thinking about recording something like that a lot. There are ideas that I have that I can’t pull off live, at least not alone. So I hope I can start working on a recording like that. I’ve been playing more of these semi-improvised electric guitar shows recently, rather than the acoustic finger picking and Ive been really enjoying the process of putting the pieces together. I also do love the drone/doooooom… but i think that’s the first time I ever tried something like that myself.
ADR: You certainly pulled it off that night. Getting back to the frost quakes for a moment. That strikes me as a quintessentially Canadian musical experience. Do you feel like the Canadian landscape directly influences you music? Or the Canadian cultural experience in general?
MM: I’ve never thought of the landscape as a direct influence. Maybe that’s not entirely true, as I’m thinking back to my first album (Under the Tulip Tree) and a lot of the songs were named after landmarks in Guelph – I had moved to Guelph just a few years before that album was made. But, I guess in the case of the frost quakes that’s probably true, even though I didn’t know about this phenomenon before that experience. As for the Canadian cultural experience, yes absolutely.
Something I’ve thought a lot about the last 4 or 5 years is my family history and immigration to Canada and the way that has shaped my experience. My grandparents came in the early 1950s from Italy and I’ve become really interested in that story, both the actual story of their journey and the wider experience of Italian Canadians (the subject at times has dominated my reading lists, novels, academic studies, history etc…). It ties in nicely with my interest in Malta too because the Maltese Canadian experience is pretty similar from what I understand. So it may not be readily apparent in anything I’ve release thusfar, but its always there.
ADR: At the same time your music stems, ultimately, from the American Primitive scene. Do you consider yourself to be part of that tradition?
MM: I think so. Anyone who picks up an acoustic guitar and plays instrumental tunes at some point is going to get the Fahey comparison, and rightfully so as his influence is undeniable. But that simplistic description I just gave of ‘American Primitive’ overlooks a lot of what Fahey was doing while reimagining what the acoustic guitar could be — tape collage, noise, totally wild studio edits — just being wonderfully weird!
ADR: Sandy Bull as well. When I first heard E Pluribus Unum a few years ago I said, “Well, why are we even bothering? He did everything that needed to be done with improv guitar back in 1968.” I have similar feelings with The Fripp/Eno album No Pussyfooting in regards to all the loop pedal-core albums out now. No one’s significantly improved on what they did 40 years ago. Are there any albums whose brilliance makes you question picking up a guitar or committing something to tape?
MM: I get that feeling too sometimes! But then I also think there are so many more reasons to play music than solely trying to make the next groundbreaking guitar album. Its about the joy of creating something new. Its about community and I think about all of the amazing people I’ve met through playing music. Its about pushing boundaries of sound too and challenging yourself to create something new — but if we were only stuck on that, we might never leave the basement.
But back to your question, three acoustic guitar albums come immediately to mind: John Fahey — The Great Santa Barbara Oil Slick (a live album with various tracks from his first few albums, his playing is top notch and so is the recording. It was a show with Sandy Bull and his set was also released by the same label). Jack Rose – Kensington Blues (every time I listen to this one it gives me that feeling you described….why bother??!!) Harris Newman – Accidents with Nature and Each Other. And further to those three albums, I always have to mention the work of Loren Connors — his music has had an immense impact on me. Two albums I’d highly recommend are Portrait of a Soul and Airs. Oh and Bill Orcutt A New way to Pay Old Debts is an absolute ripper. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone in any era sound like that.
ADR: I think Loren Connors had an immense impact on all of us who work in improvised guitar, at least indirectly, whether we realize it or not. Those are all good reasons to make music. And trying to make every recording “ground-breaking” would certainly be an unrealistic goal. But something I ask myself more and more frequently as someone who runs a label is if the world needs new music at all. At least in recorded format. Do you think music in recorded form still has value today?
MM: As someone who can’t get out to live shows as much these days, yes I need new recorded music. I do love seeing live shows and I also love listening to recorded music. It is harder to sift through the immense amount of music we have at our fingertips these days, so I see what you’re getting at with these questions. I’m not sure I can answer to the value of recorded music question in a general sense, but personally, when I find a recording I like, I value it very much and I’m very much willing to pay for it. I don’t want to get into the whole physical vs digital, but I do tend to prefer a physical copy of something if I can get my hands on it. The whole package is important, not only the music and I appreciate it when someone goes to great lengths to put a good looking package together. I have purchased quite a few digital albums though — usually from overseas artists that I’ll probably never see live and that don’t have North American distribution; postage these days just pushes certain things out of reach.
ADR: I think Canada Post has a mandate from Stephen Harper to destroy Canadian indie labels through postal rates. I really do. That’s not hyperbole. Myself, I don’t really do digital albums unless it’s not available at all in physical format. And if the postage seems too high, I take that as an indicator I don’t really need the album. But for me, it’s definitely physical over digital. Which is probably why, despite there being too many instrumental guitar tapes available already, I really felt like these two albums of yours deserved to be available in physical form again. Frankly, I wanted copies and I didn’t want to just buy the digital files off your Bandcamp. It just isn’t the same to me.
Also I realized at some point recently, I don’t really enjoy live music very much. Not a whole night of it at least. The venues are usually uncomfortable on some level even if they’re not bars or night clubs. Most performers outstay their welcome on stage by at least ten minutes and I begin to feel I’m being assaulted by their ego (present company excepted, of course). Then there’s always some jerk in the audience being inappropriate and making people squirm. The opening act talks loudly through the everyone else’s set. Bah, I’d rather sit at home with a record. Or your tapes. But they’re also in the past. What’s coming up for you in the future?
MM: Thanks so much for the kind words about these two albums and for putting them out again in physical form. I’ll have at least two more releases out this year — another tape on the Ambivalent Soap label of two live recordings and an acoustic album titled Don’t Be Afraid should be ready very shortly.