Release date: Oct 31, 2019 Styles: Atmospheric post-rock, meditative, dark new age, ecstatic ambient, drone, neo-classical, free improvisation, gothic film music Similar vibes: Black Tape For A Blue Girl; Dead Can Dance; Trial of the Bow; Stephen Micus; RAIC; The Last Temptation of Christ OST.
Thirteen Exquisite Corpses is the 200th and final release on Arachnidiscs Recordings, coming 20 years after the label’s first release. A collaborative work of 13 “improvised compositions” split into two suites. It was recorded under the ensemble name BABEL by bandleader and Arachnidiscs head, Jakob Rehlinger. Thirteen Exquisite Corpses was recorded using a modified version of the “exquisite corpse” collaborative technique usually employed in visual art or writing where each collaborator is only aware of the tail end of the previous collaborator’s contribution. In this case each of the 8 collaborators improvised to a series of minimal synthesizer drones provided by Rehlinger, unaware of each others’ addition, which Rehlinger then edited into cohesive works. The album is presented as a 2CD edition in a 24 page hardback book.
THE BABEL ENSEMBLE: Jakob Rehlinger Matthew Fava Kayla Milmine Brodie West Eiyn Sof Andrew MacGregor Roan Bateman M. Mucci Dominic Marion
Styles: Free-improv, noise, drone, new music, experimental, electro-acoustic, musique concrete Sort of similar: Sunburned Hand Of The Man, Pelt, Faust, a cassette of ethnological music being eaten by a tape recorder that’s being crushed in a trash-compactor, Life In The Bush of Luc Ferrari
Moth Bucket is an electroacoustic duo from central Pennsylvania. Combining a professional background in new music/avant-garde classical performance and composition with a not-so-professional background in noise, the pair plays improvisational music with an assortment of unconventional instruments, both acoustic and electronic.
Exteriors(released April 27) is the second release by International Debrison Arachnidiscs, though the first under that moniker. Ross Baker previously provided a side of a split-tape with Tranzmitunder their own name. The UK-based genderqueer musician has worked in various styles over various aliases, but generally falls into the category of sound collage, tying together acoustic and electronic instruments with field recordings and samples. Baker refers to their sound as ‘horizon music’, signifying a recurring theme of open space and a fascination with that which we only know from a distance. In an attempt to lessen that distance and get to know them better, I asked them spare some time for a chat.
Ross Baker: Feel quite tempted to answer every question with ‘yes’, ‘no’, etc., just to be awkward
Jakob Rehlinger: How very Jesus and Mary Chain of you.
RB: Did you ever see that Sigur Ros interview?
JR: I don’t think I ever have.
RB: It’s worth five minutes of your time at some point*.
JR: I’ll watch that later. Speaking of music history, Exteriors is an album that collects a bunch of your own musical history, from 2002-2018, as well you’ve just embarked on a reissue campaign. Why is keeping your past alive important to you?
RB: I really like chronology, I think. I think the best art, whatever medium, has to be able to stand up in its own right, but at the same time it’s also really interesting to hear things in context. It can be fascinating to compare an album with the two albums found either side of it. So that’s something I want to represent in my own catalogue.
I’ve also been through a long period of self-doubt that’s caused me to continually reassess past releases and change their tracklists and such, countless times in some cases, and having come out of that and made some peace with my past, it’s nice to be able to present ‘definitive’ versions of the albums I suppose.
Exteriors came together because I basically released I had a bunch of tracks that never found a home. The bulk of them all had a similar theme which never became an album in its own right, and I thought it was about time I actually made that album. I kind of feel like I owe it to my past self, the me who made these tracks at various points over the past fifteen-or-so years.
JR: I do a similar revisionist history thing with my own music for similar reasons. Sometimes I’ll create a new project name to suit the music. Often I only release, or reissue, these as digital files on Bandcamp. You’ve made your reissues physical CDs. Is having them exist as physical objects important to you as well?
RB: I don’t listen to music on my computer. I tried for a while, and I ended up just not enjoying it as much. My CD collection was on the other side of the country so I was restricted to my digitised versions. I was so happy when I finally moved house and got my CD collection back, I just listened to more stuff and enjoyed it more. So I was basically planning a way to make my own copies of my own albums in a way that I could listen to and enjoy, and that basically set the whole thing in motion, gave me a reason to finally make these definitive versions.
As with just about everything, I have a fairly polarised view on it. I’d actually really like to be able to just have a digital collection—it’s cheaper, more space efficient, more environmentally conscious—which is why I like to ensure all my albums are available digitally, because anybody who wants to just have the download version has my blessing! But yeah, I can’t get out of that physical thing. I’m sure my autism comes into it a lot, 25 years of doing something is a hard habit to kick for anyone, but given how rigid my thought processes are, it’s next-to-impossible I think. And I know a lot of other people like having physicals, something to hold, artwork to look at, so I want to offer that to those who want it. But I’ve done it through an on-demand service, which means I don’t end up with a load of unsold copies, and it also discourages people from buying it purely for its ‘limited edition’ collectability, which is something I really dislike. I’ve been thinking of putting my stuff on Spotify, but that’s another can of worms entirely… [The first run of Exteriors sold-out on the day of release. There are still a few copies of the ‘limited’ second edition available.]
JR: My attitude on that is people can stream it off Bandcamp if they want. Maybe Bandcamp needs to tweak their app a little more to make it more appealing to Spotify users, I’m not sure. But I feel like it’s there already and people can go stuff themselves if they want my own or Arachnidiscs artists’ music basically for free on the platform most convenient to them.
RB: I suppose the thing Spotify has is a wider audience. It’s more streaming in general that I have a weird relationship with, because—ignoring the financial side of it all—the one thing it’s doing is killing the idea of a record collection. If you have a paid Spotify account, or whatever service you want to use, then you effectively have access to most music, and it cuts that idea of curation out. I’ve never been that much into music ‘culture’ in a lot of ways, but one thing that’s always appealed to me is the curation of a record collection and how it reflects a person. You can look at someone’s shelves or iTunes library and it’s full of memories, associations, reflections of their personality and quirks… with Spotify, you effectively ‘own’ your favourite album alongside ones you hate.
[CDs from Ross’s curated collection via Instagram]
JR: You mentioned your autism. Obviously, you’ll have no perspective on what it’s like not having autism. But how do you think it informs the way you, as opposed to neurotyptical musicians, make music?
RB: How does being autistic inform my music… I suppose I make my music to soundtrack places in my head. I have a very, very detailed geography in my head of where the majority of my albums are ‘set’. This imaginary world is made up of places I’ve been, dreams, things I’ve seen on TV / film and stuff from my own imagination, but it feels very, very real to me. It’s a place I like to retreat to when I need a break from the real world and other people—which is a lot of the time!—and I suppose most of my albums are a way of trying to paint a picture of these places to show other people.
That and my utter lack of ability to collaborate with other people. I’ve done collabs, but the only ones that have worked remotely well are ones where I’ve been given a bunch of material and allowed to take complete control of the project, or where I’ve sent over material and let the other person take control. I can’t do anything halfway because I can’t really comprehend what the other person is thinking. My girlfriend and I have a project and every time we do something it ends up in a row, haha.
JR: I have a similar relationship to collaboration. I’m on the spectrum too, but far, far closer to the center than you are. I either have to be the ringmaster or take a completely subservient role in the jam, to the point I feel like I’m not even contributing anything. Or maybe I’m just a narcissistic asshole. I’ve spent probably over 20 solid years trying to learn how to play empathetically with other people. I think I’m almost there.
RB:Haha yeah, even when I was a kid making tapes with my friends I had to say what the song was about and if anybody deviated I’d get really angry. There’s one song I always remember which has loads of bits where the tape is stopped for me to shout at my mate before pressing record again. It happens about eight times in the same song.
JR: A drummer in one of my bands used to do a good impression of the sideways glare I’d give people when I was unhappy with what they were doing. I never yelled, I’d go very silent and very still.
When you were talking about ‘soundtracks’, that sounds very familiar to me. I can’t imagine anyone not approaching making music that way, but I suspect they do. What’s more interesting to me is your talking of it being an escape. Do you find music, listening and making, an effective therapy?
RB: Music as therapy… listening definitely. It’s always been a way for me to lose myself and just be in the moment, to forget about a lot of my issues. The soundtrack thing doesn’t just go for instrumental music, I also associate a lot of song-based stuff with places in my head. Usually more ‘normal’ ones. A lot of indie records make me think of suburbia, people living normal, balanced lives, having normal relationships, and it’s nice to get lost in that and pretend it’s the life I’m living sometimes. There are some bands who have such a specific sound to me that I can actually picture specific streets and houses that their music sounds like.
Making music can be therapeutic and it can also be a massive nightmare. I go through periods of hideous self-doubt and often end up in the worst moods because I absolutely loathe a track or even several weeks or months worth of output. Most of it I make my peace with at some point, but it can be really, really difficult at times. I’ve actually been using music making as part of a routine recently, though, just working on some every day regardless of how it comes about. Having that structure in my day has helped me cope with anxiety.
JR: Getting back to Spotify and the idea of curation. I think the average person has never historically been into the idea of curating a music collection. It just used to be owning records was the only way to access your favourite songs. I think the average person secretly resented it, and that was proven to be true with Napster and now Spotify. And that’s fine. I just bristle when someone, who hasn’t bought a download or cassette emails me to say my music is important to them, and when am I putting it up on Spotify? I bristle, I tell you. Curation, though. My CD collection is definitely fueled by a mild OCD. It definitely comforts me to collect discographies. It’s something that also causes me anxiety and I have to monitor myself.
RB: I agree with you about the average listener, but I think there are a lot of music fans who would be the sort to curate a collection who use Spotify instead. Again, I have contradictory views. I have huge respect for people who are able to cast off possessions, who are able to live happily with as few things as possible—it’s something I try and do myself— but at the same time I do think what we collect over the years can also become part of us in a good way too. If all we do is rent then at the end of it we end up with nothing.
I’ve spent the last six or so years battling with some horrible OCD, my brain starts telling me I’ll never be happy with my CD collection the way it is, which stops me from enjoying music at all, so I’ve ended up selling stuff only to regret it and want to buy it back again. It’s been really bad at times—I’ve ended up in hospital—but I’m gradually getting on top of it. I think that’s how these anxiety conditions work, they latch on to the most important things. At one point I went from owning about 1,500 CDs to about 200. Then I had a moment of enlightenment and this huge “What the hell have I done?!” feeling. I sort of reacted against having complete discographies, partially inspired by what I was saying about not owning things you don’t need—why the hell would I actually want a copy of David Bowie’s Tonight?—and that got out of hand until I was just getting rid of anything I didn’t absolutely love at that exact moment in time. The human brain is absurd and I have no idea how we’ve lasted this long as a species sometimes.
JR: I’ve done that so, so many times. I mean, I have gladly not owned a copy of Tonight for years. But I’m back up to 3000-ish CDs from 200. It’s that owning objectively terrible albums by your favourite artists that gets you. Now I just accept, yes, I do need to own Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s second album that I’ll never listen to again. But not Tonight. No. Never again.
RB: After Bowie’s death I thought it was time for a reassessment of his catalogue. I’d sold everything but Low and Outside at some point, despite liking a considerable number of them. So I bought them all back, and then Tonight, Never Let Me Down, Black Tie White Noise, Hours, etc. All got sold about a week later. I try and think “Can I genuinely see myself listening to this in five years time?” when purchasing an album these days. None of those Bowie albums would have passed a ‘five minutes’ test, let alone five years.
JR: Oops. Wait a minute. I was confusing Tonight with Never Let Me Down. I actually quite like Tonight. Well, the singles from it anyway. But not enough to own it. Up until The Next Day and Black Star, singles collections are generally the way to go for his post-Scary Monsters period .
RB: That feeling of doubting your own music taste though, it’s absolutely horrible. I’ve never known anybody else who had it, so it’s strangely relieving to know somebody else has been there.
JR: I never exactly doubt my musical taste. I’m too egotistical on some level to deeply doubt my convictions. But I sometimes fall into a tailspin of wondering what is the point of owning music at all. That maybe the idea that any of it ‘matters’ is just an illusion and I feel like a fool for devoting so much of my life to it. It’s more that because I’m bored of something in the moment erroneously assume I’m over it for good. I always over estimate my own judgement.
RB: Yeah, it can be easy to confuse ‘I don’t like this’ with ‘I’m not in the mood for this at the moment’, especially if you’re not in a great place and looking for stuff to sell. I’ve applied a similar inaccurate thought process to my own music, which is how I ended up re-structuring my own albums in the past, and why the whole definitive version thing seemed so necessary. There are albums of mine like cer and Eyebrook which I realised are actually pretty damn good, and yet at one point I didn’t even have them on my Bandcamp.
JR: At the moment of creation, everything I do is the most brilliant thing I’ve ever done. Some previously ‘brilliant’ things are the most embarrassing and are now hidden in a vault permanently.
RB: There are a number of releases conspicuously absent from my definitive reissues series for the very same reason hahaha.
JR: It’s always great when you can see the brilliance in your previously perceived failures though.
RB: Making peace with an old album I thought I hated is always a really lovely moment. If I had to make a ‘top 5 of my own albums’ list I’d definitely put Eyebrook in there now. It’s probably the one I’ve listened to most in the last year or so. Funny how these things happen.
JR: It’s a pretty good allegory for life too.
RB: Yeah, I try not to judge too much these days, I’m happier just letting things be, and letting myself gain pleasure from them as and when it comes around. Be that music or… whatever else. It’s usually music for me.
JR: That sounds like a good note to end on.
RB: And there was me waiting for the “why did you utilise that particular synth sequence in track 7” type questions.
JR: No one cares about that.
RB: I care about that! I always get excited when an artist mentions a particular song in an interview. It’s something to get nerdy about. “Oh wow, that song was written two years before the rest”. That’s what life’s all about.
C90 high-bias tape, comes in printed envelope sleeve
Styles: Ambient house, shoegaze, dreampop, drone, ambient dub Similarities: The smell of a ’90s dorm room, Seefeel, The Orb, Robin Guthrie producing a down-tempo FSOL track, sleeping in a washing machine on the gentle setting.
SPUME is the ambient house project of producer Jakob Rehlinger (Heavy Moon, King Pong Dub System, etc). Taking a cue from a hype sticker on a Seefeel CD he saw when browsing in a record shop in the early ’90s (“The lovechild of My Bloody Valentine and Aphex Twin”), he blends dreamy synth pads, chilled-out beats and hazy ambient guitar loops to create a frothy, trance-inducing dreamscape.
Tide/Fall was recorded on the shores of Lake Ontario in the fall of 2017, wherein Rehlinger tried to emulate the natural sounds of a shoreline encroached with human activity.
Side B of the cassette features a 43-minute long drone version of the album (“Tide/Fall Dronly Mix”), which strips away the sound fx, beats and basslines leaving only the winding, ethereal guitar and deep synth drones.
To celebrate our release of double-disc boutique edition of Richmond Avant Improv Collective‘s third and fourth albums, Communionand Il Delirio E La Mortalità Di Amorerespectively, I got drummer and co-founder Samuel Goff (bottom-right) to set aside some time for a chat.
Jakob Rehlinger: I need to start with an important, serious question. Scented candles — Overrated or underrated?
Samuel Goff: Haha. I mean it depends on the scent. Like a Yankee Candle Apple Grove might be overrated. A good sandalwood? Underrated. I approve of the product as a whole.
JR: So, you have the new Arachnidiscs edition of RAIC’s third and fourth albums out. So my ears they sound interconnected. Was that in any way intentional?
SG: Well, yes and no. The Il Delirio E La Mortalità Di Amore album was sort of put together as things that didn’t quite fit elsewhere. But a lot of that was recorded around the same time. And of course the actual song “Il Delirio E La Mortalità Di Amore” is included a total of three times over the two discs—live, studio and remix—so that could be some continuity right there. We are always in the process of recording three or four albums at the same time and I have plans outlined for the next four which are in various stages of completion. A good example is the song “Midnight” which we recorded with Brooklyn guitarist Lucas Brode, we recorded two tracks that day, the other one will be included on album number seven called Multiplicity which just got finished last week. I’m currently shopping that one around to labels.
JR: With the opener of Communion being the free-jazz “First Strike”, and the closer of Il Delirio… being the similarly toned “Ouroboros”, titled after the snake that eats its own tail, there’s a nice circular quality to the two albums together.
SG: I never thought about that but you are right. I had an idea to close each album out with one of the members doing a solo track. So Zoe did hers on Communion which was beautiful. But gosh we had to go through s lot of takes for that one. Zoe is obsessed with baroque music and she wanted to do this song from like the 15th century and I’m like, “Well it’s not really improv, but fuck it, let’s go for it.” So me and Richard coached her on and we finally got some good takes and then Richard layered her voices together and it came out beautiful. So to date that is our only “composition.” We are improv like 99.2 percent of the time. So at the end of the second album that was Erik’s solo track, which yeah, now that you say it, sort of is a full circle type of situation. Next time I’m going to say we meant that, haha. Erik is such a gifted performer and improviser. Usually when we play live I focus on him and his energy and sort of play off that.
JR: Speaking of “Plaindre L’ennuy De La Peine Estimee”, Zoe’s baroque track, and say, “First Strike” or a track like “Midnight”, stylistically you’re all over the map.
SG: That’s exactly how this group was intended. I work a job where I work about 55 hours a week and I’m also in Among The Rocks And Roots and I have a fiancée that I devote a lot of time to, so I don’t have time to devote to being in 4-5 different bands. There used to be a joke here in Richmond where you were not taken seriously as a musician unless you were in four bands. But I have always been interested in a very wide assortment of music so this is sort of a way of getting to do that noise track or that baroque track and then we move on. It also gives us the opportunity to work with a myriad of performers who are also busy but don’t necessarily have the time to devote to another band. But they can devote 3-4 practices and maybe a studio date. It’s painless for everyone involved. We are about to get even more varied with there being two black metal tracks on our album Multiplicity where Abdul makes his RAIC drumming debut and I switch to vocals. It’s a weird life… if I ever write a autobiography I want to call it “How I became a black metal vocalist at the age of 42.” Also on our album Gestalt which is about 50 percent complete we are working on a 50’s style country song with me and Laura Marina on vocals and a hip hop noise track with local MC Black Liquid. I just love music and I have been obsessed with just about every genre at one point in my life so why not have a group where you can try ANYTHING with ANYONE.
JR: Since you bring up Richmond, as a long-time fan of Pelt, I’ve had this, probably somewhat unfounded, idea the city is a hotbed of improv music. Is this the case?
SG: Hmm. Yes and no? There was a vibrant noise scene here that had died down a lot. Also there is the New Loft which blew my mind the first time I saw them. It’s an improv group with mostly veterans of the Richmond music scene, guys that have been hitting it for over 20 years. We have now worked with most of the people of that group most prominently with Tim Harding who in addition to being in the New Loft also is still going strong with his Afropop group Hotel X. He’s also in a great band called Zygmot with sometime RAIC collaborator Vlad Cuijuclu. Also Jimmy Ghaphery and drummer Sam Byrd from The New Loft has played with us as well. To me, when I saw them I thought they were the best improv group I had ever seen not just in Richmond but anywhere. It was an epiphany for sure. Being in this scene for going on 5 years now it seems, just like with anything, it’s cyclical. Sometimes it is vibrant and groups come and go and sometimes it is stagnant. It we will always be here. This is the music I intend to play when I’m 70. I also make it very clear that when you become an official member of RAIC you are not joining s band but a family. And we treat each other as such. Sometimes dysfunctional, but a family nonetheless. We all love each other and respect each other and their abilities so much. I just love being in this group.
JR: Any plans to buy a run-down farm property and make it full-fledged cult?
SG: Ha! I thought it sounded cult like when I said that! Good call!
JR: Cults are much more profitable than ensembles. Just an idea I’m throwing out there.
SG: I mean, yeah, our Bandcamp sales are holding strong at 99 dollars so I’m sure. The cult thing might be something worth looking into. Erik always talked about starting a cult. Was he kidding or…
JR: I imagine RAIC isn’t a touring proposition. But if you were, what would be in the van tape-deck?
SG: John Coltrane. The soundtrack to “Signor Rossi” Swans. Art Ensemble Of Chicago. Eyvind Kang. And whatever black metal Abdul brings along, haha. Oh! And Sun Ra!!!!
JR: If RAIC were hosting a movie night, what would be on the screen?
SG: We just recorded a movie soundtrack! I will say a silent film called The Seashell And The Clergyman, no hesitation. We have scored that live and in the studio now and for whatever reason it really speaks to us. We do that one really well!
JR: Though not exactly different than some of the sounds on these two CDs, I have to ask you about Among The Rocks and Roots and the absolutely punishing noise rock sounds you and Abdul create. Where does that come from?
SG: Years of having a lot of different emotions that we tried to deal with through the use of substances. We are both recovering addicts and, in fact, I met him my fourth day of sobriety. It’s a lot of just raw emotion. Sort of like improv we play off the energy of each other. How we set up live is indicative of that energy harnessing. I set up in the audience but I am facing the stage and him. And we face each other the whole performance. My back is to the crowd and really all I can see in the whole room is him. This is not some “fuck You” to the audience in any way but a way of getting us into the correct mind-frame in order to lock into each other emotions and energy. So because we are so locked into each other we can really let out everything that is going on inside of us. The room melts away and really it is just me and him there. Volume and intensity also play a part. I first stepped onto a stage at the age of 38 so I swore since I had to wait so long I was going to give every thing I had every performance. And Abdul does as well. We had a motto for awhile where we said “We play like our lives depend on it, because it just might.” It translates to a live audience as well, it’s a very intimate display and the audience feels that. Some people love us and some hate us but no one who sees that ever forgets us and I like that.
JR: That certainly comes through on the record. Though it might sound simple, it’s really tough to pull off.
SG: You mean the philosophy or the actual music?
JR: The actual music. The minimalist heavy noise thing. Like free-jazz, people tend to say “Aw, anyone can do that” but few who try can make it sound convincing.
SG: Oh ! Haha that stuff is not easy to play I promise. There is a good part on the song “Raga” where it’s quiet and I am doing a roll on the toms and if you listen you can hear me wheezing cause I’m out of breath. We recorded those songs live in the studio because I can’t play “cold” in a room by myself. Like I can’t even play that at all without feeding off his energy. These are 20-30 minute long songs where there are few stopping points and yeah the physicality of it is exhausting. Anything I do with RAIC is much easier than ATRR. I can be fat and do okay free jazz but to play ATRR you got to be in shape, haha.
JR: Last question. You mentioned a finance. Wedding dream band — who is it?
SG: RAIC is playing.
RAIC’s two disc compilation of Communionand Il Delirio E La Mortalità Di Amore is out now on Arachnidiscs Recordings.
Artist: BEARD CLOSET Album: Deadly Force Format: Cassette. C30, real-time dubbed, hand stamped shells. Styles: Drone, noise, experimental guitar, noise-ambient RIYL: Thurston Moore, Keiji Haino, Alan Licht, Sunn(((O))), Eno records run through a distortion pedal
We’re honored to issue Toronto experimental guitar and electronics artist, Beard Closet‘s wordless (but not silent) scream of rage and frustration at the continuing culture of murder and brutality in North America’s police forces.
The culmination of years of time spent in the studio, BABEL presents four complete albums released on two 2xCD sets. The four volumes of kosmische drones and noise-jazz improvisation explore similar themes but follow divergent psychedelic paths to adjacent destinations. The four-disc cycle forms a cohesive whole while each volume stands own as a thematically contained album.
BABEL‘s “Grid” series of albums and EPs—released digitally and on cassette at various points over 2015—are an homage to analogue synth music pioneers such as Craig Leon and Klaus Schulze as well as early-’80s synth-based sci-fi and horror film soundtracks. The sessions culminate in the epic 35-minute morphing space-drone of the previously unreleased “Apogee“. Mind Thief collects the recordings in their entirety on two compact discs.
Polar Vortex (dir. Philip Baljeau, Toronto)
Désespoir (dir. Jesse Russell Brooks, Los Angeles)
Along with his own sizable discography, Nova Scotia-based Andrew MacGregor, who records as GOWN, has played with several high-profile psychsters including Thurston Moore as half of The Bark Haze. He’s also toured and collaborated with with Sunburned Hand of the Man and other similar folks (including our own Partli Cloudi as the duo New Yaki, occasionally made a trio by my own presence). His solo recordings have received critical praise from internet taste-makers from Pitchfork to Weird Canada. After a period of self-imposed early-retirement from the outsider music scene, MacGregor has decided to return with Sound of Time. Unlike a certain Genesis ex-drummer, no one has started a petition to stop this.
Fifteen years ago, you would’ve found me sitting in a green vinyl chair beside the listening station at Blackball Records, a store Andrew and Jack Tieleman opened in Nanaimo, BC, on Vancouver Island. During a nervous breakdown-induced year of unemployment, I spent almost every day there talking to Andrew, Jack and the parade of misfit toys who’d wander through. It was where I was first introduced to the ideas like: Downloading was going to change the music business forever; saying things like “That’s so gay” is a bad idea; the capitalist system is on the brink of failure; that maybe I was unhappy because I preferred adolescent drama to a healthy adult relationship.
For better or worse, that lost year hanging out at the Blackball clubhouse would shape and change me in ways I was unaware of at the time. It was there that Andrew introduced me to Six Organs of Admittance. At the time I was on a strict New Wave, Goth and Post-Punk diet and didn’t get “hippie shit” like Six Organs at all. I adhered to a misguided and misunderstood punk ethos that “the only good hippie is a dead hippie” and all psychedelia is just for old fogies.
Blackball Records probably circa 2004, L-R. Unidentified guy actually shopping, beardless Jakob, Ken Holiday (Everything Is Geometry), unidentified guy (sitting in the green chair) and Andrew.
This introduction to the so-called “New Weird America” planted a seed that would one day grow into the tree that is everything I’ve become. It’s quite true that without Blackball, and knowing Andrew, my band Moonwoodwouldn’t exist. I wouldn’t have wanted it to. I was always a closet psych-head but Andrew was the one who helped me understand this truth about myself. Bauhaus, PiL, Siouxie and the Banshees, The Cult, My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth—all my favourite bands were essentially psychedelic rock bands, updated for their era. Immediately obvious or not, what I was drawn to in the band’s I loved, even something as straight-up rock’n’roll as The Cramps, were the psychedelic elements. I’d already dropped-out, now I was tuning-in.
He also introduced me to cassette culture, which at the time baffled me more than the much more prevalent cassette culture baffles people today. We’d just gotten rid of tapes in favour of the higher fidelity and easier track-cueing of CDs! Why are we going backwards? When Andrew moved to the States a few years later, it was before he would’ve seen me begin to embrace these things. The following year, he came home for a visit and he noted that my guitar playing had completely changed. I’d fully turned-on.
The conversation below is something like you would’ve heard if you’d been a fly on the wall at Blackball Records.
A few years back, after a seemingly steady upward trajectory, you quit the music business. What prompted that move?
I don’t think I quit per se.
Perhaps you didn’t quit music, but I have a vivid memory of you clearly stating you didn’t see any purpose in continuing. Not that you weren’t going to ever touch a guitar again but specifically recording and playing gigs. This was probably five or six years ago.
I could have said that. I say many things and you likely have evidence of lots of things I have said, very few of them correct. It is more based on a combination of opportunity, desire and quality of work. I think that I achieved all that I had hoped to achieve in a certain direction with The Old Line on Divorce Records and had to regroup to find a clarity of vision in order to move forward. If opportunity had arisen following the release of that LP then perhaps a direction and purpose would have come from that opportunity, however without that driving force or purpose one must dig deep and look inside, hence the time between apparent outward activity. That being said the lack of outward activity doesn’t imply that there wasn’t inward activity.
So you were still working in the music business, but behind the scenes?
I’m not sure I was ever in the business of making music. Making music or art—or most labours of love—are rarely a break-even financial equation hence the business of making music is something I know very little about and likely would be fairly useless at. I don’t understand how most folks make a living making or playing music. And I would imagine that, in terms of financial return for time/energy invested even at the higher ends of success, it’s way worse than I could ever fathom. I got lucky with some opportunities and whatnot but the process was never that different than playing at home. I’ve made music on a continuous basis for over 20 years or so and have really always made it in the same way. I’m able to express my ideas in a more concise and fully formed way and am very lucky to feel that way after 20 years. I feel the music I delivered to you is the best I’ve ever made.
I’m inclined to agree. Does the probable lack of financial return inform your decision to make art?
I’ll always make art or something that I think of as art. I don’t really think that I was ever closer to that financial windfall than I am today. That said I believe it to be virtually nil. I am constantly moving forward with ideas, thoughts and whatnot and feel that my mind is working with ideas that stand a chance of being better constructed and more fully formed than they have been in the past and hopefully that trajectory will continue. I believe The Old Line was the apex of a certain trajectory and is a solid representation of a journey that continues. Where it leads is unknown however it hasn’t and won’t stop as far as I know. Whether the “art” exists in the world beyond the sphere of my being and the beings of a few others is less important to me than it was in the past…. that being said we all like to be validated.
So, is validation part of the motivation for coming back with Sound of Time?
I guess this comes down to opportunity. We’ve known each other for over half our lives and you offered—which you may regret at this point, maybe you were just being polite?
Putting out your tape is a real expensive way to be polite. Even by Canadian standards. No, I genuinely think your music should continue to be made available and promoted, even on a small scale like this.
You are one of the people who has to endure me periodically sending you my art for validation and you offered. If you didn’t offer you would still receive things at likely the same clip and be forced to validate me in some fashion. I can’t help it. I can’t explain why I have come back because I am neither sure that I went away, nor am I sure that I was there.
You and I have a long, strange history of sending each other stuff for validation when I think we both kind of don’t quite “get” each other’s music on some level. Not that we can’t objectively appreciate each other’s talents. It’s sort of like we’re positioned on the same table, but at 90-degree angles. You know like how the only record we both could really agree on back in the day was Love by The Cult.
I guess the question is does anyone really get another human… truly? I mean the past is littered with musicians at 90 degree angles, Hüsker Dü and the Replacements, Sonic Youth and the Swans, you know what I mean. That’s sort of what leads to something else, participating but not totally understanding might lead to some sort of growth. I try to source different opinions from different sides of the fences and I very rarely agree with everything anyone says, however I believe I am more informed. I don’t really believe in one single set of rules or one reality, everything is possible and nothing is the whole truth, the whole reality. If everybody liked the same things as all their friends or peer group shit would be boring and uninteresting, plus there would be no exposure to anything new just the same old shit recycled. Sort of what occurs now to some degree.
Yeah, it seems like we’re either living in a time of complete creative stagnancy—mass conservatism where people only adhere to the fixed ideals of existing forms, be they jazz or post-punk or psychedelia or hip-hop or any genre really—or possibly it’s the brink of a new renaissance age. Where do you see the pendulum swinging?
I’m really not sure where the pendulum lies at this point. Based on what I hear on satellite radio, it’s totally messed up. Lots of the stuff on XFM, which is supposed to be the underground, alternative, whatever, sounds like Michael Damien’s “Rock On” and Taylor Dayne or some shit might be the next song in the playlist. I really don’t have much knowledge of what is going on now, especially in the underground. Most of the things I hear [that are] new are on satellite radio [are] pretty bland and really makes older stuff more interesting. Or at least the popularity of bands I didn’t previously enjoy more understandable and likeable.
I honestly don’t think it matters, I am sort of generally disinterested in “our generation.” Myself included to some degree. We as a whole have continued on the path set by those before us and are leaving a bigger mess behind than what we came into across the board. Here is where we go down the negative rabbit hole, however it isn’t bad to realize reality and call it out for what it is…
The negative rabbit hole is where I live. I mean, I am of the grunge generation.
In 1991—that was the “year punk broke”—I was 16 you were 18, there was so much opportunity for revolution and change, instead in the 25 years since, those opportunities have become commodities and packaged so they could be sold back to us, or our children, or the following generations, in a timely fashion. The internet is completely counterproductive in terms of change, as it is controlled and monitored to the point that by implying any sort of actual change in the way things are done, you are likely to experience a knock on your door and worst case scenario… disappear.
Personally I very much doubt there is reason for doing much anymore in terms of culture other than removing oneself from it as much as one can. The commoditization of almost everything is fairly incredible really and that has cut into all activity that used to take place on the margins as far as I can tell. The margins have been pushed further out as all sorts of sub cultures have been packaged and sold in little packages so people can easily feel part of a group.
I am certainly rambling here and will likely regret most of what is said…
Expect that knock on your door. But speaking of mass surveillance and NSA-style data snooping, you spent a few years in the States. How do you find the underground music scene in Canada differs from the one you were involved with in Northhampton?
I’m not sure of what makes up any scene at this point. I’d say that in general there’s a number of good people who work hard to make sure something exists for others to enjoy. This is likely the same for almost anything really, food, sports, art, business regions, politics on a grass roots level, almost anything really. I’d imagine that passion drives most people involved. I think in Canada the [geographic] space in combination with the lack of population makes things a challenge in terms of reaching a level of involvement that’s easier to reach in Europe, the States, etc. I would imagine you would find much the same thing if you examined most grass roots community groups. Although “scenes” are far less organized in terms of rules and positions but often no less hierarchical.
Is there a scene in your part of Nova Scotia that you’re just blissfully living outside of, or does it not really exist?
Blissfully outside. There are folks I respect and admire in the region but the time of active involvement has long passed me. I very much doubt my opinion is needed, nor would it be appreciated…
I somewhat doubt that.
I feel like I am a bummer, although I don’t personally feel that way. The talk of having a peer group or a number of cultural touch stones with whom to identify has made me wonder where I am in that mess…
This morning I was listening to Mark Maron’s WTF podcast—I listen to a lot of podcasts, baseball, football, gambling, exopolitics, economics and Maron—and always find it brings a smile to my face. Not because he is funny. He is a comedian, but I don’t find his stand up that funny, sometimes it is, but not overall. But the joy in which he approaches each interview and general excitement in the conversation.
I enjoyed his Thinky Pain stand up movie a lot. But I can’t really listen to WTF. He’s too enthusiastic for my tastes. Even when he’s talking to another famous curmudgeon like Steve Albini—too enthusiastic.
Anyways, he seems to get flack for being a downer, bitter, but I find it quite the opposite. Maybe I am being marketed to, led to identify with Maron.
We both are. Middle-class raised, plaid-wearing, 40-something, neurotic white dudes.
Again I am not saying I am any better at this shit… just sort of pointing out the obvious that somehow in the last 25 years the margins have become commoditized and marketed to us on almost every level. Think: foodies, farmers markets, craft beer, coffee, indie movies etc… Again where is the revolution? Where is the underground? Maybe just so far out that I can’t even recognize where it lives anymore, maybe it is in hiding so it can’t be sold…
I don’t know if I am trying to make a point or not, or if I should just avoid all the references to revolution…
I don’t really think there’s going to be a knock on your door if you say the word “revolution” here.
Intrinsically I believe that music, sound, is a gateway to change. As teenagers our minds got expanded by exposure to new approaches, new ways of having dialogue, new ways of existence through sound. Unfortunately maybe those doors close at some point or maybe those things don’t happen for most people—now or then—with or without music. I guess that Sound has always been commoditized. It might be the speed at which it happens now that I find alarming… and maybe once it enters that realm it doesn’t provide the same opportunity for change because by become a commodity it intrinsically becomes part of the system and therefore the problem.
Maybe listening to Jefferson Airplane combined with the recent world events has finally blown me into a reality where I’m incapable of coping with the current overwhelming narrative.
My main point is that I’m wondering whether the underground—and other non-mainstream expressions and activities—has been neutered by the fact that all culture that exists on the margins can quickly become a commodity. I wonder if that coupled with the fact that most methods of communication can be monitored, recorded, preserved and held against individuals as evidence of crimes or thoughts which are against the “greater good” has stopped any chance of a needed “revolution” both cultural and societal. My disappointment lies with the fact that it has been our generation which has come of age and relative control during this time. Maybe by stepping outside the systems as much as possible that is a revolutionary act… don’t know
At this point I would clearly say that I have no role in any scene, really the only scene that I played a role in was the “scene” or number of scenes in Nanaimo where we’re both from.
That Nanaimo scene of the late ’90s was oddly fertile. For such a small group of people, it seems like an unlikely high percentage of us carried on to varying levels of national and international notoriety. Be it in the form of Apollo Ghosts or Tough Age or Elfin Saddles or Brodie West or you or whoever. What do you think it was about that scene?
It’s conceivable that it was fertile to a point, as the “notoriety” you speak of was achieved after leaving for the most part.
Yeah, none of it happened while any of us were still living in Nanaimo.
Perhaps it was a fertile incubator. In many ways it was a safe place to experiment, find ones footing but didn’t really lend itself to reaching for that “next level”… or whatever you want to call it. Maybe leaving was reaching for the next level. Maybe now with the internet being what it is that next level is a little easier to achieve with higher levels becoming more difficult. It’s hard to say. To me the reason that the Nanaimo scene was fertile in someways is the lack of homogenization, the fact that the town was marginalized to some degree and so were a lot of us. That led to lots of support for lots of things that didn’t really make sense to the folks that were supporting them. Of course everyone had a different reason for being involved but basically all you had to do as an artist or whatever was to create something and you were likely to find support for a certain period of time.
Another thing that made it work at a point was infrastructure. A good and supportive record store [Fascinating Rhythm, still one of the best record stores in Canada]with a good staff, who had liberties from the owner to take chances on stock. A number of people who laid the groundwork for shows and later venues which allowed shows as long as folks drank…
Ha! I was just talking with someone about how they can’t put on noise shows anymore because the audiences don’t drink. They just go in the alley and smoke pot. And the music drives everyone else away. Scenes need supportive spaces.
One major part of me staying in Nanaimo before Blackball opened was the Jazz Vanguard which was sort of mythical when I was in high school [The Vanguard was a firetrap in the basement of a hotel on the waterfront. Piled to the low ceiling with old furniture and debris, it was the home of free-jazz and experimental shows. A place of magic.] and later was a great practice space and venue that really fostered the stranger side of things for a period of time. Having a space to practice and whatnot. Without that, my level of frustration might have bubbled over and led to me being a stockbroker or some other silly thing in my early 20’s. I wonder if things would have developed in such a way if one of those things was missing?
I think any scene is probably an organic system reliant on all the parts.
I know I am likely missing something, someone—because I historically have—but I wonder if enough credit is ever given to those who exist before things happen, and I say “happen” very loosely.
The people behind the people behind the scenes rarely get credit. Anyway, not to keep harping on this theme of you leaving and coming back, but I’m going to touch on it again. Something I’ve noticed myself is each time Moonwood or BABEL or Arachnidiscs reaches another milestone on the road to success—whatever the hell “success” might be in the scenario—the feeling of pride and accomplishment lasts about five minutes. And then I’m back to feeling like I haven’t achieved anything and it’s all been a waste of time. Or that none of it really matters and reaching the next level is also meaningless. That it’s all smoke and mirrors. Like the very idea that “culture” is seen to be worth something is itself a capitalist construct. That none of this so-called culture humanity has created has intrinsic value and we’ve been duped into believing it does so that it can be commodified and sold to us. Anyway, where I’m going is: was achieving a certain level of success a similar experience for you?
Even now over 25% of my lifetime—in terms of years—my identity was derived from music and my involvement in music. As what could be determined as the last half of my life enters its first decade I have a far more healthy relationship with sound and what I need from it in order to feel a purpose in my existence. I’m not sure as to how to describe certain levels of achievement. In retrospect I am very happy and proud of what I produced in the past 20 years. I am not sure that any group of events, releases or milestones are the focus of that pride.
Touring, the act of playing a number of shows in a row, leads to a level of exhaustion which is very much part of the experience, however that really puts a haze over the whole elation with playing shows that in retrospect seem wonderful. But how much of that was pure mental and physical exhaustion, I can’t say. I think that playing a show in a city in Belgium is much the same as playing a show in a youth center in Nanaimo, it’s a love/hate sort of thing and I find it somewhat satisfying that if I had to list my 10 favourite shows, I would put both those events on my list for different reasons. After one particular show in which I was in at my worst. Not musically but attitude wise. I am sure you know that mood from me…
Oh, yeah. [memories surface of a gig at the university SUB where I was playing bass in Andrew’s band and he leaped onto a table to harangue the audience for not paying attention to us, and possibly the way they were living their lives, while I tried to fade into the back of the stage area].
And a veteran of the music scene came up to me and said he has been watching his friends play “that kind of music” for years and never quite got it, but after watching me something clicked. That felt good, not good enough to turn my mood around at the time but now I’m very proud of that. What I do is a little different it would seem than what people expect even amongst a certain crowd. I guess even at the time I knew how lucky I was to have any level of success, you know standing in front of a crowd and doing exactly what you want, what comes into your mind exits through your actions and into the eyes and ears of a crowd… That is an amazing feeling. Creating something in the moment and having an audience respond is truly joyous feeling. I remember another musician having concern for me because I appeared angry…
I don’t know if you’re referencing the same person, but Kristjanne (of Everything is Geometry) once said to me, “Whenever I see Andrew play, I feel like he hates me. Like he wants me to go away.” You had that kind of aggressive intensity. Mesmerizing, but also uncomfortable. Like you were pure bottled anger.
When nothing could be further from the truth about roots of my sound and performance.
It’s something I always appreciated.
Perhaps it’s the reason we both felt marginalized and could recognize that in each other’s work—and of course the fact that The Cult are pretty great.
They’re the best.
SOUND OF TIME releases on Dec. 4, 2015 and can be ordered HERE.
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!