Friday, June 05, 2009

Matchitehew + BLOODYMINDED/Solotroff in Vice

Here is a just-published excerpt from a long interview with Vice Magazine:


No Fun this year was mild and pleasant, a big accessible to-do with a real cochlea-blasting set from Prurient and Kevin Drumm, and all kinds of fresh-faced kids plugging their ears, wondering what the fuck they’d just gotten themselves into. What they’d gotten themselves into was buying a ticket to a weekend-long festival just because they saw Emeralds and Blank Dogs on two different nights, and along with that came a mini education in noise. But now founder and organizer Carlos Giffoni is bringing the whole thing to Europe (Stockholm’s first, in mid-September this year); word on the street is that it’s too difficult to make a living here, that there aren’t enough fans and appreciators and he needs some more money because we live in a world where you need dollars if you want to survive.

On the other hand, you’ve got these one-off experimental/noise/whatever fests every once in a while, where promoters shroud themselves in a sense of integrity, refusing to do Things The Way They Are Done these days (i.e., sponsorship, accessible venue choices, general friendliness to other human beings who might be interested in their project). These people are willing to financially die for their cause, a cause of purity and integrity, and that is very noble. Most of us can agree that seeing a company’s name—even one that is recognized as “cool,” such as Aquarius Records, Klaxon Records, and Autopsy Kitchen Records—slapped on to something that’s supposed to be strictly entertaining is at least a little bit of a bummer. But most of us accept this phenomenon as reality at this point; we sigh disgustedly at the visual pollution that’s trying to sell us shit, and then don’t ever buy it.

Matchitehew Assembly, a two-day noise and black metal fest in Chicago is trying to keep it real. Vice pal Bryan Clopton interviewed co-organizer Nicole Chambers, and Bloodyminded’s Mark Solotroff sat in too. Bloodyminded play tonight.

Vice: On the Matchitehew website it says you guys don’t want corporate sponsorship. Why’s that?
Nicole Chambers: My co-organizer comes from a metal background where shows happened at these bars and sponsors would show up and she would get really mad about that. There was this thing about Wolves In The Throneroom being sponsored ... it’s actually easier not to deal with any of that. To have it like, for me I know, just to have a room and bands.

Mark Solotroff: Eh, I don’t know that it’s easier.

Nicole: Well, to get a corporation involved at a noise show would be weird. It just seems unnatural.

Mark: Well, it’s different because of the music. Music and sponsorship have been hand in hand for quite a long time to really disgusting heights and lows.

Nicole: But for us to go ahead and get a space get some bands...

Mark: Depends how ambitious you are. Bringing a Hungarian band over and it’s a risky proposition getting flights paid for in advance, banking against ticket sales and whatnot. Getting a suitably massive P.A….

Nicole: Mostly it’s people putting themselves into it and not some company. My co-organizer is really adamant about that. Well, not super-adamant, it’s just on the site, it’s like, “By the way, we’re just people doing this. There are no corporations involved.”

Mark: There’s a history of black metal, though that obviously parallels second-wave punk, like Crass-era punk. Not first-wave punk ‘cause that was obviously all corporate and major label. But, from the early anarcho-crusty punk time that rejected any of that sort of interference from corporations and was very outspoken against it. Black metal has paralelled that a lot so there’s a tradition of early-90s black metal to work outside the domain of you know the record industry. It was all very DIY, much like punk was, so there’s a history of “why” this makes sense in a philosophical or maybe ethical way or something.

Nicole: The idea wouldn’t make sense to put out the effort of learning how to get some corporation involved or some other big organization that could help us financially. It would be extra work, unnatural and excessive. If it was an appropriate one ...

Mark: Sometimes it can work out for you, it’s just you have to answer to them.

Nicole: To me, it’s just too complicated.

Have you received any kind of sponsorship whatsoever?
No, we have nothing, really.

Mark: What’s Aquarius’ involvement?

Nicole: Just like, “Cool. We’ll be there.”

So you guys are paying for it out of pocket?
Sort of. I mean, we have ticket sales. My co-organizer is putting her own money in.
Is this going to be re-occurring or a one time only thing?
I’m pretty sure it’s one time only. It’s interesting that we learned so much about it, you know, putting it together. We would know how to go about doing it again and improve upon it, but I don’t know if we’re going to be living in Chicago next year, so ...

So, noise music has to be considerably different today than when you guys started out.
Mark: There didn’t use to be such a thing as “noise.” When I first started with my old band, Intrinsic Action, the term “industrial” was what was used. The rise of Wax Trax and all that hadn’t really happened yet. There was “power electronics” which was the subset that we came out of and it had just been christened by the band Whitehouse. There’s definitely been more of a sectioning off of the noise world. The term “noise” would come up more in the mid-90s as Intrinsic Action was stopping and Bloodyminded was starting. It really referred to the “harsh noise” artists that were out at the time. Over the years it became the term. Then, below noise there’s power electronics, dark ambient, harsh noise—all these different sub-genres. Part of it is that it’s branched off in a lot of different directions and the fact that there are eight billion more people doing it now.

It seems like it was a few years ago that noise became part of the lexicon of underground music, probably having a lot to do with the internet. Did you notice that turning point where it wasn’t becoming mainstream but a lot more people knew about it?
It kind of happened at two points. When suddenly everybody had email and internet access, there was that first bump. Roughly ’96, ’97, there was much more communication online. Then, probably around the time of the rise of Wolf Eyes was the second one, early-2000s. That was the next big bump when things really started to change because they were working with slightly bigger labels. They were the first to get noticed by people outside the noise domain and that opened up things for other bands that were growing at the same time, being recognized by mainstream press. Then, with Wolf Eyes signing to Sub Pop, that changed the accessibility of noise.

Do you think it’s for the better or worse?
I think mainly for the better. In any music scene there’s going to be people who jump on the bandwagon for a while and dabble. Either collect stuff, listen to stuff, show up to shows or start their own bands, start their own labels. The noise/experimental/industrial scene has seen it happen several times and those people fall off after a while. So you’ll get a little bit of an artificial boost cause people are jumping on the bandwagon. But I think it’s a positive thing in general because it’s given other bands opportunities to play in better venues and have more exposure.

But what about poser noise, ‘cause black metal has false metal, so there has to be some bands that are fakin’ it, right?
Nicole: There are a ton.

Mark: There’s a term called “MySpace noise,” where it’s bands that really only exist because of mp3s and all that ...

Nicole: It’s the kind of thing where you go to their page and it’s like PSHHHHHHHH and they’re just playing with their radios and it’s just distortion, distortion, distortion.

Mark: You’ll see people get really enthusiastic for a very short time and then disappear. They’ll start a band, a label, a zine and put out a hundred things while last year they were into grindcore or emo. It’s difficult.

But how do you tell if it’s good noise or bad noise?
Nicole: There’s a lot of layers to it.

Mark: Personal taste. It’s totally subjective. For me it’s always been about the complete package. Knowing that an artist or band has put a lot of effort into coming up with music, lyrics, if there’s vocals on it, a theme or subject matter for a release, that artwork that goes with it. I love when someone really takes the time to think a concept through fully and then go through with it. Probably the drawback of the noise onslaught is that people vomit out noise releases constantly.

What are some good qualifications for a good noise song?

You know, a good pop song has to have a nice harmony, a good hardcore song has to have a cool breakdown, so what does a good noise song have to have?
Nicole: It’s doesn’t necessarily have to be about the song, but the release. Sometimes the song will be the entire side of a tape or side of a record. Sometimes songs are twenty minutes long. Content is important. It’s easier to tell you what I don’t like.

Tell me what you don’t like.
For me I hate over usage of distortion. Some people just drench things in reverb. There’s also this thing now where people make harsh walls of noise. That doesn’t interest me too much. I’m not really into effects personally and I can’t always tell when I listen to it. I like more processed things like cassette manipulation. I like to see all the different ways people do things. When I get a release and it’s something I don’t expect, I like that. Also, the good thing about the noise world is you see somebody play live and then you seem them again and you end up talking to them. There’s always an ongoing dialogue. You get to see people face to face and interact. When you get to know somebody it gives you a different slant or view of their music. You might hate a tape and then you get to know someone’s personality and you’re like, “Ah! This makes so much sense.” There are just so many different layers to it, there’s no specific things. It’s not like a pop song on the radio where you’re never going to have a dialogue with the person who wrote that song. It’s just some track that somebody came up with.

What if it got mainstream, like, maaaaaaainstream?
Mark: It won’t. There’s no way it ever will. I think we’ve seen it get as big as it’s ever gonna get with the period Wolf Eyes was on Sub Pop. It’s just too harsh, too dissident. The music does not appeal to most people out there, the subject matter is consistently too ... there’s just no way. It’s dabbled, it’s bubbled up over the years here and there, but, even in the experimental music world, noise is still looked at like it’s a piece of shit in the corner.

So, black metal. Isn’t it a bit racist?
Some is. There’s super left-wing, there’s super right-wing. Black metal when it started was Satanic. It was cartoon, a lot of it. The racist thing sort of blew up in the 90s and it’s just a side effect of all of that.

But it’s racist to assume that just cause it’s black metal, black people are going to listen to it.
Have you seen that YouTube video? It’s a black guy calling a number he saw an ad for in a newspaper. Some black metal band looking for a replacement guitarist and it’s fantastic. You should look that up. That’s the final word on that. It’s these really frustrated kids saying, “No, we’re not black metal, we’re black metal.” Sorry if I just stymied your direction ...

Yeah, thanks for tanking my only joke. A lot of time when I’m complaining about black metal or noise and I’ll be like, “It gives me a headache” and people will be like, “well, that’s the point.” So let’s play a game called, “That’s The Point” where I complain about black metal or noise and you guys say, “That’s The Point!” Ready?: It gives me a headache!
That’s not the point.

Then what’s the point?
You want the point?

Erm, let’s try a few more first: Nobody is really trying.
Nicole: That’s not true. I think they try too hard.

Mark: People try really hard.

It all sounds the same.
It does sometimes, yeah. That’s not really the point. I would say for some noise guys and some black metal guys that is the point but ...

Nicole: That’s the fun thing, though, about black metal. On the surface it might sound the same but some people like to get really specific, “Well that’s this type of black metal, that’s this, this and this, like nature and Satan.” Whatever. There are different shades of black.

Noise and black metal ... makes me want to puke!
Can I watch?

Mark: I’m sure for some people that’s the point.

Noise and black metal are inaccessible to the typical person.
Nicole: That’s not true.

Mark: Eh ... that’s almost the point. It’s definitely meant to go against the mainstream of music, people’s tastes and popular culture. It’s meant to be a reaction against common tastes.

Then what’s the point of noise or black metal?
There are a lot of points. It’s either a creative or musical outlet for people, it’s no different than any other sound or visual or performing art as far as coming up with a concept, working through a process to have a finished thing to present whether it’s a live performance of a live piece or a recorded performance. One of the big threads that ran through Japanese noise was a real about-face against traditional music structures; a way to reduce music, more so to destroy music. To take sound and remove beat, melody, harmony and all the typical things of music. That wasn’t for everybody but it was a big movement to literally destroy traditional music. Black metal, in some sense, has tried to destroy rock ‘n’ roll even though it’s still blues, punk, whatever. They’re still using traditional instrumentation and basic riffs. One thing that ruined black metal for me for a bit was when I realized it sounded like surf music. It sounded like The Ventures or something. It was like, okay. I can’t listen to this for a while. But it was meant to be a reaction against overproduced, melodic heavy metal. There’s a reactionary motivation in both forms.

What about funny black metal that’s beginning to surface?
It’s all pretty funny.

Nicole: I think it would be good, though. It could be fun. It’s gets too serious, dark, serious, dark.

Mark: See, I like serious and dark.

Nicole: I just get tired of it. Sometimes you meet someone who plays it and they’re a total goofball. It’s rocking out in its broadest form. I don’t think they’re intentionally trying to make a joke out of it.

Mark: Black metal is supposed to be very grim by its nature. That doesn’t go to say that I haven’t met some black metal musicians with a great sense of humor.

It seems, to some degree, that recently black metal has broken into the mainstream again.
It’s certainly gone much further than noise. It’s still a music form that people can see as being derivative of rock 'n’ roll. Metal is very mainstream. It’s not hip-hop, but it’s close.

Describe to me what a day in the life of a typical noise rocker would be like. First thing he’s gotta do is wake up. Then what happens?
Nicole: The first thing he probably does is go on the internet.

Mark: And go to a message board, check their Paypal account.

Punch their amp.
Nicole: Listen to some tapes.

Do you think noise rockers have boyfriends and girlfriends and stuff?
Nicole: Some of them do. The interesting thing is when guys make music and then they get girlfriends and stop. I think for a lot of guys it’s a way to fill the void of time before they meet that girl or whatever.

Mark: That was always the joke about power electronics. It’s done by guys who can’t get girls so they’re screaming about murdering girls.

How about you guys give me one good reason to go to Matchitehew Assembly.
Nicole: A weird lineup that will never happen again, especially since there will be some bands you’ll never get the opportunity to see again, especially in Chicago. Marblebog is from Hungary, they’ve never played the US, and it’s their only US show. It may be the first time a Hungarian black metal band has played in America. Anybody that’s mildly into this realm of music will discover something and have a great time. It’s all-ages, too.

Mark: I just think it’s an excellent mix of styles in music. Metal and noise have co-existed since, I don’t know, almost 20 years now. I think this is a great opportunity if you’re into heavy and extreme music and little bit open-minded. This is a pretty impressive collection of bands coming together. Air Conditioning hasn’t been here for two and a half years.

Are there going to be hot chicks and hot guys?
Nicole: The ladies should come so they can meet the hot guys, there’s going to be tons of hot guys there.