Posts Tagged ‘industrial’

Jim Thirlwell, FoetusHe isn’t at all the bastard you expect him to be. He’d disagree with that – he’d be the first to call himself difficult or surly, every bit the man his infamously uncompromising music has made him out to be. But for Jim G. Thirlwell, best know to the world as … well, not best know as anything in particular really – identity traits are hard to stick to. That’s what happens when you adopt a new pseudonym at seemingly every breath; your personality will forever be called into question by those wondering if you’re just putting on an act to go with the name. And what names! Scraping Foetus off the Wheel. Clint Ruin. Wiseblood. Steroid Maximus. Manorexia. 20 years of aural terrorism that began while Thirlwell was an art student growing up in Australia, soaking up the influences of that continent’s punk explosion (which produced the career of a Thirlwell friend and occasional collaborator Nick Cave). A move to England, the founding of industrial music, the legendary push to get famed noise auteurs Einsturzende Neubauten a record deal at the same time Thirlwell landed his own. A more recent past that finds him taking residence with punk priestess Lydia Lunch in New York City and plumbing the seediest elements of Brooklyn for musical inspiration.

Anyway, you review the man’s history and it becomes easy to develop a perception of Thirlwell as some sort of swaggering blank-o-phobe and classic badass who you’d rather not look in the eye. But damned if he isn’t – like every single other underground musician with that sort of reputation – a perfect gentleman.

Thirlwell, aka Foetus, has been at this game for a long time – an staggering feat given his utter unwillingness to compromise his vision for greater material success. Sure, there have been big dollar projects: remix work for everyone from Nine Inch Nails (check Fixed and Further Down the Spiral), the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pantera and scads of others. His award-winning work on MTV Sports, for which he created the music and performed voiceovers. The commercials. But all of that has provided mere fuel for the fire of his personal creative output: the unrelenting aural assault you undergo when listening to his records using the Foetus moniker (and myriad variations on that theme – from You’ve Got Foetus On Your Breath to Foetus Interruptus), or the ancillary projects that seem to pop up like weeds.

And after two decades, his prolific output remains undiminished; he’ll release three different records this summer alone: the new full length, Flow, a follow-up remix E.P., Blow and the first album under his newest moniker, Manorexia. That amidst appearances as DJ OTEFSU at places like the Beauty Bar in Los Angeles, or at the upcoming Fetish Ball at the Hollywood Athletic Club, and a world tour with the Foetus live band in support of Flow. It was actually on this world tour that Choler caught up with Thirlwell, to discuss his latest spate of typically frenetic activity.

Listen to the full interview:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Sean Flinn: The first questions I have for you are really about the new album, Flow. When did you start working on it? How long did it take to put together?

Jim Thirlwell: Well, like all my albums, it took my entire life to put together. Some of the songs date back, from starting them, to like maybe the mid-’90s, and they sort of sat there gestating without a home until I dragged them out of retirement and reworked them. But a majority of it was done over a period of probably about a year to 18 months. And then it took about another year before it was released. Like a lot of my stuff … my projects tend to bottleneck and all come out at once. So there’re, like, 3 albums coming out this year.

I know you’ve mentioned before that a lot of your work tends to be very conceptual – from the 4-letter-word albums titles to the artwork. I’m wondering if there was any kind of guiding concept behind Flow at all.

Well, mostly that becomes apparent after the fact. Or, actually not so much after the fact, but usually when I’m about three quarters through an album, nearing the end, I kind of start to look at it, and I say, “O.K. What’s missing from this picture? What do I want to round it out? What’s missing in terms of flavor and intensity?” Not “Have I touched on every facet of the history of recorded music.” Maybe I’ve left a few stones unturned … maybe not. So, with GashGash was a really extreme ultimate statement of intent, in terms of that sort of thrilling violence and negativity and finality and stuff. I really felt like I’d finessed it and made the statement that I wanted to make — that I’d been trying to make for some time. But it’s almost redundant to keep repeating that statement. But that started to get mirrored in my life, that whole finality and that negativity physically manifested itself, and that’s kind of what I was crawling back from with Flow. The idea of Flow is … even the title connotes a kind of continuum — the flow of ideas, the flow in my life. Flow is what I kind of aspire to — it’s like balance. It’s like channeling. And I don’t pretend to have attained that yet.

Your recent bio from Thirsty Ear Records mentions that somewhere in the past couple of years, you’ve acquired this sort of newfound joie de vivre

Well, I wouldn’t say that. I wouldn’t say joie de vivre. I mean … newfound vivre! As opposed to mort. I think I have a really strong survival instinct, because there are extremely strong forces at work to kill me — mainly emanating from myself. But I guess that there’s this underlying thing that just keeps me fucking alive.

Do you think maybe – not to get too esoteric here – that the tension in there, between the forces that want to kill you and the survival instinct, sometimes produces the art that comes out of you?

Yeah. Well, it keeps me alive long enough to talk about it. Absolutely.

We talked about the bottleneck of projects a little bit. Does anything have to do with whom you’re signed to at the time? I know Gash came out on Sony, and you mentioned there that that was a really definitive personal statement for you. I’m wondering if the timing of that personal statement accorded with what Sony wanted from you at all. Did you run into any friction with them at all? Or were they behind you 100% on that project?

Well, I liked the people I worked with up there, and there was never any question about artistic control. But, you know, the powers that be at, like, Business Affairs in Japan or wherever, pulled the plug on Foetus before it even had a chance to get started. And I did tour for a while off of that, and some other things came out … and at that point, I’d toured for a while, I wasn’t writing new material and I was not really in any state to, and some things came out to give the illusion of activity. But it was a big detour in my life. A fork in the road.

O.K. We know that the follow-up to Flow, Blow, will be coming out in the Fall. And I’ve noticed that a lot of your work tends to come out in pairs, or kind of in groups. You had Null and Void [the E.P.s that bookended Gash], Hole and Nail

Well, Hole and Nail weren’t really a pair. Hole was more … that clump was like, the 12″s that came out around then, which was Finely Honed Machine, Calamity Crush, Wash / Slog. That was that clump, on Hole. And then Nail sort of existed unto itself, but out of the same sessions arose “Ramrod” and “Bedrock.” But yeah – it does sort of like come in clumps. Maybe I exhaust myself – I sort have this stuff to say, and then I’m like, “Oh – and another thing! Oh god! There’s something I forgot here!” And then I get that out of my system and I enter a new phase. There’s some threads to previous works, but I think it’s an ongoing refinement, a sophistication, and hopefully it’s a process – it’s progression. I’m progressing. Because I do see it as a body of work. I do see it as my legacy, I do see it as a docudrama of my life.

Can we talk a little bit about the live shows, since I just saw you sound check and everything here? I’ve seen you play on a couple occasions – once on the Gash tour, which seemed to have slightly higher production values (video screens and a lot of presence), whereas now, and at a show subsequent to the Gash show, you’ve gotten a little bit more stripped down. How do you bring the recorded material to the stage? Are you consciously thinking of taking the material live …

No, not when I record it. Not at all. I think that that would hinder the instrumentation that I use. And it’s interesting to reinterpret it live, because then I [can ask myself], “OK, what elements am I going to retain? What instrument is going to be playing this part? How am I going to tighten up the structure of this arrangement?” It breathes new, different life into the song.

And of course, the Foetus live band has always been a kind of revolving door, because the participants are invariably in other bands as well. But, you know, a bit of the flavor of their personalities and sounds come through. But it’s pretty much re-arranging.

How tough is it for you to communicate your vision of what you want the show to be to the musicians that you bring in, especially with the rotating lineup?

Not that difficult. I pretty much know what I want. I know the sounds that I want, I know the notes that I want them to play. I have a pretty strong vision of what I want. And I think I’m pretty good at articulating that.

Given an unlimited budget, what would your fantasy stage show look like?

I would love to have a full brass section. I mean, a much larger ensemble, I would say. It’s not inconceivable that that might happen.

I know that, on your records, you have played around with big band music and hot jazz and stuff like that …

I mean, I would love to do that live.

So you’d love to do a whole show of just big band-style stuff?

Well, big band with my regular instrumentation as well.

How does the big band stuff and the jazz stuff tie into some of the more aggressive rock-oriented stuff?

I think that stuff is aggressive. You know? And sometimes it’s just hair-raising. I come at it like … you know, I’m not an authority on big band music or jazz at all. I don’t necessarily have any knowledge about what I’m pillaging.

But it sounds good and I imagine it’s fun to play. You’ve released a pretty staggering amount of work under something like 20 different pseudonyms over the years. What drives you to adapt a new pseudonym? What outlet does, say, Wiseblood or Clint Ruin afford you that Foetus doesn’t? Especially given that there is a lot of stylistic diversity underneath the Foetus umbrella.

Well, Wiseblood is a collaboration, so it had its name unto itself. It had a definite agenda, which was like, violent macho American [music] made by non-Americans. Steroid Maximus was a kind of breakaway, a reaction against what on the Foetus albums had become about 50%b instrumental. However, there was still this perception about Foetus that was like, “Violent this that and that.” I wanted to put the emphasis on the music without putting a literal interpretation on it. It was also an opportunity to collaborate with a bunch of other people. And then there’s Manorexia, which is anew thing, which I’m just putting out through the Website,, and selling at shows. It has a different criteria, which is: I wanted something that had a more spatial quality, something that was pretty spontaneous. It started life as ambient, but it’s really ambient, it’s more like a sort of psychotic soundtrack.

What drives you to be so prolific, to put out so much material?

I think it’s really my legacy. I think it’s because I’m a fucking egomaniac. And those are my children, you know? It’s basically – that’s so important to me, my legacy. It’s sick, I know. It’s so superficial. But that’s the way that I envision my life and that’s the way that I interface with … your world.

I guess you could look at it this way: you could be an egomaniacal, say, businessman who is just trying to accumulate things, as opposed to being an egomaniacal artist who is producing things that other people can enjoy. So there’s a little bit of redemption there.


So, into the final questions: From your cover art to your lyrics, which occasionally reflect a fascination with pop culture (I’ve noticed some cartoon references in there – for example, “Take it Outside, Godboy,” which is taken from a Simpsons line, and there are lyrics from cartoon theme songs in some of your lyrics), I’m lead to wonder just how much pop culture you absorb?

Well, often a lot. It rents way too much space in my head sometimes. What started as kind of a guilty pleasure turned into an unhealthy obsession. I’m pulling away from that altogether. It sort of creeps into your bones like cancer, or something.

Especially — well, you still live in Brooklyn, correct?


I mean, living in America in general, it’s hard to get away from it, and in New York, you’re at the center of the pop culture universe.

Oh yeah. And I think we’re all bombarded with a lot of images, and some of those things just sort of come in, whether I like it or not. They rear their heads.

What fascinates you the most? What attracts you the most? Any particular TV shows or books or movies?

I’ve kind of stopped watching TV. I’ve put a bit of an embargo on it. And I dunno. Whatever it is [that fascinates me], it changes all the time. I don’t have a “Top 10 Things That I Do.” It really changes daily, but I think that I soak up a lot of things and the things that I spew out might not necessarily be things that reflect what my personal tastes are. And what my personal tastes are – stuff that I listen to or expose myself to aren’t necessarily because I really like those things, but I want to experience those things, or understand them.

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Michael Gira“Most anything Michael Gira is involved in immobilizes me with despair,” Slackjaw columnist / author Jim Knipfel said in a 1999 review of New Mother, Gira’s first album under the moniker The Angels of Light. “That’s not necessarily a bad thing,” he concluded, summing up pretty much how any one who interacts with Gira’s music feels. Listening to anything Gira has released – either as part of the seminal post-punk / proto-goth group Swans, or his more recent work as the leader of the more personal, mostly acoustic ensemble Angels of Light – is eviscerating in the most endurable of manners. Sure, like any great singer / songwriter, his softer moments vibrate sympathetically with the frequency of an utterly wrecked heart. And yeah, occasionally he just reaches in and does the wrecking himself. He does it with such grace, though, such empathy and such reflective human-ness that you don’t mind. You invite him in. Let him stay long enough, and he will mirror you.

In 1999, following the dismissal of Swans (which had grown creatively stifling) and the dissolution of his longtime partnership with keyboardist / vocalist Jarboe, Gira began running his Young God Records enterprise in earnest, amassing a stable of forward-thinking underground bands with which to further the aesthetic Gira and Swans pioneered. He’s turned to producing now as well, turning in credits on recent albums by U.S. Maple, Calla and Flux Information Sciences. He’s also creating some of the most interesting music of his career; his “psycho-ambient” project, Body Lovers, drew rave reviews for its debut, Number One of Three, while its sonic doppleganger, Body Haters, showed flashes of Gira’s savagely noisy past. Most notably, his more formally arranged group, Angels of Light, has put out two stunningly intimate albums: 1999’s New Mother, and the just-release How I Loved You. It was the occasion of the latter’s release, and the launch of the Young God Records Web site, that found Choler’s editor Sean Flinn connecting with a gracious and newly techno-savvy Gira for an e-mail interview.

Sean Flinn: Let’s talk a bit about the new Young God Records Web site. For a few years, the only online resource available to your label and fans has been the Swans site (that I gather is run by Jarboe). It seems like you’ve resisted somewhat jumping into the online space with both feet. What finally motivated you to break away from that and establish your own online resource for your music and the bands whose work you produce and release on the Young God label?

Michael Gira: I suppose I just finally realized how self-defeating my technophobia was, that I was denying myself and the other people I work with through Young God Records access to a large amount of people that might be interested in our music. This was no easy feat, for me. I didn’t even have a credit card until a few months ago (in fact I didn’t open my first bank account until the age of 35!). I have just always had a disdain or suspicion of getting involved in systems which might ultimately lead to someone else having control over my life. But, with the options available to interesting, non-commercial music steadily shrinking, it became obvious that the net is/will be one of the most important ways to reach people around the world who might care about the music we release. As I say, now that there’s several other groups on the label aside from myself and my own work with Angels of Light, I felt a responsibility to do the best for them that I could. So I took the plunge, got the credit card, maxed it out of course, got the computer, and soon made contact with Ted Matson, who’s the Webmaster at and we’ve been working furiously together to make the site as comprehensive as possible.

Our guiding principal in terms of design has been simplicity and clarity, and to make the site as user-friendly (for fools like me) as possible. I’m also not a fan of flashy effects and gizmos and sputtering graphics etc, typical to a lot of websites. It reminds me of the first days of sampling, when everyone was so infatuated with the technology – the stuttering sampled vocal etc – like some kind of shiny new toy in the greasy hands of a giggling infant. To me, it’s just information. So we tried to make the site like a textbook might look – clear and simple …

What are your plans and hopes for the site? What sort of impact has it had on you and the label in the short time that it’s been up?

Aside from compiling as much information relevant to the music we release as possible, our links section (still not up yet) will be extensive – regardless of reciprocation, and I also want pages/sections devoted to the work of artists – visual and otherwise – I admire, with a “gallery” of their work, brief statements of intent they supply, and of course links back to them personally. I also want to have a section devoted to conversations/ dialog with people I admire – artists, writers, musicians etc. This will hopefully lead to some interesting connections and cross-references along the way. In addition, I’ll be doing special projects – limited edition CDs etc – available exclusively at the site … It’s already having a very positive effect, in that our tendrils are creeping ever outward, with the additional corollary effect of making me so busy I sometimes forget who or what I am – but that’s a good thing!

There’s a statement on the Young God site to the effect it’s the only site officially overseen and affiliated with you and your work, implying that other sites are making this claim, and doing so erroneously. What’s the back-story here?

In the interest of cooling down conflict with someone I will always hold in the deepest, highest regard, all I can say is that I have absolutely zero input or involvement with any other website claiming to represent me or my work, past or present. However, I wish that “someone” the best in all things, as always. My hope was to be mutually supportive allies, but …

Anymore, bringing a label or band’s presence to the Web begs questions about a larger online music strategy and the online music environment in general. Have you formed an opinion of file swapping technologies like Napster, Gnutella, etc.? Do you see them as threatening you and your label’s roster, or as providing a new avenue for promotion / communication with fans?

As for the “strategy” reference, the only strategy I have that I can think of is to make the music available to people that might be interested in it. I don’t want to convince or seduce anybody into an opinion, one way or another, about what we do, just make what we do available to those with similar tastes.

The act of making something … is ultimately an act of control, or will. It’s saying, ‘This is what I think, how I view things, these are my ideas or feelings,’ not ‘Here’s a bunch of vague notions, now it’s your turn.’

As for the MP3 issue, it’s generally anathema to me. What, are we all supposed to be hippies or anarchists with rich parents or something? I work extremely hard at what I do, with considerable financial and personal risk involved in the making of the music, and the same scenario applies to just about everyone else I know that’s made the disastrous decision to make music a career, so we deserve to be paid for our efforts. You wouldn’t expect a book by an author you admire to be free, nor would you expect an electrician to come into your house and rewire it for free. How are we any different? This is our work, what we do for a living (of sorts), and if you like the final results, buy it, you spoiled brat. Also, from an artistic point of view, it’s very important to me that an album be heard in its entirety, with all its juxtapositions and contrasts intact. I spend a huge amount of time and put a great deal of thought into that aspect of the final album. I don’t want some ninny, irony infected post modernist getting their fingers into it, rearranging it to suit their taste. It’s about control, I guess. The act of making something – a painting, a piece of music, a piece of fiction – is ultimately an act of control, or will. It’s saying, “This is what I think, how I view things, these are my ideas or feelings,” not, “Here’s a bunch of vague notions, now it’s your turn.” So, in addition to the potentially devastating financial consequences of the music being downloaded for free at random, there’s the issue of dissipation, aesthetically. Also, I like packaging. I like the way the visual sensibility, the images used, the general feel of the packaging, affects the perception of the music …
So, we have soundbites of all the music at the site, but never the whole song. If you like what you hear, buy it, if not, don’t. That seems quite fair to me.

However, it might be that we’ll make one entire song from each CD available as mp3 download, like a single, I guess. In the long run though, it really doesn’t matter what I have to say about this, because if people want to share mp3 files they’re going to do it anyway. I don’t know, maybe in the long run it’ll just mean we’ll be forced economically to find more lucrative careers!

Moving on to the music: let’s talk a little about the new Angels of Light album, How I Loved You. How did making this album differ from making New Mother? Was there again a process of begging, borrowing and stealing involved in getting it completed? Did it flow any easier for you?

New Mother, for the most part was built up from initial takes of just myself with an acoustic guitar, sometimes recording the vocal simultaneously, then orchestrated on top of that. How I Loved You was rehearsed as a band, then most of the songs played live in the studio, with some overdubbed orchestration added later. So the latter has more of an “organic” feel, and the sounds are less separated. I don’t really see one process as being more valid than another. In the end, it’s all just sound to me. But the songs on HILY had been played a great deal live too, so they’d expanded in many cases into the beastly and lengthy versions that exist now by the time they were recorded, which I guess makes the material more “emotional” in a certain way.

Yeah, the usual tortuous problems of financing this kind of recording apply, but in the end I think it was worth it. But it did lead me to the decision to record my music from now on at home, in protocols, just getting a friend or two over from time to time, adding ideas. My ears have been bigger than my wallet for far too long, and it’s time to get simple. That way of working will necessarily force a change in the sound of what I do, but that’s not such a bad thing in itself. I’m sure the learning curve will be monumental though …

You’ve called the album “a collection of love songs.” First off: why that particular form? What attracted you to the concept of the “love song”?

I never, never work from a concept outward. I wake up in the morning, pick up a guitar, and start writing. Whatever is occupying my mind at the time is what I write about. So really, as “love” has been pretty much my primary personal preoccupation for the last few years, that’s what ended up being the subject matter of the songs. Not to say they’re all typical love songs though. One song is an homage to Nico, with whom I was obsessed for a while. I went through a period where I listened to The Marble Index and Desert
Shore constantly, over and over, and I was just consumed, seduced, with an overwhelming need to, well, FUCK NICO, to be frank. ‘course she’s dead, so that saved her the ordeal …

Another song, “My True Body,” is based on a memory from when I was in prison in Israel as a runaway kid. I used to see (and hear) this one Arab boy raped repeatedly every night. We were in an old army barracks, so there were about 100 prisoners in one large room – Arabs at one end, American and other foreigners arrested for drugs or whatever at the other end. The lights would be out, the moonlight entering through the metal grills that covered the windows. There’d be their undulating, dim shapes at the end of the barracks, emitting a kind of muffled, distant, suction sound, along with his whimpers, of course. Then when they were finished with him I’d hear him shuffling across the concrete floor on his way to the sink, where he’d throw up for a while, then brush his teeth. Then he’d shuffle back in the dark to his end of the barracks. Anyway, since it was a pretty formative experience for me (I was 15/16 at the time), I often thought about him, wondered what happened to him, so I wrote it as an idealized or romanticized homage, where “the singer” – myself – sings in the first person, as him, or my version of him, as his memory exists in me…

Another song, “New York Girls,” is a tribute to a particular breed of young women you’ll find at pretty much any rock or rock-related show in NYC (and would have also been there at say, CBGB in 1979 when I moved to NYC) – tough, cynical, smart, but with a very desirable soft white underbelly… Other songs are very specifically love songs sung for/to particular women – very openly sentimental…

It seems like you’re really playing around with the format here (the only comparable works I can come up with are Nick Cave’s The Boatman’s Call and Diamanda Galas & John Paul Jones’s The Sporting Life); there are some sweet Jeff Buckley-esque moments that start off the album, but also some more raw, almost abrasive pieces that crop up as the album progresses. What are you getting at here? Is there a “medium is the message” commentary running through the album?

I have to say that I’m not “getting at” anything. Really, I just write about what interests me. I’m not trying to make some point about music or “The Song”. I don’t care at all about that kind of thing. I just do my work, then try to forget about it and move on to the next thing.

Putting pictures of your parents on the album’s cover and calling the album a “collection of love songs” suggests a sort of Freudian bent to the work; (insert thick German accent here) So, tell me about your mother. Tell me about your father. Are some (Or all? Or any?) of the songs on How I Loved You love songs to your parents? You’ve mentioned that some of the songs on New Mother were more hagiographical – do any similar songs crop up on How I Loved You?

I was just consumed, seduced, with an overwhelming need to, well, FUCK NICO, to be frank. ‘course she’s dead, so that saved her the ordeal …

My parent’s photos have been taped to the walls of the various places I’ve lived over the years, always there. I just instinctively thought their images fit with the music, in this instance. I guess you could say that since their “love relationship”, and who they were and what they became as a result of their relationship, played a large role in deciding what I would become as a person, and how I would ultimately view “love”, I thought it appropriate to use their images for this album. No, there aren’t any songs to or about them on this album, though. But they’re there, since they continue to live inside me.

It seems as though you’ve used your different post-Swans projects to pursue to a further extent, but separately, certain musical ideas that were somewhat jammed together in Swans, perhaps confined and kept from growing to their fruition by the baggage of the Swans legacy: Angels of Light presents your formal songs and lyrical ideas; Body Lovers mines the more “psycho-ambient” areas that began to crop up on Soundtracks for the Blind; and the Body Haters brought back some of the real visceral, abrasive feel of the early Swans projects. Would you agree with this assessment? Why or why not?

I guess I just don’t want to mess up my songs with a bunch of artsy-fartsy ideas!

Your songwriting has become gradually more lyrical as time as gone by; the two Angels of Light albums are very strong on melody and extremely easy to listen to (which is not to say that the music has in any way been compromised) in many spots. How and why did you begin changing your songwriting style?

I just try to keep myself interested in what I’m doing. Things move along in the usual haphazard way, and I try to follow the flow … I’m really not premeditated at all in that sense, though once I discover where I’m going, I then hack away at it (and everyone around me) until the work achieves an internal logic.

How is the next Body Lovers album coming along? When and what came we expect from it?

I don’t know when it’s coming. I have some ideas, but as usual, they’re expensive. I adamantly don’t want to just generate sounds from artificial / computer sources. It’s important to me to make the initial sounds for Body Lovers with people playing instruments together, to generate a feel, first. Then that would lead to conjunctions with other sound sources, which would then be manipulated further.

What’s up next for you? More production duties? An Angels of Light tour?

I don’t have any production work lined up at the moment. An AOL tour will probably happen some time soon, but honestly, I haven’t picked up a guitar or sung a note in months, because I’ve been grappling with the label, trying to get it stabilized and moving forward. So the first step will be to just sing by myself here at home, probably for a few months, to find the connection with that part of myself again, and to get my voice back in shape. Then I’ll start to gather the musicians. So it’ll take a while. Could be I’ll do a little solo-acoustic tour though, just because the thought terrifies me! Also working presently with Dan Matz of Windsor [for the Derby, another band on the Young God roster] on an album called Ourselves: What We Did. It’s songs Dan and I have done at his house, by ourselves. In our minds, it’s a “pop” record, but whenever we play the material for someone, they always look at us kind of dumbfounded we’d say that.

NIN“We’ve been away for a long time,” Trent Reznor told a captivated audience at Nine Inch Nails’ sold-out appearance at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, Calif. Tuesday night. “And to have you all still here means the world to us.”

It ought to. Having taken a hiatus the length of which would have killed most bands, Reznor had every reason to expect that his most recent album, The Fragile, would be met with indifference from even his most stalwart fans. And to some degree it has — the album has sold a mere 750,000 copies to date, ranking far below the multi-platinum success of its predecessor (1994’s The Downward Spiral). And Reznor’s grateful remarks, delivered at the outset of the band’s encore, struck a chord with the crowd, die-hard NIN fans who’ve stuck by the band despite flagging album sales, fleeting radio support and a sea-change in popular music (The Downward Spiral bowed at the high point of grunge, while The Fragile has had to contend with the insane popularity of pop tarts like Britney Spears and ‘N Sync); it also prefaced the encore’s first song, “The Day the World Went Away” perfectly.

Consider the group’s Anaheim show to be a sign that the world might be on its way back. Although the group couldn’t fill the comparatively small Cox Arena in San Diego on on June 3, they packed the cavernous Arrowhead Pond to the rafters and managed, despite refusing to rely solely on the slash-and-burn mechanics of their inhumanly intense Self Destruct Tour, to keep the crowd in check.

The show opened with ferocious renditions of two of the band’s earliest hits (“Terrible Lie” and “Sin”, both from Pretty Hate Machine), Reznor relentlessly abusing longtime guitarist Robin Finck and multi-instrumentalist Danny Lohner (highlights: Reznor mock-sodomizing Finck with a water bottle, then grabbing him a headlock, then unplugging his guitar and throwing Finck into the crowd). About halfway through the set, however, the band broke into a somber set of The Fragile’s more atmospheric songs. Positioned in front of a stunning three-screen LED video display, Reznor and Co. took the bold step of playing mid-tempo, mostly ambient numbers like “La Mer” and “The Great Below” to an audience clamoring for songs from the group’s back catalog — songs that, thanks to the long break between NIN’s breakthrough The Downward Spiral and the as-yet low-selling The Fragile, they haven’t heard for five years.

Trent likes the Licky-licky

And while NIN happily obliged by peppering their set with 10 songs from previous albums, including the classics “Head Like a Hole” and the surprise hit “Closer,” they also made a point of showcasing their recent work’s strongest points: songs that, while not rhythmically intense or anchored by profanity-laced choruses, use intricately structured dynamics and sound design to explore different areas of their tortured psyches.

The balance of material and energy produced NIN’s most mature and entertaining live experience yet, proving that the group can do more than undo themselves at a blistering pace (one thing they can’t do: get away from trashing their equipment, a by-now tired spectacle that the band now engage in on every tour stop, the only difference being that now, as mega rock stars, they can afford to bust more guitars and pour more water on keyboards).

Still, the sturm und drang didn’t always come off smoothly. Most tellingly, and thankfully late in the show, the group made a painfully rough transition from the thrashing, propulsive “Starfuckers, Inc.” into the ultra-quiet, ultra-intense “Hurt.” Still, by that point, the crowd belonged to Reznor, and produced a final burst of enthusiasm to sing along with the scorching chorus of “Starfuckers,” only to turn around and match Reznor word for word on “Hurt.”

Ultimately triumphant in Los Angeles, NIN’s Fragility 2.0 tour rolls on through San Francisco, the Pacific Northwest and on to Europe for the duration of summer. A complete list of tour dates is available at the official Nine Inch Nails Web site.

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Visit Nine Inch Nails’s Web site

Boyd Rice

“I got a laptop computer about a week ago. Actually, someone gave it to me,” says Boyd Rice, who, under the moniker NON, has been terrorizing the industrial-gothic underground for a quarter century. “But I don’t intend to go on the Internet, and I’m really doubtful whether I’ll even have e-mail,” he theorizes. For an artist whose work has perpetually forced the expansion of counterculture’s periphery, Rice’s personal life and predilections steer remarkably clear of the cutting edge. A notorious raconteur and prankster who, while exerting an influence over protégés like Marilyn Manson, has always longed for at least one moment in the sun, Rice is torn between his growing desire to live a more “hermitlike life of solitude” and his compulsion to communicate with and grow his fan base.

“I’d like to get more involved with my Web site,” he explains via phone from his home in Denver, Colo. “I was just talking with [the people who run my site] at Brainwashed [a Webzine that also hosts official sites for pioneering electronic artists like Rice, Coil, Meat Beat Manifesto, Luke Vibert and Diamanda Galas], and it’s always been my desire to have more communication, have more news on things that are going to be happening on it rather than just really bizarre rumors.”

His concerns are well-founded. It’s one thing for an artist to labor in obscurity because the work he produces presents a pill too bitter to be swallowed by the finicky maw of pop culture. It’s quite another to be forced out of the limelight by lack of attention to his Web site.

To wit, the “news” page on the official NON site. The most recent entry notes the impending release of NON’s latest album, Receive the Flame, which has been on shelves since December 1999. The “older news” section has remained static for the past year, despite Rice’s eventful completion of a European tour with goth luminaries Death in June (with whose leader, Douglas P., Rice works on a number of projects) and the Stockholm Film Festival premiere of Richard Wolstonecraft’s film Pearls Before Swine, in which Rice plays the lead role. In short, the site possesses little beyond a wealth of disinformation and outdated semi-facts.

This leaves Rice frustrated.

“It’s like, me remixing a Richard Stapleton album,” he says of the validity of the site’s news. “Who even thought of that? In the past, I’ve sent them obscure old albums for little contests, and they’ve gotten rid of those, given them to people. I’ve done stuff like that, but I’ve always wanted to be more involved. I just don’t necessarily [want to] be on the Internet. I’d get mail from everybody. It seems like e-mail makes things a bit too easy. People who would never have the patience to write a letter and put a stamp on it and mail it to you, if they had your e-mail address, you’d probably hear from them every other day.”

A fine line divides Rice’s ambitions, but after 25 years of pushing people’s buttons, Rice has grown notorious for treading fine lines. His music and performances have drawn strong reactions — positive and negative — since he started his trademark practice of melding raw noise into music back in the mid-’70s. “When I first started doing it and nobody was doing noise music, the responses were uniformly negative,” he laughs.

It’s easy to hear why. NON’s albums typically consist of viciously repetitive drones culled from tape loops and samples of, among other things, bubblegum girl-group music from the ’50s and ’60s. It’s easy-listening music taken to an uneasy extreme, sonic wallpaper that obliterates natural ambience. Though technically apolitical, NON’s aural assaults are often interpreted by his detractors as unambiguously fascist, bigoted and even demonic. And while Rice acknowledges that the spoken-word rants that occasionally accompany his sound collages do toy with fascist imagery and reflect his long association with Anton LaVey and the Church of Satan, he is puzzled by the strong and vocal opposition his work draws from some quarters.

“I think mostly the people who impose some sort of negative meaning on it get pissed off about it, but they don’t actually come to the concert to see what’s happening. Because if they did, they’d have a completely different idea of what’s going on. They have no idea what they’re talking about. They formulated these opinions, and I’ve said to these people, “Come in and look at this, and if there’s anything that you object to, fine. But you won’t see anything.” And these people stand outside and protest, but they won’t actually come in and find out what they’re protesting against.”

non logo

The Wolf's Angle, a controversial symbol used by Rice as the logo for his group, Non

His frustration is typified by the misinterpretation of the image he uses as NON’s logo, an ancient symbol known as a Wolf’s Angle (pictured right), which the unaware have associated with Nazism, even going so far as to misinterpret it as a swastika (a symbol that is believed to have originated in ancient Troy or what is now Turkey, pre-dating its appropriation by the Nazis by about 3,000 years).

“[The Wolf’s Angle] dates back to the oldest alphabet of runes,” he explains. “When the second alphabet of runes came around, that symbol wasn’t even a part of it. That symbol is ancient and has existed for centuries and has always had the same meaning. And it was used by some extremist group in Germany in the 1500s, then it was used briefly by the Nazis at the end of World War II. The meaning I’m attributing to it has more to do with hermetic gnosticism [a pagan belief system dating back at least as far as 500 A.D., rooted in the texts on the Egyptian god Thoth] than totalitarianism.”

Controversy has earned Rice reverence as a cult icon, but his musical efforts have had a far greater impact, providing a sonic vocabulary to industrial, experimental and ambient music. Few — if any — pop and rock musicians were playing around with the composition of music from non-musical sources when Rice released his first LP, The Black Album in 1975. Today, mechanical clangs, tape loop drones and field-recorded samples pepper the pop airwaves, texturizing everything from Björk’s hyper ballads to Nine Inch Nails’ dour soundscapes.

“Maybe a year ago, I heard that media analysts had said that, in two or three years, the huge form of music would be noise music or industrial music — that there would be this overlap of fans from heavy metal getting into noise music, goth people getting into noise music, and that it would be this huge thing where people like me would sell a million copies of a CD,” he notes. But he’s quick to acknowledge that, while it has overtly influenced several now-popular artists and musical styles, NON won’t sell a million records until “Hell freezes over.”

So Rice won’t be hitting the Billboard Hot 100 any time soon. But he can take pride in the massive success of those he’s inspired over the years, most notably, reigning shock-rock king Marilyn Manson, who took some sartorial and philosophical tutelage from Boyd.

“He used to call me up when he was a teenager living with his parents in Florida. He would call me all the time and just talk and talk about philosophy,” Rice said of his relationship with Mr. Mechanical Animal. “Whenever he comes through town, we visit and hang out, and if I’m in London when he’s in London, we hang out together. But he’s a really busy guy now, so I actually had a lot more contact with him before he even had a recording contract.”

When he’s not making beautiful noise and shaping the minds of tomorrow’s counterculture icons, Rice amuses himself with his other driving passion: pulling pranks. The author of a popular book on the subject for the infamous RE:Search series, Rice has spent years culling practical experience in the field.

boyd rice and marilyn manson

Boyd & Marilyn: What are they hugging?!

“I still do stuff like that whenever the opportunity arises, but it’s just like — it was a passion when I was young. And now that I’m older, I kind of feel like actively wasting somebody else’s time could be fun, but at the same time, I’m actively wasting my time as well. The impulse is still there, and we still do it. Do you remember when Denny’s had those little timers? If you went in, they took your order and pressed this timer, and if your meal didn’t come within 10 minutes or something like that, you’d get the meal for free. So I stole one of these timers, and I would invite all my friends to go to Denny’s, and as I was about a half a block away, I would press the timer, and it would start ticking over. Then we would go in, and we would order, and the waitress would set her timer down, and as soon as she left, I would put my timer on the table and take the timer she had left. We would order all this food — you know, steak and eggs, coffee, milkshakes, pie à la mode, all this stuff — and get it free every time. When I was young, I was interested in how these things could be functional, how you could just screw around with somebody’s thought in order to get them to do what you wanted. I was thinking, I didn’t want to hold a normal job, and I thought, ‘When I’m older, I’ll just make a living off of conning people and getting stuff for free and just going through the world that way.'”

Little surprise, then, that he found a career in the music industry.

“I think it’s far more constructive,” he says of turning his impulse to prank into making music. “Because when you’re pulling a prank on someone, you’re sucking them into an alternate reality for a brief period of time, and then, sooner rather than later, they find out that it is false. It’s like a slap in the face. Whereas with music, I think that it’s an alternate universe that people can feel comfortable with. Or maybe it’s a universe that they’ve always existed in and have felt at odds with what people call’the real world.’ Or they’re at loggerheads with how everybody else lives their lives. That was always the way with me. As a youngster, I felt like I was walking out of rhythm with everybody else in the world. And then I’d find these strange artists or philosophers who [I was] totally in sync with. You kind of think,’Oh. Maybe I’m not alone.'”

While devoted more to music than practical jokes, Rice still finds time to indulge his prankster side. On his recent European tour, for example, he and his pals from Death in June came within a hair’s breadth of making global headlines.

“We went to Italy, and we tried to steal Mussolini’s brain,” he recounted. “Mussolini’s brain is interred in a little marble box, separate from his body. It’s in a glass case that’s in the wall because they removed it and shipped it to the United States to do scientific experiments to find out how intelligent he was. So we happened to be there in this town in Italy that was Mussolini’s hometown.

“We found that he was buried there and found that his brain was interred separately. So we snuck into this place and tried to steal his brain, and we couldn’t get in there. It would probably make the world press,” he said when questioned about why he would even want to possess the brain of the late icon of Italian Fascism.

“It would be exciting to have everybody in the world imagining that there are people who cared enough to steal Mussolini’s brain.” Ultimately, Rice found solace in the fact that his heist was foiled by Italy’s impenetrable brain-protection technology. “It was locked up tight as a drum at night, so we went back the next morning. We went in, and there were all these old people in there putting wreaths on his grave, and they had tears running down their face, and I just felt really kind of selfish — like, ‘Oh, fuck. What a selfish asshole I am, wanting to take this, and it means so much to these nice old Italians. I’ll leave it so everyone can appreciate Mussolini’s brain. It belongs to everybody. It doesn’t just belong to me,'” he laughs.

One imagines him barely able to keep a straight face. And if he could just get his Website updated, he could share the laughter with everyone.


They've got the fucked equipment: (from left) Dan and Smith, AKA Babyland, on stage.

Los Angeles-based dico-junk-noise outift Babyland have endured the collapse of their record label, the demise of their local music scene and the closure of their favorite live venues. They remain unstoppable.

Babyland, consisting of vocalist / noise-shaper Dan Gatto and percussionist / purveyor of wit SMITH, have been rocking mics and burning down club stages in L.A. and the Bay Area for a long, long while now. After four full-length album releases (three on the now defunct Flipside label, one released independently on Mattress) and too many extraordinary, explosive live shows to count, Babyland’s creativity and intensity remarkably show no signs of flagging.

They still approach every songs and performance with the same zeal, concern and intelligence that have become their trademark. Their music, which idiosyncratically blends the best elements of industrial, punk, techno, stand-up comedy and what they call “disco junk noise,” possesses a character that defies categorization and remains capable of perpetual renewal and reinterpretation.

Choler’s Sean Flinn caught up with SMITH via e-mail in late November and early December, following the release of their latest full-length album Outlive Your Enemies.

Sean Flinn: How long has this album [Outlive Your Enemies] been in the works?

SMITH: We started recording the album in February of ’98, at Michael Rozon’s Speed Semen Clove Factory, which is where we actually did everything right up to and including mastering, which we did at the end of August. We did a couple of full weeks, but most of the work was done on weekends and in the evenings. Most of the songs were written since the summer of ’96, but a couple are even older than that.

Do you have any interesting stories to relate from your adventures in the recording studio?

Recording with Michael Rozon was great. For the first time ever we had access to professional digital editing system and a guy who really knows how to use it. Also, we spent a lot of time crafting the specific sounds for each song with a lot more control than we’ve had in the past. The percussion tracks are the best we’ve ever been able to capture, and for once I actually hear the same thing off the recording that I hear in my head while I’m playing.

What is the typical Babyland recording session like (give us a “Day in the Life” scenario)?

The basic recording breakdown is between electronics, percussion and vocals – normally recorded in that order. We usually do two, three or four songs at a time, working them through all three stages and then moving on to another batch. Mixing is kind of a nightmare because we usually have so much going on in every song that it’s tough to find space enough for everything we want to keep. On the other hand, we also have a pretty good idea of what most of the songs are supposed to sound like, so when we achieve that in a mix we know it and when the song still needs more work we know that too. What made these sessions really excellent for us was working with Rozon, who was totally into going the extra mile to encourage us to find new ways to try things out when a track was giving us trouble. Creativity goes a hell of a lot farther when you’ve actually got access to the tools and skills needed to turn those ideas into actual recordings!

I’ve noticed that a lot of the songs that appear on Outlive Your Enemies have been staples of your live show for a year or two now. Do you usually road-test your material before putting it down on an album?

Taking new songs onto the stage and springing them on people who haven’t heard them is one of our favorite things. Also, you learn a lot about the song! By carrying the songs with us for a while they benefit from having a life of their own and a period of open experimentation before we nail them down for good. Songs that we’ve played live a lot are usually easy to record because we know exactly what we want out of them. Conversely, we’ve also included on each album a few songs that have never been played outside the studio, and since these songs are free from all the expectations of live performance they allow us to do a little more experimentation in the studio than we might allow on a seasoned stage veteran.

Does audience reaction to the songs influence any decisions you might make while recording or structuring the album?

Having some idea as to how people are reacting to a song live is helpful, but in the end what is more important to me is finding out what my reactions to the songs are when we perform them in front of people. Sometimes a song that seems to be working great in the practice space just doesn’t stand up the first time out – and other times songs that seem kind of flaky only reveal their true strengths when we’re actually throwing them at someone. The results are really internal, and very hard to deny.

What influences worked on you during the composition and recording of this album, i.e., did any albums, songs, records, artists, films, dreams or incidents from your life compel you to write any of these songs, or influence you as you wrote and recorded them?

A lot of these songs relate to what we have seen going on around us here in Los Angeles since we returned from a National Tour in the summer of ’96. A partial list is as follows: The demise of Flipside records as an operational entity. The realization that our favorite LA bands, clubs and labels more often than not end up getting fucked – often by their own bad habits. The continued stinking nightmare of unmitigated bullshit that is the “legitimate” entertainment industry. The endless parade of totally fake celebrities, causes and “scenes” that allegedly swarm around us, and which couldn’t be more irritating even if they were real. The creeping Fascism in California state politics, and last but not least, DAY JOBS … At least we can say were still here, and of course there were some really good things too: Flipside magazine will survive! People start new bands, clubs and labels daily – and some of them are actually pretty good! A few good films and records sneak out every now and then – even through the sickest institutions! Society and politics seem to be doing a good job of canceling each other out, and therefore leaving me alone! And if it weren’t for those day jobs, we’d still be dreaming …

Why the title Outlive Your Enemies? Who are your enemies, and what cosmically just things do you envision occurring to them beyond the truncation of their life span? Have you ever witnessed one of your foes getting what coming to him/her? What happened?

The last couple years have really left us feeling isolated as artists. One way or another, too many people are giving up on their dreams and giving in to their enemies. For some it’s their bad habits. For others its the lure of comfort and stability offered by just giving up. A few just get taken down by the brute force of violence, illness or some other unavoidable power. We see it all the time and it’s a drag. Artists in Los Angeles are subjected to a constant bombardment of negative energy on the one hand and the relentless allure of tinsel town temptation on the other. It’s all crap, and we want to express the positive message that you don’t have to listen to any of this bullshit, and that just by sticking to your own program and not letting go you are the winner.

Where do you think Outlive … fits in with the rest of the Babyland oeuvre? Do you attempt to design your songs and albums to fit within a set continuum, or do you think that each new project redefines your image and direction?

This album is another step in our journey – wherever it is that we are going – and we are fortunate to be satisfied with every step we have taken. The only continuum that we work under is that of our own ethical integrity coupled with the fact that we want Babyland to be Babyland, not anybody else. Over the years there are definite changes, and yet the limitations we leave ourselves sort of form the skeleton off of which these changes can maneuver. We do the best we can.

Why the split with Flipside, who released your first 3 albums?

Flipside was great to us! Unfortunately, 1996 was a really bad year for independent punk rock labels and Flipside lost their distribution. Realizing that there was little the label could do for us and nothing we could do for the label we struck out on our own. It was literally “every band for themselves,” while Flipside concentrated on saving the magazine. Currently, we’re working together with Flipside to repress the first three CD’s, and there is no grievance to speak of.

Will you handle future Babyland endeavors independently, or are you shopping for a label to call home?

It would be really cool to have some great label treat us really well and pay for everything and market us correctly and distribute the records thoroughly and support us on tour and back up our artistic ideals all the time – but not if it meant that they only liked us while we were trendy or that they owned all the rights to everything or that we had to spend all our time fucking off for MTV or that our records cost $16 on special at Target or that we had to tour 200 days a year opening for some band we hate or if they think for one stinking second that they had any control whatsoever over who we are, what we say, and how we’re going to go about being Babyland. Until such an entity comes forward, we will continue to pursue our current independent course.

What drew you guys to the style of music/performance that you embrace, e.g., pyrotechnics, junk noise, low-tech electronics, and emotional, hardcore vox?

In the beginning, the stuff we started with was just the stuff that we had on hand and that we figured would be more interesting to use than the normal gear. As things evolved, some tools gave way to others and new methods were discovered. The evolutionary process has definitely been in the direction of greater musical utility. Los Angeles in the late 80’s was fortunate to have tons of great bands that were all really into doing different stuff with unusual gear and “multimedia” presentations, so we had lots of inspiration to go from. Savage Republic, Distorted Poney, and others were using metal percussion and groups like Presurehed, Geko, and Ethyl Meatplow (pre-Carla) were combining crude electronics with live elements in really interesting ways. Slide projectors, film loops, kooky costumes and bizarre dancers weren’t uncommon and there was a pretty strong crossover between the punk, gothic, industrial, and electronic scenes. It was a fertile time. What really drove us to pick up the junk heap and join in was the fact that we felt that this framework was actually something we could contribute to artistically, and by sticking to what we saw in ourselves everyone would benefit. Our first shows were confusing, chaotic, and experimental – but something about them really worked for us and we knew that it was something we had to pursue.

What are the main concerns that you are trying to address in relation to and through the band?

Most of all we want to keep reminding people that their dreams are worth holding on to no matter how hard those other bastards kick you in the ribcage. The greatest self deception of all is to just give up hope because of the perception of security offered by some advertised lifestyle. It seems that every minute of every day we’re all bombarded by the same two-fisted assault of Madison Avenue and the political-dogma fucks (both right and left) who’d have you cash it all in (to them of course) for a sunny weekend in some maximum-security-social-re-education-facility in which your personality will be chained forever to their bank account. Everything that matters – art, democracy, the free market, spirituality, punk rock, family, whatever! – depends on the existence of individuals. There is no alternative to being you, so get on with it!

Where do you envision or hope the band will end up, say, a year or two down the line?

12 to 24 months is such a tiny amount of time that it’s hard to expect anything other than the continued incremental progress you’ve seen over any other 12 to 24 month period of time. We’ll play some shows, record some songs, and go to our day jobs just like now. All that is certain is this: We will not go away!

You use the phrase “We will not go away” as a sort of maxim or slogan? did you intend for this phrase to be both the promise and threat it represents (at least to me)? For clarification: Your fans, I imagine, find the phrase comforting. Did you mean for it to function also as a facet of the same sentiment that produced the title Outlive Your Enemies?

You’ve hit it right on the head! Over the years, one cool thing has been watching all those fuckers who thought they could cheat us just writhe and die. Sometimes it’s the news that some awful band finally broke up or that some terrible club got shut down by the city or even something worse. Whatever, people chose their own fates and history is the judge. More important then that, though, is the positive side. The fact that we’re still around reaffirms our belief that we’re doing something right – and trust me, if either one of us thought we’d bit the cheese we’d have stopped a long time ago. Likewise, it’s also always been a real boost to run into someone who says, “Damn, I never thought I’d see you guys play again! Thanks for still being around!” We’ve still got so much to accomplish, how could we quit now!

I’ve noticed that your shows tend to draw fans from a broad spectrum of musical genres; punks, industrialites and just plain ol’ folks all pop up at your performances, whereas they might not normally choose to co-mingle. What aura do you think Babyland exudes that draws these otherwise disparate groups together? Is this convergence something you hoped would happen? Is it the product of design or chance?

The diversity of individuals is the whole fucking point! If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s a room full of people all wearing the same mask – whether it be punk rock or pink tuxedos. We’re not trying to attract any specific groups, we’re trying to communicate with individuals, and it is in the hands of individuals that the future lies.

(A long question). While many of your songs seem to reflect a confrontational stance that embodies some of the major concerns of post-modernism (man vs. machine, anti-consumerism and the encroachments of various elements of modern society on the individual’s ability to think and feel freely), your live shows often seem to engender a sort of paradoxical confrontation / embracing of your audience. For example, you empty aerosol cans of air freshener into the air, spray the audience with sparks, fill clubs with the fumes of road flares, and, in one now infamous incident, threw cow manure on the crowd. Some people, upon hearing about this, would expect the crowd to object to some of this. Yet the fans seem to love all of it, in fact seem disappointed when you leave some element of the show out. They even happily swept up the cow manure after the 924 Gilman St. incident. Why is this? Do you intend for the confrontation to exist, or am I misinterpreting things? Should a fan enjoy being showered with sparks, covered in Glade and then immersed in cow shit? And why the fascination with props that produce such strong odors? How have club owners dealt with your sometimes precarious stage show, and do they have a right to demonstrate concern or forbid certain types of on-stage behavior?

Confrontation is an experiment in itself, and the results can be really interesting. For instance, it was only when I actually opened up the big bag of cowshit and dumped it on the heads of the kids at Gilman (into unbelieving eyes and screaming mouths, cool haircuts and new shirts!) that I realized the fact that when we act out violently, we only hurt the people closest to ourselves. Don’t laugh, I’d never really let this one sink in before! The kids who got shit on the most weren’t our enemies, they were the ones who paid money to get in and fought their way to the front of the crowd to see us. Did Mr. Boring in the back corner get any shit on him? How about Miss Complacent out in the lobby? In the end, the outburst really got to me, and I know Dan was moved by his manure dumping experience as well. In addition, in the sadism of the moment I was confronted with the ethical predicament of translating a conceptual “good idea” into a specific violation of an individual’s right to remain clean, comfortable, and not covered in cow shit! Having defined this concept as a part of our performance, there was no way I could turn back and yet there it was – the Banality of Evil manifest! Having done this there was suddenly a real sensation that I really owed these people something, and I know that what I owe them is to keep going, even if it means they get shit on sometimes. Would I do it again tomorrow? Of course, so watch your back!

From whence did the name “Babyland” come?

We saw the name in lights and it just looked good.

Gimme one (or several) good reason(s) why I should make the switch from Del Taco to Taco Bell.