You have many musical projects, you play live, you are very active. And you started this thirty years ago. I admire artists like you, because you operate constantly in the underground, and without hesitations. What makes you so strong? What gives you energy?
Thank you! I cannot imagine a life in which I do not create music, whether it is closer to industrial culture, with BLOODYMINDED, or more in the metal or post-punk realm, as with my band Anatomy of Habit. That said, it is not always easy to continue doing this, so deep in the underground, and sometimes it becomes quite fatiguing. The urge to create remains very strong inside of me and I love the live performance aspect too much to walk away from this.
You’re from United States, but you have created a bridge between two continents… and there was no internet at the time. Please, tell my Italian readers something about your contacts with early industrial Italian pioneers and how they influenced you.
I started listening to industrial, experimental, noise, or what have you, towards the end of my high school years. Then, while I was in college, I became friends with Peter Sotos. After starting Intrinsic Action and recording our first cassette, Pete gave me a list of people to contact in various European countries and in Japan. And yes, we all wrote letters back then. It was many years before we had access to email. I started corresponding with Andrea Cernotto from The Sodality, first to order Mauthausen Orchestra and other cassettes from his Aquilifer Sodality catalog. A few years later, while spending a summer in Venice, I traveled to Milan to meet Andrea, and I also met Paolo Bandera of Sigillum S (and later Sshe Retina Stimulants). This all set in motion making many great friends in the Milan area, and, much through Paolo’s efforts and support, me releasing music by many great Italian Artists, starting with Sigillum S, continuing to Iugula-Thor, Sshe Retina Stimulants, The Sodality, Mauthausen Orchestra, Atrax Morgue, Dead Body Love, Murder Corporation. And nearly 30 years later, Paolo just left Chicago a week ago, after a nice visit, and I will be traveling to Rome in a few weeks to perform with The Sodality, at the Destination Morgue festival. M.B. and Mauthausen Orchestra were among the earliest underground “power-electronics” artists I heard, along with Whitehouse, Consumer Electronics, Sutcliffe Jugend and Ramleh, and for some reason, something about the Italian style really clicked with me, even though these artists and groups represent a wide range of styles. I love Italy so much and I have great friends there, so I have returned several times.
Bloodyminded are Xavier Laradji, James Moy, Isidro Reyes, Pieter Schoolwerth and you. It’s not unusual to see collective projects in your genre, but we also have many and many (and many) “one man bands”. How do you work on a single track? Is everyone adding his sounds? Is someone driving the whole creative process?
BLOODYMINDED is certainly a band, made up of very good friends who also really enjoy working on music together. On some recordings and at some shows, we have been lucky enough to all be together, but as we are spread out in different US cities and with Xavier in France, being a band can be challenging. Sometimes Xavier sends recordings from France, sometimes Pieter has been unable to travel to Chicago due to commitments with his art career, so we find ways to work around that. Sometimes we incorporate field recordings made together, or we work with live recordings, or we share computer files. I would say that at the beginning, I was driving and controlling the creative process, but now there is much more true collaboration, which is one of the things I appreciate most about our new album, “Within The Walls.”
In Within The Walls you worked with Sanford Parker. I’ve listened to part of his work both as musician and as producer. He seems to me too clean and too rational for a visceral band like yours. But this is just my opinion. I would like to know what has convinced you to collaborate with him.
I have known Sanford for several years and I have a great appreciation for his production style. We have also collaborated in the group Wrekmeister Harmonies over the last two years. I first became aware of his work with the heavy doom of Buried At Sea, which I would definitely not characterize as “clean.” I have numerous records that he has made and I think Sanford is great at balancing dark, dense and heavy sounds with a clear production that allows the musicians to deliver everything they want and for the listener to be able to receive everything that the musicians intended. He had asked about recording BLOODYMINDED a few years ago and the timing was finally right. I can say that it was a very enjoyable and easy experience. Sanford is great to work with and I have since returned to the studio with him, for the new record by my band Anatomy of Habit.
You start your new album with an ambient track. It’s a very good track, created with the help of David Reed (Luasa Raelon). It makes this album deeper, it prepares my mind for what’s next, switching off the light, so to speak. Why is it entitled “All The Cities Are Occupied”?
David is part of the extended BLOODYMINDED family and he has played synth live with us many times. We have toured together and have collaborated in the synth trio, Nightmares, with Jonathan Canady (Angel of Decay, Deathpile). It is so nice to have him on this album. The title of the opening track came from some sort of sleep-deprived hallucinatory conspiracy among the members of BLOODYMINDED, and was initially inspired by the very rare minimal synth artist ADN' Ckrystall.
We have also five very short tracks (Token number…). I don’t consider them as an “entr’acte”, it seems like your version of grindcore. Why did you put these tokens between the tracks?
They are exactly like our version of grindcore, so thank you for that observation. I do not mind them being thought of as “pauses,” as they create contrast in our music, but they are considered fully realized songs. I started playing around with that type of “blast” song towards the end of my old band, Intrinsic Action, and from the beginning of BLOODYMINDED, we have incorporated short, sharp tracks in our live shows and our recordings. We have played with many punk and grindcore bands and I feel that aesthetic has been as much an influence on us as noise/electronics. The “Token” titles are a reference to the offshoot band that Isidro and I started, The Fortieth Day, and this new album has a deep connection to themes that Isidro and I have been working on for several years.
I have Territories by Locrian: I remember clearly your performance in “Inverted Ruins”. It’s not easy to remember a specific vocal performance in extreme music. Why did you decide to publish your version of “Inverted Ruins” here?
Isidro and I had already started writing “Within The Walls” when I collaborated with Locrian on their “Territories” album and I sensed a strong connection between what we were writing and what Terence Hannum had written for “Inverted Ruins.” I wanted to end this record with a song that changed the mood from the more assaultive songs to something that allowed for closure or resolve, and this seemed like the ideal way to do it.
Why do you have English and Spanish lyrics? From my European point of view, it seems to me a way to recognize how many Americans are “hispanohablantes” and a way to communicate with everyone, because the Spanish version is very close to the English version (and it helps me to understand some meanings of it)…
BLOODYMINDED is a multilingual band, with Xavier being a native French speaker and Isidro being a native Spanish speaker, as he comes from Mexico. We first took this approach on “Gift Givers,” and since Isidro and I fully collaborated on the lyrics for “Within The Walls,” we felt this was the best approach. I particularly enjoy how our voices all work in contrast – the different ranges that James, Isidro and I have - and how the different languages create another type of contrast. Living in Chicago, one hears a great deal of Spanish, and I first started incorporating elements of this culture into my music with Intrinsic Action, embedding pieces of Flamenco music into our early live shows, as I was attracted to the arrogance, the romance and the darkness of that music genre. Although I am a slow learner, the Spanish language is a big part of my life, partly due to my long and very close relationship with Isidro and his family, and now certainly due to the fact that my wife is from Mexico.
I’ve seen videos of your concerts. I noticed that often there are no barriers between Bloodyminded and the audience. This is normal if you are into power electronics/industrial/noise. And this is normal if you are into hardcore, but in the first case I feel uncomfortable. Are you at ease in these situations? And have you ever been afraid of these situations?
Yes, playing “on the floor” has been a big part of the BLOODYMINDED experience over the years. Probably half of our shows have been WITH the audience, rather than on a stage. The two types of performances are drastically different. When we play at floor level, at shows with many excited intense fans who know all of our lyrics, there is an energy that simply cannot be matched. I think that we have to work much harder when we are on stage, specifically because of that distance. That said, “floor” shows are very unpredictable and I have suffered several broken bones because they can be so physical and violent – even though, at the same time, they can be exhilarating and joyful shows for both the band and the audience. I think it is rare to see so many enthusiastic people smiling at noise or dark industrial shows, and that is one reason I love playing live with BLOODYMINDED. But yes, sometimes, when we are about to start our show, I turn around towards the audience and discover they are only inches away, and I think, “Oh god, here we go…”
Finally: are you inside or outside the gate?
Chicago is suffering through an unusually cold December so right now I am comfortably within the walls. But having finally released our new album, after many delays, I am happy to report that I have made my way outside the gate!