Posts Tagged ‘Mute Records’

GoldfrappIf Marlene Dietrich were alive today, she’d be the world’s sexiest 100-year-old. She might also have something to croak about Alison Goldfrapp, the namesake of the British duo whose 2000 album, Felt Mountain, conjures up all of the mystique, class and modernist boudoir beckoning of Dietrich’s cabaret classics. There’s a good bit more in there too — both Goldfrapp and her musical partner, Will Gregory, flash influences like Dietrich used to flash her gams; a bit of John Barry here, a bit of Bacharach there, a lifetime of synth-pop radio listening everywhere. Somewhere in there it latches onto its own identity – a slinky, ermine sound shot through with Dusseldorf pulses and Bavarian dawns – that, some day, people will hear in other music and describe as “distinctly Goldfrappian.”

Wait. Start back a few years. A college-aged girl is cutting the odd track with Tricky (the sumptuous “Pumpkin” from Maxinquaye), Orbital and Add N to (X) (“Revenge of the Black Regent,” if our sources are correct) and catches the ear of a film / television scorer with a yearning to do something less … celluloid. A partnership is formed, a stunning record is born, a contract with Mute is signed.

Cut to November, 2001. The scene: a cabaret-esque nightclub in Hollywood, Calif. (The Knitting Factory, to whose gracious publicity staff Choler owes a giant debt), where the aforementioned film / television scorer is chatting with journalists prior to taking the stage with Ms. G, a violinist in Leiderhosen and various and sundry though quite capable) musicians. Once on stage, the quintet will proceed to drop all jaws. Gregory will conjure out of his keys an atmosphere so thick you’ll swear you see white stags leaping out of a misty forest just off stage left, while the ludicrously garmented violinist will, at one point, play so furiously that resin rises from his strings like smoke. And Goldfrapp … at this point, words fail. Taking the stage clad in faux military garb, replete with a smart hat and a short olive drab mini skirt, the goldilocked Goldfrapp will overcome throat problems to make noises weirder and more beautiful than any audience really has a right to hear — even this one, which seems appreciative. But all that is epilogue, really. We were talking about a composer and a journalist and a photographer, camped out at a table in a nightclub’s restaurant, speaking to each other over the din of some free jazz thing or another playing on the PA and trying to work out the ascent of Felt Mountain with no Sherpas in sight.

Listen to the full interview:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Sean: My first questions really have to do with the formation of the band. I know you guys both have long individual histories working in music, but I was curious about how the band came together and why you decided to work together. What was the catalyst that kicked you guys together as Goldfrapp the duo?

Will Gregory: We both had been in music doing various things, as you do trying to earn your living as a musician. It seems like you have to be flexible, to say, at the very least. Looking back on it, I guess you could say that we’d come to a point in our lives, respectively, where we felt we needed to just stop doing all those little things that feel like a compromise, and try and do something that feels like it’s really what you want to do. But at the time, I think it was just that I heard her voice. I heard her singing on a very early version of a song that later became [the Goldfrapp track] “Human,” and it sounded great. I just thought, “This is someone I’d really like to meet. Wherever she is, I want to be there too – because I feel like I already am.” I just felt that there was a connection there.

It was a very inviting sound – an inviting voice?

Very. I mean, because you’re always on the lookout. I think that, having done a lot of writing for TV and film and stuff, you begin to realize that, OK it’s fun, the idea that you’re a chameleon – that you can put on any fancy dress music pastiche costume – but actually, what’s more interesting is finding your own voice, your own style. I got to a point where I think I’d found that, to some extent, and I wasn’t usually allowed to do it, because it wasn’t appropriate to the project. But when I heard Allison, I thought, “That really is appropriate,” because wherever I am, I imagine that she can be there too. So I phoned her up and said, “Why don’t you come and maybe I can get you down on the pretext of doing a demo – I’ve got to do a demo for a film thing – but the same time we can see what happens. We can check each other out.” And that’s what we did. I think we had a good time. I think the song we demoed was dreadful, but we lost interest in that pretty quickly and started doing our own thing.

After that, we spoke a lot on the phone and we also sent each other — because, at the time, I lived in Bath and she lived in London – compilation cassettes of our favorite tracks, just to see where our heads were. I remember she put some Add N To (X) on one, and I thought my tape machine was busted, because it was making this incredible screeching noise. I was like, “Wow! What is that? I’ve never heard … maybe it’s broken.” And it turns out that it was Add N to (X) [specifically, the track “Revenge of the Black Regent” from the band’s second album, Avant Hard].

I think they have that effect on the uninitiated. It can be a little bit of a shock.

It was a shock – but it was just the sort of shock I was hoping for, I suppose.

Now, when you guys started working together, the chemistry happened pretty much right off the bat? The ideas were flowing easily?

God, I don’t know. I’ve not had much experience working [with other people]. It was intense. That’s all I can really tell you. I think that the first thing we wrote was “Lovely Head,” and that was lucky in a way because we were really pleased with it. We wanted to continue in that vein, and that set a kind of benchmark. And the next track we wrote was “Horse Tears,” and that set another kind of direction up – the kind of slow space that we really enjoy – that intensity. So between those two, we really kind of covered the gamut, and they ended up being the first and last track on the album, but they were actually the first two things we wrote. I think that that was lucky for us, because it meant that we had a standard, and we had a benchmark and we knew that, if we’d written tracks as good as that – we felt they were good – then we had our work cut out. After that, it was sometimes harder, because we were trying to recapture that direction.

After working together for a period, have you found that you’ve established any set patterns for writing songs? Does she [Alison Goldfrapp] come up with lyrics and come to you with the lyrics first, and then you start composing music? Or is it more of a meshing of ideas together? Or do you try to mix things up and keep it fresh?

All I can really tell you is that we both write the music together, and Alison writes the lyrics. How we get there, I don’t really know. We haven’t found a formula for doing it. I think that’s probably a good thing. But, at the same time, I’d like to be a fly on a wall with some other songwriters – particularly good ones. I’d like to see how they do it. I was very encouraged – I saw a documentary with Burt Bacharach where he said something to the effect that, “Songwriting is really bloody hard work.” And I thought, “Well, that’s encouraging, because I think it is too.” And they interviewed his second wife, and asked her why they split up, and she said, “It was because we couldn’t agree on the upbeat to a tune – whether it should be a crotchet or a quaver; a quarter note or a half note.” And I thought, “They broke up over that?” It’s a serious, hard business. And if he finds it hard, that makes me feel a bit better.

Well, since you mentioned the songwriter issue and being a fly on the wall, who are some of the songwriters whose walls you’d like to be a fly on? We’ve established Burt Bacharach. But what sort of songwriters do you find yourself admiring and wishing you had more of a window on?

Oh God, anybody who’s written great songs. I suppose Lennon and McCartney – it’d be really interesting the have seen them sing together at a piano. I’m sure either of what they said was nothing close to what actually happened. It’s a subjective thing. Classical composers. I’d like to see how [Enino] Morricone works, because I’ve heard all these wild rumors from Italians who kind of canonize him as a composer. But I’ve heard that he doesn’t compose at the piano, for example, and that he writes directly onto 32 staves of manuscript.

So, he’s just hearing it in his head as he’s putting it down on paper.

Exactly. I’d like to know whether or not it’s true, because I’d like to go up to Morricone and say, “I’ve got a little bit of film footage here. We’ve got 20 minutes. Let’s see what we can do.” Just to see how he did it. I would love to do that. I’ll bet he’s got a piano in there.

Or something. Maybe a kazoo or something to hum along with. You mentioned too that you’d been working on film scores for a long time, and that Goldfrapp was pretty much your venture into doing this full time. Is this what you originally wanted to do? Did you envision yourself, say, 10 or 15 years ago when you were learning to play instruments, being in essentially a pop band – or doing more popular music, as opposed to doing scores.

The thing is, it’s weird, because I don’t think of it as a pop band. What we do is a very strange amalgam of a recital and a pop band.

I guess the word “pop” is a little ill-fitting.

I’m sure it’s true of every band – every band is a little bit different – but I think that, if I’d asked myself, “Will I be playing music that I’m really happy with to people in a live context, who’d come to see it and like it,” then yeah, I’d be very happy with that.

You mentioned that this has other elements in it, besides just the formal identity of “the pop song.” It has the recital identity. You come from a film score background. Alison comes from a fine art painting background. Do you guys ever go into the studio with a visual idea of an atmosphere that you want to create? Kind of an inner cinema that you want to score to?

Yes. Quite often. And I imagine that that’s quite a useful thing, because the English language is not equipped – it does not have words to describe music. I don’t know how journalists manage. I mean, what can you say? Louder, softer, faster, slower? Louder quieter? That’s about it. You have to do it by analogy. We quite often send ourselves into fits of giggles, because we do that – we play that game. “Imagine this is a scene with Audrey Hepburn and she’s on a mountain and she’s lost her knickers.” What ever it is, just to get yourself going, really.

What inspired you guys to cover [Olivia Newton John’s] “Physical?”

Well, I think we both feel about covers that, if you’re going to do one, you shouldn’t do your favorite tune, because it’s been done so well originally. There’re a lot of great covers, but there’re also … If I were to say, “Let’s do ‘The Look of Love’ by Burt Bacharach” – I would never do that because as far as I’m concerned, Dusty Springfield did the seminal performance of that piece, and you’d never want to mess with it. I would say that “Physical,” on the other hand …

… could do with a little sprucing up?

Well, it leaves a little bit of room for development, shall we say?

Well, that makes my next question a little awkward, because it would assume that there are songs of yours that you might think had room for improvement. Who would you like to see cover any of your songs? Do you think there’s any room for re-interpretation of the work that you’ve put down?

Oh God, yes. It must be one of the most flattering things that can happen to anybody, to have someone cover your song. I say that after, you know — if Olivia Newton John is listening … [We both break into laughter here.]

So, God no. I don’t mind. It’s like an idea, isn’t it? A song? And once it’s into the world it leaves its creator and it’s an idea that everyone shares and they can do what they like with it, as long as they pay the royalties. So I don’t think that it’s actually one’s responsibility to even think about that, in a way. But I’d like to here a cover by The Crusaders? I dunno. Something a million miles away from where we are. A dub version by King Tubby.

That reminds me of when Massive Attack had Mad Professor remix the entire Protection album, and he turned a trip-hop album into a complete Reggae / dub album. It didn’t sound anything like what it started out being.

Fantastic!

Now, you guy just released “Pilots” as a single, and I know that they had postponed it in the wake of 9/11. I was wondering what your reaction to some of that was. Did you anticipate that as being appropriate, or was it oversensitive, or …?

I suppose I think that it’s a bit nanny state-ish. Who are people that we have to decide for them how sensitive they are? I don’t know that I go along with that, really. And I’m not interested in it because we didn’t get our record out, but just as a general thing. It seems a bit patronizing to the general public to say, “Oh, we don’t think you’re ready for this. We don’t really want to think about it.” It’s like when you’re on an airplane, they don’t show pictures with planes crashing. That’s OK, You can understand that because you’re on a plane. But in the general world, I mean … we’re grown-ups, aren’t we?

I personally found most of Felt Mountain, especially “Pilots,” to be a very comforting album to listen to, regardless of what had happened on Sept. 11th. But it makes you wonder if the over-sensitivity could have an adverse effect – if people might have drawn some sort of comfort from a song that they’ve taken off the air. I know in the U.S., there was a big controversy with Clear Channel – which owns several radio stations in every major market – publishing a huge list of songs that its DJs were strongly suggested not to play. And on that list were things like John Lennon’s “Imagine.” When you look at the lyrics to a song like that, you think that people might have drawn some inspiration or consolation from hearing it. In being oversensitive, Clear Channel has taken that away.

Well, then you haven to analyze what that word “oversensitive” means. They say, “We’re being sensitive,” and I say, “You’re being censorial.” I don’t know that you should decide for everybody what their sensitivities are. As soon as you start doing that, you’re on the rocky road to censorship.

I have one last question, and it kind of gets back to some of the process – the songwriting and the thoughts that go into that. I noticed that the Independent’s review of Felt Mountain mentioned that, “There can’t be many singers who can make a song about Eugenics” – and they’re referring to “Utopia” – “feel like an idyllic lullaby.” Now, I know groups like, say, Stereolab, mesh very heavy political commentary with blindingly lush sound arrangements, and masquerades this mix as pop. I’m wondering if you guys ever approach something in such a manner that you’re being, in a sense, subversive – not in a political way, but in the sense that you have a message that is left of what the music is communicating sonically.

That’s very interesting. I mean, first of all, music by itself doesn’t communicate anything – which is what Stravinsky said. Music, in and of itself, does not mean anything. I think that’s probably true, although I think he was being a bit difficult when he said that. So it’s difficult to say that the music is fluffy and the message is hard.

I don’t mean to say that by “lush” or “fluffy” I mean that the music isn’t serious.

Well, I think that it’s interesting having counterpoint. I don’t write the lyrics, so I’m not fully qualified to talk about them. What I will say is that I think we tend to go with the emotion rather than the kind of politics. And I think that the emotion behind the idea that we are potentially in control, scientifically, of creating how we’re going to be in the future – we’re moving into a position where we can play God to a pretty extreme extent – has an emotional significance. And then you imagine some futuristic alien human being that’s been the product of all this genetic whats-it. What’s going through their mind? That can be a very torturous, sad place to be, I suppose. So that creates a certain drama straight away, even though it’s quite comical at the same time.

I think we’re both into sci-fi, particularly the more kind of depressing Blade Runner-y sort of sci-fi (where, in this case, the film isn’t nearly as bleak as the book, or as interesting).

Yes. Yes, exactly. Very true.

Unless it’s an independent film or something, where they have license to do whatever the hell they want. They’re not answering to a studio.

Yes. Well, an independent sci-fi film is something we’d both like to do a score for, because I think there’s a lot of fun you can have putting yourself into the story – you know: “The machinery isn’t quite behaving – it’s gone out of control!” I think that’s what we like when we play music.

I know that the French band Air made their mark with an album of critically acclaimed original music, and then their next step was to do a critically acclaimed film score (for The Virgin Suicides). Can you guys ever see yourselves working back around to where you started – going back and doing a full-on score?

Well, yeah. You say “back” and Alison hasn’t done that. I don’t know. I’m sure we will do it, because hopefully people will pick up on the wavelength that we’re on and come to us and we can be on their wavelength and something good can happen. I’m sure that that could happen. I think we’ve got to be a bit careful as to the timing of it, because we need to get on with another album. We need to make sure that we can still do it.

Are you guys planning to go back in the studio after you get back from this tour?

Yes. Definitely. It’s been a long time.

Are there any ideas formulating for what you’re going to do with it? Have you been writing on the road at all?

No, we don’t seem to be able to do that. But I’m sure there are ideas. Whether they’re any good or not, we’ll find out.

Buy Goldfrapp’s music at Amazon.com

Visit Goldfrapp’s Web site

Visit Goldfrapp’s Label: Mute Records

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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.

Recoil's Alan Wilder

Alan Wilder, the driving force behind Recoil and former musical director of Depeche Mode

When, in a previous life, your band has sold out the famed Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., and comparable venues worldwide, racked up scads of platinum records and hit the Billboard Top 10 twice, the temptation to rest on your laurels should be overwhelming. Unless you’re Alan Wilder and you’re more concerned with the quality of your creative output than the quantity of albums or concert tickets you sell. Then you do the unthinkable and walk away from one of the most successful pop groups of the last 20 years (Depeche Mode) to pursue what has long been a side project (Recoil) that bears little chance of pop-chart success.

In which case, you roll up your sleeves, flip on your PC, learn some HTML and promote your latest record your damn self.

“It’s very important from a pure promotion and marketing point of view, which I’m quite happy to admit we need, ” Wilder said of using the Internet to promote Liquid, his breathtaking new record under the Recoil moniker. “So from that point of view, to use the Internet is vital for projects that are perceived as difficult. And that’s not really the music’s fault, but on radio, you’re not going to get Recoil music played. That’s a problem with radio. And so I recognize that I need the Internet. I need the one place where you’ve got total choice.”

“I recognize that I need the Internet. I need the one place where you’ve got total choice.”

It was yearning for freedom of choice that drove Wilder to leave Depeche Mode in 1996. That same need to be master of his own musical destiny compelled him to devote himself full time to Recoil, a project he’d long used as a way to explore avenues not open to him by Depeche Mode’s rigid commitment to making alternative pop music. But while most artists who split away from groups do so in order to seize the songwriting spotlight, Wilder, a classically trained musician whose played in synth-based bands since his teens, embraced Recoil as a method of exploring new sound forms. In that sense, he plays much the same role in Recoil as he did in Depeche Mode, albeit with far more creative control.

“I don’t think of myself as a songwriter,” he mused. “And I don’t even think that, even though I’ve got sort of writing credits on this album, I’ve written ‘songs’ as such. What I’ve done is made some music. And we’ve ended up with what you could call songs, I suppose, because they have words and some kind of structure. But I’m certainly not a natural songwriter, and I’ve come to recognize that’s not where my best skill is. My skill … has more to do with orchestration and structuring and being a catalyst for other people’s performances. So we end up with something that approaches ‘songs,’ but they’re nothing like the kinds of songs that I may have attempted to write in the early Depeche Mode days, for example.”

Call it playing to one’s strengths. As an orchestrator and catalyst, Wilder has brought Recoil to its apex with Liquid, creating an album that, while dark and brooding, is miles more ambitious than anything his former band ever attempted.


I recognize that I need the Internet. I need the one place where you’ve got total choice.

And his aesthetic is catchy. Moby, Curve front woman Toni Halliday, Nitzer Ebb’s Douglas McCarthy and N.Y.C. spoken-word performer Maggie Estep have all contributed their voices to past Recoil projects (1992’s Bloodline and 1997’s Unsound Methods). Liquid boasts the most impressive — or at least the most intriguing — lineup yet: Spoken-word performers Nicole Blackman and Samantha Coerbell, virtuoso vocalist Diamanda Galàs and even complete unknown Rosa Torres all deliver powerful, often chilling performances on the album. Ironically, the degree to which Wilder works with “outsiders” has never been taken for granted by critics or fans.

“Most people have this idea that I’m a total control freak. And an element of that is true, ” he remarked. “I certainly want to be in control of the project, and I am something of a perfectionist, etc. However, the ironic thing is, I suppose, or the paradoxical thing, is that, actually, I’ve ended up working with many more people on this project than I did when I was in a group. In fact, what I try to do is choose people I think are talented and good at what they do and then give them freedom to do their thing and not dictate to them. So I have ultimate control over everything, but I don’t dictate. That means allowing them to write their words because that’s what I can’t do naturally. So why get someone in to do that and then tell them what to do?”

Which is not to say that Wilder doesn’t provide any direction whatsoever in the studio. Some performances require a little more direction than others because the conceptual demands of the songs are quite high. “Breath Control,” for example, which tells the story of a sadomasochistic relationship gone horribly sour, required a particularly demanding performance from vocalist Nicole Blackman. According to Liquid’s accompanying press release, “Wilder and engineer PK pushed Blackman to the very brink of exhaustion, even having her run around the studio gardens to evoke authentic panting” for the song.

The process, while oddly involving, produced exquisite results. “Breath Control” is one of the album’s finest, albeit most unsettling, offerings, a sleek conglomeration of Wilder’s wicked, churning electronic bass lines and well-placed sound effects and Blackman’s breathless, alternately damaged and detached vocals.

Other performances required a different approach, one guided by the hand of the technology. Wilder actually located vocalist Rosa Torres, whose Catalonian whispers pepper the sinister “Vertigen,” via the Internet, through a post on the Recoil Web site.

“I had this track that had a very exotic feel or flavor to it, and I just thought, ‘Well, a foreign voice, a foreign language would sound great in here,” Wilder explained. “So I advertised on our Web site for fans, really, just to send in any tapes they had of themselves speaking in their native tongue. Initially I was only thinking maybe [of using it] as a background sound, but after I received Rosa’s tape — and she’s Catalonian, so she speaks Catalan [a Spanish dialect] — it was so good, it had such a wonderful sensual quality, I felt it had to be at the forefront of the music for this particular song.”

As this anecdote suggests, the Net plays a vital role for Recoil — and not just for promotion. Wilder even serves as the de facto Webmaster of Recoil’s official site (named “Shunt,” after a song on Unsound Methods), a role he assumed two years ago as a matter of crisis resolution. “The funny thing was, initially, a fan was going to set it up and do it for us,” he recounted. “And he dumped us right at the last moment, after I’d been advertising that this Web site was coming and coming and coming and saying, ‘It’ll be up next week,’ and so on. He disappeared off the face of the planet, and I was left in a situation where I had to learn how to program HTML in about a week and get this Web site up online. I did a crash course, and it was the best thing that ever happened. I’m really glad that happened because now, being able to program your own Web site — it’s quite a lot of work, but I quite enjoy it. And the main point is that the fans really enjoy it because they know that it comes direct from the artist.”

“It’s difficult to create aware-ness when you’re up against a brick wall from certain elements of the media.”

It’s apparent to anyone who’s logged on to Shunt that connecting with fans is important to Wilder. Recoil’s music is challenging enough that no amount of corporate PR will foist it into the narrow, heavily formatted spectrum of mainstream radio or MTV. Promotionally, a heavy Web presence makes sense for Recoil. But Wilder’s thinking runs fathoms deeper than that; he uses the site to ensure that Recoil remains accessible to anyone willing to give its music a chance. He goes the extra mile on Shunt, offering up a staggering volume of background and technical information, images, sound samples and, most interestingly, transcriptions of a monthly Q&A that Wilder conducts via e-mail with anyone who cares to write in.

“What’s frustrating is when people say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know you had a record out,’ or, ‘I didn’t even know you had a music project,'” he said of his main motivation to involve himself heavily with Shunt. “And that happens a lot because it’s difficult to create awareness when you’re up against a brick wall from certain elements of the media. Which is why the Internet is so important.”

In the end, it’s all about awareness and availability, the two benefits that the Internet offers to musicians who are willing to do their own dirty work. Thus, visitors to Shunt can contact Wilder, find out just about everything they could want to know about him (Shoe size? 8), download video and audio clips and, most importantly, order a copy of Liquid through the Mute Bank, Mute Records’ online mail order service.

“My only hope is to make people aware of it, and let them make their own mind,” Wilder said, optimistically. “If they choose to like it, great. If not, fine.”

Buy Recoil’s music at Amazon.com

Visit Recoil’s Web site: Shunt

Visit Recoil’s label: Mute Records

RATING: 7/10

recoil - liquidAbout 15 seconds into Recoil’s dark and unsettling new album, Liquid, all questions about Alan Wilder’s departure from Depeche Mode in 1997 are answered. Something must’ve been simmering inside the man for years and finally reached a boiling point. It spilled over in ’97 onto Unsound Methods, Wilder’s first post-Mode Recoil release (1+2, Hydrology and Bloodline all appeared during Mode’s breaks from recording and touring). It seems to have cohered into a dish all its own on Liquid, an album rife with high points and contradictions that belong uniquely to Wilder and have nothing to do with his former self.

The most glaring of these have to do with the band’s identity. Recoil is unquestionably Wilder’s project; he conceives the albums’ themes, writes the music, slaves away at the mixing desk and — here’s where the contradictions begin to creep in — corrals his collaborators, of whom there are many. Because, while this is Wilder’s band, no single track on Liquid features Wilder alone; every song spotlights a guest vocalist, from the creepily alluring Nicole Blackman to the peerless Diamanda Galas. And though the final product is excellent, cohesive, thought-provoking and unquestionably of higher critical merit than anything D’Mode ever attempted, Wilder’s compulsion to collaborate leaves one wondering what he’s hiding from. He’s stepped into the limelight, only to fade back into the shadows.

And Liquid has shadows aplenty in which Wilder might lurk; the album further exhibits his fascination with the dark side of human nature, into which Wilder dipped his toes on previous Recoil outings (1992’s Bloodline and 1997’s Unsound Methods). Loosely bound together by two themes — a man’s recollection of his life, triggered by his involvement in a life-threatening airplane crash (an event Wilder actually witnessed), and the texture of visceral elements central to life itself: liquids (blood, water, adrenalin, semen, alcohol, etc.) — Liquid‘s songs plunge the listener headlong into a pool of deeply disturbed memory. It also brings together a hefty roster of vocal and lyrical collaborators along for the trip.

The most formidable of these is one of the least known: Samantha Coerbell, a New Yorker with Trinidadian roots, lays down fierce, gritty tales of poor urban life on “Last Chance for Liquid Courage” and “Supreme,” perhaps the last thing anyone would expect to hear on an album by a leather-clad Brit who used to muss his hair with truckloads of mousse. Less surprising — but no less gripping — is the vocal and lyrical contribution of Rosa Torres, a Recoil fan from Barcelona, Spain, who landed her part on Liquid by responding to an ad on Shunt, the official Recoil Web site, for vocalists to send in recordings of them speaking/singing in their native language. On “Vertigen,” Torres’s Catalan dialect and wraith-like voice blend unsettlingly well with background moans supplied by Diamanda Galas. And Galas, an inimitable vocalist with a four octave range toting an epidemic-sized cache of righteous rage, supplies the rest of the album’s finest moments, backing up the sampled Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet on “Jezebel” (think Moby’s “Natural Blues” or Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You” without any of the insipid feel-good vibes) and taking center stage on the album’s first single, “Strange Hours.”

The two-part “Black Box” bookends the album, the confused voice of Reto Buhle (about whom I know little; the All Music Guide lists him only as a photographer involved with Frank Tovey and the Pyros for one album) recounting in explicit first-person detail the airplane crash Wilder witnessed. Here, Wilder’s contradictions manifest themselves again: There’s just something about timpani drums — you know, the kettle-shaped drums that resonate deeper than a bass drum — that make symphonies sound epic and pop-oriented material sound like the march of the Oompa Loompas. For all his classical training, Wilder can’t pull it off, either, when, on “Black Box 1,” he employs timpanies to underscore the drama of the thematically central plane crash. Reto Buhle’s Eurotrash accent doesn’t help much either, and the track plays like the tragicomic tale of a vacation gone wrong for a German tourist in black socks and sandals, en route to Disneyland.

Here, Wilder’s default mode, “team player,” works against him. Recoil won’t truly belong to him — nor will it fully succeed — until he takes a final bold step and emerges from the shadows as his own best songwriting partner. Still, Liquid runs fathoms deeper than anything D’Mode ever contemplated.


Buy this album from Amazon.com

Visit Recoil’s Web site: Shunt

Visit Recoil’s Label: Mute Records

Ritchie Hawtin, aka Plastikman

"People can't appreciate what they don't know or what they've never heard."

[Note: This interview originally appeared on the now-defunct music portal, RadioSpy.com]

“The name is familiar,” reads Richie Hawtin’s bio … and yet, no one I’ve queried has ever heard of him or any of his more ubiquitous aliases: Plastikman and FUSE. Odd for an artist who has DJed to crowds larger than many rock bands ever play to (his appearance at the 1995 Glastonbury festival drew 20,000 people into the cramped confines of a DJ tent) and who has been commissioned by the French Government to compose two pieces of music for their Millennium 2000 celebrations. Hawtin’s anonymity in North America epitomizes the techno ethos of personality subversion to the end of bringing the music itself into sharper focus. As a musician, then, Hawtin is one of electronic dance music’s foremost innovators whose roots extend to the foundation of techno itself. A resident of Detroit-neighboring Windsor, Canada, Hawtin absorbed the influences of a Detroit radio DJ named The Wizard (Jeff Mills), who spun early records by techno forefathers Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson. Inspired to begin his own DJ career in Windsor pubs, Hawtin quickly graduated to jaunts across the border to DJ in Detroit clubs. In the mid-’80, he and occasional collaborator John Acquaviva formed Plus 8 records and initiated an escalation of BPM (Beats Per Minute) that resulted in a worldwide stylistic revolution (gabba, hardcore, jungle and drum ‘n’ bass can all trace some branch of their lineage to Plus 8’s releases and live events). His later minimalist work as Plastikman utilizes slower beats, gentler textures and gradual (often microscopic) shifts in pitch and dynamics, pushing techno to a new frontier now populated by acts such as LFO, Aphex Twin, and Autechre.

Setting aside Plastikman’s minimalism for the time being, Hawtin’s latest release, Decks, EFX and 909 (Minus Records / NovaMute), showcases his often-imitated but never-paralleled DJ style (driving beats that seem a mile deep textured with radically reconfigured, stripped-down modulations of other artists’ recordings). The album occasioned his appearance at the groundbreaking Coachella Festival in October 1999, where, as a nod to his rock-solid reputation, he performed on the same DJ tent lineup as his adolescent influences Saunderson, Atkins and May. His Coachella performance also caught the ears of peers The Chemical Brothers, who asked Hawtin to perform with them at the Brixton Academy show on December 4, 1999. I caught up with Hawtin shortly after Coachella, while he enjoyed a short respite at home amidst a hectic touring schedule.

Sean Flinn: My first set of questions have to do with Coachella: What did you actually think of the festival? Do you have any general opinions about the event?

Richie Hawtin: I think in the overall picture, Coachella was definitely a really, really well-organized and attended event, and was really, I think, a good shot in the arm for that type of festival in North America. Because it’s generally something you see overseas, especially the combination of some of the bigger electronic — well, more mainstream and popular electronic acts — with some of the alternative stuff, which is still slightly interesting, and DJ culture.

Outside of the DJ tents, were there any artists performing on the bigger stages that you wanted to see perform?

You know, I don’t even really know the final lineup for Coachella. I flew in from Frankfurt to Coachella, and shortly after flew directly to San Francisco. There were about nine gigs in a row all over Europe before Frankfurt, so it was a bit of a crazy trip.

Sounds like it.

I heard Morrissey, because it was so loud that it was coming into the tent while I was checking out Juan Atkins. And then, I heard the Chemical Brothers because they were so loud that it was coming over my sound when I was playing in my tent. So that was a bit disappointing because I was getting drowned out a bit. That could have been set up a little bit better. I did hear that The Art of Noise was playing, which sounded remotely interesting, but then again it probably would have been 10 years ago.

I completely forgot that they were on the bill after about the first hour or so of the festival because I was running all over the place. I remember being in the tent while you were spinning and hearing the Chemical Brothers … the same thing happened with the Invisibl Skratch Piklz and Rage Against the Machine. So, yeah, that’s something they probably could’ve done better.

Yeah, they could have turned some of the things around or positioned things better. That’s unfortunate, but hopefully they’ll plan a little bit better next year. But you know, there were a lot of things that were done well at the festival too, so it kind of balances out. Especially when you’re talking about sound structure and things, it’s the most important [thing]; people are coming to hear music. They need to be able to hear one or another, not both at the same time. I think with, especially some of the electronic musicians, I know, even like the scratch guys and myself and some other people, the dynamics of what we’re doing are important in the way sometimes it’s about what we’re playing, but also, about what we’re not playing. And those pauses, those breaks, those lower volume sections, those EQ changes sometimes were getting drowned out by something else that was happening a mile away.

I know, just from listening to your recordings, that dynamics are extremely important with what you’re doing, so that definitely could have a negative impact. Aside from that, you mentioned that you felt the festival may have given that type of music — and I’m taking that to mean electronic music and underground hip-hop — a shot in the arm. Do you think the festival could have given electronic music a chance to sway over some new fans, or do you think they were just preaching to the converted?

As an optimist, I always hope that. That’s one of the reasons for doing an event like that. I’m not particularly fond of big events, but I also don’t want to preach to the converted all the time. So that was a good opportunity to have some people who were sort of wandering through tents in between Rage Against the Machine and Morrissey or whoever it was, and stumble upon someone who they’d never heard of or they’d only read about, and suddenly say, “You know? This isn’t too bad.” And whether that brings them to go and buy the CD, that could be a good benefit. But I look at it as really giving people an appetizer for myself. You’re not getting exactly what I do, but I’m giving enough of myself to the people with the equipment that’s provided to me to give them enough taste to know if it’s something for them. And then, hopefully, we’ll invite them to see me at another event, maybe, which is more surrounded around my self, where I can play four or five hours on a better system and really show them what I’m all about. You have to use these events for what they are. America has taken a long time for electronic music to grab hold of people. Part of it is the size of the country and the communication infrastructure for getting new ideas to people — which isn’t very good in this country. So you have to take these opportunities to try and open some ears. I’m not going to sit here and say “North America sucks” because no one is into what I do without trying and going through and giving people the opportunity to maybe get turned on by it. People can’t appreciate what they don’t know or what they’ve never heard.

That’s true. And you mentioned the lines of communication — do you think then that the rapid development of MP3 technology and streaming media and all of that is going to help open some of those lines of communication?

I think one of the only reasons that the whole DJ and rave culture — party culture has taken off so well in America and has started to come together is because of communication and the Internet. The Internet is at its most progressive in North America in the way that most of the areas are now wired. It’s getting to the point where everyone has e-mail or some type of opportunity to get online, and it’s a great flow of information, of music, of resources and of bringing people information about new ideas. That’s the thing that’s really kept this movement underground or at a smaller level than everywhere else in the world — it’s basically because of geography. The Internet is basically the first thing in our existence that bypasses physical geography.

That’s very true. Do you have any plans for yourself? I know you have http://www.plastikman.com

We have plastikman.com, and my record labels [have] +8.com and minus.com [for =8 Records and Minus Records, respectively, –ed.]. +8 has been online for about five years. We’ve been broadcasting RealAudio and doing our events for over four years, and MP3 has been up there for about two years. We’re not new to this technology.

That’s good to hear, especially since our organization deals with streaming media …

What’s that? What does your organization do?

Well, RadioSpy is actually a music portal that is … built around a piece of software that we developed to help people find SHOUTcast servers.

Oh really? So are you doing all SHOUTcast streams?

Actually, we picked up RealAudio and Windows Media.

OK, cool. We’re doing the same thing.

Terrific!

We have a new portal opening – going online — in a few weeks called Clonk… .com, .net, .org. and that’s gonna be similar, but precisely for electronic music.

Oh wow! I’ll definitely inform our station manager about that.

You should, because when we go online we’ll have a couple of weekly shows and things. There will be some Windows Media layers, there’ll be a helluva a lot of Real Media, and there will also be some SHOUTcasts.

Well it’s good to know that the technology is proliferating out there and that artists are getting involved with it directly.

Ritchie Hawtin at Coachella 1999

Richie Hawtin hits the decks at Coachella 1999.

That’s something we’ve been trying to get going, so it’s nice to see that other people are doing it — especially people with your clout.

We’re involved in the creative use of technology. That’s what my company does. We’re not a record company, we’re not really musicians or anything. We’re creative. We use technology to get our ideas out, and streaming media or using the Internet is just another form of technology to communicate with people or to communicate our ideas. So it’s all the same thing to us.

I’m going to change track a little bit here and talk about Decks, EFX & 909. Why did you decide, after working in the vein of Plastikman for a while, to release a mix album? It seems, at least at first blush, to be sort of a change of pace from your recordings — I know it’s not from your live performances. But what motivated you to do Decks, EFX & 909?

Well, I think, a couple of things. After so many years — like, since ’93 — of spending a lot of time on the whole Plastikman idea, philosophy and sound, it was time to move on to some new things — permanently, or for a little while at least. So I kind of ride the top of the fence — I run an electronic label, so I see the business side; I also see the creative side as a performer. I make some very strange abstract minimalism, but also as a DJ performer, I play some of that, but also keep it quite upbeat. I’m interested in forward-thinking electronic music. So I wanted to do something that would, I guess, show people the other side of my DJ performances, but at the same time cross the lines a little bit. I didn’t want to do yet another mix CD. I’d done one in the past. I’m sick and tired of mix CDs. It’s an open and shut case. It hasn’t done anything new for ages. So I went in with the idea of capturing what I do during my DJ live performances, and making it different enough and bringing ideas — both the DJ side but also my production side; using the decks and effects that I use as a performer, but also maybe adding some extra production and editing to create something which, to me, for lack of a better word, is definitely more than a mix CD.

Yeah, it definitely works well … I know a lot of mix CDs are geared for dancing and stuff like that …

Yeah, but the thing is, you’ve got to remember that mix CDs are, a lot of the time, just DJs going into the studio and recording exactly what they do in a club, or just a straight recording of a club. And I think that’s lazy, and quite shallow. If you think about recording that that type of set, especially from a club or a performance, you’re taking everything out of context. The majority of the people who are buying and listening to it weren’t at that performance. They don’t understand the reason you played those records. They don’t understand the atmosphere of the night, the size of the room, the temperature, the sound system that things were played on — and all these things wrap up together to create what I would call “a moment in time.” I don’t want to take that moment away from the people who were there by releasing it to everyone else. So I had to come up with something that related to that, but also, at the same time, was relevant if they were playing it back into a club, but if they were playing it in a car, listening to it while they were washing the dishes, all these different circumstances. So there’s all these extra things you have to think about when you’re creating something like this. That’s why I kind of wanted to cross my sides together and put a twist on the whole thing and do something which was different, with a little bit more of an edge than the rest of these quickly-recorded and packaged and marketed DJ mix CDs.

That leads me right into my next question: How did you approach recording the album? How meticulously did you lay it out, and how did you choose the records you were going to pull?

The records were … with mix CDs, you have to clear all of the records that you want to put on the CD, and not always can you clear everything that you’re actually playing in your set. Luckily, we cleared all the music right through my own production company — through Minus — and were able to get nearly everything I wanted, from a lot of my friends and a lot of really new upstarts and really small labels. So it’s a really eclectic mix of music. I also didn’t want to have a mix CD of all the tracks everyone knew. I wanted to use it to introduce some people to new artists. And so after I picked the tracks, it was really laying out a live mix at the studio, and then going through along with the live mix and adding live effects and some 909 drum machine programming, and then going back over and re-adding some extra things, touching some things up, and then taking what was about a two-hour mix, cutting and editing it up, looping some things to change the structure of the records that people knew. I didn’t want people to feel that comfortable with. I wanted the mix to be comfortable in the way that it really went together well and flowed, but I didn’t want everyone to know exactly what was coming next, even if they knew the record that was being played. That was important for me. I don’t like the idea of people getting complacent and nearly getting to the state of being bored with dance music. I like to pull the rug out from under people’s feet and have them expect the unexpected.

And when you were choosing the records, I know you mentioned wanting to give some exposure to some of your friends and some music that people hadn’t heard before. How did you decided what records you wanted to feature out of those, because I’m sure you have a rather large collection of them. Did you have to make any tough choices?

It was done in two steps, really. I do a lot of five or six-hour sets, and I’m carting 200-plus records around with me all the time. So I had to pare that down to the ones that, first, I knew I could get in contact with the people easily, and also, which I probably thought I had a chance to acquire the rights to. So that pared it down to about 70 records. And then, I probably got clearance on about 60 records. After that it was just kind of putting things together in a way that had a flow to it, that felt right. That pared it down to the 38 tracks that were used in the end.

OK. As just kind of an ignorant question on my part, what all is involved in getting a record cleared for you to use it on an album?

Basically, a lot of the records I play are white labeled [virtually anonymous releases of tracks made available exclusively to DJ’s], so you don’t even where they’re from, except from the postage stamp that came with it. So you have to track down, via catalog numbers or via information on the label — by fax or e-mail or phone — and get their permission, which involves a contract of how much you’re going to pay to the people, what territories you’re going to be releasing it in… it’s quite an involved process. It’s not just a typical “Hey I’m gonna do a mix CD, can I use your music?” And then some people want an advance, or money up front. Some people want bigger percentages than others. It’s a bit of a haggling game in a way. But luckily, because a lot of the people are my friends, and because I’ve been in the industry and I run an independent label, I know what most independent labels like myself would want from a mix CD like this, so we didn’t have that much trouble at all. It takes a little bit of time, just with talking in different time zones in different countries in different languages. There’s things [on Decks, EFX and 909] from German, from England, from Iceland, from Canada, from the U.S. — all different places.

So it’s a real geographical excursion.

Well it’s electronic music, it’s the really one of the first musics that’s grabbed hold of the world. Being a DJ who travels the world and is always picking up new records, that had to be mirrored in the production.

I noticed in the Media Guide from Coachella, they list you as using “out-of-date synth dinosaurs like the Roland TB-303 and the TR-808.” I’m wondering, why the fondness for equipment that other people consider outdated? And do you think equipment like this ever really gets outdated?

If I did a track with just a 303 and 808, it may sound outdated. But really, with electronic music, it’s about taking electronic signals from old things and from new things, passing them through something else, filtering them, modifying them, and coming up with something which is uniquely yours. And so my sound is made out of a mish-mash of old and new technology, from archaic to cutting edge. That mish-mash, which somehow I control in a way, that gives me my take on this whole electronic sound.

In that vein, and to lead back to an answer you gave me earlier about using technology, what features does a new piece of technology — or even an old piece of technology that you’re not familiar with — have to possess to really catch your interest and motivate you to use it?

It has to possess something which is unique to itself, it has to offer possibilities not offered on something else, and it has to have some type of programmability, which is inviting to the user — something which can be easily programmed and has a tactile edge to it. Personally, I’m not into — there’s a lot of interesting new computer technology which I would really like to use, but at the moment the problem isn’t in the programmability or the actual sound of these programs or machines, it’s the actual control surfaces that are lacking. It’s getting very tiring and boring coming up with lots of different sounds and using lots of different programs, but on the same PC. It’s always the keyboard and the mouse. Part of the whole interest to electronic music and the different pieces of equipment is the different control surfaces, the different interfaces that they all have.

Buy Richie Hawtin’s music at Amazon.com

Visit Richie Hawtin’s Web site

Visit Richie Hawtin’s labels:

Moby @ Coachella 1999

Moby rocks bodies on Day 2 of the 1999 Coachella Valley Festival. Photo by Sean Flinn

True story — a confession, if you will: Prior to interviewing Moby, I knew very little about the man. I mean, I’ve read the occasional article about him, knew he was a born-again Christian, a descendant of Herman Melville (hence his moniker) and a vegetarian. I knew as well that he made electronic music but occasionally lapsed into fits of punk rock (as on his album Animal Rights) and movie soundtracks, e.g., I Like to Score. What’s more, I didn’t know I would have an opportunity to interview him until the evening before I was to chat with him. V2, his record label, approached me in the media tent at the Coachella Festival while I awaited an audience with Rick Smith of Underworld and told me I could speak with Moby on Day 2, if I so chose.

Ignorant but not idiotic, I seized the opportunity. With 24 hours to prepare myself, I took advantage of the Tower Records booth set up on site at the festival and purchased his most recent album, Play, which was released in June. Coachella’s fine media relations folks had provided journalists with a packet of bio information on the artists on the bill, so I figured I could use that and the album to bring myself at least partially up to speed on my subject. Except … guess whose bio the packet didn’t include. Bingo. Moby. And I would’ve gotten away with it if it weren’t for those meddling kids, I thought to myself.

Tense but not entirely panicked, I figured Play and the festival itself would give me enough to talk about to spark some sort of dialogue. That much I foresaw accurately. I didn’t anticipate Moby’s magnetic personality. Mild mannered and articulate, Moby also conveys the impression that he has a hard time sitting still. He doesn’t exactly fidget. He just exudes an energy that seems wasted on conversation; he belongs, I found out later, while watching him perform, on stage.

[Editor’s Note: This interview originally appeared on the now defunct streaming radio / music portal, RadioSpy.com]

Sean Flinn: My first set of questions have to do with the Festival. How much time have you been able to spend here? What are your general impressions of the way things are going?

Moby: I just arrived this morning, so I haven’t seen that much. But what I have seen leads me to believe that this is probably the nicest festival I have ever been involved in.

Really?

I’ve been playing festivals for at least the last eight or nine years in Europe, and I did Lollapalooza. I’ve done Woodstock. I’ve done tons of festivals in my life, and this is a really special event.

It feels really good. Last night had a good vibe to it. Are there any bands in particular that you’re interested in seeing at all or interacting with?

It’s interesting for me that, when I look at the lineup, every single artist I like. Either I like [them], or I have respect for [them]. I’m kind of floored. I’ve never done a festival like that. Like, when I did Woodstock, I found half of the acts to be — either I wasn’t interested in them, or I found them distasteful. Like, at Woodstock, I loved being on the same bill as Willie Nelson. But all the sort of generic alternative-rock stuff, the sort of testosterone-driven macho rock …

The sport metal …

Yeah, I hate that stuff. I mean, sometimes it’s kind of like — it’s cool if there’s a snowboarding commercial and you hear that kind of music underneath. That can be cool. But it doesn’t do anything for me.

Do you think the bands and the way they chose the lineup at that festival contributed to some of the problems they had?

I understand that, for Woodstock, they were trying to attract as many people as possible, so they had to appeal to the lowest common denominator. So they had a lot of aggressive, macho rock bands. But the problem is, when you have a lot of aggressive, macho rock bands, you attract a lot of aggressive, macho rock people — fans. And I think all the problems at Woodstock were the result of the bands that they had there. Exclusively. I mean, like, you can blame $4 waters, you can blame the weather, but if you didn’t have Insane Clown Posse, Limp Bizkit, Korn, etc. — all these aggressive, macho rock bands — you wouldn’t have had so much aggression.

To change track a little bit, I wanted to make sure we could get some time in to talk about Play, specifically some of the inspirations that you found for composing the different tracks on that — especially the more gospel- and blues-tinged tracks.

My only inspiration when making a record is to make music that I like and that, hopefully, other people will like as well. I wasn’t thinking about anything else. I just wanted to make nice music. I wasn’t thinking about whether it incorporated old elements or new elements; I was just trying to make something nice.

I’ve noticed over the course of your albums that people try to pigeonhole you as a purely electronic artist, and then they’re very surprised when you put out something that’s more rock-oriented. Do you see yourself as having to rebel against being pigeonholed at all?

When I make a record, I’m not really thinking so much about genre; I’m not thinking about the elements that go into making the record. I’m really just thinking about how the music makes me feel when I listen to it. So when I made Animal Rights — which two thirds of it is, like, a really hard punk, almost metal album — that was just, on a very selfish artistic level, the record I wanted to make. But I wasn’t rebelling against electronic music. I mean, I love everything. I love jazz and punk rock and classical and house music and hip-hop and R&B and everything. So it’s like, I just have all these musical styles at my disposal, so I like to incorporate them into the records to make the types of records I want to make.

I’m kind of the same way insofar as my listening habits go. Do you find this is causing you space problems with regards to storing your record collection?

I don’t have that many records. I have one CD booklet — you know, a book that holds 50 CDs or something? I just keep it filled, and if I get new records, I put those in and have to get rid of the old ones. I have a drawer that I throw all my old CDs in.

So you’re just constantly bringing in the new blood?

It’s kind of like my bookshelf. My bookshelf is quite small. If I get new books, the old ones that I don’t like leave.

To change track again, our site, RadioSpy, is devoted to streaming media and SHOUTcast servers and things like that. What are your opinions on how online media is affecting the record industry and how bands approach marketing their music and getting their music out to fans?

I think that one of the nicest things about the Internet is that people can have access to any information that they want to have access to. Like, when I was growing up, the only way I could find out about Joy Division was, like, hoping that someone would write about them in a music magazine. The only good thing about that was that it made it really precious when I found something out. Like, if I found an article on Joy Division when I was 16 years old, it was a coup because they were so hard to come by. But now that people have access to information, I think it’s wonderful. As far as how bands use that to market to people, I don’t know. I just use it on a sort of organic level. Like, I communicate to the people who run my Web sites, and they’re my friends. It’s interesting to hear what people have to say about people and my music.

So you’ve been in touch with some of the people who have Moby fan sites?

Oh, yeah. There’s this one Web site, moby.org, which is sort of the mother of all Moby sites, and it’s completely unofficial. The guy who runs it, Daniel Cerman, if he doesn’t like one of my records, he’s free to write that he doesn’t like the record. If he wants to write about a bootleg, [he can] write about a bootleg. So it’s very unofficial. We’ve met a couple of times. He actually came to New York once.

Wow, that’s terrific. That’s really good to hear because so many times you hear about some bands, like Oasis, really clamping down on some of the fan sites that are out there.

No! My feeling is that if someone is going to go to the effort to do anything regarding me and my music, I’m flattered. If someone buys a T-shirt, I’m humbled and flattered. If someone starts a Web site, I’m completely humbled and flattered. So, I would never in a million years think of clamping down, even if they’re giving away bootlegs, even if they’re doing — whatever — it’s very flattering.

At that, Moby’s publicist signaled that my interview had to wrap up, so I stopped tape and wished the man well. Like many of the other artists at Coachella who were gracious enough to give time to the media, Moby had almost overtaxed his supply of pre-performance free time in order to accommodate as many journalists as possible, and I didn’t want to take advantage of his generosity. Despite a grueling travel schedule and a long, long session with various members of the music press, Moby went on that night to deliver a highly energetic, upbeat set as the Festival’s second-stage headliner.

Buy Moby’s music at Amazon.com

Visit Moby’s Web site

Diamanda Galas

Diamanda Galas, the first lady of scream. Photo by Austin Young.

A tireless activist and peerless vocal talent, Diamanda Galas has taken a turn for the sultry with her latest album, Malediction and Prayer.

This interview originally appeared on KDVS 90.3 FM in Davis, California in November of 1996.

Sean Flinn: The first questions I have here focus on the new album, Shrei X.

Diamanda Galas: That refers to the word “Shriek.” It refers to a type of performance that was done in the 1940’s in Germany and Austria. It was a performance that was generally wordless, and it was something that they would say came out of the nervous system. It was very…well it wasn’t as much emotional as it was, perhaps, nervous. It was a very high strung kind of performance. I have never studied that performance because the documentation has been lost, but this piece uses the word “Shrei” in homage to that theater while also being a different type of performance itself.

You mentioned that the performance itself was not necessarily vocal …

No, their performance was vocal, but it was very theater based. And you know, in this piece, when I’m using the word “shrei,” I redefine it in this context to mean “an animal that is attacked repeatedly within a confined space.” So the performance is 35 minutes long, it’s performed in darkness, and it’s performed with the darkness as a [tool for affecting] sensory deprivation. And it’s in quadraphonic space. This is not the performance that I’m going to be doing in Berkeley.

Yes, I know, I have some questions about that. That’s Malediction and Prayer, correct?

Yes. But I have toured this performance through the United States last year, not hitting Berkeley and San Francisco with it, but hopefully I will.

You mentioned the darkness functioning as a tool for sensory deprivation. Does that function deprive not only the audience of sense but the performer as well, to bring the performance out of you?

Yes, you’re right, because in a sense it gives me a curtain of anonymity, which is very nice. So I don’t have to be seen during this performance, at the same time there are no visual aides for the audience, so they can’t refocus on something else. They have to sit there and listen. It’s a curious expression: they have to sit there and listen to “art” rather than looking at it, and that’s a very difficult thing, because you have to concentrate over a period of time, over 35 minutes rather than, as a lot of times [with visual art] getting distracted.

And essentially if something from the performance disturbs them, there’s nothing that can distract them from it …

Precisely.

… nothing visual that they can drown their senses in.

Well, I’ve been thinking of Iannis Xenakis, who’s in New York this week, and I always think that the reason that his work, or any kind of sound work – avant garde electronic work – has not had the financial potential of “visual avant-garde work,” is simply because it’s much more difficult to process. The demands are much more radical, and it takes time out of someone. It takes time. You just can’t look at it and then go away and then look at it again. You have to sit there. I had a lot of people really complaining during Shrei, during the performance and after the performance and just saying all sorts of things to me, you know, in whatever city I was in. They were really annoyed. And that’s just too bad … but the piece goes on. So that’s irrelevant to me.

You’ve mentioned before that your voice is “a weapon for your friends and a weapon against your enemies.”

Yep.

And so when people are annoyed, it’s almost like they’ve come out and identified themselves.

Well said. You know there was one guy in Prague last year, I remember, he stood up there and said, in his language, “Fucking bitch! Get off the stage!” You have to expect, when you do this kind of work, that people are going to react the way that they do. But in this particular piece there’s no way to interrupt it to have a kind of conversation with this guy. I have to let him do what he’s going to do and keep doing what I’m doing.

Now do you normally find that you get hecklers during a performance, or somebody like this, who is so disturbed that they have to do that?

I’m used to that, through the years. But with the voice and piano stuff, not really, because it’s really much more of a proscenium type of performance. It’s much more classic in the style of performance, but, with the other work…yeah, with Vena Cava, I had someone who ran out into the street and hid behind a truck and people ran after him because they didn’t know what was wrong with him. I get different reactions. But the person who goes through a lot of this primarily is myself, because I compose the work, and so it’s coming from asking honest questions, but also going through those mental states myself. So if someone goes through that, you know, it’s their privilege, but I also understand why a person might not want to be subjected to that sort of thing. I mean, what the hell? If somebody pays, they can do whatever they want. They can stay, they can leave. I would prefer for them to shut up, but it doesn’t always work out that way.

It’s kinda like “you pays your money, you takes your chance.”

Right.

You talked about the performance’s effect on the audience, but what, sometimes, is the performance’s effect on you? I imagine you have to summon a lot of things out of yourself to be able to put these performance on.

Extreme concentration, I would say. Very, very extreme concentration. I have to know what I’m doing. With Schrei I have notes in front of me in terms of the text and some notes on how I’m delivering the vocal work (although these are very sparse). But primarily I have to be very focused on what I’m doing.

Also, I know that some of the liner notes to Shrei X mentioned that you’d been doing a lot of research on the sound system that you used. Has that been going on for a long time, and finally culminated with Schrei X, or is this something that you’ve been using throughout the years in your performances and just fine tuning it.

I think that, for years, I’ve been working with ring-modulation, changing delay times and quadraphonic space. And I’ve worked in this way before, on Wild Women with Steak Knives and Eyes Without Blood, but I wasn’t using such a radical type of, for solo pieces, signal processing as ring-modulation. I mean, we’ve done some square wave modulating work, but we were combining ring-modulators with a lot of the work for the piece DM42 which was giving us a lot of delay changes. That combined with the vocal techniques that I used, which are creating a lot of noise, gives you a sound that no longer sounds vocal. And initially the vocal sound often does not sound vocal.

I was noticing that while I was listening to the album. At some points your voice sort of moves beyond the realm of the vocal … that was really neat.

Yeah, thank you, because I’ve always thought that was interesting. It was something I heard from the first experiments with tape concrete from Paris with Pierre Henry with Pierre Schaeffer. They were doing a lot of spatial manipulation of the sound. Pierre Henry would just take the sound…well, he did a record called “A Door and a Sigh.” And he’d have the closing of the door and the sigh, and that would be it. And he would have to manipulate those two signals alone, over a period of twenty minutes. And he made that so incredibly effective, with the tape manipulation and with spatial manipulation. And I heard that, and I said “you know…yeah!” I mean, he’s not using a voice, but it’s irrelevant what material you’re using.

There’s sort of been, on that subject, an explosion in the genre of experimental noise recently. I know that at KDVS now, we have several shows that feature experimental noise prominently. As a result of that, have you noticed more and more people coming to your performances recently, or have there always been sell-out crowds? Have people become a little more receptive to your work now?

I don’t really know, because, again, when I do something like Schrei, it’s very demanding, and I know…well I know there’s a lot of noise work that has kind of a rhythmic background, you know, like a lot of the rave stuff — a lot of the techno stuff – has become increasingly popular, but I don’t know if something that has no rhythmic underpinning (which makes a person feel kind of familiar, makes them feel like they can space out to it) is really in line with what a lot of what these people are doing. I think you’re probably right on one level, people will say, “That’s pretty radical, so let me check that out” in a way that they didn’t before. Perhaps. But then I think they were probably tricked into going, and then they realized, “Aw shit! This isn’t techno!”

Yeah, I’ve noticed too that some of the guys – some of the Japanese noise artists like Merzbow, and the Gerogerigegege – a lot of the guys who get up on stage and use metal grinders as instruments and produce zero beat per minute type of work – this stuff is actually sort of blossoming right now.

Oh! They’re not using a rhythmic thing?

No, they’re not.

Oh, that’s really interesting. That’s kind of refreshing for me to hear.

Yeah, it’s really interesting to see what’s happening with people’s tastes. We’re getting a lot of phone calls on some of the experimental shows down here.

Good!

So it seems like the avant garde has sort of filtered down a little bit to people, sort of taking on that punk-rock aesthetic where they can do this in their garage, and experiment with sound and just noises and not worry about rhythm or formal song structure.

Well, it’s also certainly an electronic music aesthetic that’s gone way, way back, and it’s gone with a lot people in the United States who nobody knew about and didn’t really care about. So it’s going to be very interesting for these people to re-acquaint themselves with that tradition as well.

Yes. O.K., Malediction and Prayer: I haven’t seen any press releases or anything on this show, I’ve just seen comments here and there, in the San Francisco Chronicle and publications like that. Could you maybe run through what you’re doing in this show, and maybe describe for me the guiding theme behind the show, if there is one?

Sure. Malediction and Prayer is a concert for voice and piano, and it deals with a lot of songs that might be sung by a person who has spent too much time alone in a room and is going through, because of this, a lot of different states of remorse for things … they’re like dirges, in a sense, maybe a kind of funereal feeling about people and things. And then some of them are songs about people that this person might have murdered, or wanted to murder. Or this person, when they were going through different extreme states, maybe ended up in a mental hospital, and is talking about that. So things like “Insane Asylum,” by Willie Dixon, or “Iron lady,” which I dedicate to Aileen Wuronos, is a piece about the electric chair. “25 Minutes to Go” is Johnny Cash …

Yeah, I was going to ask you about that.

Well, that piece to me represents a lot that I think about in terms of … it’s kind of an age paradigm in a sense, because it’s “25 … 24 … 23 …” It’s a countdown, and at the end, the person is hanging on his neck from the noose. One of the verses is, “I asked for the Mayor, but he’s out to lunch … 17 minutes to go.” And then the countdown until at the end, you just hear him hanging from the rope. I mean, he does it in a very jaunty way, and he’s talking about hanging and I’m talking, certainly about the same thing, but when I’m singing about it I’m really thinking quite a lot in terms of the AIDS parallel.

And is some of the jauntiness that you mentioned some of the typical Johnny Cash gallows humor?

Exactly! Exactly! I have my own black gallows humor. It’s nice to hear you say that, because sometimes people will say, “Oh man this song … these songs are so depressing.” I say, “Oh no! No! I’m taking this shit from being depressing to another place.” Because pure depression is a place where you can’t operate. You can’t even move when you’re that depressed. I’m taking things that people go through to another place.

So this sort of continues on … well I know that a lot of your work is about empowerment …

Yep.

… so that’s continuing on with the empowerment perspective.

Exactly.

I was walking around the other day and I had a revelation about your music. I realized that, when I hear it, I don’t feel annoyed or scared. It actually kind of pumps me up.

Oh cool. I like that.

And that seems to be the response from most of my friends who listen to you as well.

Oh, I like that! We did a show at Carnegie Hall at Halloween. And I did it in dedication to my best friend who just died of AIDS a few months ago. And I put it on that day because I see that day, Halloween, because I see it as a day that recognizes the saints. It’s the day before All Soul’s Day, it recognizes the saints who are defined in the American College Dictionary as “formally recognized by the Christian Church as worthy of veneration on Earth and a place in Heaven.” And I had to change but one word in order to make sense of this, which is to say “persons who were formerly recognized by the Christian Church as being worthy of veneration on Earth and a place in Heaven,” but who are now attacked and stalked like witches. And that makes perfect sense.

And that corresponds to the efforts by some people who have tried to pigeonhole you by saying that, “She just makes Satanic music.” And you’ve responded by saying, in a sense, you do make Satanic music, in that Satan is the spiritual resource of those people who were “formerly recognized by the Christian Church …”

Right. Exactly. It’s the same as what Baudelaire says, “O Prince of Exile.” He refers to Satan as a “Prince of Exile…who once ruled.” It’s the same thing, and so I talk a lot about this kind of inversion of power, but I think a lot of the things I talk about can not be understood in very traditional terms. I think that, when people think about Satanism, they think about Anton LaVey and they think about all these things which, for me, represent a kind of Las Vegas Satanism. It’s not really what I’m talking about.

It’s a glitzy, fun Satanism.

Yeah. I mean, I have nothing against him. I think he’s probably very entertaining, I don’t know his stuff, but it really isn’t what I’m talking about.

There’s actually a band called “The Electric Hellfire Club” that operates out of the Church of Satan, and their whole mission is to make Satanic dance music, to show that Satanism can be fun, you know, as sort of a weekend thing.

Well, there it is. And I think Marilyn Manson has a laugh too. He’s supposed to be a very nice guy, and I think he kind of reminds me of Alice Cooper actually. But that’s a different thing altogether. I’m talking about witches. I’m talking about people who were persecuted, I’m not talking about using symbols for something.

You mentioned Baudelaire in there, and I’ve been trying to bone up on my Baudelaire and Antonin Artaud and Gerald de Nerval and stuff like that … Do they continue to influence your work?

Consistently.

Are you finding that you’re uncovering new elements of their philosophy and incorporating them into your work?

Yes. Especially from Baudelaire, because a thing about Baudelaire, for all of his manifestos, he’s also able to back it up with profound writing. And that’s why I constantly return to him, because he just happens to have a gift of writing some wonderful incantational, liturgical work, which I mean, it really lends itself to musical interpretation because of its rhythmic elements. So I return to him a lot. And I think, Corbiere, I’ll be doing some more things of Corbiere’s. I’ve also discovered Henry Michaux, who I think is very interesting. He used to write hexes, these poems that were written as hexes, and he wanted them to operate as hexes, to either help people or to destroy them. He was very, very serious about it, and they’re very beautiful, very interesting poems.

Does that tie into the song “Hex” on The Sporting Life album that you did with John Paul Jones?

Definitely. I didn’t know about Michaux then, but that was definitely a piece that was dedicated to someone, and it worked. It took about a couple of years, but it worked. The person was on the way out anyway, but it was really nice …

… to have that as sort of an extra push?

Just to feel that I had given that extra push.

Well,there you go. And speaking of the album that you did with John Paul Jones, I haven’t had a chance to read the interview that’s on your web page that you did with him, but I am wondering, as are a lot of people who are interested in that album, how you guys came to work together.

I think the interview you’re talking about is with a journalist and John Paul, and not with the both of us, talking about how we worked together. It was a joy. We were introduced by mutual friends. He had seen me perform, and naturally I had heard his work with Bonham on Led Zeppelin’s work and thought that was a killer rhythm section, I mean, that’s it. I heard that and thought, “That’s the kind of rhythm section I’ve been looking for,” as far as the voice. But it never occurred to me that, if we met, that he would be really interested in touring. And then he said that he wanted to tour, as well as produce the record, and that was just lovely, because he’s such a great musician. I said to him “Listen, what I want to do is sing and play Hammond, you play bass, and we use a great drummer, and I don’t want any guitars,” and he immediately loved that. And that was it. It was a power trio. We didn’t need any of that. We didn’t need the Barbie Doll backup. We didn’t need all that crap. We didn’t need all that prancing around, because we like the music.

And that’s what it’s all about in the end anyway, or what it should be about.

Yep.

Did you find a lot of people coming to the shows who were Led Zeppelin fans and then were like “who’s that woman?” People who then heard the performance and walked out.

Definitely. In Italy we did this show – it was in Rome – and half of the people were screaming “John Paul Jones!” And then the other half were screaming, “Diamanda!”

So it was sort of a meeting of the minds …

It was great. He had these, like heavy metal fans, and I had these big Italian queens who were like “Diamanda Galas!” [Laughs] You know? I loved that!

Some other questions; I had some of the other KDVS DJs and fans and such ask me a few questions that they’ve been dying to ask you over the years of being fans of your work. One person asked this morning, “What made you decide on the type of music that you perform?” In other words, you started as a classical pianist, correct?

Oh no, that erroneous. That’s where it’s wrong. If I had started as a classical pianist I think I would have had some real difficulty making the adjustment. I started as student of my father, and we played all sorts of stuff together. New Orleans stuff, I played everything, Fats Waller, I played music. I played everything. And then eventually I started reading music, but it was not the first thing I did, I didn’t read music at the beginning. And that’s why improvisation was a part of my background, and I used it even when I would read music by asking my teacher to play the piece a few times so that I didn’t read it as well.

Yeah, I think, having been in school bands and stuff, I can identify with that exactly.

You know what I’m talking about; “Can you play that for me?”

You listen to it and memorize it and then imitate the sound on the instrument.

There it is.

I think the person asking the question too was wondering what steered you toward working primarily with your voice (though I know that’s not your exclusive instrument) and what steers you in the direction of your particular performance style?

I think, about that, I don’t really have much choice. I think that’s probably a visceral inclination. I think, again in reference to some of that German theatrical work I was talking about earlier and in reference to some of Artaud’s theories, that there are just people who, for some reason or another, are pushed to do a very extreme type of work. I think that we would not be satisfied doing anything less. It might be a biochemical or a nervous system kind of thing, it’s hard to say. I think my father could answer that question better than I.

That just sparked something for me about the style of Greek singing that you’ve been doing …

The Mira Loia? It’s really the Greek dirge music where the women get up and they speak to the dead. When someone has died they speak directly to the dead, they’re not speaking through the image of Christ and they’re not speaking with the priest (the priest speaks through the symbol of Christ and they are threatened by the women usually because the women are speaking to the dead). That’s seen right there as a kind of ancient Pagan (which it is, by the priest’s standards) evil ritual.So this type of witch-calling is as old as the hills really.

It occurs to me that perhaps it’s not so much of a performance really … I mean it is equal parts grief and mourning and trying to find, through the performance, some kind of power to lift one’s self out of that grief, to have power over the depression that we talked about earlier being so paralyzing.

Exactly. Sure, because pure depression is catatonia, And that means you don’t move, you’re like a frozen object. And that is the most terrifying thing. I understand that because I have had that in my family and I have been close to it, and I did everything I could to figure out how to never get that close to it again. That’s where I feel that I’m lucky to be a singer, because singing is the most extroverted activity. You extrovert the sound, because the state of really being depressed is so introverted that you curl up and your head’s up your ass, and when you sing you have to really make that sound go through buildings. That’s your aim: to go as far as possible, and it takes you right out of depression. It’s a gift in that sense.