Virginia’s Ohbliv has been one of those producers/musicians we have been absorbing for a few years now, completely fascinated with his approach to warm, analog driven pathways into beat culture. A nostalgic essence of the past trails its way to the surface in his productions, illuminating bright from within. A richness evolves inside of his beats that swells to the outer seams, revealing a meditative sheeting of sound that showers the listener over with his subtle mantras. The dusty, rustic textures of the vinyl samples are given limitless life with the organic flow of rich melodic overtones, deep low end bass lines and classic drum breaks. Simplistic compositions flow with the beauty of the most speechless scenery’s and his gift to extract the most beautiful states out of “less is more” has only become stronger through each year.
Releasing full length albums, splits and EP’s with influential labels such as HW&W, Dirty Tapes and Culture Dealer, Ohbliv extends himself even further into the digital realm. His track record for digital content has become prolific, releasing a plethora of music through out the year around his select physical materials. The latest in this digital output is April’s ‘Ritual Swing’, and is a must hear collection of tracks for those who are hearing his music for the first time. Ohbliv was one of the artists we really wanted to find out more about after all of these incredible releases kept piling up and he offered some moments of his time via email for this exclusive interview with SCV. In this interview, we tackle subjects such as album track selection methods, linking with labels, influences of his peers and his favorite hip hop productions. Enjoy the read and check out the various streaming players to hear some of his latest sounds.
Q&A with Ohbliv
Conducted by Erik Otis
SCV: What defines a phenomenal producer to you?
Ohbliv: A phenomenal producer to me is one who is able to put together all the pieces needed to create something that resonates with the people.
SCV: How did the new split come together with Dil Withers for the Dirty Tapes label?
Ohbliv: I met Daniel Bashin who runs the Dirty Tapes label through the internet. At the time he was just starting his split tapes with a lot of fellow beatsmiths whom I respect dearly. He offered an opportunity to do a split with the homie Dil Withers and it was said and done.
SCV: You recently put out the record Up on the HW&W imprint along with music on Culture Dealer and other labels. What type of process do you have for selecting which tracks will go on each release?
Ohbliv: Everything I release is based on a feeling. When I drop something, sometimes it’s for no rhyme or reason other than I’m feeling it. I don’t make stuff for a specific release, I just make so much music I’m able to pick and choose what will fit the vibe of each release.
SCV: You are a producer who represents a lot of hip hop culture through your productions. What hip hop records can you recommend to us where the production is on another level to you?
Ohbliv: I’m gonna date myself with some of my choices but here goes:
- Public Enemy – Fear of a Black Planet (The Bomb Squad, nuff said)
- Main Source – Breaking Atoms – (The first time I heard beats with such variety and depth. Large Professor is a master of digging and sampling, I learned a lot listening to this album)
- Company Flow – Funcrusher Plus – (The first time I heard raw rapping over abstract dirty beats)
- Count Bass D – Dwight Spitz – (The rapper with the most chords)
- Quasimoto – Further Adventures… (A lot of people will say that the 1st Quasimoto album is better, but further adventures is a mind trip. Madlib takes the trippiness to insane levels. I couldn’t listen to the whole thing the first time I copped it, it’s an overwhelming listen but i hear something new everytime i hear it.)
I could really keep going but I’ll stop there.
SCV: What are the most important views and perspectives you have gained since releasing records?
Ohbliv: That you can’t please everybody, and the best thing you can do is love yourself, stick to the plan and stay true to yourself.
SCV: Collectively, I feel this is a very potent time to experience music culture, something I have realized might even be more active then the 60′s or 70′s. Who are some artists of any genre, style of instrument preference that have really given you a special and inspired feeling about this generation and have possibly made you put this generation in that same light as I have?
Ohbliv: I have so many peers doing really dope inspirational things in many different creative fields. They may not know it but people like DJ Harrison, Knxwledge, Ahnnu, Cavalier, Fresh Daily, Mndsgn, QuelleChris, Swarvy, Suzi Analogue, Iman Omari and many more (if I have forgotten about you please blame my mind, not my heart) have and are a inspiration and definitely keep me going with this art.
SCV: Your music is something that responds beautifully in the analog domain, something I admire with all of the era’s of music I have come to love before the digital age of capturing sound. Do you feel analog music will always be close to your heart and at the root of your music or do you see yourself adapting to the digital forms just as much?
Ohbliv: Analog forever, straight up. I’m pretty set in my ways when it comes to my sound. I’ve been dealing with analog from making pause tapes to using hardware for so long it’s just embedded in my DNA now. Digital has its place and I’ve even got music that’s purely digital but you’ll probably never hear.
SCV: Music influences always define the obvious areas of an artists conceptual direction with crafting music. What are some of your non musical influences that keep your creative fire lit and searching for that new song inside of you?
Ohbliv: I study and apply what some may call esoteric knowledge. I may read something or hear a lecture that will spark an idea for a project or song. On the flip-side, I like to watch bad cult films, and a lot of stand-up comedy.
SCV: What do you feel about music so far this year? Anything that has been a new mind set and view of yours based on what’s going on with music culture that you want to shed light on?
Ohbliv: This year so far has been wild, I stopped trying to keep up because there’s been so much good new music out. So for the most part I’ve just been listening to my records. Same mind set, just drop that raw dope shit.
SCV: Asking simply from the deep rooted essence of jazz that underlines many of your works, if you could bring back any jazz artist while they were in their prime for a recording session who would it be?
Ohbliv: Max Roach
SCV: Off the top of your head, most important things to consider before starting and after finishing a music session?
Ohbliv: Where’s the trees?
English producer and multi-instrumentalist Greg Haines has been releasing some of the most thought provoking electronic music over the last 7 years, beginning in 2006 with the Slumber Tides LP. Fast forward to the present and Haines is moving to new sonic foundations with his debut long player for Denovali Records in Where We Were. As a musician who is looking for that essence of the unexplored, his latest work focuses on more rhythm structures inside of his engulfing sonic identity. These new results are enriched with the background of dance culture and stretched into the furthest reaches of this world from the textures that unravels from the core. Sound Colour Vibration’s Sam Hylas caught up with Greg this year as he is prepares to launch Where We Were into the world for an exclusive interview about the new LP and much more. Touching on subjects such as African music influence, improvisation, affects of living in Berlin, methods of recording in analog domains and preferences in performance spaces, Sam dives into the mind of Haines for this wonderful look into the perspectives of this creative forward thinking artist.
Q&A with Greg Haines
Conducted by Sam Hylas
Sam: Your upcoming release Where We Were is a bit of a rhythmic departure from your past material, what inspired you to experiment with more synths and percussion?
Greg: I’ve been listening to a lot of rhythmical music for a long time, and yet somehow it never made it in to the music before. In fact, on an early version of Digressions, the previous album, there were rhythms on some tracks, but in the end I decided they didn’t fit with the overall mood so they were deleted. With this album, I decided it was time to try something really new and to create a big challenge for myself (as I try to do with every album), and it felt like the right time to explore the worlds of synths and percussion. Part of this was also due to collecting a lot more equipment, mainly analogue synths and delays, and these fun studio toys somehow helped to push me more in the direction that the new album took.
Sam: Why did you decide to mix the entire album through an analog tape recorder and to what extent do you think this influenced the overall feel of the album?
Greg: Tape just sounds amazing. It adds depth and a richness to the sound, and also I think it can help to create a more timeless quality to the sound. Creating music entirely digitally can work well if you want that pristine, digital feel to the music, like a lot of the Raster Noton stuff, but that is definitely not the route I wanted to take as I was more looking for a sound that would fit in with a lot of music from the 70′s – especially recordings from Germany, Jamaica and Africa. Without some beautiful tape saturation, a lot of those records would really be missing something.
Sam: A few of the tracks, particularly “Habenero”, sound like they could be found pulsing on a smoky dance floor, what led you to boost the tempo?
Greg: “Habenero” is a fast one, yes! Actually, a lot of the more “dancefloor” tracks weren’t really influenced by techno or something like that – more by African music, and a lot of that stuff is much faster than the typical stuff coming out now. I’m really falling in love with a lot of Senegalese music, such as the new Jeri Jeri 12″s, and that stuff is really fast – almost to fast for me to dance to! But there is something really fun about creating tracks that are a little faster or a little slower than they should be. I also don’t like what seems to be the current DJ culture of creating records with too much emphasis on how easy they can be mixed together. A good DJ can mix anything together, its not the artist’s job to make their job easier!
Sam: Could you describe your ideal performance environment?
Greg: It’s hard to say now. I always loved playing in big churches or cathedrals, but with the new set (which is more similar to the new album), I’m really looking forward to playing some more club-like records, where perhaps people will even dance – something that would have been unimaginable with my old music! Mostly, I like to play in as many different places as possible – the variety keeps it fresh and the music can change to fit the environment.
Sam: Improvisation plays a large role on the album, what were your favorite tools to improvise with while recording?
Greg: At the moment, I like to spend a few hours creating a nice set-up where quite a few delays and effects are available to play around with on my mixing desk, then turning on a few synthesizers and trying to find a sound that is interesting to me. After that, it’s just a matter of hitting record and seeing what happens. I guess the way I am working at the moment has a lot of connections to dub production: the mixing desk as the instrument!
Sam: How do your surroundings and community influence your work, if at all?
Greg: For me, it is really hard to say. I would say that everything around is influencing you all the time, and its hard to know exactly where some thoughts come from. I’m sure Berlin had some kind of influence, but I wouldn’t say that the techno scene there really inspired this album, although I do like some of that stuff a lot. I think the sense of freedom and lack of stylistic boundaries in Berlin was definitely an influence. I also love to go record shopping in Berlin, there are so many great places, and I definitely take a lot of influence from other records from around the world.
Sam: Is there a particular track on the album that you feel acts as the centerpiece? Or is the album meant to be experienced as a whole?
Greg: The album is definitely meant to be experienced as a whole. Its funny that you phrase it that way, as the working title for the album was “The Whole“! Having said that, I think the album works really well split over four sides of vinyl, with two tracks each side. People should really listen to the vinyl of this one, it just makes much more sense to me – the CD is more of an after-thought, but I suppose it’s good to listen to in the car!
Sam: What do you have your sights on for the future?
Greg: There are so many things coming up. A big orchestral piece for a ballet at the Royal Opera House in November and some other music for dance projects. Hopefully a new Alvaret Ensemble album by the end of the year and lots of concerts. I’m also planning on releasing a few 12″ singles before the next album of mine. The first one is around 70% finished, and I am incredibly excited to get that out as I think its some of the best music I have made.
London born musician and composer Poppy Ackroyd is a remarkable creative in modern times, utilizing her talents through a classically trained path in piano and violin with a visionary and expansive approach to crafting lush sonic worlds. Retaining many elements of the liner configurations that many forms of classical music contain, the delicate and soft breathing nature of her approach to music is what makes the music come alive. Solely utilizing her two main instruments of focus through her music career, she manipulates and layers tracks for heavenly sounds in a modern classical form.
As a member of the Hidden Orchestra, she has been afforded a path around the world that has given her a deeper dynamic into the range and complexity of her music and this has sprouted to life with her solo music. Experience and training manifesting through the principle connection of love through art and living in the now is one thought that comes to mind when sitting back and absorbing the sounds she creates. Taking a considerable leap in artistic differentiation to the Hidden Orchestra, her solo material has become a favorite source of relaxation.
Releasing the full length Escapement on Denovali Records really opened up her talents to the staff at SCV and we have been glued to that creation since. The feeling created is all its own yet sounds as soothing as anything released in the classical domain. Enjoy this interview with Poppy Ackroyd as we dive into her solo work and further expand on the approach she has with music.
Q&A with Poppy Ackroyd
Conducted by Erik Otis
SCV: Hello Poppy Ackroyd, wanted to first compliment you on your record Escapement, it’s a wonderful record and something that I find to be one of the best albums in my collection in recent times.
Poppy Ackroyd: Thank you.
SCV: How much material are you actively writing for your solo projects now and how much time went into tracking the material heard on Escapement?
Poppy Ackroyd: I am trying to write as much as I can but I am away a lot at the moment so it is difficult to find long enough periods of time to get lost in the music and be really creative. I have a few different projects that I want to do so after my tour in May I am planning to spend as much time as possible in the studio.
SCV: Was there a particular feeling that you wanted to achieve before compiling the songs for the album or did you choose from separated materials and constructed an album that way?
Poppy Ackroyd: From the start I knew exactly what I wanted the create with this album, there was definitely a clear vision and concept from the outset. A few ideas began life in other projects but they appear very differently in this context. Each track was created in quite a similar way – they stand alone, but also are very much part of the album as a whole.
SCV: I really love the cover for the album, was there a specific intention that you had with it? What do you think of the most when you look at it?
Poppy Ackroyd: The artwork is by my friend Rosie Walters. I love what she does and I asked her to create something in her style but using the mechanism of the piano as a starting point. The cover incorporates the mechanisms of both an upright and grand piano along with a little bit of her own magical illustrative world.
SCV: I am very interesting in your method of instrumentation and how you cut and layer all of this together. What are some of the most important elements for you when creating new material? Do you see yourself creating more music in the form that you have or do you look to expand and create entirely new types of music for your solo releases?
Poppy Ackroyd: I really enjoy the process of shaping the tracks in the way that I do. The sound world I like to create is quite pointillistic, and I think the way I worked on Escapement – chopping, manipulating and layering the audio files – is important for that. Saying that, the last track that I worked on for the album, “Glass Sea”, was a bit different. For this track the main piano line is more of a complete composition in itself, it works alone without the beats and other sounds. This was a really nice way to work too as it involved more time at the piano and less in front of the computer.
SCV: The Hidden Orchestra is a group of yours that I absolutely love. What type of words has the people in the group given you on your album? Any special experiences with showing friends, family or colleagues your work that really stick out in your mind?
Poppy Ackroyd: Joe Acheson who composes all of the music for Hidden Orchestra is my partner, and he is amazingly supportive of my solo work. We live together and both work at home. It is great to both be creating in the same space and I have learned so much working with him over the years. My family and friends have also been very supportive too but only a few of them heard the music during the process. The dancer/choreographer Maite Delafin and sound designer/composer John Lemke were my main sounding boards throughout writing Escapement, I really value their feedback and can always rely on them to be completely honest with it.
SCV: When you put your art into the world, what type of affects would you like it to have?
Poppy Ackroyd: I am not sure… I suppose I hope that my music will resonate emotionally with some people, perhaps it might help them in some way or it would be nice if it just makes them smile.
SCV: With your recordings containing many layered parts from your own hand, how will the live set up translate? Do you have guests coming in? Loops? I have not been able to see any footage of you performing so I am very curious as to know how you flesh your sound out live.
Poppy Ackroyd: For the live show I am working with John Lemke. I much prefer to perform with other people rather than on my own, and John is really good at what he does and always great to have around. Using a mixture of loops, backing tracks and samples we are recreating the album as live and as accurately as possible. For the tour in May I will have visuals for the first time. They are made by Lumen from Bristol and are beautiful. Very soon I would like to have string players too but at the moment it is simpler to travel just the two of us.
SCV: Who are some of your closest musical associates and what contemporary artists have really struck a chord within you?
Poppy Ackroyd: Artists in recent years that have really excited me are Origamibiro (Cracked Mirrors and Stopped Clocks), Thomas Stronen (seeing him perform live is amazing), Aphex Twin, PJ Harvey (White Chalk and Let England Shake), Thom Yorke and Nils Frahm (7 Fingers and Felt).
SCV: We tend to ask this to everybody as we love film so much, any favorite film that comes to mind?
Poppy Ackroyd: I find it hard to choose a favorite film, but if I had to it would probably be Down by Law by Jim Jarmusch.
SCV: To end the interview, we wanted to ask you one more question. What are the most important qualities of being a musician for you? What makes you feel really comfortable and secure about the path you have chosen and the worlds you live in now?
Poppy Ackroyd: I think it is important to work hard and to do everything the best you can. I think if you are honest in your music, in the creation and the performance, special things can happen. I think it is important to challenge yourself so that you can develop and learn, and also keep things exciting and fresh. I am not sure I do feel comfortable and secure! It definitely feels like this is the path that I should be on, but most of the time I find it terrifying, but that is really exciting and I love it.
California’s Amp Live has made an impressive name for himself over the last decade and the in many areas of the entertainment and creative world. He has defined himself as an artist of visionary levels, reaching across the musical spectrum with his own branding as a creative entity, productions for major label artists, Hollywood film scoring and background tracks for various sports culture. Jazz, electronica, downtempo, hip hop, rock, soul, his music is boundless and creates a tapestry all its own that never ceases to amaze us at SCV. Amp Live’s Zion I group has remained his most dedicated endeavor and the duo have continued to tour the world and release album after album that reaches the same standards of quality. With his music played on ESPN, Hollywood film and other large platforms, he has entered a realm very few artists of his creative approach are afforded.
In recent years, he has worked extensively with musicians all over the world as a solo artist, gravitating towards the forward thinking Plug Research for the release of materials under his solo name. When we were introduced to this years Kaleidoscope Theory, it was an immediate moment of awe and inspiration from the sheer density of skill and beauty in the music. Music that transcends the definition of genre and resonates with a gorgeous essence that only the most talented and creative can reach. We caught up with Amp Live for an exclusive interview about this new EP Kaleidoscope Theory, his background as a musician along with the full length he is preparing for Plug Research later this year. Amp Live is a musician we really believe sets his own standards outside of anything else coming out right now. He is bridging many different people under his music and because of this respect we have for his craft, we are very happy to present this exclusive interview today.
Check out the official music video for D.H.E.A. ft James Melo released in April of this year with Plug Research and director R.J. Sanchez before diving into the interview.
Q&A with Amp Live of Plug Research
Conducted by Erik Otis
SCV: Hello Amp Live, we have been into the Kaleidoscope Theory heavily this year. It’s a record that we feel really captures the growing evolution of where music is going in electronic and acoustic based realms. The instrumental technique is off the charts and the experimental nature of the album never deviates the refreshing and soothing vibes that the rhythms evoke. It’s a powerful record that took me a few full listens to really grasp, thank you for such an immersed album experience. Did you record everything present on the album or did you bring in guests for the Kaleidoscope Theory EP? How long did it take to construct the EP and where was it recorded at? We would love to know as much as possible about the construction of this EP that the public doesn’t already know.
ANS: I created most of the melodies and music ideas. Some songs I did myself in terms of writing/producing, but on most of the songs I worked with live musicians to really expand on what I was thinking. Kaleidoscope Theory took me around four months to complete.
SCV: I really love the artwork for Kaleidoscope Theory, something that really compliments the variation of color tone and modes that are in the music. How did you get the album artwork together?
ANS: I wanted the artwork to look colorful and very interesting. I thought that doing a colorful face mask for the cover would do both. The vibe of this EP was to show a lot of variety and modes, but meshed into one to create a pretty picture. About a year ago, the layout designer took pictures and tweaked the cover to what you finally saw.
SCV: The spiritual essence of your music is a really contagious element to the album, immediately making me feel really good regardless of my mood before the album started. What are you looking for your music to achieve or affect through your listeners and their emotional and spiritual states?
ANS: I definitely want listeners to get something from my music, no matter what emotion it is. I think it is all positive, whether if it makes you upset, happy, or mad. As long as it evokes thought.
SCV: How important do you feel it is for artists to take into consideration the spiritual well being of their audience?
ANS: I think artist should stand behind what they are about and what they put in their release. Some people aren’t worried about the spiritual well being of their audience and are about just releasing their thoughts and that is okay. I on the other hand, I am. I want my audience to be uplifted spiritually or be thinking in some kind of way on another level after hearing my music.
SCV: You have been producing and creating music under different monikers and projects over the years. How does Amp Live differentiate from all of these previous projects?
ANS: I have always used my name Amp Live in conjunction with my music. I just have never really put my self out there as a solo artist until the past few years. Usually I am just producing albums for artists and playing the background position. With my own personal projects I am just more open and basically working by myself.
SCV: What kind of live set up are you using to bring the music of Kaleidoscope Theory to life on the stage?
ANS: The live set up I have is constantly changing. I love creating new machines and instruments for the stage. I currently use a drum machine and guitar during my show and the Zion I show. Plan to definitely add on to that. I also will be using live musicians to play along with me. I want people to feel like they have been on a journey when they see my show.
SCV: There’s a lot of exciting music going on right now with artists who are bridging jazz, electronica and many other genres under one roof. Who are some your favorite artists or groups in the evolving movement of visionaries who are bridging the past, present and future of sound? Any records from recent years that just really blow you away?
ANS: You are right and this is a very fun time right now to be doing music. I am feeling a lot of people actually. Artist like James Blake, Jonti, and IG Culture are tight to listen to. Tylers new album Wolf, Robert Glasper, and the Kendrick Lamar’s album stay in rotation also.
SCV: Looking back through your career, who are the voices of reason that have really steered you in the right direction and have stayed mentors for years now?
ANS: I have always listened to my family in terms of big decisions. When I was in college, I was debating on whether to go to Medical School or pursue music so I confided in my parents a lot and they told me to follow my heart.
SCV: You have released music with many labels and have toured in so many different situations. Without expecting too much, what do you feel a label should provide an artist so the future of their success can have a chance? What do you feel the artist should provide the label in the act of balancing the equation?
ANS: I think of the years because of such a big industry shift, the definition of a label has actually changed. Now days, a label is really just some entity that can make phone calls and provide money for marketing (publicity, videos, etc). I feel like that a good label will do just so, with realistic goals in mind. I feel like for any artist to succeed during these times, they have to be really committed to push their own music, be active on their social media and create a lot of content for a label to work with.
SCV: What were some of the most memorable experiences that first come to mind when thinking about the Kaleidoscope Theory sessions?
ANS: The most memorable was working with James Melo on the song D.H.E.A. I had been introduced to him by a friend and I really liked his voice because he was part of a indie rock group. After I made a skeleton track for the song I just sent it to him to lay down some ideas. When he sent it back to me I took a immediate listen to it. The rap verse was first and I was like “okay this is interesting”. Then all of a sudden this crazy big hook comes in and I almost fell out my chair. I was excited.
SCV: From a technical stand point, what were the most challenging pieces on Kaleidoscope Theory to record and for what reasons?
ANS: Definitely recording the horn parts. I had to set up flash studios to record them, meaning using my mobile rig in hotel rooms, apartments, etc.
SCV: You have released this new EP with Plug Research in preparation for your full length on the label. What do you have in store for your full length album (guests, material already recorded, tours, etc…) and how has it been working with Plug Research so far?
ANS: Plug Research has been great and very supportive. The album in the fall that will be released is called A Headphone Conceirto. I definitely will have some cool features on the album, cant say yet. Will be an album I can perform all the way through. Look out for it!
Check out the full stream of Amp Live’s You Are Not Human (The Love EP) via Amp Live’s Soundcloud Page
Miguel Baptista Benedict is the newest member of Brainfeeder and is easily the most eclectic and out there artist the label has included on their roster. A continuation of the dadaist movement, Miguel Baptista Benedict creates collage worlds where abstract sounds, field recordings, primitive recording gear/instrumentation and other raw elements form as representations of his life in motion. A diary in sonic motion that is outside of definition and full of every surprise imaginable. Brainfeeder released the digital only record Super(b)-Child-Ran as a collection of material that label owner Flying Lotus, label manager Adam Stover and Benedict selected from his plethora of material released already. When we were sent his debut Brainfeeder release, it was a collection that took many listening sessions before the density of the albums beauty started to reveal itself. It is these challenging listens that provide the most pathways to search and absorb sound through for us, placing it in the category of albums that we know we will never stop finding new things with.
Miguel Baptista Benedict is an artist who has no limitations in sonic exploration and has a prolific work habit that has resulted in a very large body of work that only exponentially increases through time. Please enjoy this exclusive interview we conducted with Miguel Baptista Benedict about his Brainfeeder debut, past albums, methods of creation and much more.
Q&A with Miguel Baptista Benedict of Brainfeeder
Conducted by Erik Otis
Erik: Your debut album on the Brainfeeder imprint Super(b)-Child-Ran is a lovely collection of material from previous releases of yours. In the press it stated Flying Lotus and yourself selected the tracks. Did he invite you over with all your materials in hand and you guys sat and picked them out individually or did this process take a lot of time and communicating without each other present in the same room?
Miguel Baptista Benedict: Well, it was a little bit of both. The original track list was about 25 or so, and while I was living in LA Lotus and I got together from time to time and eventually I peeled it down to about 20 tracks that he, Adam Stover (the label manager) and I were content with. I would also go to Adams place and do the same thing, but the communication was mostly over email and telephone. We had all these ideas that we were throwing around about putting it to tape, or on a 7” or whatever, which affected the length of the album in its entirety. The track list as you know is only 10 songs as released; about 1 month before the album was released and we knew we were going to release it digitally I decided to cut it in half. I felt it would be more effective as an introduction to my sounds for an audience as a shorter piece rather than assuming that people would want to listen to 45 minutes of material that I wasn’t completely satisfied with. Adam advised against it, but I think I’m happy with my decision.
Erik: You have mentioned that Brion Gysin is a major inspiration for your new record on Brainfeeder. Can you further elaborate on how this influence came to be and where you see its direct influence on your art?
Miguel Baptista Benedict: Well, he invented the cut up method. I am interested and inspired by the dadaist movement over all. I am really in to media verses communication, I love Guy Debord’s book “Society of the Spectacle” and the situationist movement(s). I love Ray Johnson; all these people influence me mostly because I don’t believe that music is necessarily something that needs to be clean or polished (or any art form for that matter). My set up started as a skeletal studio. I only had a handful of equipment that couldn’t sound like “studio quality” even if I tried. But eventually I learned and was inspired to understand that I was more interested in the discourse of creating something rather than concentrating on the final product and how accessible someone can make it. If someone doesn’t like how something sounds, then so be it; if they don’t appreciate it then we probably wouldn’t get along anyway. Its direct influence has taught me to start loving myself and what I do because it’s exactly who I am. Everything I make, every field recording, every sound and every piece of writing is a part of me and my experiences. I see my productions, whether they’re literary or auditory as a time capsule that I can dig up and remember why I am who I am, and what made me who I am. Everyone is a product of their experiences, and I feel very fortunate to have found a device to capture those experiences.
Erik: When did this inspiration of the dadaist movement first shape in your life and what were the catalysts to this happening?
Miguel Baptista Benedict: I would say they started shaping around my senior year in high school after I read William Burroughs’ “Naked Lunch” and “Junkie.” I didn’t know anything about him or the dadaists or how deep that hole went, and then eventually when I got on that tip and realized how these things were made, what they meant, the lifestyles that the dadaists indulged in, I found myself being able to relate to the movement more and more. The dadaist philosophy helped me to realize myself and become more comfortable with who I was, am, and going to be. In turn I have progressively become more self destructive, but like Charles Bukowski always talked about, how are you supposed to grow and create things if you haven’t really lived to the point of facing death.
Erik: Were you actively creating material while selecting the tracks that comprise the new LP or did you take a break to focus solely on that task?
Miguel Baptista Benedict: No, I have always been active. I record about an hours worth of new material every few days to a week, easy. I’m not like “it’s what I have to do!” I’m just very introverted, and this is my way of sorting out conflicts or conversing with myself or others. I have a hard time sorting things out if I don’t keep myself busy. In the press it says I have about 25 albums that I’ve produced including Super(b)-Child-Ran, but since that interview which took place sometime last fall, I would say I have about double that amount. I’m slowly transitioning away from songs and tracks, and I’ve been really focusing on making sound portraits of my friends and family. If you go to my SoundCloud right now, the most recent thing I posted called “Antonio Miguel (part 1 of a 5 part series) (Judy’s Motel – spectacle of the guimpish poison)” is a sound portrait I did of my brother, Tony. That’s a good example of where things are going. I also write a lot of manifestos and essays about things that interest me. So yeah, to answer your question, I was working on new material during the bracketed period of putting together Super(b)-Child-Ran.
Erik: What are some of your most recent essays on? Any manifestos you can share with us for our interview?
Miguel Baptista Benedict: I’m really in to pan-psychism and media philosophy. I try to correlate my take on media and communication with “The Wire” a lot and how it relates to anarcho-primitivism. I also enjoy re-writing essays by Ayn Rand just to see what happens with the voice; sort of an exercise that was inspired by Kenneth Goldsmith. I’ve got some things that I could share soon enough, but they’re still in the works, so when they’re done I’ll definitely pass them around.
Erik: Did you learn anything new about yourself when examining the 6 albums created between 2008-2011 that comprise Super(b)-Child-Ran?
Miguel Baptista Benedict: I wouldn’t say I learned new things about myself. I had the opportunity to explore and discover things about myself that I would say I knew already, but just never thought about before. It’s like looking at an old picture of yourself and noticing the subtleties that you never noticed before.
Erik: I really enjoy looking at it like that right now, almost like getting flooded with memories from a smell that you have not encountered for over a decade but ties you to something important. Do you find yourself still re-learning your gear and how to manipulate it for new sounds?
Miguel Baptista Benedict: Yeah, definitely. The process is ever-changing all the time. It’s like painting or drawing: you have a pencil or a brush which will always function in its limited capacity, but you’re the one that deciphers its intention and what’s depicted on the page.
Erik: Was it a surprise when Flying Lotus insisted that you present older material with the label first?
Miguel Baptista Benedict: Not really, I think he knew that it would never get finished because my production volume is so high. Which I agree, I would probably be emailing him back and forth today being like, “Hey Steve, sorry, I know we started settling on this, but I was to change this and that now, and cut out this and add this new thing, blah blah blah.” I’m glad he insisted; he’s a smart dude and that was a smart move. It really grounded me and made me concentrate on the release rather than getting distracted by working on new things constantly.
Erik: Was this the first time that you felt that grounded feeling?
Miguel Baptista Benedict: I would say toward the end when I cut the track list in half. I get so unsure sometimes, and I was getting obsessive about it. I knew that the grounded feeling would come eventually, but before that last step I was trying to incorporate more and more, when in the end I found that less had more weight to it.
Erik: What type of modes of sound or instrumentation type are you utilizing now for your latest recordings?
Miguel Baptista Benedict: I still have a very stripped down set up. I record everything using mostly my SONY digital recorder. I have a pee-wee Gibson guitar which I got recently (such a sexy little piece of equipment). Unfortunately my walkie talkies broke, so I’ve incidentally taken a break with those. I have a few drums, but I just record them one at a time because I can’t really play drums for shit. But yeah, my small CASIO keyboard and a few items that are circuit bent that I dug up and that’s about it. I’ve been getting more in to field recordings, so I guess as of recently my sounds are getting more abstract and scenic, but as far as any far out utilization I don’t think I’m using anything or producing by means that are much different that I normally have; the way things are being put together and arranged is really the only thing that is (and has always been) varying in dynamic.
Erik: Has it been a blur getting acclimated to the new system you have with Brainfeeder or has the process been natural and easier than expected?
Miguel Baptista Benedict: To be honest, I’m excited that all this is happening, but I live in a small town now in Michigan where no one really knows who I am. I don’t tell anyone that I have the release on Brainfeeder and no one really asks. If people ask if I do music I’m like “yeah, sometimes” but I feel like if I were to tell everyone it would just make things weird. As far as the “internet” and things go, it’s really nice to actually start getting attention for the things that I post or want to share. So I guess it’s been natural and easier than expected. However, I’m definitely going to start playing live more, and hopefully the small amount of recognition I’ve gotten thanks to Brainfeeder will help build an audience for me. I really enjoy playing live, and I don’t do it enough, so I am planning a 4 month tour of the United States starting on October 1st.
Erik: Are you going to release any physical releases by the tour starting in October and do you have any plans to tour with other artists?
Miguel Baptista Benedict: Yeah, I have about 15 different albums that I’m going to put on tape. I’ve never done a tour, and I’m trying to book it all myself which may or may not turn out well. Most likely I’ll have stints in homeless shelters for a week or two at a time, but I would like to think of it as an existential endeavor rather than a “tour.” I don’t know many people or bands beyond my friend group, and that circle is pretty air tight. So yeah, basically I have no plans to tour with other bands or artists. I’m hoping to play with different people every night and develop new relationships.
Erik: Super(b)-Child-Ran is a very experimental ride, one that took me a lot of voyages into different mental states to really absorb and come to love. What type of response have you been getting from those you socialize with the most on the collection?
A: I’m getting a lot of mixed reactions. But I’ve always gotten a lot of mixed reactions. I’m just glad I’m getting any reaction at all. Besides Super(b)-Child-Ran, I have a large catalog online that is free for download, and people tend to like those recordings a little more I think. I can’t find a pattern or a common theme of why that’s happening, but I don’t think about it too much so it’s just whatever.
Erik: Is there an particular albums from the online catalog that have generated more interests than the others?
Erik: As someone who has chosen music as the path they want the world to see themselves in, what has the act of creating music come to mean to you?
A: The act of creating music: it’s bleak and boring unless you have something (or someone) to make it for. It can be the most alienating thing in the world at times, and often times when there’s purpose and a home for it in the end then it’s the most wonderful thing in the world. What it’s come to mean to me is the discourse between myself and those of whom I hold relationships, whether they ever hear it or not. If I don’t have a purpose for making it then I find one pretty quickly. Sometimes I’ll start writing and then create music to accompany it. Sometimes I’ll start thinking of a story that pertains to my experiences or to the experiences of someone I love. Sometimes the stories start true and become fabricated or turned inside out. Either way, experiences don’t necessarily have to be something that has actually happened; they can be internalized and regurgitated into another perspective and express a feeling told with a completely different narrative than how it began. It means a lot of things to me I guess, but the meaning that holds it together is to make sure I’m not dead.
Erik: With the first thing that comes to mind and if you can look at the cover of your latest record for me, what do you think of when you look at the pressing of your album?
Miguel Baptista Benedict: I think “wow my brother looks awesome jumping off that piano bench.” We almost decided to use another cover, but eventually the image was drawn back so many times that it became burned in to our brains and became almost the default that wouldn’t back down. I wish it were pressed physically, and perhaps eventually it will be. If you’re asking if I’m satisfied with the outcome of everything, the hype and all that, the answer is “yes, I am very satisfied.” It’s pure luck that a major indie label (was that an oxymoron?) such as Brainfeeder was willing to give someone like me the time of day, let alone the chance to be able to release some of what I’ve produced. I’m sort of a hermit, and I think I sort of weird out Lotus and everyone else associated with the label, but it just shows how awesome and tight the Brainfeeder family is to be so understanding and not say “fuck this guy, he’s…socially awkward to say the least.” I love them, I love their music, and I feel so privileged to be wedged in there with the rest of their catalog.
Erik: We love what they are doing a lot as well. Thanks for your time again. To end the interview, we wanted to ask: what are some films that have really made a big impression on you in your life?
Miguel Baptista Benedict: I really enjoy that film about Che Guevara called “Che” which was directed by Steven Soderbergh. I also really enjoy “There Will Be Blood” or anything by Paul Thomas Anderson, really. “The Master” is my most recent obsession. I didn’t like it at first, but I’ve watched it about 5 more times over the past few weeks and it’s a fucking loaded piece of work. I don’t know, I really like dry, drawn out movies that you have to dedicate your time to and watch over and over again. I always wanted to make music for films, that’s what got me interested in music in the first place. I remember when I was like 5 years old and my mother bought me the soundtrack to “The Lion King” and I just thought “damn. I want to score a fucking movie.” And that was that, I knew I wanted to do that, and things have gone in different directions of course, but ultimately I would really enjoy that sort of opportunity. To be able to accompany visuals with anything that I do sonically would be a major step in a desired direction.
Boston’s The Rival Mob are one of the cities premier hardcore bands, canvasing the world with dynamic music that bridges the foundations embedded from 80′s New York hardcore music and the many paths it has traveled since. They are one of the American hardcore units who have really extended the genre into the future and the band will be making their first trip across the Atlantic with festival dates in Europe this summer. Their track record for playing the biggest hardcore festivals in America runs strong and continues to hold strong year after year. Intense hardcore punk that kicks you in the face and doesn’t look back to pick you up off the ground. There’s no doubt that The Rival Mob have been extensively building their reputation over the years.
In February of this year, the group released their latest album on Revelation Records called Mob Justice. As their second full length, Mob Justice brings a blast of energy on every track that has an engulfing and contagious presence to it. This is the groups first record for Revelation Records and it’s a physical and mental assault on contact that is their best work to date. It’s truly a beautiful thing to see people approach their craft with such attention to detail while keeping everything raw and unhinged. The Rival Mob set aside a little time in their very busy schedules to conduct this exclusive interview with SCV about the new album, Revelation, touring and more. Enjoy!
Q&A with The Rival Mob
Conducted by Erik Otis
Erik: Just wanted to say thank you so much for this interview. I came up listening to a lot of the Ebullition stuff and have loved the different movements of hardcore sense. Can you explain why this particular band was created considering all of the guys extensive backgrounds in other bands? Was there something about these guys that really made you go damn, this is it!?
The Rival Mob: The Rival Mob was mainly formed out of the ashes of a band called “The Lovely Lads” which was an oi!/rock band that had just derailed and shit the bed. Though we were totally over continuing playing music as The Lovely Lads, we all still wanted to keep playing music together and decided on a late 80s NYHC style sound. At the time we formed The Rival Mob, which was like 2007/2008, the whole Lockin Out late 80′s craze had essentially died. We of course, giving zero shits about what was hot in the scene started playing tunes influenced by Breakdown, Murphy’s Law, Cro-Mags, Rest In Pieces, etc. Although these bands were our main influences, we never wanted The Rival Mob to be a “worship” style band where we would just copy our influences to a tee. I think we’ve always had plenty of our own personality present in the band. Therefor, we always moved forward confidently in our style.
Erik: I agree completely, you can hear the influence but your personalities and vision all come through the most. Your shows are something I have heard a lot about. What is the craziest story or stories you have about a live show? Before going into yours, one of mine was when Trash Talk played my old venue through a booking agency here in Riverside, CA and a kid dislocated his arm and another had his tooth shoved into his gums and the two personally assured us they wouldn’t tell anyone to not bring heat on the venue or the booking agency and that they loved the show so much! That’s fucking dedication to your favorite bands and community, something I loved about those shows. Anything stand out in your mind?
The Rival Mob: Uh…I don’t know if I’d call our shows characteristically “crazy” or anything. They’ve certainly gotten more intense over time…we’re not Gordon Solie Motherfuckers or anything. I guess one of the more “entertaining” to watch shows was probably a show a year or so back in Baltimore when this drunken chick in the crowd started pulling her tits out and tried to make out with me on stage…her parents must be very proud.
Erik: Can you tell us a little about Mob Justice? Where did you guys record the album? What does the record embody for you in context of your other releases?
The Rival Mob: Mob Justice was recorded by our newest guitar player Trevor Vaughan at the Colossseum Studio in New Bedford MA. What I can tell you about the album is that in our personal opinion, it’s the strongest stuff we’ve ever done. I’d say this record is most likely the best the “Rival Mob formula” is ever going to get…so YOU’D BETTER FUCKING LIKE IT! Looking back over the other releases we’ve done, I’d say that the demo was a demo, Raw Life had too many songs that were too fucking LONG, HC for HC was close but still not as menacing as it might have been, but Mob Justice finally sounds as hard as possible, as punk as possible, and with as much variety in the song writing as possible. Straight forward old school hardcore records are a challenge to write and are often chock full of filler, but we think every jam on the album can stand alone with unique personality.
Erik: What have become some of the most meaningful things this band and music in general have given you?
The Rival Mob: The most meaningful thing to me about the Rival Mob is that we never played the fucking “hardcore biz” game. At the time we started no one gave a rats ass about us. Sure, we had the famous Justin DeTore after he joined but this was never a “super group” that was hyped since it first started practicing. We never tried to say the right thing, impress the right people, pander to what was cool at the moment, make as many friends as possible only to advance our band, or any of that other boring shit that makes a lot of wheels in the hardcore scene keep spinning. And to me, that is why I find the Rival Mob meaningful and I admire the people in the band so much. Because no one is some fake ass hardcore chump. We’re all “like it or leave it” types. And that attitude is why so many of my friends both in the band and outside of it are genuine musicians. Because we put the bullshit where bullshit belongs and just focus on music.
Erik: What bands are really inspiring you right now?
The Rival Mob: A lot of bands. I’m sort of not in the mood to do the “call out” thing but all the bands that are enjoyed by the Mob probably know they’re enjoyed by the mob…for better or worse…and those that don’t…maybe it’s better it stays that way, who the hell knows? Haha.
Erik: Haha, indeed. Favorite record stores growing up?
The Rival Mob: Second Coming, Newbury Comics, Armageddon, Sound Idea, Ebullition, Spinacker’s, this one in providence that I can’t remember…
Erik: How did you guys link with Revelation Records for this new record?
The Rival Mob: We had heard they’d be into it, followed up, and boom. Mob Justice baby. We didn’t know them personally at first, but have since met everyone and they’re all sick ass guys and gals.
Erik: You will be releasing Mob Justice on vinyl as well as digital and cd prints. Is it important for the band to release music on vinyl?
The Rival Mob: Yes. Vinyl is real. I personally believe in the value of physical releases. Pretty soon everything on earth will be virtual junk mail. Vinyl is still a big, annoying wonderful hunk of yesteryear when culture really existed and the culture of music really existed. Rival
Mob believes in that as strongly as we believe in anything.
Erik: I really love the sound you guys achieved on Mob Justice, it’s really raw but melodically based with enough room to really hear all the dynamics in the band. How much time did you guys dedicate to rehearsing and nailing these songs for the studio work?
The Rival Mob: Well, certainly a long time. None of our bands have ever had to work within the time frames of a contract and never will. We tried to get it done as fast as we could but keep in mind our group of people have never been much for focusing exclusively on one band or project. We just kept banging out songs, one at a time, if we liked them we’d keep them. If they weren’t a good choice for the LP we’d toss ‘em, and if they needed changing we’d change them. As I said earlier we just didn’t want to write a boring, filler filled album that would sell just because it had The Rival Mob’s name on it. Some of the jams we actually sort of had to construct in the studio just because some members were tied up with so much other stuff. But the end result obviously came out great mainly due to Trevor’s hard work in the studio. We really had it lucky with that.
Erik: What type of shows can we expect from the group and is there any projects besides this that you’d like to shed light on for your fans and our readers?
The Rival Mob: Haha I’ll say that 2013 finds us as busy and as fucking crazy with all of our bands/projects as we’ve ever been. As a matter of fact, too many to even count that span many genres… if you know our work you’ll easily learn when these are all coming out. We’re all wiping sweat off our brows in Boston…
Erik: I will definitely stay up to date with everything going on. Thank you so much for your time, I hope to meet in person and definitely hope to catch you guys live! Cheers
The Rival Mob: LAAAATTAAAA
Order a copy of Mob Justice in CD, LP or Cassette formats by Clicking Here
Drawn up by some of the most unsavory souls in the Boston, MA underground hardcore scene and reinforced by members who have done time in infamous area bands like Mind Eraser, Righteous Jams, Mental, XFilesX and many others, The Rival Mob has become darlings of the current hardcore scene, inspiring shameless violence and playing high on the bill at the most important hardcore festivals in America: This Is Hardcore in Philadelphia, PA, Sound And Fury in California and Chaos In Tejas in Austin, TX. In between serving time with their current other projects World War 4, Give, No Tolerance and Boston Strangler, the band will be playing on both coasts highlighted once again by the big summer festivals as well as their first-ever trip across the Atlantic to Europe. The band’s Revelation Records debut picks up right where their previous EP, “Hardcore For Hardcore,” left off, with vocalist Brendan Radigan spewing venom at the ills that plague both the outside world and the scene itself, all delivered over fast, stagedive-inspiring hardcore that brings to mind the best of mid-late ’80s New York hardcore bands like Youth Of Today, Warzone and Breakdown. Vinyl version includes digital download. – Revelation Records
The once elusive singer song writer Linda Perhacs created a timeless psych-folk masterpiece with her 1970 release Parallelograms and would influence generations of artists after the release. Her vocal layering and cadence is mesmerizing and hypnotizing with a musical voyage that was all its own in 1970. The musical talent on the album sets it seamlessly into the cyclone of creativity coming out of California in the 60′s and 70′s with a very mature approach in instrumentation and tonality. Releasing with the prestigious imprint Kapp Records meant that Linda was afforded all the best equipment and musicians of her time for the project. Her exploratory nature to sound was released around records from the likes of Latin power house El Chicano, country star Bob Willis, successful New Zealand singer John Rowles, visionary large venue jazz saxophonist Charles Lloyd and other heavy weights in contemporary music at the time. Creating the music for Parallelograms in drastic spurts, the music is a sonic diary into a young and consciously opened Linda Perhacs and would be shrouded in the fold of all of these successful acts on Kapp Records. Time would serve the album well, opening up to an entire new audience and generation with the sonic enhancement of today’s remastering equipment.
First her studies began at U.S.C. and as a member of the Topanga Canyon and Laurel Canyon creative scenes, she has a vision into what was going during that time that few hold. It’s hard to believe the effect and imprint she holds with just one album all these years later, something that is an enigma of artistic achievement. With Parallelograms, her vision and creative abilities were far ahead of its time and have still remained so to this day. Surprisingly, her debut record was an album that would fall into the shadows for decades after initial release, only to be revitalized in the 21st century later by labels such as Sunbeam Records, The Wild Places and Gueerson. Over 40 years after the release of Parallelograms and Linda Perhacs is back in the studio for the first time, working with the musicians after her initial phase who helped bring her legacy back to life. Linda Perhacs is a living legend and her re-introduction into modern music is a gift beyond words. Enjoy our exclusive interview with Linda Perhacs about her new album, Parallelograms and much more.
Q&A with Linda Perhacs
Conducted by Erik Otis
Erik: Hello Linda, I wanted to first start off by saying thank you for doing this interview. I am a big fan of your 1970 album Parallelograms and listen to the album from time to time through the year. I was asking around to some friends and heard news that you are working on your second full length and follow up to your debut record. Can you tell us about the direction of the album lyrically and musically? Will there be any guests that you can talk about?
Linda: Hello! Thank you for this opportunity! I regret it has taken so long to reply, but between working full time and with the new album, finding time for a thoughtful reply has been very difficult. Yes, we are working on a second album! The new album is going to be a wonderful mix of “then and now” a mix of the 70’s and feelings for the new music of today. The focus of the music is to get people to understand that all of us from all walks of life are connected in some way or another and that we should all understand and respect that connection.
I have had a great deal of interest from many musicians who have helped me with the new album. What they have given towards this dream of mine has been nothing short of amazing! Just to name a few, there is Fernando Perdomo and Chris Price, Julia Holter and Ramona Gonzalez, Kaitlin Wolfberg, Ryan Holquist and David Goodstein.
Erik: With Parallelograms being a fairly obscure album upon release, it has blossomed in awareness in the 21st century. What were some of the first situations that occurred where you noticed people wanted to hear your debut album on the level that people have now?
Linda: The first time I listened to the debut record after it was released in the 1970’s, I was totally shocked with the really poor pressing, it sounded nothing like the studio tapes. I did make a cassette of the studio tapes and almost wore it out listening to it instead of the vinyl. The album had been remastered in about 2000 and the CD version is wonderful. It just reminded me of how much could have still been done on the music had we the 21 century equipment for mixing! I think that even Leonard Rosenman would have agreed!
After the remastering of the old album (which I had no idea was being done at the time) by Michael Piper of “The Wild Places” in New York, he sent me about 10 beautifully done CD’s. In that box was a note from Michael, basically saying that he hoped that he had the right Linda Perhacs (I was totally out of the music loop by then) and he also informed me that I had fans from all over the world. I knew that the album had scant air play on radio in the 70’s, but thought that no one would like the music. This news from Michael was a total shock to me! It was during that time when the internet was becoming really big. Up until that time, I didn’t even own a computer, let alone know anything about the internet, but my dear friend Bill had helped me and we were starting to at least partially understand just how much interest people from all walks of life and from all over the world appreciated Parallelograms.
Erik: Do you remember the type of atmosphere that was in the studio when you were recording your debut album? Anything that really comes to mind when you think of that period of your life?
Linda: The recording of Parallelograms was a complete music writers dream! Leonard Rosenman gave me complete artistic freedom to do whatever I felt was needed to create the music, including some of the world’s best studio musicians and at the time, state of the art recording and mixing equipment. Leonard was looking for music that was relevant to the “now” generation, something that was different and he knew that this approach to music would be a challenge to the executives, something that they may not approve of according to their way of looking at how they wanted music to be. Leonard had told us to be careful about what to say and do around them, and even told us to start playing something more “standard” for the time should an executive show up! It was quite a game we played!
Erik: Do you remember some of the first music or non music influences that really shaped the approach that you took with your first album?
I at the time only had some light touches of music, but they were important. I went into U.S.C., followed very straight, classic lines, biologically trained, and had another whole career. And about age 27 I just made a complete pivot and went into another dimension of thought and creativity. Music just exploded in nine months. I absolutely started to wake up to where love was real. On that album people have said, “Why are there touches where it’s green and touches where you wonder why the whole thing wasn’t that exquisitely put together?” Because it came at me overnight, like a wave. I had no real prior training. The parts that are good are pure soul speaking to you. The parts that are green are because this was a person studying other things all her life.
Erik: What do you feel are some of the most important things to walk away with in context of your musical legacy?
Linda: We move in a sea of energy— everyday in our world, and we are now too close to one another to keep ignoring each other and get away with it. To survive, we MUST understand how powerful these inner energies are and the effect they have on our personal balance as well as our family, office, nation, world, and universe. Each time we think, we emit wave length energy that impacts others. Nothing is totally silent. Even our thoughts have structure, and form, and movement, and power. This power can heal or destroy one body, one family, one nation, one world and more.
At the Red Cat performance, over 80 people came on stage, it was a wildly creative night, almost like a Circque De Olay or a mini Woodstock. Some moments were brilliant, some were tender, it was multi textured in every way. Music, dance, lyric, film. All original and all created for that one performance. Each one of us offered some part of our being to have others create better in their own lives. I asked only one thing of everyone that participated—“Please let the impact be a positive one on others. We are not here to sell hate for dollars. We are here to lift others to express their own creativity better and to inspire others to do the same so everyone’s life moves forward in a better way.” I am hoping that my music touches people in a positive and lasting way.
Erik: Do you remember hearing your voice on a recording for the first time? If yes, can you describe that moment in time?
Linda: Yes, I do remember and it was quite an experience! Unless you have recorded your voice and have replayed it back to yourself, you really don’t have any idea of what you really sound like to others. So it was all a part of the learning curve for me. Breathing and voice control thru breathing correctly is a lesson that is common to all singers.
Erik: What have you come to love the most from the music communities that you have been a part of and are currently closest to?
The music and creative communities have shifted from Topanga Canyon and Laurel Canyon for the most part to the quaint and beautiful older areas of Silverlake and Echo Park near downtown Los Angeles. Like Topanga Canyon and Laurel Canyon of the 70’s, Silverlake and Echo Park are alive and vibrant with creative people! What makes this so special is the positive flow of energy and the very special people who live there! But I also feel at home in Topanga Canyon, where there is still a very creative force flow there for me.
Erik: Who were your most important mentors when you were creating Parallelograms?
Linda: Top of the list would be the producer Leonard Rosenman and his beautiful wife, Kaye. They brought me into a world that was just so beautiful and incredibly creative. I finally had an outlet for what was in me since childhood! Next would be all the incredible musicians who helped me with Parallelograms and had the patience to work with someone as green as I was!
Erik: What do you find most beautiful about these days?
Linda: A since of hope for the world and the people in it. In spite of all the horrible things you read about in the papers and see on TV, there are people out there who are really making a difference. These are the people who should be in papers and TV more.
Erik: Thank you for your time again Linda, you are a very important person for music and we appreciate the time for this interview greatly. Cheers!
Linda: Thank you so much for this opportunity! Again, I apologize for taking so long in getting back to you. People like you are real treasures to me.
Portland, Oregon trio Eight Bells are a hard to define modern rock group with a penchant for technicality, darkness and color deviations that gives their sound a dense sense of dynamics and approach. The group has already embarked past their maiden voyage, releasing the four track album “The Captain’s Daughter” on Seventh Rule Recordings and touring in support. Comprised of Melynda Jackson (guitars, contact mic, vocals), Haley Westeiner (bass, vocals) and Christopher VanHuffel (drums), the three individuals are highly skilled at their instruments, adding in a plethora of effects, loops, rhythms and even a 6 string bass to extend the lower end beyond the standards of rock music. The beautiful side of experimentation is present in every track along with a harder dexterity that crashes in once the energy starts to swell. Exploratory and enriched, it’s a very clean sound that was enhanced by engineer specialist Billy Anderson. Eight Bells are a group who has really created something powerful in their debut and one that we knew we wanted to connect with for an interview. Guitarist Melynda Jackson was gracious enough this year to share the following dialogue we are presenting today in this exclusive interview with Eight Bells at Sound Colour Vibration. Check out the first track from the debut album, “Tributaries” below while reading the interview.
Q&A with Melynda Jackson of Eight Bells
Conducted by Erik Otis
Erik: Hello Melynda, I wanted to first say that I absolutely love what you have done on your new bands debut album The Captain’s Daughter. There is a form of duality between hard material and groove with a lot of textures added from the three of you. How did the name of the album come together and what type of new creative outlets has Eight Bells given you that your previous works did not shed light on?
Melynda: Thanks so much for the kind words, and glad you enjoy the music. I named the album The Captain’s Daughter for a variety of somewhat nebulous reasons… I am obsessed with the ocean, and its vastness-perceived emptiness. I like thinking about its mythologies and early explorers – people who would set out on it with no actual proof of what they might find-imagine being that person, seeing nothing in every direction, hoping to find something. On board ships, the cat of nine tails was called ‘The Captain’s Daughter’, and I like the idea of it having such a feminine alias.
Erik: Eights Bells bassist Haley Westeiner is a phenomenal musician, giving the music a very heavy low end while creating a sense of dynamics and lyrical voice in the mix that is refreshing to hear in a bassist. What were some of the elements to her bass playing that really made you want to collaborate with her on this project?
Melynda: I like that she plays a 6 string bass, and can get super low but also play chords that a rhythm guitar player might play. She plays melodically and was able to learn how a song is supposed to ‘feel’ really quickly. Her commanding presence frees me up and her actual music training is super helpful – she teaches me so much. I always like when she really ‘digs in’ and gets… I guess gnarley might be a good word.
Erik: You have spent a lot of time with the drummer from this band, Christopher Van Huffel with your previous project SubArachnoid Space. How important was it to work with Christopher with this new band? Roughly speaking, how much time do you both spend together preparing material?
Melynda: Oh man, I could not really imagine trying to do this music without Chris. He seems to know where I am going with ideas before I even get there. We played together for many years in SubArachnoid Space, and the few toward the end without him were difficult for me. I suppose a lot of it is familiarity, but he also just has a sure footed energy or even aggression that I like very much. Something in the way that he plays propels me.
We practice together twice a week as a band, and Haley has also recently stepped up more fully in writing and arranging. We are finding it really helpful to have a 3rd practice that is just Haley and I acoustic, usually in my bedroom. True collaboration is the ultimate goal within a framework of an emotion or feel. It did take a while for Haley to feel ‘ok’ and really part of the project given the long history Chris and I have. I am really happy that she is feeling very connected to the project recently.
Erik: Many of your guitar sheets and solo’s are very beautiful to me, giving the music a completely different pathway to venture down sonically than most albums that become as powerfully hard as The Captain’s Daughter is. The snake like twist and turns of intricate rhythms through progressive rock and the heavier states are very beautiful as well, creating something so rich in detail I have listened to the record over and over to grab every last bit of sound. Does song writing come to you methodically and in structured situations that have consistency to approach or is it more of a spontaneous affair? Do you envision the music before it’s created or do you work on skeleton pieces until you figure out how you want to structure such dynamic music?
Melynda: I usually start with an emotional idea, with a mental picture. It will become sort of a theme for the work. This is unplanned. I think it is a collective feeling as well, because all three of us are pretty empathetic. We will usually start with a riff that comes on spontaneously and develops within a ‘jam’ sort of situation. I tend to describe how something should feel like: ‘this part is like a man coming down from the top of a mountain feeling hopeless because he climbed up there and struggled to see what was up there, some answer and found nothing but himself’ hahaha. I make up stories but don’t always share them with the others. The feel of them comes out in the sounds. Our method is generally to practice putting parts together in different ways, then record it and work on a final arrangement. We are working on a new song though, that Haley mapped a section out ahead of time and made a little demo recording on her own to show us – that was really helpful. We take turns in arrangements and writing. On the Captain’s Daughter, I had some of the material written before Haley joined, she added to it… But the song on there that is the first true collaboration is actually “Fate and Technology”. Haley wrote and performed the vocal part for that, the words – I did heavily effected contact mike vocal drones and some screams.
Erik: I love the sense of atmosphere that you create with effects, especially on the title track. What kind of effects did you use on this record and do you approach writing your songs with effects in mind at first or does all of that come after the heart of the music is defined?
Melynda: I use effects a lot haha. I am a big fan of looping, contact mics , delays, and the overtones and rhythms one can create with these effects. It is part of my sound and not something that is added later. I suppose you could say that I play ‘stomp box’ as well as guitar.
Erik: How far back does the music date that we hear on The Captain’s Daughter and what type of refining processes did the music see over this time?
Melynda: We recorded this stuff almost a year ago I think. We have been working on it for longer than that.
Erik: How did you link with the record label Seventh Rule and what’s it been like with connecting all the dots on logistics for the new record release?
Melynda: Scott actually approached our booking agent Nathan Carson about us. He had seen us play and liked it. Logistically it has been great to work with Seventh Rule Recordings.
Erik: You have been performing live shows and touring with some incredible bands over the last decade or so. Do you feel the most comfortable on stage now with this band or do you feel it will take a little more time for the group to really find that complete connection state?
Melynda: It just keeps getting better. This band is really refreshing for me, we are excited to play and learning to play together more and more. I am excited to see what the future brings in terms of improving us as musicians. I think we feel pretty connected – but really playing tons of shows is the way to get it to that level that really does feel like the closest thing to bliss I can imagine.
Erik: Does the band like to perform material spot on to every show or is there a lot of variation in structure and possible improvisation that you all tap into? What does each of your band-mates bring to the table when in improvisation that hits you deeply when in these moments?
Melynda: We don’t do any cold improvisation. The songs are composed, but we strive to make them feel open – we queue each other in a live setting for endings of parts that do not have a length set in stone. “The Captain’s Daughter” (track) has a section like that. There are sections that could vary a bit. It really depends on the mood.
Erik: Your debut record with Eight Bells was engineered by Billy Anderson who has taken on a lot of really heavy projects. How much of an enhancement to your sound did Billy add and how was it like working with him on the project? Any particular moments from the sessions or time with him that stand out to you?
Melynda: Ahhh I love Billy. We have known each other for a really long time and I had always wanted to work with him. I think that he is really a good translator of intentions – a master of beauty and aggression. He is also very encouraging and pretty honest. We all had great fun with puns, and ADD. He has a way of telling you to chill the fuck out without being a dick, making people feel at ease, and giving great advice and input. I trust him totally. Since it really is non stop with Billy, I can’t really name a moment. We really pretty much had to buckle down, as we only had 4 days for tracking and worked non stop to meet that deadline in spite of technical difficulties with the studio we used. Billy is punk though, and was amazing at getting the sounds that we wanted.
Erik: In terms of compositional approach, is there some bands, artists or even creative outlets outside of musicians that you feel really relate to where you are coming from and create? Any era and time of course.
Melynda: I think I would like to avoid making a list of things we like. Our interests are varied and diverse from 20th century composition, to melodic death metal, black metal, to techno to hip hop punk rock and dirty 70s prog and kraut. I am happy to see tons of crossover all around me with young bands – I am a bit obsessed with trying to unite beauty and aggression, despair and joy. I think of these emotions when ‘composing’. It is an attempt to communicate and articulate. We are a trio driven to reflect these sounds. Nothing more.
Erik: Can you tell us a little bit about how you came up musically and how life has changed for you since you decided to dedicate your life to music in the way that you have?
Melynda: I grew up in a tiny rural area of Texas, I was not exposed to anything beyond mainstream radio until I was liberated from that rural existence. I did have a tape recorder and would wait for hours for favorite songs with the recorder on pause so that I could make a tape of only ‘good’ songs. It really wasn’t until I was 18 or 19 that I became aware of Death Rock / Goth music etc. I didn’t decide to dedicate my life to music. It decided and I have no choice. I only wish I could devote more of my waking hours to it.
Erik: What can we expect from Eight Bells in 2013 and beyond?
Melynda: The Captain’s Daughter is a statement of intent to use a friends words. We are writing for the next album. It will be a surprise. I don’t even know what to expect. I have always wanted to make something really beautiful.
Erik: Thanks for your time, we really appreciate your time and can’t wait to see how the world responds to your new band in full, cheers.
Melynda: Thank you for being interested!
From Eight Bells
EIGHT BELLS features within its ranks SubArachnoid Space alumni Melynda Jackson and Christopher Van Huffel. A native of rural Texas now based in Portland, Oregon, Jackson’s EIGHT BELLS continues in SAS’ tradition of heavy guitar exploration, adding a blackened dissonance to the mix and minimalist vocals. Jackson is accompanied by classically trained six-string bassist Haley Westeiner who created the centerpiece vocals on “Fate and Technology” and also provides harmonic counterpoint to Jackson’s newly discovered vocalizations. Van Huffel resumes the throne he occupied for ten years, bringing his thunderous, nuanced double kick playing with him. With this power trio, Jackson has found a group that brings focus and support to her unapologetically expressionistic experimental metal music.
New York four piece Batillus have been releasing some of the best doom metal albums since 2010 and are slowly becoming another prominent fixture in the genres evolution. With a penchant for prolonged melodic sequences of darkness, their ability to surface out of these states for something more sublime is unparalleled. The guys in the group are very intelligent people and their music reflects this introspective wisdom and knowledge contained within their ranks. With a very huge and dynamic sound that builds off slower tempos, deranged angular lines and fields of texture dive into surrealistic forms and break away from the usual approaches of heavy music. It’s refreshing and exhilarating to hear a band like Batillus in the 21st century.
The group has become one of our favorite bands this year with their latest and most sonically adventurous album Concrete Sustain. The new album is already out in Europe on the imprint Vendetta Records with the US release date set for March 19th on Seventh Rule Recordings. Diving into the minds and perspectives of the creative peoples work that we enjoy the most is one of our biggest goals with SCV. Interviewing this band has become something that I have learned a lot from and sheds another important light into the world that is Batillus.
Q&A with Batillus of Seventh Rule Recordings
Conducted by Erik Otis
Erik: Hello, I have already become a big fan of your music after being sent Concrete Sustain. It’s something that has raised the bar for all harder based music and has dynamics in a way that I absolutely love. We hope you guys a lot of success in the near future and are looking forward to seeing how the rest of the world responds to Concrete Sustain.Your sound is thick, saturated and humid. I’d like to call it the most beautiful dark thing I have heard in many years. What type of gear and recording set up did you guys use for the Concrete Sustain LP? Anything that was very critical for the crunchy and submerged sound you guys achieved gear or engineering wise?
GS: I always record with Noble & Cooley CD Maple drums. N&C is a small drum company based, I believe, in Massachusetts and I’ve never found anything that compares with the quality of their drums. In addition, I used a variety of snare drums with different tunings to fit each song, including but not limited to a killer solid brass GMS drum that my uncle (also a drummer) sold me years ago.
WS: Sanford suggested that we record the bass direct, and then reamp the signal. This allowed me to fine-tune the tone for each individual song.
FK: I used more Moog synths , and I programmed percussion on this record , something that was not present on our last recordings
Erik: I love the album art for the new record, really goes along with the sound on the LP. Did you guys have different concepts for covers or was this photo something that you guys knew you wanted to use for the album? What do you feel the cover gives to the album?
GP: We were having a hard time agreeing on what the cover image should be, but at the same time we knew the type of aesthetic we were going for. We like messed up photographs, and the cover of ‘Furnace’ was a photo that Fade had taken, and I liked the idea of keeping the source of the cover image ‘in the family,’ if you will. So I took a look through some photos that I’d taken, and everybody else liked the one from our first tour in 2009, taken as we were approaching New Orleans. Something about the way the road dips down makes the perspective a little disorienting, and I think that’s a nice parallel to the stylistic shifts in these new songs.
FK : I think the photo captures the albums vibe in a kind of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” feel.
Erik: You have been getting a lot of press on the new record already, something I feel is rightfully deserved. Congratulations on that, I feel it’s really important your sound has affected so many journalists. Do you guys check out the press or do you try to navigate around it? Where do you guys stand with modern journalism?
GS: I know I probably should ignore the press, but I used to be a music publicist and writer myself so I can’t seem to let the stuff go by unnoticed. The Internet is sort of a double edged sword when it comes to music journalism: on the one hand, it’s so much easier now than in the pre-Internet days to spread the word about something and it’s easy for anyone with an Internet connection, enthusiasm for music, and a basic (or sometimes not) command of language to have a music blog. On the other hand, you end up with a quantity-over-quality situation (that also parallels the situation with bands in the age of cheap recording) where for every one writer with the language, journalism, and music background necessary to accurately and effectively review a record you have dozens more who really just have no idea what they’re doing. You have to appreciate their enthusiasm, but a lot of times poor grammar or way-off-target points of reference result in a face palm moment for the educated reader.
Erik: Do you have one song writer or does the band create collectively? Is material created when everyone is around or does the material stem from the outside and you all individually bring it to the band?
GP: It’s a collective process. The riff ideas usually come first, during brainstorming/boozing sessions between Willi and I. But at least one of these new songs started with a rhythm pattern that Fade created on a drum machine, and Geoff will occasionally have a sweet idea for a guitar or bass part. Once we have a couple of riff ideas that seem to work together, we spend quite awhile collectively working on the arrangement, which is the fun part, with everybody sharing ideas about everyone else’s parts– we try to be as democratic as possible, and if even just one person feels strongly about something, we’ll investigate it.
Erik: I feel like in every experience through life, there is something to learn about yourself. What did you learn about yourself when making and recording Concrete Sustain?
FK: Personally , I pushed myself to try things I haven’t in the past , like with the song “Thorns” , I’ve never attempted to sing like that previously. I think when you get out of your comfort zone interesting things can happen creatively.
Erik: New York has been a haven for a plethora of hardcore bands and with you guys have a very different approach to metal,we were wondering what led you guys in the direction you have? Who were some of your first comrades within the New York music community that helped nurture your vision?
WS: We owe a lot to people like Fred Pessaro, Kim Kelly and Brandon Stosuy, who’ve been in our corner from the beginning, as well as the Acheron and St. Vitus for giving us places to play. Now that the old places in Manhattan are gone, they’ve stepped up and really helped bands like us out by fostering the scene in Brooklyn.
Erik: I must say that your sound is a really different thing than anything else I have heard. In trying to make comparisons I am lead nowhere and I absolutely love that about Concrete Sustain. What other bands do you feel your sound has the most in common with, if any? What communities in the context of cities and different areas of the world have responded positively to your sound the most?
GS: Our goal is to write songs that are both heavy and memorable. The hook, whether it’s a riff or a drum beat or a vocal cadence or a synth melody, is the most important factor for us during the songwriting process, followed closely by the attempt to structure songs in a logical and concise way and, of course, the desire to make the music sound heavy. Heavy for the sake of heavy is cool, but there are enough bands covering that territory already. We’re trying to be heavy and memorable simultaneously, but ultimately it’s up to the listener to decide whether we’ve succeeded or not.
FK: we have our influences each individually, the four of us come from different musical backgrounds and I think that works to our advantage, and it comes useful when we edit each other in the writing process because we are each listening with different ears.
Erik: With your songs having such a demanding sense of energy being drawn from the weight of the music and many of your songs being much more lengthy than your average band, how do you guys prepare in physical and mental terms in nailing the music live and for the studio recordings?
FK: Touring can be rough, I have to take care of my voice. After about a week on the road you get into the groove, it’s like working out when you first start it sucks, your tired and sore, but then you get into it and you’re like a machine.
GS: For me, at the slow tempo we play, physical exertion is not the challenge so much as patience and timing. Most of our new material is performed to a click track too, which is a big change from the stuff on the Whitehorse split and Furnace. I’ve found that when playing to a click, the challenge is in being accurate in terms of timing and rhythms without sounding stiff or square.
Erik: With 6 songs gracing the full length Concrete Sustain, do you remember what songs were created first and last? Was there specific tracks that took more timing getting everyone locked in?
GS: The oldest song is “Beset,” and I think that song connects the rest of the material on the record nicely back to the Furnace days. The last song we finished was “Thorns.” There was a period of time when we didn’t think that song would make the cut for the record, but I’m sure glad it did because it’s come to be my favorite of the six.
Erik: What type of atmosphere was present when creating the LP? Were sessions closed off to outsiders or do you bring in other people for second opinions? Anything that set the mood in the recording room that only bands like yours can do?
WS: We worked pretty quickly during this session. By the time we were set to record, the songs were structurally complete, so only stylistic decisions were left. We trusted Sanford’s ear to guide us when direction was needed, and kept it at that.
FK: I recorded the vocals myself in late night sessions at our rehearsal space for this record, I felt I could be more focused with out any outside distractions.
Erik: For our last question, we wanted to know what records you are listening to right now and whose some of the best live bands to see right now?
GS: I just keep listening to the same Levon Helm, Low, and Depeche Mode records over and over again. I’ve become a little complacent in my listening habits of late. Any suggestions for me?
FK: Lately the best shows I’ve seen are Chelsea Wolfe, Inquisition, Swans & Kontavoid.
Erik: I will send some recommendations your way this weekend, thanks for your time again, means a lot.
Queensland, Australia’s Mystery School crafts a very special type of sound from the heart, spirit and mind of multi-instrumentalist Jhonny Russel. Welding together worlds that you’d never even think of existing together, there is still a sense of familiarity and depth that resonates deep into the ethos of rock history. Playing all the instruments that you hear on his recordings, Msytery School has a deep sense of technique and creativity for some of the most original ventures into rock I have heard from Australia. After sent his music, it’s been an experience I have relived numerous amounts of times as the music is simply that good. When an interview project was proposed, I knew this would be one where opening up the view points of an artists would be well worth the time spent on the questions. Conducting interviews isn’t always finding out more about the artists but sometimes and most of the time all the time, deals with learning about yourself. In every interview I have done this has been achieved and the same holds true to one of Australia’s underground visionaries Mystery School and the dialogue we shared via email this year.
Q&A with Mystery School
Conducted by Erik Otis
Erik: Hello Mystery School, I have listened to your self titled record a handful of times and it’s been a really great experience to hear your sonic vision. What type of process did you take for recording all of the instrumentation present?
Mystery School: I always try and keep things as simple as I can. I have the cheapest gear you can get and the most basic home recording setup. The 2 guitars I use are both just cheap $100 ones and the same with my keyboard, it’s just the cheapest controller I could find. I would love to upgrade obviously, especially some vintage synth gear, but I’m happy trying to do my best with limited resources. When I was young and trading cassettes before the internet there was a lot bigger mystique to demos and unreleased recordings and I found I always tended to enjoy the rawness of rough demo recordings of my favourite bands and the self-released local bands’ cassettes more than any slick studio stuff. I like that imperfect homemade lo-fi-ness. The time I’ve recorded in a professional environment I didn’t really enjoy the process or the result, so given the choice I would still pick the simplest home method.
Erik: What were some of the most important sonic and conceptual results were you looking for before and during the creation of the album?
Mystery School: If there’s any result I’m looking for it’s always just to be unique, have some originality and not sound like a replica of anything else out there. Finding my own style is the main important part to me. I enjoy the balancing of the electronic components and the live instrumentation and the fact I’m not an overly proficient guitar player or vocalist plays well against the robotic-ness of using sequencing and programming. I like to keep some conceptual continuity in my work too so it definitely has overall themes and subjects of the songs that loosely go together.
Erik: What does the expression of music mean to you?
Mystery School: I like that elusive untouchable quality about music. What you see, hear and feel is all based around vibrations and music is like mystical alignments and combinations of vibrations, so to me it’s one of the higher forms of existence and experience that there is available. When you get into Cymatics you see that sound can affect physical forms and actually create incredible geometry in matter. It’s even powerful enough just on the basic level of a sad song being able to make you really happy or just listening to something angry sounding might help you release some of that emotion yourself as much as if you were performing the song.
Erik: When did you decide to start writing your own music and which people helped you in your initial states as a musician?
Mystery School: I’m totally self-taught in all the aspects of both playing instruments and recording and production, so it’s been a long slow process of trial, error, and persistence. I started actively trying to make a band before I even owned any instruments. At around 11 or 12 I would occasionally borrow the little kid next door’s really cheap, nasty and out-of-tune acoustic and try and work out how to play by noticing on posters of people like Johnny Ramone and Kurt Cobain that they were generally always doing the same shape with their hand on the fretboard, which was a power chord. So I would put on videos of them and try to move my hand in the shape they were doing and watching what fret they would move to and just replicating it. I entered a band competition at 13 when I still had barely even touched an electric guitar let alone own one, and borrowed one from a kid I barely knew the day before and just tried to get up there and play Nirvana and Ramones songs without having rehearsed them or even really being able to play the guitar to begin with. To make things worse, the singer pulled out that morning and I was the only one who knew all the lyrics so I was like, “I guess I’ll do it.. I know those songs.. it’ll be easy!” Boy, was I wrong. It went as terribly as you would expect. Then at about 16 after a few years of wanting desperately to make music and sitting back watching all my friends play in bands, I started discovering ways of making music by myself with drum programming, soft-synths, sampling and stuff. I didn’t even really listen to or like any electronic music at the time but got deep into making really strange experimental stuff. So after a few years of working on bizarre electronic compositions, I started to try mixing that with my love of guitars and alternative rock music. I lived with musician Benjamin Thompson (from The Rational Academy) briefly around this period. He was the first person I collaborated with on a song and we recorded on the floor of my bedroom devoid of furniture on an even then already out-dated computer, triggering the vocal and guitar tracks from a drum module because I didn’t know about multi-tracking software and Ben was one of those people that would rock a Tascam 4-Track like a video game because home computer recording wasn’t as common then. It was pretty nuts trying to line up all the recording takes using stuff designed to sequence one-shot drum sounds. I did that for years before becoming aware of proper methods.
Mystery School: Thanks a lot. I have a keen interest in ontology, metaphysics, space, mysticism and all that sort of stuff so I guess the songs and artwork both just reflect that.
Erik: What type of atmosphere do you like to compose and record music in the most?
Mystery School: It probably sounds sad but my studio almost more resembles an office or a study and my normal routine is pretty boring. My health has been keeping me from being very active recently, but the usual is getting up early and just working on visual art or music all day, only really stopping briefly for meals with my partner or take my dog friend to the park and continue working on things until about 2 in the morning. I like that about working solo, you can do as much as you are able whenever you can find the time. I don’t really party or socialize anymore because of health troubles so I like to keep as busy creating as I can manage.
Erik: What are some of your most essential records in your collection?
Mystery School: I have been collecting vinyl for about 18 years and for me there is always a handful of essential albums from just about every different style and spectrum. I have a pretty eclectic range of stuff and that’s the essential thing for me. I’d get too bored with just one style all the time. I have been doing my own DIY self-releases for a long time so I have a major adoration for private press records, especially from the late 70s and early 80s. Recently I got copies of what is for me the holy grail of private press vinyl, the first two seven inches from San Francisco synth-punk pioneers Units, High Pressure Days and Warm Moving Bodies. They were my most wanted records, I just love everything about them. Killer songs that are equally as fun as they are seriously intense. Brilliant lyrics. Wild noises. The attitude of getting it recorded, pressed and released yourself. The mixing of punk rock and synthesizers. So they are records that I treasure the most.
Erik: Do you remember the first time you spent way too much money at a record store and if so, what were some of the items in that batch if you can remember. How important do you feel it is for teenagers to have that experience of walking in a music shop full of vinyl and the rest?
Mystery School: About 10 years ago I payed an awful lot for a Tool ‘Aenima’ promo picture disc, though I just searched it on Ebay then and saw the only other copy I’ve ever seen and it was on sale for almost $1,000, so that makes me feel a lot better about why I paid for it way back. I used to travel on train for an hour once every week to go looking at records on my day off. I remember one time I had a really big haul including the Melvins Triliogy triple picture disc set and was waiting at the train station to go home and left all the records on the platform when I rushed to go to the toilet before the train came. I almost had a heart attack when I noticed I didn’t have the records with me. Rushed back up the stairs to where I had been and as I got to the top saw they were already gone. I was devastated, but then someone came over and said they had handed it in at the ticket collector. Phew! It’s a real shame the indie music shop experience has been slowly dying, but I’m sure it will revive because it is so important. The problem around my area has been the few indie shops were trying their best to act and look like the chain stores instead of embracing what sets them apart, but the distribution companies have been favouring these corporate stores so it’s all been a bit of a mess and must be incredibly hard to be an indie store at the moment. But, yeah, it won’t disappear. There are regular Record Fairs with a decent network of independent vendors that have been the best place for vinyl lately.
Erik: What’s your thoughts on the digital age of music?
Mystery School: I’m a lover of vinyl and artwork and everything involved. I think a file is pretty unappealing to any real music enthusiast. I think it’s great for streaming and previewing things, but certainly not as a “product”. $16 for an iTunes release is just stupid. I like making my CD releases short runs that will no longer be available after a brief period. One of the few ambitions I have is just to release some of my work on vinyl.
Erik: Who would you consider your biggest musical mentors?
Mystery School: If there’s anyone in my life that fits the bill it’d be Ben Ely from legendary Australian group Regurgitator. He is someone I respect a lot because of the way he’s navigated through the major label experience maintaining total dignity and artistic integrity throughout and came out the other side to continue having an amazing independent career. The amount of interesting things they’ve done and continue to do is mind blowing. Having someone that has been such a huge childhood inspiration show any interest in your work is just really unreal. He has been so kind, generous and supportive of my work and has become a good friend, but I still look up to him tremendously.
Erik: Wanted to tell you thanks for your contribution to music, everyone is playing a very crucial and part regardless of how small or big the projects are. I’ll definitely be sending your album to a lot of people this year. Take care.
A collection of tracks produced by Jhonny Russell 2002-2012
Illustrator John Howe is a Canadian born artist whose works have become legendary over his prolonged career in the art industry. With many recognizing his contributions to the Lord of the Rings and now The Hobbit film series, his ability to extract worlds that have become literary milestones is for the most part unparalleled. He has illustrated extensively for fantasy driven literature, has written children’s books, design work for collectible cards and much more. Howe is an artist who really finds very specific mediums to express something out of this world and his technique is always reflective of a person who has really studied and applied their craft.
Now residing in Europe and fulfilling the continuation of a life rooted in the arts, John Howe is an inspiring individual to all of us at Sound Colour Vibration and a creative member of this society that we knew would be a very important contribution to our interview archives. His art work has really defined something special for the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film world and without his contributions among many others, those films would never be possible. John Howe is simply one of the best.
Q&A with John Howe
Conducted by Xavier Vilaplana
Xavier: Before working on the illustrations for any of J. R. R. Tolkien’s works and worlds, what was your relationship with his works?
John: Quite flawed, entirely by my own doing, I’m afraid! I read the Lord of the Rings in the wrong order, much to my embarrassment. The Fellowship of the Ring was never available at the local library, I waited and waited, but of course it was one of those books that everyone borrowed, kept for a month and likely bogged down somewhere during the first hundred and fifty pages. The other two volumes never left the shelves, so I took out The Two Towers and read that first, followed by The Return of the King, and eventually by the Fellowship. Needless to say, that was a very stupid thing to do, so my first reading of the Lord of the Rings was not something I’m very proud of. I was 12 or so at the time and couldn’t afford to actually buy the books, which is hardly an excuse, I suppose. I eventually re-read the book in the right order many years later. (The Hobbit I believe I read around the age of 7 or so, but I can only recall the Unexpected Party, so it’s quite possible I never finished it.)
I only really began to appreciate the books when I finally learned enough about Tolkien’s own sources and motivations to appreciate their depth and meaning. Though I was attracted to the most dramatic episodes, I had largely missed all of the more subtle references entirely. I have found, though, over the years, that anything which immediately attracts my interest in any domain (usually visual, of course) will be of interest on many other levels once you take the time to scratch the surface and look a little deeper.
In high school, I did paintings (in oil pastel, of all things!) based on Tolkien’s work (thankfully, none of those have survived) and eventually received commissions from the publishers of the novels, then Unwin Books, for calendar imagery.
There are all manner of curious associations which have developed over those decades, some by choice, some by chance, which has allowed me not only to pay the bills by doing work associated with Tolkien, but to acquire a view of the landscape and nature which is certainly largely influenced by a wide palette of myth and legend to which Tolkien’s writing introduced me. I will always be grateful for the doors that his writing opened.
Xavier: Was your relationship to Tolkien’s work something that led you to contribute on The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe being that C. S. Lewis and Tolkien were friends?
John: In a sense, I suppose that could be true. I was asked to work on the Narnia film following the work done on the Lord of the Rings. I only worked on the first movie, though, for about 6 months.
Xavier: How is it working with both Guillermo del Toro and Peter Jackson on The Hobbit films? What was the difference between both of their perspectives? How did it translate into your drawings?
That’s a very hard question to answer. I don’t know anything about filmmaking, really, and my contribution to such huge productions is a very limited one – it’s rather like asking a very small cog how a steam engine works.
They are obviously both immensely talented filmmakers. Both have an appreciation for and a high degree for what I’d call “image literacy” where concept art is concerned. They also never forget a picture, which is gratifying for the teams that produce the huge quantity of artwork this kind of project requires.
Guillermo is an all-embracing personality, he reads widely and voraciously, has incredibly eclectic tastes in art, and in a sense reaches out and gathers the world in to himself, where he fashions and shapes it into his personal vision, a sort of empire by acquisition and conquest, colourful, varied, extensive, always filled with significant detail and depth. Working with Guillermo means keeping up with his light-speed far-ranging imagination, understanding his esoteric and subtle references, and trying to weld all of that into a rich and coherent world.
Peter tends to work from the center outwards, in a sense, finding inspiration in the narrative and the world he imagines, contributing, at least initially, a deep sense of curiosity and a desire to explore, pushing the imaginations of his concept team out into places they might not spontaneously go. In a way, it’s an empire built on patient exploration, colourful, varied, extensive, always filled with significant detail and depth. Working with Peter means responding to those hints and trying to help him build outwards to create a rich and coherent world.
I’m sure both of them would shake their heads in mild puzzlement at that appraisal, and likely it doesn’t capture their methodology or approach at all.
Xavier: What are the differences between the Lord of The Rings illustrations and The Hobbit and which do you feel more inclined to dive into?
John: Clearly the Lord of the Rings appealed to me more, but certainly because I had never considered the depth of the Hobbit – the world behind what looks (and initially reads) like a children’s story is rather harder to perceive. This said, it is entirely my fault as an inattentive reader, mistaking style for content and doing very little reading between the lines, lulled to a sense of complacency by what appears to be a bedtime story. (This is something that happens distressingly often concerning meaning in myth and legend, echoing the period where Grimm had devolved into edulcorated nursery material before Bettleheim’s pioneering research – the rose without the thorns, in sum, but that’s another debate.)
The Hobbit is a fascinating glimpse into a world that changes and deepens from chapter to chapter, where the roots of the Lord of the Rings can already be seen deep in the ground. The implied tale of the Beornings, for example, has echoes of Scandinavian legend, and a deep sense of loss of nature, not the park-like inviting nature of the Shire, but a more savage and challenging view of the world, primal and fierce. Smaug is every western dragon, but shorn of the devilish attributes with which Christianity has saddled dragons, he is the true descendant of Fafnir and his brood, reminders of the inevitable doom brought by all-consuming greed. There is so much in the Hobbit that is either cleverly disguised, or possibly more plausibly barely glimpsed by the author, themes that he would return to in greater depth in the Lord of the Rings.
This said, that approach to illustrating the Hobbit would be to deny the intended public, a much younger audience than Tolkien intended with The Lord of the Rings, a certain warmth and gentleness of vision in favour of a vision exterior to the novel itself. So, in that sense, I would distinguish between illustrating the book and exploring the themes Tolkien touches upon in the same book. The two could yield very different imagery.
Xavier: What’s it like imagining someone else’s world and bringing it to life as drawings?
John: I think it’s what I prefer. Have you ever felt how strongly felt an idea that is not one’s own can be? Somehow, the theme chanced upon, whether it’s a novel or a book of myth, can contain perspectives that you would never imagine yourself. It is somehow like the perfect landscape, the sublime view, precisely because it does not belong to you, it is possible to approach it with your own experience and vision, and create that third entity, which is the encounter of two imaginations. It combines the excitement of extraordinary visions with the inconvenience of those details with which one might be less enamoured, conveying a sense of reality to fantasy and making any pictorial exploration of that world incredibly exciting.
Illustration is a proposition, a spontaneous exploration not only of the theme to hand, but also the deeper currents that make imagery necessary. If there’s room, I’d love to share a text I wrote for a book or a catalogue, but which was never used. It sums up my thoughts on fantasy illustration in general:
Images were magic once. They adorned the walls of deep caverns, propitiated, evoking victory over creatures dangerous and necessary for survival. In that way, man possessed the essence of those creatures as well as their nourishing flesh.
Images were language once. The earliest letters, long after the earliest hieroglyphs (the meaning of “hieroglyph” is “sacred carving”), evoked creatures and elements. They summed up, or conjured, or invoked those things they named, and gradually gathered meanings as they grew more abstract and distanced from imagery.
Images were true once. Stories of ogres, dragons, princesses and knights grew in the minds of those harkening to the storytellers the Brothers Grimm patiently listened to as well. The same kinds of stories were sung and told through countless generations, before their penning by scribes. Beowulf, Gilgamesh, Jason, Arthur, and countless more, before we invented fiction as we know it, possessed images that were real in the minds of those who knew the stories.
Now images are no longer magic, no longer language, no longer necessarily true. They are used, abused, manipulated, commercialized and bought and sold like other commodities. We take them for granted. We associate them with immaturity – we believe “serious” imagery deals with life, not with things imagined.
Nevertheless, fantasy art is the inheritor of that magic, language and truth that once only it communicated. Fantasy is the realm of archetype, meaningless only if art itself were to disappear from the face of the earth. If I could claim as my own words written more than a century ago, it would be these: “En effet, lorsque l’époque où un homme de talent est obligé de vivre, est plate et bête, l’artiste est, à son insu même, hanté par la nostalgie d’un autre siècle. .. Chez les uns, c’est un retour aux âges consommés, aux civilisations disparues, aux temps morts; chez les autres, c’est un élancement vers la fantastique et vers le rêve…” ~ J. K. Huysmans (1848-1907), “À Rebours”, 1884.
(“The truth is, when the period at which a man of talent is condemned to live is dull and stupid, the artist is, unconsciously to himself, haunted by a sensation of morbid yearning for another century… In some cases, it is a return to past ages, to vanished civilizations, to dead centuries; in others, it is an impulse towards the fantastic, the land of dreams, it is a vision more or less vivid of a time to come whose images reproduce, without his being aware, as a result of atavism, that of by-gone epochs.” ~ J. K. Huysmans, “Against the Grain”, published in English in 1926.)
The resonance of fantasy is as pertinent as ever, but fantasy is a master of disguises, and always reappears where we least expect it. The magic and the truth remain; it is up to us to learn the language again.
Xavier: Drawing, is it something that manifests currently as a necessity more than a joy or profession?
John: I’ll have all three, please, if I may! I believe the urge to draw, which is shared by all children, but eventually fades for most, is a necessity, a way of comprehending the world and one’s view of it. Because it involves satisfaction – both accomplishing something you set out to do, “getting it right” in one’s own eyes, and the approval it gets in the family circle – it can easily become a way of defining oneself. It can become a profession when those two qualities are maintained, if a person’s drawing skills can keep pace with one’s expectations and if the opportunities for art education and eventually work present themselves.
So, yes indeed, drawing is a necessity. It colours my view of the world, it helps me understand things, it is a way of connecting with what’s around me, as well as communicating how I feel about those things. It remains a joy because there is the simple satisfaction of getting the occasional drawing or painting “right” (whatever that means), or at least imagining that the next painting will accomplish that. (I invariably reply “The next one” to the “What’s your favourite painting?” question.)
Lastly of course, yes, it is now my profession, with all the responsibility that entails to my clients and to the subject matter I encounter.
Xavier: Do you ever see yourself writing and illustrating?
John: Yes please! My ambition would be to write and have others illustrate the texts. (That way I could hassle illustrators pitilessly.) Seriously, I’ve always wanted to write and admire those for whom it seems so effortless. I’m sure this comes from the desire to tell stories, but being awkward with words, not having the ability to use them effectively. In that sense, drawing is the language of the writer who cannot write – looking back as far as I can recall drawings I’ve done, back to elementary school, they were always about telling stories. I found little satisfaction in the standard assignments (sometimes I think it’s a wonder I survived school, often I couldn’t even get into art class, since it was already full of students who had been kicked out of other classes and parked in art, though I did have the good fortune of having a wonderfully encouraging teacher in my final year of high school) and little interest in landscapes or still lifes; all my pictures, without exception, were narrative.
I also love the interplay between explicit narrative, implicit narrative and internal pictorial logic in any picture that tells a story.
John Howe presents “From Bag End to Wilderland”
Illustrations for The Hobbit, or There and Back Again