N O P A R T O F I T

N O   P A R T   O F   I T
Far more important than baking bread is the urge to take dough -beating to the extreme - Otto Muehl

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Interview Series #29: Edgar Amaya

The NO PART OF IT Interview series was a strain of questions sent to a number of different people between February and March 2019. Each entry was scheduled chronologically to be thrust upon the world on a monthly basis since then. Each individual is introduced informally as if they were being discussed at a bar.   




 Scheduled March 2019


 Edgar is a very good friend of mine.  I originally met him when he was a member of a fledgling group called The Electric Set, which was formed by a semi active/former member/Texas transplant to Chicago in the band Indian Jewelry.  He then formed a duo called EaViL, with his then partner N. Vilches.  These projects were a very noisey, messy, and freeform approach to pop music in a myriad of ways, but also sometimes they were just pure noise with a certain flair for poetry in the place where power electronics may have come in.  Amaya also co-wrote a book with harp player Stella Castellucci, based on his ongoing obsession with a rare Peggy Lee album.  Somewhere in there, he moved to Spain and got married; became the catsitter and personal archivist of Lydia Lunch, of whom he is a long-standing fan.   For a time, my radio show, The Delirious Insomniac Freeform Radio Show (2007-2014) ran something after hours called "Delirious Sunrise" wherein Edgar was a regular host, and his taste, while not exactly in the "deliberately obscure" vein that many freeform DJs would be, still reflected a peculiar and focused taste for intensity.  Edgar is a rather private person, but he has traveled a lot of the world now and lived one of the more full lives I've known of an ostensibly shy person, including seeing Prince regularly at private shows in his Paisley Park home studio, and embracing Judaism enough to visit Israel.  If there really is some mythical place in Japan where reclusive types can find some success as creatives without being overtly self-promotional, he and I should surely go there! 


1. What types of things have you been getting into lately?
I’ve been caught up in Unsolved Mysteries (The Robert Stack episodes). The theme song unsettled me as a child when it first aired, but I still chose to watch it. Back then I didn’t understand what I was watching. Terror Vision has released a vinyl using many of the themes Gary Malkin composed for the segments. I had no idea until I saw it on display at a record fair. Seeing and hearing it all these years later makes it seem like a new series.

Birds fascinate me completely. I’ve been into bird watching. I admire their intelligence, instincts, beauty, and serenity. I’m dreaming and scheming of ways to spend time with penguins. My husband and I went to the penguin “experience” offered by the Shedd Aquarium. It was supposed to offer a chance to hang out with one. Her name was Charlotte (we added the last name Sometimes). She is a beautiful African penguin with lots of personality. We barely had the chance to touch or be closer to this fascinating creature. We did get to pose for a picture with her, although not expecting that her handler would be in it as well.

Genealogy – I love that there is technology to explain what we are made of. Origins can be undisputed and suspicions can be confirmed. Within one body can lie nations that warred with and conquered each other. Many of the places that made me changed borders and names several times over. Finding the village where it all began on a map is a revelation. It’s also made a great purpose for some future travels and exploration.

2. What you do, do you do it as an artist, or is it a hobby?
It is done the only way that I know how. I was condemned to write when my father named me. Hearing the music he played or made growing up was a strong influence. I didn’t realize there was a choice in creating things. It’s an obsession that drives other obsessions.

3. How would you describe what you do?
Everything centers on trying to figure something out. That is usually why I find it deeply personal. I usually have to be obsessed with an idea or concept that I can’t shake. That’s when I know it’s time to dive in and make something. A continental drift occurs mentally where I end up on one side or the other.

4. How would you describe your creative progression over the years, in a brief synopsis?
For a long time I was so driven by my own conflicts and disturbances. Now there’s a purification process into doing something. It does help to have a large body of water near. Now there is space to do it mentally and physically without clutter. All the things that are not washed away are the ones that will matter.

5. How would you describe your philosophy?
There’s a lot of revision, renewal, and reinvention. If there isn’t a “re” area in my brain somewhere, I’m bound to stagnate and lose meaning. My grandma often said, “Shit or get off the pot.” I learned to follow words with actions and not waste time from her. I learned about strength and determination from my mom. I think we can be a mixed media masterpiece, using the best influence of the people we know and love best.

6. Do you believe in psychics, magic, ghosts, or gods? If no, then maybe you'll share your favorite conspiracy theory (whether you believe it or not).
I believe in all those things. I think our minds are too underdeveloped. I’ve always wanted to see a ghost, but haven’t had the chance. I’ll continue haunting places they are known to be.

7. What would you say was your most definitive experience?
Moving to Barcelona. I was fully charged, in love, and dreaming. Even my crashes and confusion didn’t have the same impact or hurt they have had elsewhere. It was when I finally started saying yes to myself and became less afraid. I really appreciate the two-way culture shock of going there and coming back. It’s really broken through so many things that were in the way.

8. Do you have any side projects that I am not aware of? If not, what is something you'd like people to know about you, that you don't think anyone would ever ask?
I’ve worked on some new concepts and ideas for music, but it doesn’t have a name yet. It’s got a lot of blank spaces. I’m still figuring it out. I think it’s going to start to see the light of day after relocating.

9. Would you care to name any theoretical “Desert Island” records, or at least releases that you think are approaching your concept of "perfect"?

  1. Lovesexy perfectly captures everything that Prince was and stood for. It will always be my favorite album of all time. It’s so dense, funky, confusing and positively beautiful. I can’t help but feel great each time I hear it.
  2. In Limbo was Lydia Lunch’s attempt to make the slowest album she could. It was a godsend when I was pinned to the floor staring at nothing in my youth.
  3. Cuatricromía by Fangoria sent me on an upward spiral of happiness. I played it while Turkey Crossing into Barcelona. Seeing “Cuatro Colores” live literally moved me to tears. They became my Spanish teachers and I had the chance to thank them for that.
  4. Peggy Lee’s vocals are flawless on Black Coffee. Her amazing group accompanies her on one of the highlights of all her recordings. She was newly divorced and delivered these sultry selections on the throes and throws of love. The album was further improved by the addition of Stella Castellucci’s harp on the added songs.
  5. The Creatures’ Eraser Cut is a four-song feast that is so varied and brilliant. Siouxsie’s vocals and Budgie’s drums always move me. This sent me over the edge in appreciating their work as Creatures and Banshees. The Creatures have the edge for me because of their sensuality and experimentation. I was too young to enter the first time I saw The Creatures at The Metro, so my dad accompanied me. I had met them at their signing in Tower Records earlier that day. I professed my love for the song “Pinned Down.” During the concert, Siouxsie approached me from the stage. She sang that song just inches from my face.

10. What is the earliest childhood memory you can (or are willing to) recall?
I left Mexico for the final time when I was two years old. For some reason all of the memories are very blue-hued. It was like it was always dusk or the blue hour. I must have been nocturnal. I’m sitting on the floor in a huge room and plants surround me. I hadn’t been back for a visit until 2015. I now know it was the porch where my abuela keeps her plants. It’s so much smaller to me now.

11. Are you able to appreciate other peoples' creative work regardless of their personal shortcomings or inherent flaws? To what extent?
Yes, definitely. Prince is a great example. I know he was complicated and hard to get close to. He really created important work for me as someone who always felt “different.” Alfred Hitchcock had some issues that informed his art. He funneled his fears and anxieties into his work. It’s a kind of alchemy. I used to be an avid fan of memoirs and classic Hollywood biographies. I think the more I learned about some people, the more difficult it got to like or admire them. I know there are troublesome men for different reasons. Directors like Woody Allen and Roman Polanski. I do appreciate some of their work and view it outside of its creator.

12. Do you have any heroes or heroines? Who are they? Feel free to add anything that makes them stand out.
I am a Lydia Lunch lover for life. I feel so fortunate that I’ve had the chance to evolve from fan to friend. The times we were working through her archives provided many perfect moments. It’s incredible any one being can do what she does and maintain their sanity. She carves out a big space for pleasure and happiness. She is 100% DIY and loving it, a globe trekking seduction.’

My grandma Eleanor gave me lots of love when there wasn’t enough to go around. She made things happen in difficult situations. It’s a miracle that she wasn’t a bitter or sad person considering all that she went through. She lived life with gutsy gusto and was a lot of fun.

13. What would you like to have on your epitaph? Or what is your favorite quote?
I would like it to say: Married 11/15/14. I feel like I’ve been born and died so many times. I had never been witness to a healthy marriage or relationship. I was really scared to make such an important decision. It ended up being one of the best things. It provided another necessary restart that would move my life forward. I spend days and nights with my favorite person in the world.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Interview Series #28: Alain Neffe

The NO PART OF IT Interview series was a strain of questions sent to a number of different people between February and March 2019. Each entry was scheduled chronologically to be thrust upon the world on a monthly basis since then. Each individual is introduced informally as if they were being discussed at a bar.   




 Scheduled in March 2019
Alain Neffe has been active since the 70s, including his massively influential label Insane Music, and his various projects: I Scream, Pseudo Code, BeNe GeSSeRiT, Subject, and Human Flesh, to name a few.  His series Insane Music for Insane people was dominant within distribution circles from 1980s cassette culture, releasing compilations that featured precarious and precocious acts of an often home-recorded variety.  Some of the earliest entries by The Legendary Pink Dots, Colin Potter, Portion Control, Merzbow, Algebra Suicide, Maybe Mental, and many others appeared on these comps.  Currently the Belgian artist's work is regarded as pioneering and pivotal in some Minimal Wave circles, as well as the history of experimental music and noise at large, and has been continuously reissued for as long as I have been paying attention.  Another artist/label that I discovered while digging through original editions of these cassettes at WZRD, including the first I Scream tape from the 70s! 


 1.  What kinds of things have you been getting into lately?

1 Actually, i am mixing (and remixing) music by BeNe GeSSeRiT and HUMAN FLESH in order to build programs for some lps…. I recently mastered music from SUBJECT for an lp on MINIMAL WAVE and for BeNe GeSSeRiT (the vinyl reissue of “postcards from Arrakis” with some unreleased bonus tracks from the same period)

 2.  What you do, do you do it as an artist, or is it a hobby?  If you don't like that question, what do you have to say about true art (vs. "entertainment")?  

2 For most of my life, I had a “day job” to earn a living, and I made music after hours, but it was not at all a hobby, it was something necessary for my mental balance, my mental health ; a sort of free therapy , I guess (without the risk of being mentally disturbed by some shrink) ….”entertainment” is a word I never use….

3.  How would you describe what you do?

3 Emotional, out of fashion, honest and highly selfish

4.  How would you describe your creative progression over the years, in a brief synopsis?

4 Progression... well, I would talk about change …. In the 70 and 80 ‘s I had more contact with instruments, so I could handle them in a better way, spontaneously and fluently ; the fact that I ceased playing with real groups and stopped playing live changed my way of handling music : using a multitracks recorder made me stronger in arrangements and mixing ; actually, I am more and more attentive to details and sound frequencies ; I also often remix old tracks in order to get them better

 5.  How would you describe your philosophy?

5 no real philosophy , just some ways of being ,for example “protect yourself (and your beloved ones)” and “avoid losing time with toxic people”

6.  Do you believe in psychics, magic, ghosts, or gods?  If no, then maybe you'll share your favorite conspiracy theory (whether you believe it or not). 
 

6 no, no god, hopefully…. My conspiracy theory … well I strongly believe that , in mid and southern Europe ,our leaders are trying to make the population extremely stupid (reality shows, sport, radio and T.V.advertising etc ) in order to prevent us from thinking, so they can steal, cheat, lie without any reaction from the average citizen…I also believe that ancient Egyptians were Aliens

7.  What would you say was your most definitive experience?
 
7 When I was 13 , I discovered Science Fiction literature and never stopped …I have always been a fan of Philippe Curval and his extraordinary universe, full of strangeness, humor and cynicism…. A French label asked us (BeNe GeSSeRiT) to make a song about a Curval novel for a compilation + book ; I guess they were glad with the result because they asked us to make a concert in Nantes to launch the book ; so we prepared a special set about it …. When we arrived in Nantes, we met the author… I was quite impressed … In the conversation, I had an idea : since he was attempting to the whole festival, I asked him if he would read his novel with Nadine, while I would improvise some minimal music and mix… And he agreed, so we did it instead of the BG concert …. A great moment for me, playing with one of my (few) heroes !!!!

 8.  Do you have any side projects that I am not aware of? If not, what is something you'd like people to know about you, that you don't think anyone would ever ask?

8 In the 70’s I was playing bass (on synth) and wrote angry minimal lyrics for a punk band named SIC (incidentally, an lp has been released on BELGIAN WAFFLES last year)

 9.  Would you care to name any theoretical "desert island" records, or at least releases that you think are approaching your concept of "perfect"?  

9 “Mercator Projected” by EAST OF EDEN , “ The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn “ by PINK FLOYD “Fly” by YOKO ONO , “We’re Only In It For The Money “ by THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION, “The Musician” by JENNIFER TERRAN, any TORI AMOS live set (alone with her piano) “This Was” by JETHRO TULL, “Camembert Electrique “ by GONG, most of the NICO records and lots of others …


10.  What is the earliest childhood memory you can (or are willing to) recall?  

10 strange question …the way a surgeon put me to sleep before a throat operation, with chloroform ; it was frightening, but maybe it made me reluctant about of drugs and alcohol effects


11.  Are you able to appreciate other peoples' creative work regardless of their personal shortcomings or inherent flaws?  To what extent?  

11 I am rather artistically hard to please ; the work must be sincere, honest, without any compromise and well-conceived ; I always try to “feel” it and not to “understand” it ….but musically, I am unable to be tolerant with loud disco-techno-electro shit with ridiculously loud bass drums , and I cannot dig racist arrogant sexist rap or any other music or noise that insult my moral or intelligence


12.  Do you have any heroes or heroines?  Who are they?  Feel free to add anything that makes them stand out.  

12 Benazir Bhutto who was a beautiful young woman leading Pakhistan ; Frank Zappa who was a musical genius , Daevid Allen , Peter Hammill , Syd Barrett and Ian Anderson for what they brought to our culture ; Curzio Malaparte ; Philippe Curval and hundreds of Sci-Fi writers who made me read books ; all the unknown “working class heroes” who cure and protect us in our daily life

 13.  What would you like to have on your epitaph?  Or what is your favorite quote?  

13 memento mori

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Interview Series #27: Kimberly Montiel

The NO PART OF IT Interview series was a strain of questions sent to a number of different people between February and March 2019. Each entry was scheduled chronologically to be thrust upon the world on a monthly basis since then. Each individual is introduced informally as if they were being discussed at a bar.
Scheduled March 2019

Kimberly has quietly posted a rigorous amount of art on her facebook page, never to be seen in a gallery.  I vaguely remember her saying that she didn't think her work would be suitable in a gallery, in so many words, yet she has gathered a bountiful wealth in a body of work.  Her creations are like dollhouses gone tropical and psychedelic, or a nativity scene from a model train set where the alien inhabitants are off in their spaceship collecting trinkets.  Always neon in effect, Montiel lives out a sort of image that is an extension of her work.  She was once mentioned in NewCity magazine for her concept of maximalism: "More is more". 




1.  What types of things have you been getting into lately?
peruvian retablos


2.  What you do, do you do it as an artist, or is it a hobby?  If you don't like that question, what do you have to say about true art (vs. "entertainment")?  
I paint and create as an artist and extensions of myself

3.  How would you describe what you do?
What I do is intimate. secretive. idiosyncratic. solitary. intuitive. I prefer working on a small scale.

4.  How would you describe your creative progression over the years, in a brief synopsis?
Maybe who I really am began to truly emerge at the age of 19...and from that point on it's been a work in progress

5.  How would you describe your philosophy?
I'm still trying to figure it out.

6.  Do you believe in psychics, magic, ghosts, or gods?  If no, then maybe you'll share your favorite conspiracy theory (whether you believe it or not).  

I want to believe.


7.  What would you say was your most definitive experience?

My most definitive experience hasn't happened yet. Or maybe it's just a fading memory now.


8.  Do you have any side projects that I am not aware of? If not, what is something you'd like people to know about you, that you don't think anyone would ever ask?

No Comment.


9.  Would you care to name any theoretical "desert island" records, or at least releases that you think are approaching your concept of "perfect"?  

cocteau twins' 'Treasure' album, various classical music pieces, Księżyc's self titled album and their Rabbit Eclipse album


10.  What is the earliest childhood memory you can (or are willing to) recall?   
Picking overgrown flowers from alley ways with my Grandmother.


11.  Are you able to appreciate other peoples' creative work regardless of their personal shortcomings or inherent flaws?  To what extent?  

No comment.


12.  Do you have any heroes or heroines?  Who are they?  Feel free to add anything that makes them stand out.  
 Anyone truly fighting for the environment and its conservation. The guards that protect endangered animals in protected lands from piece-of-shit, bloodthirsty poachers. wildlife rescue workers and rehabilitators


13.  What would you like to have on your epitaph?  Or what is your favorite quote? 

I don't know about my epitaph. I have a favorite poem rather than a quote, and it's William Blake's "The Sick Rose"

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Interview Series #26: Hans Grüsel

The NO PART OF IT Interview series was a strain of questions sent to a number of different people between February and March 2019. Each entry was scheduled chronologically to be thrust upon the world on a monthly basis since then. Each individual is introduced informally as if they were being discussed at a bar.   




Hans Grüsel, the illustrious and mysterious!  Head of his Krankenkabinet, may or may not be a German synthesizer wizard from the 70s having haphazardly immersed himself into the neon cardboard scene of San Francisco, armed with psychedelic gingerbread costumes and lots of different kinds of wood-grain.  Rumored to be a co-conspirator of the excellent freak label Resipiscent,  Grüsel's work  is a perfect wash of psychedelic synthesizer squalling with unpredictable perversions, such as a cover of bygone standards "Tea for Two" or "Me and My Shadow",  an alternate soundtrack to a silent film version of Alice In Wonderland, or just new directions in globular synthesis in general.  Grusel was kind enough to rework material for no part of it's 333REDUX release.


1.  What kinds of things have you been getting into lately?
Circuitry of the Buchla 100
Tina Weymouth
Practical LSD Manufacture (3rd edition) by Uncle Fester


2.  What you do, do you do it as an artist, or is it a hobby?  


i do it as a fArtest




3.  How would you describe what you do?

An ever-changing woodgrain diorama of dark forest characters.


4.  How would you describe your creative progression over the years, in a brief synopsis?

Woodgrain rings.

5.  How would you describe your philosophy?
Wood-Grain



6.  Do you believe in psychics, magic, ghosts, or gods?  If no, then maybe you'll share your favorite conspiracy theory (whether you believe it or not).  

Yes, the supernatural is a giant part of my being. I prefer psychics, magic, ghosts to gods.
Spirits are the most tangible of the collection.


7.  What would you say was your most definitive experience?

Breaking out of a 9 month womb?

8.  Do you have any side projects that I am not aware of? If not, what is something you'd like people to know about you, that you don't think anyone would ever ask?
“I Should Have Cut the Eyes Different”

9.  Would you care to name any theoretical "desert island" records, or at least releases that you think are approaching your concept of "perfect"?  
Caroliner Rainbow Open Wound Chorale - Rise of the Common Woodpile




10.  What is the earliest childhood memory you can (or are willing to) recall?

The Story And song from The HAUNTED MANSION




11.  Are you able to appreciate other peoples' creative work regardless of their personal shortcomings or inherent flaws?  To what extent?  

Fucking Hell Yah!!! We are all floss.

12.  Do you have any heroes or heroines?  Who are they?  Feel free to add anything that makes them stand out.  
Betsy Ross?
I’m sure she could sew a mean costume.

13.  What would you like to have on your epitaph?  Or what is your favorite quote?  
Not an epitaph but a composition:
"Embalmers Piece". My second vocational aspiration is
that of a mortician, thanks to an interest in the mortuary sciences (my
third is that of a butcher, given my love of meat). The Embalmers Piece is
basically
a scheme of modified soundparts that can be inserted in to a corpse
before burial.
These soundparts emanate in one of two (or more) fashions:

a) Underground for a traditional burial (turn it up loud)

b) Aboveground in a crypt or vault style entombment (a more
sophisticated art gallery wafting)

I can imagine a cemetery full of these graves. Each a different voice,
yet with the unity of a chorus. I plan to have my body prepared for
 burialas the first tome.
Any Mortuary Scientists out their willing to collaborate with me on this?
If so please contact me at hans@hansgrusel.net

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Interview Series #25: Christopher Sienko

The NO PART OF IT Interview series was a strain of questions sent to a number of different people between February and March 2019. Each entry was scheduled chronologically to be thrust upon the world on a monthly basis since then. Each individual is introduced informally as if they were being discussed at a bar.

   

The Museum of Inconvenient Formats
Scheduled March 2019
Chris is a gift to noise culture.  I'm not sure if there is anyone else who writes at his caliber on behalf of the primitives.  Most might know him as one half responsible for the massive AS LOUD AS POSSIBLE magazine (considering its relatively massive presentation, it is hard to simply call it a magazine), but he has been writing for a number of sites, especially Gaper's Block in Chicago for a number of years.  "ALAP" has apparently shut down operations for its next issue, which was more than five years in the making at least, but some of those articles, I'm told, will resurface eventually (perhaps by the time this interview surfaces in two years).  At this moment (March 2019) Sienko's writing can be found in the fledgling Indiana zine "Vulcher".  When coming up with this interview series, Chris was one of the first people that I thought of, because while he is not a noise artist (and it's rare that people participate so intensely without being one), I'm quite sure, based on his writing that he perfectly navigates that line between having an objective view and having the experience of getting knee deep in the trenches. Being reviewed by Chris must be like being picked up out of the gutter by a guy who specialized in rare flowers that only grow in gutters. 
  1. What kinds of things have you been getting into lately?
This might be a lame answer, but jigsaw puzzles. Last summer, I bought a jigsaw puzzle of a Jackson Pollack painting (“Convergence”) at a garage sale. I haven’t done puzzles since I was a kid, but the absurdity of a jigsaw puzzle of something so thoroughly non-representational really sung to me. When we had the epic cold in Chicago this winter and were stuck at home, out came this puzzle from the back of the closet. It turned out not just to be a thing to pass the time while the outside world was uninhabitable for humans, but a real exercise in deep visual concentration. I’ve seen a few of Pollack’s paintings in the museum, but I’ve never stared as deeply at a Pollack as I did over those two and a half weeks. More than just trying to find that one piece that fits, I really found myself just obsessively staring at these criss-cross patterns and filigrees, imagining the physical arm and hand gestures that could bring on these patterns, seeing them turn into almost representational forms, and then back into abstractions, back and forth.
Having completed that, we’ve now moved onto a puzzle of Hieronymous Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights.” It’s fun in a completely different way, as strange little tortured (or ecstatic) faces and buttocks pop out at you from the tiny pieces.
Other than that, I’ve been getting into tracking down the locations of long-gone bookstores in Chicago, working on improvements to my new house (my wife and I bought a bungalow in 2018), going to the Chicago Film Society (located a 15 minute walk from my front door on the NEIU campus), and trying to write material without any expectation of whether it’ll be published or not. 

2.  What you do, do you do it as an artist, or is it a hobby?  If you don't like that question, what do you have to say about true art (vs. "entertainment")?  

I don’t think about it in that way, artist or hobbyist. I just do what I do. It’s a hobby in the sense that I rarely if ever get paid money for it, I guess. It’s not a hobby in that I want to spend the rest of my life doing it. Though people also have the same hobbies their entire life! I am currently trying to work on some new ideas that will possibly be closer to “art” (or at least abstraction) while still operating as someone who writes stories about almost-forgotten noise artists.
I guess this maybe fits with the question of what I’ve been getting into lately, but I’ve realized in the last few years that the type of sound art that really excites me would be roughly described as “quasi-academic nonsense.” Things like the Gregory Whitehead “Vicekopf” 7-inch that RRR put out. Maybe there’s truth to it, but the Hafler Trio’s “Three Ways of Saying Two” is like a thrilling adventure movie about a scientist/philosopher who may be completely fictional. Any time where a piece of work (music, film, fiction) is setting itself up as a source of information but clearly devolves into half-truths and outright fabrication is becoming more thrilling to me, possibly as a controlled version of the world itself, where definitive truths about anything become increasingly difficult to determine.
Anyway, true art vs. entertainment is a hard one to officiate. One of the things that makes me laugh the most about noise is that it has these two seemingly opposite poles implanted into it, with reasonable adherents on both sides. For some, noise is good when it’s exhausting, and it’s bad when it’s fun. Other folks would like to “rage out” to some cool noise, and would rather not be in the presence of something that makes you bored or exhausted. I kind of like that side one of the Observation Clinique LP gives me a stress headache, so I guess that makes me on the “Music Should Hurt” side. But I also shook my head vigorously and with joy seeing Incapacitants play in New York 10 years ago. Is stuff that’s hard to endure “art” while stuff that makes you pump your fist “entertainment”? To 99.9% of the world, it’s all garbage, so please yourself.
Using the dichotomy of art vs. entertainment automatically puts art on a higher plane, and by extension, creates a Canon of True Art that was done almost as a refutation of entertainment. Did you feel terrible after that Tarkovsky movie was done? Good, that’s art. But for a good chunk of human history, art was something that was made freely and with/for enjoyment. There’s lots of art that’s art but is also commerce (handmade jewelry, driftwood sculpture). Noise as an enterprise is kind of like driftwood sculpture. Everyone who makes it has a slightly different take on it, there’s only a handful of people who are into buying it, and the sale of it usually nets about enough money to buy a case of beer on the weekend. It’s a cottage industry of people with specialized tastes for people with specialized tastes. But it’s still art.
So what about the notion of art being something that brings our mind into a higher state vs. entertainment which keeps our minds off of our troubles? Maybe that’s a good definition. Sorry, I’ve completely worried this question into five paragraphs and still have no answer.

3. 
How would you describe what you do?
I buy a ton of records, listen to them every chance I can, scribble notes, and hope that my thoughts on the records and what they do inside my head semi-accurately translates to the page. Noise (and most non-musical sound creation in general) sounds to me like a new language being written every day. All of these distinct sounds and structures and gestures that noise performers create out of thin air sound like phonemes used in new ways of conveying thoughts or experiences. If the deep melancholy I felt halfway into the track “Queer Patrol” on Richard Ramirez’s Start Again CD can be brought into words, the writing goes beyond being a consumer guide and into a shared understanding about what chaotic, semi-organized sound can bring out into the air and, by extension, why we stand around in unheated basements watching people shake metal and turn knobs. I’m trying to figure out what I (we) get out of all this, and how these weird sounds and gestures can mimic some aspect of our joy and anger and melancholy that high-flung “art” and music can’t. Similarly, reading other peoples’ writings about noise and music gives me almost as much pleasure as listening to the stuff, because it connects all of us as being excited about this thing that we don’t quite understand.

4.  How would you describe your creative progression over the years, in a brief synopsis?
I used to spend a lot more time trying to pick the catchiest, flashiest words to describe sounds in specific moments. Since I’ve never had a noise project myself, I can’t explain things in terms of flanger abuse or filter sweeps or whatever with any credibility, so I’d go out of my way to use the purplest prose possible to describe the tape, moment by moment. Endless paragraphs about electric-blue lava flows and psychic whipcracks and cascading sheets of rats covered with nails raining down on you. Stuff like that. I still do that, of course, but now I spend more time trying to call up the experience the sounds creates in my head, the atmosphere and intangible, time-stopping moment of perfection. Also, because I’ve listened to thousands of noise records over the years at this point, I spend a lot more time focusing on what a release is doing that I haven’t heard before, and how an artist keeps advancing in what they do, which is why so many of my reviews will cover 3 or more records by the same person.

5.  How would you describe your philosophy?
It needn’t be huge, but find some way to bring some new thing into the world that wasn’t there before you arrived – a new type of thought, sound, word, kindness, food, laughter, something. And if you can’t always improve the world, at least do what you can not to bring a lot of needless suffering into it.

6.  Do you believe in psychics, magic, ghosts, or gods?  If no, then maybe you'll share your favorite conspiracy theory (whether you believe it or not).  
I believe in people who believe in psychics, magic, ghosts, and gods. Let’s say that. I haven’t experienced much of it myself, but I’ve seen great art that’s influenced by these things and had great experiences in the presence of people who believe in them. Like strong drink or drugs or arcane philosophies, the stuff you list above reacts in interesting ways with the chemistry of certain people and drives them to do, think, or create things larger than they could otherwise. Good enough for me.
By comparison, people who are really into conspiracy theories give me stress. When I hear someone giving an incredibly convoluted story about how this or that mass shooting is a false flag deliberately staged to take away our guns, it just drains the life out of me. On the one hand, a good chunk of conspiracy theories can be Occam’s Razor’d into dismissal – the earth isn’t flat, dipshit! – but the notion of having to gather up that mountain of evidence that would refute this stuff seems like a long march to nowhere. Here are the ten ways we can tell the earth is round. “Well, but what about this one photo taken on this one day 60 years ago where the shadow breaks the other way?” By comparison, people who believe in psychic powers will tell you the reason why is because they’ve felt them in their lives, not because they’ve been scraping up covert, suppressed photos of Tower Seven from a different angle, etc. Jesus, this answer is making me exhausted just typing it.
All that being said, look up Preston Nichols’ theory about the 1975 disco hit “Sky High,” recorded by the band Jigsaw. Nichols contends that, because of an experience he had in 1983 where he bought multiple copies of the single, all of them unplayable, the song had been trapped in a closed-down time loop and sent back into time to 1975, unavailable to the world but still remembered. That one is at least interesting and doesn’t end with people running up and yelling gibberish the faces of grieving parents.

7.  What would you say was your most definitive experience?
If you mean what is an experience where I acted most definitively and did what I was meant to do, then helping write the first issue of As Loud As Possible fits the bill. That was the most sustained bit of writing I did that actually translated into a worthwhile finished project. There was also a certainty of intent at that time that I never felt before or since.

8.  Do you have any side projects that I am not aware of? If not, what is something you'd like people to know about you, that you don't think anyone would ever ask?
I’ve written over 300 long-form book reviews over at Goodreads. In particular, from 2013 through 2016, I had a long, multi-bus commute to and from work, and I took the time to get into reading, especially fiction. At my peak, I read 85 books in one year. At a time when I was feeling like my writing structures post-ALAP were getting stale and repetitive, writing about plots and characters and ideas and the magical alchemy these things can do in your brain livened up my writing in ways I hadn’t anticipated. Not just the sheer amount of writing I did, but making myself review everything with no expectations of what the “scene” would think of my reviews, gave me this open space to figure out how to write. Some of those reviews, in my opinion, are some of the finest writing I’ve done, and believe me, it’s rare to hear me actually praise any of my own writing. Around 2017, the spell was kind of broken, I started reading a lot less again, and my policy of reviewing everything has starkly fallen off, so maybe it was just a moment in time that can’t come back.

9.  Would you care to name any theoretical "desert island" records, or at least releases that you think are approaching your concept of "perfect"?  
I could (and probably will) spend the rest of my life enjoying and trying to decipher Robert Ashley’s Perfect Lives. As for noise records, I never tire of Emil Beaulieau’s Anti-Performance cassette. You can hear it on youtube if you can’t find a copy. It’s still the default sound I think of when I think of Harsh Noise. The Shadow Ring’s three records on Swill Radio (Lighthouse, Lindus, and I’m Some Songs) are empirically perfect as well. I can’t think of a thing you could do to improve any of those.
My notion of “perfect records” or “desert island picks” are also records I don’t listen to regularly. The idea of taking records I’ve heard a million times (Pink Floyd’s Animals, The Beatles White Album, The Residents’ Commercial Album, Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night, everything by the Firesign Theatre) onto a desert island seems odd to me. I can recreate those albums in my head, almost note by note, word by word. A desert island disc is something I can’t make head or tail of now, and with any luck, still won’t understand in 30 years when I’ve finally died of eating irradiated shrimp coming in off the mainland.

10.  What is the earliest childhood memory you can (or are willing to) recall?   
The most sustained memory I have as a young child was probably around ages 3 to 5. It was something my dad and I did regularly, a game we played. There was this cardboard box that had a small, rectangular hole in the bottom. You would lay on the ground, put the box over your face, so it would be completely dark except for this small rectangle of light over your face. I remember we had these small ceramic Sesame Street Christmas ornaments, and whomever wasn’t in the box would take one of the figures (always one at a time), put it in view of the little window, and talk to the person in the box. I don’t know how we came up with this game, but I loved it. It was always a weird little one-on-one conversation between me and Bert, or my dad and Oscar the Grouch, or whatever. It wasn’t elaborate stories or adventures. I just remember it being a dialogue. I have several photos of this happening, so I know it’s not just something I imagined.

11.  Are you able to appreciate other peoples' creative work regardless of their personal shortcomings or inherent flaws?  To what extent?  
It really varies on how much I love the art, how much tolerance (or not) I have for the flaw, how much I empathize with the person, or, maybe most importantly, whether the flaw in question colors the art. I balance the equation differently with each case.
Also, any time I find out that so-and-so who I liked is actually a skeevy sexual predator or whatever, it always strikes me as an awesome opportunity to check out some new artists who, I don’t know…might not be skeevy sexual predators. I don’t like the way the argument has been framed as two sides – do you cast them out into the wilderness, or do you clutch them to your breast in defiance of the world’s evolving sense of appropriate conduct? If a large number of people who I once admired turn out to be scumbags or psychopaths, my first thought is not whether to protect them or reject them, but to learn about what else is going on out there in the world that I might not have noticed? Tom Ellard of Severed Heads said he used to delete his sample bank every few years so he didn’t get too comfortable using the same old sounds over and over. I still have a fair number of scumbags in my collection (and in my head), and they probably won’t be driven out into the desert any time soon. But I also evolve and find other types of people interesting over time, people who don’t treat women like garbage or play grab-ass with Nazi symbology in the interest of “embracing the dark side.” A lot of what I thought was cool and profound at age 20 sounds vapid and childish 25 years later. But if it still works, whatever that means at the moment, then in it stays. But finding out someone I liked was a creep is usually an opportunity to expand my world, not contract it.

12.  Do you have any heroes or heroines?  Who are they?  Feel free to add anything that makes them stand out.  
Honestly, Robert Ashley is a big one. Not only do I love his language, his word choices, his humor and his reproductions of human behavior, I also admire that he was from a family where hard daily work was accepted as a fact of life, no matter the profession. He came from a farming background, and moving to the city to study music (let alone avant-garde composition) was an uncommon life choice. The fact that he told himself, deliberately, that if he was going to be a composer, he had to work hard on it every single day, ten to twelve hours a day or more like a job, just deepened my admiration for him. I don’t put in the work like he did, but I really do have a voice in my head reminding me that if I’m going to do this, I need to commit fully to it every single day. I also admire Franz Kafka for making his masterpieces while holding down a day job and laughing at the things that were breaking him down, Thomas Pynchon for creating his stories on enormous canvasses over very long periods of time, and Jane Bowles for, as her husband Paul put it, being unwilling to buy store-bought nails or tools in creating her works, but smelting every nail and every tool by hand, even if it meant only writing one short story every couple of years. I admire David Cronenberg and Don Delillo and Charles Portis for really only having a few obsessions that they just keep re-working until they refine them to perfection. I admire Robert Downey Sr.’s personal use of language without regard for whether it makes sense to anyone else. I admire Flannery O’Connor’s use of unpretentious language in a way that conjures weird, bleak magic. I think I admire people who are slow and methodical in the way they approach their obsessions and present them to the world, mostly because I aspire to be that way. I admire way too many people, honestly. This could be a huge list. Maybe I’d get more work done if I wasn’t so busy admiring people.

13.  What would you like to have on your epitaph?  Or what is your favorite quote?  
Whatever you are meant to do in life, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.” – Doris Lessing


Saturday, February 13, 2021

Interview Series #24: Michaella Babbitt


 The NO PART OF IT Interview series was a strain of questions sent to a number of different people between February and March 2019. Each entry was scheduled chronologically to be thrust upon the world on a monthly basis since then. Each individual is introduced informally as if they were being discussed at a bar. 




Michaella is one half of the synth pop project WAX FRUIT, and I like the directions they have been taking.  I've been aware of their work since they had a name that offended people unreasonably so, and it's probably been active for around 10 years.  I like that the lyrics have more of an overt purpose than a lot of derivative work in this vein, and the melodies have their own force, to my ears, irrespective of their notch in history.  Their recent tape (I reissued it since this post was scheduled in March 2019) also has some experimental directions to it, thanks in part to the fact that the other half, Dom Dufner, has a long-running noise project called Sigulda, and as a whole it runs like a carefully crafted lo-fi gem of the cassette culture underground's bygone "glory" days.  Well anyhow, having toured St. Louis more than thrice, I've done shows with these folks and slept on their couch.  Michaella took me to a record store that she used to work at, which is more like a library than a little boutique shop, and we have in general spent a fair amount of time talking about music.  As a DJ, I'm quite sure she is STL's greatest kept secret and although I have not attended, I understand she has a Synth Fest that is going strong for a while now. 

1.  What types of things have you been getting into lately?
The same types of things I have always been into, just in different modes. That's the thing about being an artist- you never truly master everything. You master modes and move on to new modes, but it's all same desire to create and expand your skill sets. A never ending search for one upping yourself is kinda fun, you know? 

If you want specifics- writing fully actualized compositions on my MC505, record collecting (as always), and a vast variety of arts and crafts. Learning to cope with my mortality and "reality" and making art from the subsequent feelings and thoughts. 

2.  What you do, do you do it as an artist, or is it a hobby?  
I kinda feel like you only earn the moniker "artist" when you monetize your output. And as a woman, most art created by us is considered "craft" or hobby art, so from an outward perspective what I do is craft, or hobby. But I consider it art because I consider most everything art. If you created it with your hands from your thoughts- it's art. So, technically, both.


3.  How would you describe what you do?
I have many, many, MANY ways that I harness my creativity. I try to do it every moment. In expressions, the words I choose, the way I use gestures and move my body. The "main" outlet observed by my conscious mind is musically for my band, wax fruit. Sometimes on the edge of falling asleep my brain is just pumping away playing me a synth pop symphony. I write songs about things that I think about... and obsess about. I'm obsessed with the future, specifically the dystopia we're setting ourselves up for. I love to think about AI, and how mankind is so dismissive of machines evolving to have machinations of feeling. Obsession seems to be a trend with me. I get obsessed and enamored with things, use synthesis to absorb the feelings and then move on to new things and experiences. 

4.  How would you describe your creative progression over the years, in a brief synopsis?
Generally, ideas morph and change over time anyway, so my creative process is as varied as there are problems to solve, or not solve. I always hated the manufactured finiteness of fine art and how pieces I would work on never truly felt finished, even when I would have to force myself to stop working on something to keep from completely "ruining" it. It is endlessly frustrating to never feel satisfied by things you're creating. I also think that when you're making "art" you are more apt to scrutinize your output through a lens of what you think "art" should be... When I was a student, I would seek out incompatible materials to watch the decay process and to ensure that my projects would not survive very long because I want my art to die. I want it to decay. There won't be any left past my lifetime.My art serves as a living artifact to me. and that's pretty much it. 

That's why I like to write music. Some songs write themselves and are set in stone, but some songs in our repertoire have been evolving for years, and sound completely different from where they started. Sometimes you just don't feel that way anymore and it's totally ok to change your art to accommodate that changing and evolving. Sometimes we just stop playing a song because I just don't feel that way anymore, so it feels weird to go through the motions of the feelings I had. Generally, when that happens the songs get renewed or updated in some way, because I don't want to scrap something that has potential. I just want to bring it back to relevance in my life. 

5.  How would you describe your philosophy?
I would say my main philosophy for making is that of the Hegelian, or triad approach- thesis, antithesis, synthesis- and has been for a long time. It's why I end up with a lot of triptychs. I am always drawn to the number three. And witchcraft (rule of threes). I have a lot of philosophies, but my main squeezes are "don't be an asshole" and "be a dick and get be'd a dick to".


6.  Do you believe in psychics, magic, ghosts, or gods?  
I believe in magic to a certain degree, psychic energies and ghosts, but not gods. Gods are created by man, obviously, so I guess you could believe in Gods if you believe in certain feelings being so strong that they make manifest incarnate, but I prefer to not give any man that much power. I prefer to believe in magic or ghosts because they are specifically tied to the inclinations of the willpower of people. I practice divination regularly, and am always so impressed at my subconscious ability to manifest the answers to my inquiries.  I produce the answer by pumping energy into an inanimate thing. And often it's an answer I don't want to hear, but that's the beauty of divination. It's just honest. If it tells you something good, and it makes you happy it was all you. And if it tells you something bad and it makes you unhappy, you're just not ready to accept the truth and need to sit with your discomfort. 
7.  What would you say was your most definitive experience? 
I have many, many MANY definitive experiences. So many that I find it hard to pin point one. I think there's a most definitive experience, then another experience comes along and proves more definitive. One of the most definitive experiences of my life was having a 20 lb ovary surgically removed at 22. It's was a good thing that it happened, but it was traumatic in the worst kinds of ways. Another definitive experience was this last years synthfestl, which was just a fantastic time from beginning to end. 


8.  Do you have any side projects that I am not aware of?
 I have all irons in the fire at all times. The nice thing about Saint Louis is that much of the scene is just a blank canvas waiting for the freaks to be free.

what is something you'd like people to know about you, that you don't think anyone would ever ask? I am a huge bore.

9.  Would you care to name any theoretical "desert island" records, or at least releases that you think are approaching your concept of "perfect"? 
 Yaz- Upstairs at Eric's comes to mind. It's an album that i've played dozens of times and it's good all the way through. Every time. After years of replaying. Also, Roxy Music's first record. Erykah Badu - Worldwide Underground is also up there. Patti Smith's Horses. Thee Satisfaction- Awe Naturale.

10.  What is the earliest childhood memory you can (or are willing to) recall? 
 I remember meeting my first step dad when I was maybe 3? I was terrified of him, and would be proven correct in that assumption time and again.

11.  Are you able to appreciate other peoples' creative work regardless of their personal shortcomings or inherent flaws? 
Of course, because I can still listen to David Bowie understanding what came to light. 
To what extent?  Well, everyone does mental gymnastics to like what they like, or they just own up to liking it regardless of what that person did. People just love a scandal, and to simultaneously infantilize and sexualize women. So, you know, you just differentiate the person from the process, and take the art at face value instead of this persons philosophy. That goes a long way.

12.  Do you have any heroes or heroines?
  It's wrong to idolize humans because they will almost always let you down.
 Who are they? if I had to pick one.... I don't know.... Tina Turner... No, no, Aretha Franklin. 

 Feel free to add anything that makes them stand out.  
Both are incredible performers who overcame adversity in many forms. Aretha, especially because of her humanitarian efforts. 

13.  What would you like to have on your epitaph? 
"damn could she cook a steak"  

Or what is your favorite quote?
 "if only they had one neck and that my hands were upon it"- karl panzram talking about people who were trying to get him released from prison.