Archive for the ‘INTERVIEW’ Category

INTERVIEW: LIGHT ASYLUM

Monday, September 17th, 2012

So this summer we got to witness one of Light Asylum‘s astounding live shows, and to finally meet our long-time pen pal Shannon Funchess. We did this little interview that would have probably gone on for much longer had the band not had a flight to catch. Funchess talks record label business, some exciting collaborations and more.

NC: *The first question is miraculously missing from the recording, but apparently we got tangled up in a conversation on troubles with record labels and stuff. “Shit bands have to deal with”.
SF: The band obviously finds a small indie label, it’s not like some major label throwing a bunch of money at Light Asylum at all. We’re still very much an independent musical artist outfit, whose roots are deeply ingrained; and our aesthetics and our musical – for lack of a better word – morals, are based in the underground. We’re interested in reaching as many people as we can, and not, like, fame and fortune. The music that we make is not mainstream, and not mindless. Unfortunately, as underground artists trying to come above ground, or reach more people than just our little community in Brooklyn, New York, we had to sign with a label that promised to distribute our music in multiple formats, such as vinyl, CD and digital download. For the most part, what they did were the digital downloads, and vinyl – very limited. And the CDs are close to none, that’s like a dying format… But anyway, I don’t think any artist needs or has to sign with the label with the means and technology in this day and age. If you know how to upload your music and you can find a way, a middle man, to sell your music on the Internet, then you basically build your own audience, your own fan base, you sell your shit on whatever, CD Baby or Big Cartel, your T-shirts, your CDs or whatever. You don’t really even need a label. A label is going to press vinyls for you in quantities more than like 5000 copies or whatever, and you can basically DIY. Back to where it was in the 90′s, when it actually mattered. Small labels like K-Records or Kill Rock Stars, or – at the time – Thrill Jockey, etc. I know that I said that the label that we signed to was an indie label, but it’s kind of more like a “major indie” label posing as an indie label. The label itself has money. The distribution outside of America is actually like a larger label, like Universal, in order to reach a larger audience.
NC: When I wanted to order that special edition vinyl, they were only selling it from the US and the shipping cost more than the record itself…
SF: The special edition record? The band only got 50 copies! The record was sold out before our record release party. We didn’t have enough records to sell to our fans in New York, which is where we are from, where we started, where our fanbase began. So it’s not a fair deal. It’s hard, because you want to reach as many people as you can as an artist, but at the same time, even with an indie label, you’re kind of shaking hands with “the man” at some point.
NC: It seems like it took you quite some time to find a label?
SF: Which was, I guess what was supposed to happen, naturally, because no other label that approached us actually offered us a deal. Mexican Summer was the first label to approach us and offer us a deal that made any sense, that we thought was going to be artist-friendly and creatively and artistically we would have license… We actually licensed the record to them, not sold the record to them, you know what I mean, so in ten years the record is ours again, as of the day it was released. As well as the EP, and unfortunately, there was no press for that. But in the industry apparently there is no press for EPs. If your record is not more than eight songs, even if the record was ten songs and each song was only one minute long, it’s not considered a long-play album and therefore you will get no press, no interviews, no nothing.
NC: By “no press” you mean that the label doesn’t try to get you any exposure in the major publications?
SF: The label doesn’t try to get you placement in magazines, ads for your release, no interviews from magazines, no radio play. No bloooogging…
NC: Hey!
SF: [Laughs.] Our first recording was an EP, and our songs are kind of long, around 5-6 minutes, which is not long enough to warrant having any press. They didn’t tell anybody that they released it. Guess it was like – Oh, we’ll just press like 500 copies of this and let’s say we put it out. And they’re just going to stamp it and say “Mexican Summer”, bam, like that! And they’re going to own it for ten years. But they didn’t have to do anything for it. We recorded it, we mastered it, we produced it, we mixed it, we did everything, and then we handed it to them, along with our fanbase and everything that we built, and they took it. Maybe we were a little bit naive to think they were going to do press and actually, like, push it. To them, it wasn’t worth it. It’s not like a full-length record. We also expected of them to help us, as one of their artists, to ship it ahead of us. Otherwise, we have to carry it in our suitcases and we incur the costs in baggage fees, and the airlines are straight raping people in baggage fees. We should invite a friend every time we go on tour to carry one of our bags, it would be cheaper that way – to pay for a flight for someone to carry all of our merch – than it would be to send our merch to another country. OR have them press it in another country, but they’re not doing that.
NC: Which actually seems quite simple.
SF: Quite simple. Are there no record plants in Europe? I believe there are.

NC: You guys have built a strong reputation as a live band. When working on the full-length record, were you trying to, sort of, capture that live sound?
SF: I actually think that the record is a little more produced than we intended, even though we produced the record ourselves. We wanted this producer, Flood – the same producer who worked with bands like Depeche Mode and The Smashing Pumpkins, to produce us, but he wasn’t available. But who knows, maybe the next record. Our approach is, as far as making a record sound like a live record, we didn’t intend that, that’s just how we started. We started out as a live band.
NC: …Yeah, unlike a lot of bands nowadays.
SF: Well, we are definitely a bedroom band, but not with laptops, we have keyboards and other setup, and it’s really expensive to have a practice space in New York. I have a practice space, so I asked Bruno to join the band in 2009, but I started the project in 2007 as a solo project and a departure from playing in other people’s bands and backing them vocally, or lending vocals to recordings of my friends’ projects. Once that happened, that was the Light Asylum that was meant to be. We played shows like four or five times a month, just to get it out there – to let people know that we were around, that we had a sound that we wanted to introduce, and to get back to our community. There were so many musicians… And now, there are so many more bands, like moving to Brooklyn just so can they say they’re from Brooklyn. Because there’s energy there. Like, anybody who moves to New York, they want that energy and that inspiration… The same reason I moved to New York. Brooklyn, the area where we live, came up as quite different from when we moved there though. But still, yeah, we pummeled Lower East side of Manhattan with Light Asylum just so that you could find out about us, you know, so that we could eventually leave New York and tour. But New York is in our heart for sure. We love Berlin and everybody thinks we’re from Berlin, but we’re not. We still live in New York, we just go to Berlin in the summer because it’s easier to tour Europe, it’s just more cost-effective.

NC: You played with Laurie Anderson at Donau Festival this spring. How did that come about, and how did it end up?
SF: It was great, it was amazing. That came about because CocoRosie were the curators of the Donau Festival this year, and they approached Laurie Anderson, and they approached Light Asylum about doing a collaboration for a live performance, improvised performance. And both Laurie Anderson and Light Asylum were very enthusiastic about it, and so it happened!
NC: Have you practiced at all?
SF: We met her once. We had to meet her, and we really wanted to, and it was great. We went to her studio in Manhattan, and brought all the equipment that we would normally play with the Light Asylum set, and she had all of the equipment for her set. We just jammed for an hour, and we ate lunch, and that was that! [Laughs.] The day we were to play together we did a line check and a couple of hours later we performed together for the first time in front of an audience. And that was it. It was an improvised set and it was great.
NC: Speaking of collaborations, I understand that you are going to appear on the new The Knife record?
SF: Yes.
NC: Umm, that sounds pretty exciting!
SF: It’s amazing. Super amazing. I met Olof of The Knife in Berlin last summer, and he just asked me if I wanted to do something and I, of course, said yes. And then, this spring, over a couple of trips, we got together for however many hours I could spare in the studio with him and Karen. We recorded what we could. That particular track that will come out on the album in September was also a collaboration with Emily Roysdon who is a visual artist – she wrote the lyrics. Karen and I sang the lyrics and created the melodies along with Emily as well, and Olof and Karen produced the music.
NC: Looking forward to hearing that.
SF: Yeah. I have to go though… Sorry!

INTERVIEW: JULIA HOLTER

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

We had the pleasure of meeting the lovely Julia Holter after her show in Ljubljana (?!) last week. What was supposed to be a short interview turned into a pretty interesting discussion, continued off the record. She talks playing live with the band, her last two records, ancient Greek drama and more. OMG!

NC: The songs sound a lot different live than on the record. How did you adapt them to the live setting?
JH: We listened to my songs, and then we just came up with some ideas for how to do them. All three of us had different ideas, we were trying different things… We still kind of like change things around sometimes. Tonight we played a song we never have played live before, ever, which was the last song we played, and it was totally sloppy and messy but super fun.
NC: You played one new song and it sounded like it was written with a band in mind, unlike most of your previous work…
JH: Yeah, definitely. The one that I said was a new song? That was written before I started working with these guys, but I definitely had in mind an ensemble of people.
NC: It’s interesting that some of the songs from the last two records also sort of sounded like that, for example “Goddess Eyes” and “Four Gardens”. Most other songs, while they also sounded great, felt like you can tell that they were adapted rather than written for a band. Was there any difference in the process?
JH: They sounded like they were more fitting with the band than the other ones? Oh, okay. Those ones, they’ve changed a lot more, yeah. I think that that’s cool, I like to change things a bit. I don’t change them intentionally, though, I mean I don’t change them, I would say I just work with the songs however they work with three of us. So however it makes sense to play the songs with three of us, it’s what happens. That’s kind of my philosophy about that.
NC: You used to play alone until recently? How is it playing with the band?
JH: It’s great, I love it. It’s way more fun. I mean, actually, I love playing solo too, it’s just different. It’s really like sweatty/funner, and I can actually like do a little dancing. Not really, but a little bit I guess. [Laughs.]

NC: You usually get characterised as a bedroom-pop composer, but I don’t really see you fitting in with most of the other stuff that’s considered bedroom-pop. While it is true in terms of recording, it also often supposes amateurishness or something…
JH: I guess that’s just one of those things with bedroom composers – that’s actually just true for a lot of people now. So, it’s true that I’m a bedroom-pop composer because I wrote it all in my bedroom. But I think that, especially now, most people are trying to avoid that in general because they know that there’s like this stigma of being a bedroom composer… Even though everyone is a bedroom composer. It’s a totally miserable cycle of pain. But it’s not like anyone’s denying that they’re doing something in the bedroom. [Laughs.]
NC: I mean, your records are far from being some first take demos and stuff a lot of “bedroom artists” put online and put out
JH: I’ve been doing it for a long time and I guess that what I do is I put a lot of love and thought into what I’m doing… I think a lot about it and spend a lot of time with it and I’m really ambitious and I really want to do a good job. Like, I’m not doing it just kind of half-assedly. I really am taking it seriously and the reason it was recorded in my bedroom is the reason everyone records in their bedroom – it’s just easy… That’s how I feel about it.

NC: You wrote Tragedy and Ekstasis at the same time and it appears that you got a lot more attention with Ekstasis and songs like “In the Same Room” that are more accessible than most songs on Tragedy. Have you ever thought about how things would have worked out if you released Ekstasis first and then Tragedy?
JH: I don’t know. The only reason they were released in that order was because of labels and when they could do it. Leaving Records, who put out Tragedy, finished everything sooner because I actually finished Tragedy sooner. But it was really up in the air which would come first.
NC: In retrospect, do you think things would have been different?
JH: That’s interesting. I don’t know. It’s interesing to think about that. I guess I have never thought about it as much as I’m thinking about it right now and I’m having trouble…
NC: Surely I’m not the first to ask this question?
JH: People have asked me something like that, but I always just started talking about something else. Something I do a lot. The way that people perceive the music I write… I know that people have said that Ekstasis is more accessible and Tragedy is not as accessible. And some people much prefer Tragedy. Whatever, it’s like very different. They’re just really different, and I don’t think when I was making them I really knew what people would think of them. So I think that… I just don’t know! Okay, this is not a very good answer. [Laughs.]
NC: Like, do you feel pressure for your next release, you know, what if it turns out to be more experimental or something?
JH: No, I don’t at all. I don’t really think about songs I do in terms of pop versus experimental, because that would kind of kill me. I would just like die, I wouldn’t be able to make anything if I was told that it had to be really poppy, or if I was told that it had to be really experimental either. It kind of has to be an experiment out of the will to play. To me experiment is playing. Focus and playing. It’s like this weird combination of play and focus. So, experimentation is something that I do, but experimental music is not necessarily something I do. I don’t think about “Oh, is my record going to be pop or experimental?”
NC: That’s the way a lof of people see Tragedy versus Ekstasis.
JH: That’s true. I don’t think about it that way. I mean, I definitely had a sense that Tragedy might be a little less accessible, because of the form of it. But when I’m writing music I never think about whether it needs to be pop or whatever. I might think that it needs to be more upbeat and faster, but I don’t think “this needs to be more accessible to the masses” or something like that. Masses are discerning and have a sense of what they like and don’t like and they’ll figure it out. I’m not going to cater to what people think they want. I’m going to make something and if they like it, they will.
NC: Were you surprised by all the attention you got with Ekstasis?
JH: Maybe. I guess. I don’t know if I was surprised or just happy. Yeah, in the sense that I’ve been making music for a long time, I released some other records previously, but not many people heard them. I did spend much more time on both Tragedy and Ekstasis than on anything else I’ve done before, so it was really… I did feel like I kind of deserved it! [Laughs.] You know, it was like – I really want this work out. If people don’t like it – it’s fine. But I want at least people to see it’s something I’m proud of. So the fact that people liked it was great. A lot of people do the same thing, and they deserve it, and that doesn’t happen. So I think there’s also a certain amount of luck.
NC: Do you think certain circumstances had something to do with it?
JH: Yeah. I think that the climate definitely has something to do with it, sure.
NC: For example, last fall there was all this talk about women making experimental pop music with synthesizers, some of the mainstream indie media were sort of trying to make that a thing. Do you think it may have ultimately helped people like you get more attention than they would have gotten a year or two ago?
JH: Sure, yeah. There’s a lot of labeling that goes into the way people start to hear music and I think that that’s just inevitable, wheter or not I agree that I’m like this other artist or whatever. That’s just going to happen, but that’s also how people find out about stuff. And that’s good.
NCYou often get compared to Laurie Anderson and from what I’ve read, you only recently got into her?
JH: I think that’s just going to happen no matter what. Whenever I listen to something new for the first time, I’m going to be like “Oh, this reminds me of this”… That’s just what people do. I think it’s impossible to avoid. So I don’t ever mind when I’m compared to anyone, really, even if I don’t like their music because I just think that’s what people do. It’s not going to affect me. And Laurie Anderson, for example, is amazing. It’s not like I haven’t heard of her before and heard “O Superman” before, but I never spent a lot of time with her records. So I just recently did and I really loved it. I don’t think it’s directly an influence for me, but I think indirectly it sure could be because obviously she had a huge influence on generations of musicians so I think… Why not? Sure, why not.

NC: Back to Tragedy and Ekstasis, how come “Godess Eyes” is featured on both records?
JH: Oh, that’s really a boring answer. I know people are always wondering about that and I’ve actually made a statement about it on Twitter, so I don’t think a million people saw that. [Laughs.] I put “Godess Eyes” on my Myspace – that was a long time ago – and my friend put it on a mixtape she sent to Matt, who runs RVNG Intl., which put out Ekstasis eventually. He really liked it and wrote me asking if he could do a seven inch of “Godess Eyes”. I told him it was already on this thing called Tragedy that I’m working on, but I can work out a way to re-do the song and then include it on his record if it’s okay with Leaving Records. I basically started building this whole record based off of “Godess Eyes”. So because “Godess Eyes” was so central to Ekstasis, and Tragedy also, it’s like a pivot point for both of them, since I wrote them at the same time.
NC: A lot of the articles and interviews that I’ve read about you are like “Oh my god, she found inspiration in a Greek tragedy?!” It’s almost as if they are trying to present you as some outsider or geek… And when you think about it, a good deal of contemporary plays and movies are, directly or indirectly, based on plots from – ancient Greek dramas.
JH: Yeah, I agree. It’s dangerous to pose me as this great intellectual person, someone who knows a lot of Greek drama and antiquity and whatever. Maybe just a gesture of me using the Greek tragedy was… I think what happened is that – in the US, obviously people read Greek tragedies, but not really like… We don’t learn about philosphy in school that much, in Europe you do, we don’t learn about antiquity as much as you do in Europe maybe. It’s just a cultural difference. Like, I’ve read Medea in high school and then when I was in college something about tragedies came up but I was totally not interested, and then I graduated from college and I was suddenly really intrigued by them. The reason I used it is because it was like this template you can build off of, the same reason Shakespeare does it.
NC: Exactly, everyone is using it.
JH: Maybe it’s just something people are used to being done by, like, other kinds of people.
NC: Not young women?
JH: Yeah, actually, it’s kind of true. So maybe it was stupid of me to do it, I should have based it off of something more original, like a movie from 1992 or something.
NC: …Which is actually based on a plot taken from a Greek tragedy.
JH: Yeah! [Laughs.] I agree, I had the same point. Everytime people ask me, I’m like… I’m obsessed with adaptations sometimes. They’re so good, that’s just what people do. I don’t want to make up a plot everytime I write something. Like, my next thing may be based off of a story someone else wrote.
NC: It’s so common in pop culture, so I find it really funny reading the comments that are like “Wow, where did she get the idea?!”
JH: Totally! I totally agree, thank you for saying that!

And thank you for a nice interview. We later talked about how awesome the new Laurel Halo record is and a bunch of other stuff, until the whole crew had to get going to France for their day off. We told them the French Riviera was totally overrated.

Photos by Darja Šter.

INTERVIEW: CHELSEA WOLFE

Friday, April 20th, 2012

So I saw Chelsea Wolfe live the other day and after their impressive performance, I was fortunate enough to have a word with the charismatic musician. We discussed her excellent last album, some upcoming plans, Rudimentary Peni, black metal and more.

NC: Those recent Rudimentary Peni covers, they aren’t actual covers, right?
CW: It was more like, I used their lyrics without having listened to some of the songs. I just did my own interpretations of them rather than covering their actual music. I did a one off recording of that and then we actually went into a studio in London a few days ago and did a proper recording that will be released on vinyl this year, so that’s pretty exciting.
NC: So how did you come up with the idea of doing those “covers” if you weren’t actually listening to the songs?
CW: A roommate of mine was listening to their record, but he only had one record so I could only hear the songs that were on there. And it’s really hard to find online actually. And, like, I don’t have a lot of money to go spend on old records so I just kind of found lyrics online and worked with that.
NC: Water Borders’ remix of ‘Mer’ is awesome. Do you any some new remixes coming up? How did that one come about?
CW: I love Water Borders! I’m not really a big fan of remixes in general, I don’t get excited about them or anything. It’s usually like, if someone that I like comes along and wants to do one or if it just happens, I’m okay with that. But I don’t seek out people to remix my music or anything, you know.

NC: Some of the songs on ?????????? were also on The Grime and the Glow. You wanted to work on them more or…?
CW: Yeah, I mean, I wrote those songs by myself originally, and recorded them by myself, but then I put a live band together and we started playing them live and it just kind of had a different feeling. On ?????????? album I wanted to capture more of the live sound and those were two of the songs that we were playing live so I decided to include them.
NC: So was your work on ?????????? inspired by working with the band?
CW: Yeah, definitely. I wanted to capture the members of the band and the live sound.
NC: How did you chose the album title in Greek?
CW: Oh, I was reading a lot of weird literature and even reading like The Book of Revelations and The Bible, and the old Greek translation of the word “revelations” is “apokalypsis”. I chose that word because it has multiple meanings, like “lifting of the veil”, which I though was appropriate because I used to wear a veil on stage and decided to stop doing that.
NC: How come?
CW: I guess I’m slowly becoming less shy, but it’s still hard for me to be up in front of a bunch of people.
NC: So yeah, I wanted to ask you about that. I’ve read a couple of interviews with you and you usually mention how you’re shy and all, and when you think about it, today it’s expected of artists to be active on social networks and be like really personal with the fans… How do you reconcile that?
CW: It is actually a strange thing to reconcile. I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently. Because I don’t really tour that much and sometimes fans, especially when they’re drunk, they will kind of, well not like take advantage of you, but they’ll be a little to personal and touchy and stuff and you’re like “Whoooa, I don’t even know you!” But I think it’s weird because, yeah, we’re so personal online, like on Twitter you say so many personal things and not think about the implications of that. And in real life once you actually meet people that follow you on Twitter… It’s really strange, I almost wanted to delete everything, delete my Facebook, delete the Twitter… But it’s kind of useful as well, you can connect with good people and inform people, like, when you’re playing and stuff.

NC: You played Roadburn festival recently. How did that come about? It’s more like a metal festival…
CW: Yeah, I don’t know. I think a part of it has to do with the Burzum cover that I did a long time ago… Which, honestly, I just made and put on YouTube and didn’t know anyone was going to listen to it. [Laughs]
NC: You also played with, like, Wolves in the Throne Room…
CW: I guess fortunately a few black metal fans picked up on my music. I think it has a sort of a vibe that fits with that scene, even though it’s not black metal music, obviously.
NC: Actually, while I was listening to you guys tonight I really felt that your music had more to do with that kind of stuff than with these goth or whatever acts that you usually get lumped in with.
CW: Yeah, I can see that!
NC: Do you perceive your own music as all that dark?
CW: I think it is, like, “reality music”. And when you really think about the world and the way things are, it’s a pretty dark,  fucked up place. So it’s not like I intentionally try to make “dark” music, or “goth”, or whatever bullshit… It’s more just like I’m taking the things around me and the things that I read and the things that I see, and reporting on them almost. And so, in that way, it ends up being something that’s a bit on the dark side.

NC: I really liked the video for ‘Mer’. How important is the visual aspect to you? How much do you think about that?
CW: Visual aesthetic is important to me. It’s always hard working with someone else. Like the ‘Mer’ video, I’m happy how it turned out, but it’s always a struggle to get your ideas in there and across… And on stage, I just like to wear black or white, and have the band dress in all black so it’s more like a blank slate, so it’s not about what we look like, it’s more just about the music.
NC: Speaking of the band, are they just like a touring band or do they work with you on the music?
CW: They’re more than a touring band, definitely, but I write music by myself. We then we make the songs happen together so we can play them live. I don’t really like playing live by myself, I like to have the full experience. So it’s really awesome to have them, on this tour especially.

NC: What are the next plans for Chelsea Wolfe? I’ve heard that you’re working on a new record?
CW: Yeah, we’re going to record a new album pretty much after this tour is over. But it won’t come out until 2013 actually, like, early in the year. So the plans are, basically, finishing this tour we’re on for like another three weeks. Afterwards, I’m going to do an acoustic album, just for fun, and then we’re going to do the next real full-length album. And then we’ll probably just do some more touring…
NC: Forever!
CW: Keep going, yeah, forever, until I’m old. [Laughs]

Chelsea Wolfe and her band are on tour in Europe for another couple of weeks, if you get a chance to see them don’t be as stupid as to miss it. Huh, when I think about it, I didn’t really have a chance, it took a four-hour ride for me and my friend… And was well worth it.

Photos by Dražen Žerjav.

INTERVIEW: ZOLA JESUS

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Obviously, this is more of a chat than an interview, but let’s call it that way for the sake of fitting into our “interview” category. Guess I’m sticking to the old NC habit of spontaneously jumping bands after shows without having prepared any questions. And then waiting for at least a month to write the whole thing down and post it. Anyway! I caught the lovely Nika Roza Danilova after a surprisingly poorly attended Zola Jesus afternoon session for 3VOOR12 at this year’s Le Guess Who? Festival. Here’s our short chat on how her new record sounds like Little Richard. (?!)

NC: So, how does it feel to play in front of cameras and like fifteen people?
ZJ: Stressful. Weird.
NC: Is that how it was when you first started performing?
ZJ: Well, I didn’t play in front of cameras that much, but yeah…
NC: How do you like it at Le Guess Who? Festival, did you enjoy the show last night?
ZJ: The show was great. It was actually amazing, I’m having a really good experience.

NC: Let’s talk about your new record. It sounds like a little richer than the last few releases…
ZJ: Sounds like Little Richard??
NC: [Ha ha ha!] “A little richer.”
ZJ: Yeah, I was like whaaat. [Ha ha ha!] I’ve been working on trying to get better at my craft and songwriting and programming and production…
NC: Yeah, it sounds more produced, with more electronics and stuff…
ZJ: I’m just growing and learning these things, I just keep evolving. I couldn’t make the music I made a couple of years ago just because I know so much more now. So it’s just the evolution I guess.
NC: So the early stuff was lo-fi out of necessity?
ZJ: Yeah, I mean before I was just banging on pots and playing, you know, whatever I could get my hands on. There’s more education now.

NC: How would you describe your music? The other day I was talking to someone who had never heard of you and the first term I thought of was ‘goth pop’, but it’s applied to everything these days and it somehow didn’t feel right. So how would you describe it?
ZJ: Um, well I definitely think it’s pop music. And it’s electronic. But that is the most vague think you could say, so… I don’t know, I just try to do something that is really intrinsic and honest and, um, in some ways straightforward. I don’t know, you can call it whatever you want I guess!
NC: Do you mind being labeled like that?
ZJ: I just think when someone thinks they can put their finger on you, it makes me feel a little hostile maybe. So I wanna prove people like “no, that’s not what I am”. Just think it’s a little reductive, to think you’ve got it all figured out. Even I don’t.

NC: What are the next plans for Zola Jesus?
ZJ: Touring forever.
NC: You toured a lot this year.
ZJ: Yeah, and it’s not gonna end for a while!
NC: Some new releases maybe? A video or something?
ZJ: Not yet, not for a while. There will be a new video though. I don’t think I’m positive yet on what the next single is going to be. We’re still working on it.

Incidentally, it was only after our little chat was over that I thought of a hundred better questions. But we didn’t have much time anyway (ie. five minutes). It was nice meeting her.

Photo by Lenka Slaninková.

INTERVIEW: FORMER GHOSTS

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

I met Former Ghosts‘ Freddy Ruppert at the Creepy Teepee festival this summer. I remember seeing him from a distance first, playing recluse in the shade. Approaching him was made all the more daunting by the particularly murderous glare he was sporting at the time. It’s really funny when I think of it now, because the minute you start talking to him you realize he’s just the nicest guy in the world, ever. Here’s our little chat on playing live, collaborations and the new record.

NC: You’ll be playing alone, right?
FR: Yes, I’ll be playing alone. I’ve been playing alone a lot recently because Jamie and Nika are so insanely busy right now. The new Xiu Xiu record came out, that new Zola Jesus EP came out. They’re both on these insane tours and super busy so… Um, but yeah, I’ve gotten kinda used to playing by myself for a while.
NC: Have you ever played in the full lineup?
FR: Not all three of us, but I’ve played some shows where there were me and Nika, and some shows where it was me and Jamie. It’s like I do the main songwriting and stuff, so it’s easy for me to do it by myself. But I still get nervous being up there all by myself sometimes. They also both have such a strong presence so it’s nice to be on stage with either one of them. We’ll be back here in November and all three of us will be here.
NC: For the fall tour?
FR: Yeah, we’re going to tour with Xiu Xiu and Zola Jesus, so it’ll be fun.

NC: So how did the three of you come together in the first place?
FR: I’ve known Jamie for like a really long time, we’ve been friends for a while so I just… We always talked about doing a project together but neither of us ever had the time to really do it, but then this worked out and he really wanted to contribute to it. So I would just mail him the tracks and he’d record his parts and mail them back and I’d just put it together into one thing. And then Nika, I didn’t meet her in person for like a long time, we just talked through e-mails. I was a big fan of her voice for the longest time so I asked her to sing on one song, and she recorded it and sent it back and I was like ‘Oh my god’ and so I decided I’d ask her if she wanted to keep collaborating. And she was like ‘Yeah, definitely’ and I was like ‘Ok, great’. So yeah, that’s kind of how it came about. It’s great to get to collaborate with both of them. I look up to both of them a lot. I love just being friends with them.

NC: How is Former Ghosts different from your previous project This Song Is a Mess but so Am I? Is it just the different collaborations or is there more to it?
FR: Collaborations is the big difference, but then subject matter is a big difference too. I think This Song Is a Mess kind of ran it’s course ’cause it was specifically about my mom passing away from cancer and that’s not something I wanted to keep exploring anymore. It was a heavy subject to keep having to revisit so I thought it was time for me to put that to rest and not have to… You know, kinda try to move on. The project just ran it’s course.

NC: You also have a new record coming out this fall?
FR: Yeah. The last one came out in October, I think. So yeah, it’s almost like a year later. This one’s called New Love and there’s still collaborations with Jamie and Nika and there are collaborations with Yasmine from this band called TEARIST, she sings a couple of songs on it too. There’s a wider collaboration going on. I think it’s a lot darker, which is strange. [laughs]
NC: Were you happy with how the first record was received?
FR: I don’t know. I do this to kinda like… I think the only reason I still do music is to connect with people on a personal level and meet new people. To me that’s the most important thing, and not like what the critical reactions are to it, but more like what people’s personal reactions are to it and they’re good. I get e-mails from people that were like ‘I’m going through this really intense break-up or something and your music means a lot to me’ and to me that’s important, and it’s cool to get to meet those people, and I become friends with them sometimes. That’s the most important thing to me. The whole music business aspect and stuff – critical reviews, having fans or something, that’s not something I like. I like becoming friends with people.

NC: Yeah, I’ve noticed you’re pretty active on the web – Facebook and stuff.
FR: Yeah, I just try to make myself as available as possible. I’m a normal person. [laughs] I like people, that’s important to me. I don’t like there to be like any kind of weird barrier, like that bothers me a lot. A lot of times bands are not available or something, or they try to be mysterious… You know, I don’t like this kind of separation between an artist and someone listening to his music. I don’t want that barrier and I do my best to take that down. So yeah, that’s important to me.

New Love is out now on Upset the Rhythm. Check the tour dates at Former Ghosts’ myspace.

INTERVIEW: DAN DEACON

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

We caught up with Dan Deacon after a show and asked him a couple of questions. He talked about playing with the Ensemble, plans for a new record and bands he thought we ought to give a listen. Read the interview below.

NC: Great show tonight, it was amazing.
DD: Thank you.
NC: Actually we’ve already had the chance to see you live last spring during the Primavera Sound Festival where you played with the Ensemble. What’s the difference between playing in a more intimate setting, a smaller venue and in a festival setting?
DD: I don’t really approach them differently- Tonight I opened up really casual and sort of like enjoyed talking to the audience quite a bit, and at a festival it’s kinda hard to chit chat when it’s 15 thousand or 30 thousand people or so. It is very different, I enjoy them both but I sort of prefer the smaller crowds when I’m solo and the bigger crowds when I have the Ensemble. Does that make any sense?
NC: Yeah. How come you chose to play with such a huge ensemble for Bromst? It consists of 14 people.
DD: Well, the album was written for a lot of live instrumentation and I wanted that to be translated live and that was the smallest number of people that could play the parts.
NC: What’s the difference between playing solo and having to coordinate with fourteen different people?
DD: Again, I enjoy them both, but they are very different mindsets, like when I’m playing solo with the ipod instead of with the Ensemble it is easier for me to just wile out and try and get everyone to dance. When I’m on my own I play on the floor, and when I’m with the Ensemble I play on stage. I actually have more of a role of conductor/band leader, but it’s more freeing for us to speed things up or slow things down or jam on certain sections or improvise so they are both liberating in different ways and restricting in different ways.

NC: Is it difficult to get the crowd to cooperate? For example tonight the people weren’t really feeling the whole kiss your palm rub it on someone else’s face thing.
DD: I think a lot of that has to do with cultural difference, especially places that used to be formerly forced into communism, they don’t really like the collectivist idea of it, being forced to do that something everyone else is doing. I talked to someone about this in Prague, I never really thought about it, and they were like – we used to be forced into doing what everyone else did, now we don’t want to do that. I never really thought about it in that context.
NC: I think it might be reading a little too much into it, honestly.
DD: I think it’s a cultural thing, the places that tend to have the hardest time with this are… I’d say here. I think here was the most resistant. But I think by the time the dance contest came about they had warmed up, I think they realized it wasn’t gonna be like… I think a lot of people are worried about being made fun of or made out to look like a fool and that’s not what I’m trying to do and I think by the time the dance contest came about they realized it was more about having fun and letting loose.
It’s the goddamn communists… If there’s one thing Americans hate it’s… No, no. [laughter]

NC: At what point did you decide to add all this things to your performance like the dance off and the choreography..?
DD: It grew organically, it started with just the dance contest which is sort of what I’ve reduced it back down to, to just being that, ‘cos with the last tour I was doing five or six different things and it was just..
NC: Too much?
DD: Yeah. I like performance art and group performance and using the audience as a music composition or like a palette, but I just wanna rage.

NC: How was the the tour with No Age and Deerhunter?
DD: It was cool. It was, um, very odd, but it was cool. There was a lot personality involved.
NC: What has been your favorite show so far?
DD: I don’t know, I don’t really have favorites, but if I had to recall a show in recent memory … I think it would be a show in Washington, D.C. with the Ensemble, that was like one of the highlights of my musical life.

NC: You’re still active with Wham City?
DD: Very much so.
NC: Are there any bands that you would like to recommend?
DD: Oh yeah, Future Islands, Ed Schrader, um, he’s a really awesome solo performer. The Lower Dens… um, what else is really good? Think, think, think. I know this. Oh, Nuclear Power Pants, an awesome band.
NC: All of these a part of Wham City?
DD: Most of them, yeah, I’d say. There either in Wham City or friends of Wham City. Jimmy Joe Roche. This band Dope Body, really good , some sort of like punk band.

NC: Do you ever do encores?
DD: Sometimes. Tonight I felt like we ended on a good point, we should just leave it there.
NC: Is everything planned out before you go on, you know exactly what you’re going to play and do?
DD: I pretty much know what I’m going to play. I like to stick to the set and keep it to what I know will work.

NC: Do you have plans for a new record?
DD: Yeah, I’m gonna start recording as soon as I get home.
NC: Do you have specific ideas in regards to the next record?
DD: I do, but they’re secret.
NC: Oh, tell us something!
DD: One record will be entirely played by humans, there won’t be any computer on it or sequence stuff.

Dan Deacon @ Myspace. Wham City site.

INTERVIEW: MOUNT EERIE

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

So we caught up with the cuddly Phil Elverum of Mount Eerie after a show and asked him a couple of questions during what our tape recorder died among other things that weren’t working in our favor. Here’s a portion of the ill-prepared interview.

NC: How come you chose to tour with No Kids?
PE: They’re from Vancouver, which is near where I live. And so Nick and I are friends from a long time ago. We collaborated together on Wind’s Poem, we made it together, he wrote some songs on it with me, so it made sense.
NC: Speaking of where you live, I noticed a lot of the songs on the album have similar motifs – the wind, mountains..? Is that related to where you live?
PE: Yeah, it’s true. It’s just mountains and islands…

NC: So in one of the songs on Wind’s Poem you sort of play with the theme from Twin Peaks and you mention Twin Peaks, how did that come about? Were you watching Twin Peaks at the time, was there something that inspired you?
PE: Yeah, I love Twin Peaks. I’ve watched it many times. But it felt kinda funny, you know, to play a theme song from a TV show. It’s beautiful music, I love Twin Peaks music. And I also wanted to create that world or reference that world of the TV show Twin Peaks with it’s dark forests and the pine trees moving in the wind. So playing the theme was like a shortcut, a mental shortcut for people who are familiar with this imagery.
NC: So it’s like similar to where you live?
PE: Yeah, it’s very similar.

NC: Wind’s Poem is a lot louder and noisier than your previous stuff. What made you do something like that?
PE: I’ve always made noisy records and quite records, or within the same record noisy and quite. I’ve been listening to a lot of really loud music lately and I’m interested in different ways of creating something huge, giant, so I’m always trying to make something giant.
NC: What about your next record, we read somewhere that it was going to be even louder?
PE: I hope so. I haven’t done anything, I haven’t written any songs or started recording anything, but I would like to make another big loud record.

NC: The label you run, that releases your stuff, does it release other bands as well, other music or just you?
PE: Not really. I’ve released a few of my friends’ records, but just for fun.
NC: When did you take up photography? I’ve read somewhere that you published your own collection of photography a couple of years ago, are you planning to do something like that again?
PE: No… I used all my good photos in one book. Maybe, I have some more photos. I started taking pictures in high school. I had a job at a camera store, working in the dark room.

NC: You don’t play many of the old songs live…?
PE: That’s true. Sometimes I do.
NC: Depends on the show or?
PE: Well the band, we only know… We played all the songs we know tonight. So we only know Wind’s Poem and one song. Maybe we’ll learn new songs. Sometimes I play them solo. But I love playing with a band.
NC: How long have you been on tour now with the band?
PE: This is the very beginning.
NC: You never played with a full band before?
PE: Not in Europe. Last fall we did a tour in the US.
NC: How much time did you spend preparing with the band before the tour?
PE: We didn’t practice once. The first time we played was the first show in Poland.
NC: And what was that like?
PE: It was scary. But we toured last fall together, same people, so everyone remembered all the songs. That was in November so the other day was the first time in a long time. It’s been a long gap with no practice.
NC: So you plan to play with a band in the future or?
PE: No, actually, probably just this tour. And then after this something, I don’t know what.
NC: You don’t make plans?
PE: I have ideas, and they sort of come together…

NC: Why did you feel you needeed to change you moniker after The Microphones?
PE: Um, I wanted a new name. I wanted a new project, a new concept.
NC: How do you feel about Mount Eerie as opossed to The Microphones?
PE: Well, it’s just the name. So it’s all like the same line, it’s all the same sequence of work.
NC: Yeah, that’s what I meant, it doesn’t sound like a radical change in sound to us, you probably see it differently…
PE: To me it sounds like a progression. Slowly. Each time it’s different. The name change happened somewhere in the middle. And it’s more like a chronological distinction.

Wind’s Poem was released through Elverum’s label last July and you can get it from P. W. Elverum & Sun. Mount Eerie are currently on tour. Check out their dates here.

INTERVIEW: FUTURE OF THE LEFT

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

We caught up with Andrew Falkous of Future of the Left after a show recently and asked him a couple of questions:

NC: You mentioned Germans and Swiss during the show. In terms of good crowds/bad crowds, what have been your experiences so far?
Falco: Well, it is a bit silly to talk about national cliches but, in terms of rock crowds, they tend to be true. Swiss and Dutch crowds are very quite, polite, they’re like… like church or something and it’s a very humble experience, whereas Germans are usually kicking the shit out of each other before you’ve even started playing. In that sense [this] audience reminded us a little of the German audience. You know, there was a certain acutely violent character which you couldn’t really escape.
NC: How do you handle bad crowds? Do you really tell them off?
Falco: We’ll say something like: “Oh, you’re so quiet, like mice, what do we have to do to excite you, take our trousers off?”
NC: Ha ha. I heard you say in an interview something like “Parisians can go fuck a brick”. What’s that all about?
Falco: Well, the thing is you can go to… I don’t know if you’ve been to Paris?
NC: Yeah.
Falco: You can confuse it, you can go to Paris and think that you’re in France, you ARE literally in France, but France is about more than just Paris, like Britain is about more than London. The Parisian character is so conceited to a degree that it’s an awful place to play a show, whereas France in general, you can play Strasbourg or Lyon, it’s a magnificent place to play. There’s something really… Well, it doesn’t need any qualification – Paris is a really shit place to play a show. People lean on the barrier, they look at you… “Oh, why are you here?” You tell them to go and fuck themselves and they don’t like that.

NC: So what’s with Snow Patrol? In Belgium, at Pukkelpop, you introduced yourselves as Snow Patrol and tonight there was also something with Snow Patrol…
Falco: We just like to say that: Hi, we’re Snow Patrol, we’re Coldplay… We’re U2. It’s our British idea of a joke. It’s our irony in practice.
NC: And it’s certain bands, always?
Falco:Well, yeah the softer ones… Occasionally we might say: “Hello, we’re Megadeth.”
NC: Do you plan it?
Falco: I just walk towards the mic and go Hello, we are – substitute funny band.

NC: What would you be doing if the whole music thing hadn’t panned out?
Falco: Crying!
NC: Crying?
Falco: Non-stop. The problem I have is I’ve put so much into music for so many years that I don’t really have a plan B, I’m a writer and I’ve had things published, but not in way that would constitute a living. I’ve done lots of office jobs.
NC: What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
Falco: Ah, the worst job… probably a music shop.
NC: Really?
Falco: Yeah… Well, have you ever worked in a music shop?
NC: No.
Falco: See, ideally you would assume that it was this really idealistic thing, that you could put whatever songs you liked, talk about music, but no. In Wales it’s just the Manic Street Preachers. The last time I worked in a music shop… I’m quite old, yeah? It was the Manic Street Preachers, Catatonia, the Evita Soundtrack by Madonna had just come out. That song – All by myseeelf [sings] – every day. And also the Spice Girls. I’ve never drunk so much in my life. I would go home and just do a bottle of whiskey. They were sad, sad days. I’ve done jobs for my local council, social housing and things, that’s a rewarding job, but a depressing job. But I’d say the record shop is the worst because of the difference between the fantasy and what you actually…

NC: Right… Are you involved in this debate about the new anti-piracy laws?
Falco: I don’t believe people should be prosecuted for it, but I believe people should be informed as to the consequences of their actions. And for certain bands, particularly bands that exist on the kind of level we do that we’ll simply cease to exist in a couple of years if it continues along the way it’s going. At least we’ll cease to exist in the sense of full-time touring. We’ll still make music, but there’s no way we’ll get to come and play anywhere…

NC: What’s going to be the next single off the album?
Falco: It’s going to be a double A-side of Arming Eritrea and You Need Satan More Than He Needs You. That’s going to be somewhere around Christmas and then after Christmas it’s going to be Throwing Bricks at Trains.

NC: This record is more pop than the last one. Was that planned or..?
Falco: No, it’s just the way it worked out. You owe it to your music to let the music , the way it naturally happens, to form around you and, if you bring too much of an agenda to it, then it sounds like an agenda. It’s a question of letting the music be defined by you rather than the other way around.
NC: What’s your writing process?
Falco: Our writing process is in the room together, loud. Unfortunately, the way we make music, I can’t really write songs and then bring it in. We write, I record everything with just a dictaphone and then I take it away and write melodies.

NC: What bands have you personally been into lately? New or old?
Falco: I don’t really like music. The thing is I like a lot of comedy and I like a lot of drama…
NC: So what are the influences?
Falco: Hm, band wise, a lot of British post-punk: Gang of Four, Fall, the Clash and then a lot of the American stuff after that, but I watch a lot of comedy, I watch a lot of films, I read a lot. The reason I make music is because I don’t hear a lot of music that fulfills my needs, whereas I watch a lot of comedy, particularly British comedy. So funny, I couldn’t do better than that so I don’t try to write it.
NC: Like what?
Falco: Stuff like Peep Show and stuff like The Thick of It, which is like a political satire. That’s really funny, if you get the chance… You might need to watch it with subtitles because a lot of it is Scottish people talking and they’re difficult to understand at the best of times, but so funny and such inventive swearing. I think The Thick of It has some of the best swearing in the world. I’d go as far as to say that The Thick of It is 10/10 and I don’t say that about anything.
The best two albums in the world ever though for me are Wire’s 154 and Chairs Missing – they’re the best albums in the history of the world.
NC: We saw them last summer.
Falco: Well, I don’t know how good are they now, but back in the day, like 30 years ago they were the best band.

Needless to say, the show was amazing. Falco said towards the end: “We’re definitely gonna be coming back because you’ve made us feel like Def Leppard or Whitesnake” and then proceeded to hide behind the amplifier with Jack and Kelson, since the dressing room was at the opposite side of the venue, while we cheered for an encore. Lovely fellows. Substantial drinkers. Massive headache the following day.

You can follow the touring adventures of FOTL here. Anything with Falco’s uniquely acerbic (thank you, word of the day) wit makes for an interesting read.

Check out the rest of their tour dates.

Now scurry off and buy Travels. Go on.

INTERVIEW: ARIEL PINK

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009
NC: Do you have time for a quick interview, answer a couple of questions?
AP: Sure, sure. What do you wanna know? Wait, wait, let me guess. Animal Collective, do you know them? Oh, yeah. Yeah, I know them, man, of course. Ok, what other questions do you have? Is your real name Ariel? Oh, yes. [talking really fast and laughing]
NC: And your last name Pink?
AP: No, you can look it up on Wikipedia – Ariel Marcus Rosenberg, born 1978. It’s stupid, stupid questions. Come on.

NC: [laugh] Okay, okay. Now I feel pressure. So, did you enjoy playing Primavera Sound festival?
AP: Oh, I loved it. I LOVED it.
NC: Vivian Girls joined you on stage, I mean was it like totally spontaneous or…?
AP: Well, we toured together in the United States and that tour was great and then we haven’t seen each other for a long time and we saw each other again at the Primavera festival and they were touring even after we stopped touring in the United States so they’ve been touring for a longer longer time, which is crazy… Yeah, it felt good. I loved playing the festival, Neil Young was amazing and My Bloody Valentine… I mean the best bands. The best.

NC: Do you think you’re like… a genius?
AP: [laughs]
NC: A lot of people think that, I read that…
AP: A lot of people think I’m an idiot.
NC: Well yeah, that too. But do you think that’s flattering? You know…
AP: No, no, it’s just talk. I am not a genius. I am not a genius.
NC: Your band is one of those bands where people are either like “They’re great” or like “They suck”.
AP: Oh the band, the band is AWESOME. My band is rad. They, um… A lot of hard work, a lot of practice and it took years, years of trying to get a band that is capable of doing what they do. Years.

NC: I read that you worked with R. Stevie Moore. I’m a big fan of his so I was wondering – how did that come about?
AP: He’s a good friend of mine, I’m glad to say that he’s a friend of mine. And I’m a fanatic of his music.
NC: Did you listen to him a lot before you started recording or…?
AP: Well, yes. I got into him about 4 years before I sent him The Doldrums when I first recorded it and I just found his adress on the internet, he had a website that he had just started and I was looking up bands all the time, seeing what happened to them. And oh, R. Stevie Moore is still…
NC: He’s still alive!
AP: [laughs] He is still alive! And so I just sent him my record and that was my first e-mail, I just started a hotmail account, that was like 1999. And the first e-mail I ever got was from him.
NC: That’s so nice.
AP: And he wrote me…
NC: Did you print it out and frame it?
AP: Pretty much, I preserved it. I mean I was so excited, I didn’t know if I was sending it to an office or… Anyway, he wrote “Wow, I’m listening to the CD and it’s amazing”. I couldn’t believe it when I read it! And after that I said to myself like, you know, I can’t ever be a rock star anymore because he’s too cool. So I vowed to make sure that everybody knows about him, if they know about me, they know about him.
NC: That’s nice.
AP: And that’s forever. You know, I can’t do it anymore. I can’t be a cocky rock star anymore.

NC: One last question: What’s your favorite dress?
AP: [laughs]
NC: You wear dresses at shows…
AP: This is a Croatian dress. It is. It was given to me by Diana. Diana’s dress is my favorite dress, I will wear it forever.
NC: Ok, thanks for your time.
AP: Good questions.

INTERVIEW: WOMEN

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

So we caught up with Patrick Flegel from Women a couple of nights ago at one of their shows and decided to ask him a couple of questions.

NC: Almost a year has passed since you released the album, the new stuff that we heard tonight, is that going to make it onto an EP or are you working on your next album?
Pat: Well, first of all, the album is only half an hour long, thanks for buying one by the way, and we didn’t really expect anyone to give a shit about it, thought that we would just record again, like right after, but then we started touring a lot and stuff, touring more than we expected so it’s kinda been a drawn out thing where we hadn’t had as much time to record as we would like. We’re off from August on indefinitely so from that point on we’ll just be recording in a house.

NC: How long have you been playing together?
Pat: Mat’s my brother and the other guys I’ve known since I was like in grade school so a really really long time…
NC: Awww…
Pat:It’s adorable! [makes a face]

NC: How long did it take you to find the sound you wanted?
Pat: Erm, I don’t know if we’ve got it yet [laughs]. We need our own sound guy and new gear and stuff. We’re planning like a whole phase two of the band that would be totally different. We’re planning on overhauling the whole operation.

NC: You played the Primavera festival?
Pat: Yeah!
NC: How was that?
Pat: Oh, that was fucking amazing! I saw Sonic Youth and Neil Young, and the Vaselines and… all the bands that were excellent so… It’s nice to see how good the bands are and then you know how good you have to be.

NC: Have you ever played to a big crowd like that before?
Pat: Not really, it was pretty crazy.
NC: You usually play smaller venues…
Pat: Well, it varies, like, sometimes we’ll play in front of 15 people somewhere in Ontario or like, I don’t know, two thousand people if we’re playing a show with Mogwai or something.

NC: Do you like it better in Europe or in America?
Pat: Europe for sure!
NC: Really? A lot of bands say that, why is that?
Pat: Well, first of it’s like a more interesting place to be, just as for walking around down town, the architecture… Also, the people are way, way nicer. The people are just really nice to me, and they really love music. It’s fun.

We talked some more afterwards and found out that the album cover is actually a picture Pat cut out from a Chinese medical textbook. Their merch was ridiculously cheap so we bought up everything.
Check out the rest of their tour dates at their MySpace.