— i really lost my
Shit out there — Plus:
AUSTRA CAVE IN JAMIE WOON MEMORY TAPES DIRTY BEACHES FORD & LOPATIN ZOMBY FUCKED UP John Maus photography Marley Kate
Editor-in-Chief / Publisher Andrew Parks, Pop Mart Media email@example.com Art Director / Deputy Editor Aaron Richter (M.R.S.) firstname.lastname@example.org Managing Editor Arye Dworken email@example.com Photo Editor Sarah Maxwell firstname.lastname@example.org Staff Photographer Shawn Brackbill, Nick Helderman, Travis Huggett Contributing Writers T. Cole Rachel Contributing Photographers Jessie Craig, Kyle Johnson, Marley Kate, Caroline Mort, Victoria Stevens Intern Ezra J. Teboul Advertising, Submissions & Other Inquiries Andrew Parks / self-titled 685 Metropolitan Ave. #1 Brooklyn, NY 11211 718-499-3983 email@example.com
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Five Songs I’ll Still Be Playing at the End of the Year
350 WORDS OR LESS
1. John Maus, “Hey Moon” 2. Cave In, “Sing My Loves” 3. Black Lips, “Mr. Driver” 4. Austra, “Beat and the Pulse” 5. Tropic of Cancer, “A Color”
Photography shawn brackbill
From the Editor:
part of the process. On the surface, that means basking in a pop-music glow that flickers and fades like a dilapidated diner sign in an old Who the hell is John Maus? It’s a fair question, Raymond Chandler novel. Take a peek past Maus’ one writer T. Cole Rachel examines in this issue’s halcyon hooks, however, and you’ll find a wellcover story, which looks at one of the few artists read philosopher who sees nothing wrong with who’s actually nailed our generation’s nostalgia sharing his sexual frustration (“Matter of Fact”) or for nostalgia. Just don’t use the term “gloinadvertently invoking Ice-T (“Cop Killer,” which fi” when describing his excellent new album, isn’t a Body Count cover so much as a menacing We Must Become Pitiless Censors of Ourselves. slice of surrealism). According to the frayed synapses that drive Maus’ On a side note, this issue marks the first restless mind, nostalgia means more than just installment of “Listening Station,” a carefully slipping laser-guided synths and battery-powered curated page exclusive to our enhanced Web and beats over a vapor trail of gothy vocals. iPad edition featuring mixtapes, bootlegs and Once you succumb to Maus’ self-stylized a steady stream of songs you won’t find on our world, it only takes a few listens to realize just daily site. It’s a work in progress, so feel free to how bizarre and strangely beautiful it all is. And e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any not just strange for the sake of being strange— comments or queries. something Maus’ close friend and occasional collaborator Ariel Pink is often guilty of. As I Until next issue, discovered the first time I saw Maus perform, he’s dead serious about the role music plays in his life. There’s no irony to the karaoke-hour treatment that his tracks receive, either. It’s all Andrew Parks, Editor-in-Chief / Publisher
JEFF the Brotherhood / Mohawk, Austin, Texas / 03.19.11 Photography
Six Organs of Admittance / Tilburg, Holland / 06.03.11
Smith Westerns / Bonnaroo, Manchester, Tenn. / 06.12.11 Photography
Aaron Richter STâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;014
1MM Artist-shot disposable cameras / SXSW, Austin, Texas / 03.16.11–03.19.11 ST—015
the megaphonic thrift
toro y moi
Deerhunter / Sasquatch!, George, Wash. / 05.30.11 Photography
Katie Stelmanis on Nine Inch Nails.
Photography Aaron Richter
THEN TRY: Pretty Hate Machine (TVT, 1989) I discovered Nine Inch Nails at a very transitional point in my life. I had just dropped my career path headed for opera and was trying to figure out what I was going to do instead. Less than a year earlier, I went to my first punk show. It was by accident; a friend’s boyfriend was in a band called the Red Hot Lovers, and they were on tour in Canada, so I went to see them play in Toronto. I had listened to some punk and rock music in the past and wasn’t really interested, but I think it was because I didn’t know how to listen to it. At this show I was floored by the wall of sound this band was creating and felt the thick guitars and bass vibrate through my bones. I wasn’t really sure what I loved about the gig at the time, but after that night I had fully transitioned into a band-loving, DIY guitar player. My roommate was a huge NIN fan, and she would play it for me all the time, insisting that I would love it because Trent Reznor was a classically trained piano player, like myself. After the first few listens, I didn’t hear what she was raving about, but after spending time with The Fragile, I was converted. Reznor was my musical answer at the time. He made music that was hard and heavy like I had experienced in the rock club, but also stimulated that other part of the brain that had spent the past decade immersed only in music written at least 100 years ago.
START HERE: The Downward Spiral (Nothing, 1994) This is Reznor’s second, most commercially successful album. He recorded it at Le Pig studios, located in the house where Charles Manson’s “family” slaughtered Sharon Tate. I didn’t realize this until recently, actually; that fact probably wouldn’t have helped me develop an affinity for his band when I was a teenager, to be honest. One thing I found cool was that he sampled basketballs hitting the wall for his heavy-hitting drum sounds. The biggest hits on this record are “March of the Pigs” and “Closer.” My favorite is “Hurt,” where Reznor gets all emo and sings about love. — LISTEN: “Hurt” —
Reznor released his first album independently, and it went platinum in the US, which is crazy. The production isn’t quite as savvy as The Downward Spiral, but it’s raw and exposed. The story that I heard is that Reznor was raised in a convent by nuns somewhere in middle America, and that’s how he learned to play piano and such. For this record to come out of that upbringing is pretty unreal, but it also kind of makes sense. The most famous song, “Head Like a Hole,” is also my favorite. It’s aggressive, and the chorus is so arresting and powerful; it is the most liberating feeling to be at a gig and freak out when he screams, “Head like a hole / Black as your soul / I’d rather die / Than give you control.” Just writing those words now makes me excited. — LISTEN: “Head Like a Hole” —
FOR TRUE FANS ONLY: The Fragile (Nothing, 1999)
This record is less banger-heavy, but it’s wildly experimental and intelligent. “Just Like You Imagined” is an instrumental that starts off with a simple bass line. More and more parts are added slowly until it breaks into a full-on, fist-pumping rager. But the best part is at the end, when all the noise drops out and you are left with a beautiful piano line. I listened to this on repeat for about four years of my life and was constantly inspired. I remember being so physically affected by the song, I would get shivers and my stomach would turn to knots every time I listened to it. The combination of heavy, distorted electronics and a sweet, powerful piano line basically shaped all the music I would make for the next few years. I was obsessed with classical music, the beauty of string quartets and orchestras, but hated the idea of anything being easily palatable, so I would distort everything. I think I’ve actually destroyed my ear drums because I spent so much time in my bedroom listening to high-frequency crunchy synths at way too high of a volume. Thanks, Trent. — LISTEN: “Just Like You Imagined” — Austra’s debut album, Feel It Break, is available now through Domino. ST—020
Photography aaron richter
Cave In’s latest album, White Silence, is available now through Hydra Head.
Click here to unlock “Listening Station”—a record club featuring exclusive mixtapes, bootlegs, remixes and MP3s, including a digital “cassette” from Cave In—only on self-titled’s enhanced Web and iPad edition. Got any questions about how all of this works? E-mail email@example.com. ST—022
RECORDING UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Jamie w o o n Interview ARYE DWORKEN Photography VICTORIA STEVENS ST—023
The singer/producr explains what really inspired his debut album, Mirrorwriting. 1. Nature
I get inspired by being outside. I spend so much time now in a studio or performing in a club. And in a place like Germany, where you’re allowed to smoke indoors...that kills my voice. When you’re in a forest, and you breath in, it feels natural. Air, light and water are also interesting. I like things to sound liquid, earthy and organic. I made samples of rocks and wood and put them in the songs. Records are made indoors; the only way to make it feel more organic is through nature.
I started tweeting last year. And hearing from listeners is interesting. People tell me my album is great for listening to during sex. It’s funny: There’s this impression of me being a love guru because of that. The other night, I got a tweet from someone asking me how to woo his lady, as if I would know. How the hell would I know?
I cook whenever I can. My specialty is a pastabake dish. I’ll switch up ingredients, but you [just] throw a bunch of things in a dish and bake it. It allows me to get back to recording.
3. Louis C.K.
Louis C.K. is a genius. He’s pissed off about the right things, like a lack of manners—things that are disappearing. I met him and asked for
a picture, and he obliged. He was as genuine as you’d think. He had no idea who I was but seemed pleased with someone wanting to take his picture. It will make my laughing at his jokes even more...gratifying. Now I’ll be thinking, “He’s funny, and he’s a decent person.”
4. Liverpool Football Club
I became a Liverpool fan because my dad supported them when I was young. They haven’t been good in quite some time. It builds your character when you follow a losing team, though. When football is played well, it’s beautiful. The combination of athleticism and strategy is intense. In recent years, being on the road, I haven’t been able to keep up the way I’d like. I guess that makes me a fair-weather fan. I’m a Liverpool fan from London. That kind of says it all.
5. George Orwell
Orwell was the first author that connected with me; both 1984 and Animal Farm are booming with ideas. I think about the future a lot, and dystopian backdrops appeal to me—something a little mysterious, depressing and bleak. There’s all this futurism in 1984, and that fascinated me. The whole notion of thinking about how things will be despite the fact that you could be right or completely wrong—I admire that. read other installments of Recording under the influence with Liturgy, Explosions in the sky and more. ST—024
tapes Memory Tapesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; latest, Player Piano, arrives July 5 on Carpark Records.
Photography travis huggett STâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;025
SXSW is decadent and depraved
Photography emir eralp
D i r t y beaches Photography Aaron Richter STâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;035
Alex Hungtai talks about life in an immigrant family and his father’s influence on his debut, Badlands. Most of my memories involve food, my grandmother and the school I went to. I remember the walk I had to do to school every day very clearly. That was one of the first things I did on my own. I remember my dad telling me, “Don’t ever hit back.” I got into a fight on the first day of kindergarten. I was on a swing on the playground, and this kid who was much older than me pushed me from behind, and I pretty much ate sand. I was just confused. I said, “Why did you do that?” He was like, “This is mine.” The funny thing was, he punched me—he gave me a black eye, just really unprovoked violence—and I remember very vividly that I pushed him on the ground until he stopped crying because I didn’t know what to do.
My father didn’t want the same life for me. He said, “Don’t get kicked out of your school.” That stuck with me later on, when I encountered real racism in Toronto. It was mostly the kids, although that made me wonder what the adults think. I remember my first Halloween: Some of the kids in the neighborhood said “Chink-or-treat!” to me. I didn’t know what that meant until later on. I saw them laughing and thought it was a game. I’d just push back and laugh. So they had this really confused look on their faces. As my vocabulary increased, I started to piece together what was going on, and then one day, I pushed one kid too hard, and he fell to the ground. He never played that game with me again. I actually got my name from Family Ties. My real name is Hungtai. My ESL teacher couldn’t understand why my first name was at the end. She said, “Oh, we don’t do that here, sweetheart. You gotta put your last name in the back.” ST—036
He stayed in Taiwan. I saw my father once a year during the time that we lived in Toronto. And after I moved to Hawaii, I stopped seeing him. There were a lot of family issues I’d rather not talk about. So pretty much from when I was 16 until when I was 24, I didn’t see him at all. They never separated legally. He’s just really old-fashioned. The way he shows love is by solving your problems. It’s like, “You need money? What’s bugging you?” But he’d never give you a hug or say he loves you. The picture of my parents on the “True Blue” 7-inch was meant as a tribute to them—a nice gesture. When my father was really young, he had the pompadour and everything. He was a delinquent, and like all of the other teenagers at the time, he just loved Elvis. Every 16-year-old at the time wanted to be him. There’s only one picture of him playing covers in a doo-wop band. There’s no recordings because they did one talent show. That was it. He got straightened out by the military, then came back and married my mom. He worked nonstop his whole life, so that dream was conceived and died in the same summer. He’s a great singer. When we’d go to karaoke, he’d always do the Righteous Brothers, and he could hit those notes, man. He wasn’t always supportive of what I’m doing, you know? He felt like I should get a real job and be more responsible, so I wanted to send this 7-inch and this photo as a message to say, “I inherited your dream. It passed on to me.” I just wanted to show him, “Hey, I like this music, too. And I can make it. I can do it.” It was hard; I had to channel some of my own influences—the most obvious being Alan Vega—because if I did a
straight-up rockabilly tribute, it would sound like those cheesy zoot-suit revival bands. He told my mom it reminded him of what it was like being young and on a motorcycle—that it sounds very rock ’n’ roll. He didn’t say that to me, but my mom relayed it back to him. When I asked him on the phone, he just said, “That’s good.” That was the initial idea of the character: a fictional version of my dad based on those photographs. The songs came out so hokey, though—like really fake rockabilly. So I scrapped 90 percent of the songs and started writing from a different perspective, which was me on the road and all of the things I’d experienced. I warped the realness and the fiction into one, which made it more genuine for me. It’s a love letter to my dad, but it’s also that old American dream, the Beat Generation and David Lynch—everything the ’50s isn’t. I can’t just tell him to fuck off. That’s just not how it works. // ST—038
Ford & Lopatin Photography caroline mort
f you’ve ever fallen asleep with the TV on only to wake at 3 a.m. screaming at the sight of Richard Simmons lunges, then you’re familiar with the world Daniel Lopatin and Joel Ford crafted for Channel Pressure. A fever dream caught somewhere between R. Kelly and RoboCop, written against the backdrop of poorly dubbed VHS tapes and woozy YouTube creations, the LP, the duo says, is an “imaginary soundtrack for the adventures of Joey Rogers, mild-mannered teenager of the year 2082.” Ford (of Tigercity) and Lopatin (aka Oneohtrix Point Never) share with self-titled the stories behind their skewered songs—from panic attacks and pink Cadillacs to the mixing work of Guillermo “Prefuse 73” Scott-Herren.
Daniel Lopatin: This is mostly a YouTube collage that we recorded at [Jan Hammer’s] studio. YouTube ended up being the second-best synth up there, second only to the Jupiter 8. That’s Hima [Suri] from Das Racist at the end. He recorded a whole rhyme for the record, but we ended up only using that one bit. For me, this is the sound of Joey flipping channels and catching mini blasts of demonic programming. Joel Ford: There were some pretty wild moments during the Hammer sessions where Dan was jamming YouTube on a laptop like it was an MPC and [engineer] Al [Carlson] was playing the tape echo. Magic!
Lopatin: This was one of the more developed Jupiter 8 MIDI jams that we tracked at the Hammer studio. Guillermo got mad at us for putting super-loud Omnisphere orchestral strings on the chorus after he had already mixed it. We enlisted a [Mexican Summer] staffer to be the voice of the System II, which is an evil supercomputer that is brainwashing
“We were in my kitchen singing about eating cheeseburgers.” — Joel Ford Joey all the time. She must have thought we “NEW PLANET” were/are the biggest dweebs, but it worked out. Lopatin: When we played this for Mexican Ford: I always play air drums when I listen to this. Summer, I was pretty sure they were going to fire us for making smooth jazz. But that is what “EMERGENCY ROOM” it sounded like before we fucked with it. In fact, Lopatin: Guillermo made the drums crisp and a lot of what we do sounds like smooth jazz until sparkly, and moved vocal chunks around to create we fuck with it. Smooth jazz is the secret recipe. dissonant slabs during the jazz-metal guitar solo. Ford: “New Planet” started off as straight ’80s Ford: I love the D50 bass sound in combo with smooth jazz. We worked for a long time on a the mid-tempo breaker vibe. This track is a sequence based around fretless bass leads over good example of how Dan and I work and write digi-pads. Prefuse took this one above the clouds. together. I laid down bass and drums, and he did all the other keyboard programming and melody “THE VOICES” writing. We wrote the lyrics and vocal melody together, and I sang. All on the spot in the studio. Lopatin: This is our sweet ELO ripoff jam. I like to think of Joel with Jeff Lynne hair, driving a pink Cadillac in space. It’s about Joey hearing “ROCK CENTER PARANOIA” voices, which is a double entendre for the Lopatin: A fake metal jam courtesy of a Moog we awkward feeling of having pop songs that you borrowed from next door and Jeff Gitelman [of don’t like stuck in your head. the Stepkids] shredding seventh-grade style. This Ford: I wanted this to be more cutup and glitchy, is the theme to Joey having a panic attack at a but the pop elements that ended up coming music-equipment store. together are sweet and sad. I read once that Jeff Lynne hates reverb. Why would you hate reverb?
“TOO MUCH MIDI (PLEASE FORGIVE ME)”
Lopatin: The first part sounds like a subterranean S&M steam world. Ford: This one makes me think about Joey cruising on an elevated interstate in a shitty futuristic hatchback, stoked about making a record, in his own dreamworld. ST—041
Lopatin: This song happened because I wanted to hear Jeff do his best Bobby Caldwell. Ford: Dan and I were riding a bus to Boston when the idea of “Joey Rogers” was born. This is Joey’s theme. He needs a System II so he can make the record that dominates his dreams.
Ford: I’ve had multiple people tell me this is there favorite track, which is both totally awesome and surprising. Andrew Brady from Tigercity is on guitar, meandering through a forest of Jan Hammer’s arpeggiating synths and tape delays. [It’s] ambient John McLaughlin meets Jerry Garcia and Steve Roach.
Lopatin: This was referred to lovingly as the Babyface jam during production. The most amazing thing in this song is how differently Autre Ne Veut and Jeff Gitelman sing the same vocal melody. Joel’s vox is like the weird computer glue holding them together. From this point on in the album, everything gets really Donkey Kong for some reason. Ford: This record was already totally maximalist/genre-warped before Guillermo mixed it. He stepped up our game hard and made everything even more crisp and animated sounding. I love that there are three singers on this track.
Lopatin: This is us approximating a lover’s Casio reggae jam. I like to imagine Autre Ne Veut in deep-red camo gear when I listen to this... Ford: ...on top of a Dubai skyscraper, in the trench warfare of WWI, on the beach in Crete.
Lopatin: Another blazed Hammer number. Ford: One day we’ll release the Complete Hammer Sessions box set. It will mostly sound like this.
“WORLD OF REGREt”
Lopatin: A Twix-bar jam featuring a greek chorus of “dads” oohing and ahhing at Joey’s hedonistic last supper. Ford: This was the first song we started writing for the record. We were in my kitchen singing about eating cheeseburgers.
Ford: Guillermo made rad edits of the interludes, which we didn’t include, but this one made it. //
THE SELF-TITLED INTERVIEW
zomby Words Andrew Parks Photography jessie craig Body art Phyllis Cohen @ DW Management
don’t take anything from other people’s music to make my own,” types the producer only known as Zomby. He’s started chatting with self-titled via instant messenger about his favorite records, and though typically reticent, the British artist appears ready to open up—if just a bit. “I listen to rap 24/7,” he continues, “and I make weird electronic music. There’s no connection between the two, just like how there’s no connection between my love of the Smiths and the fact that I listen to them while making Hyperdub beats.” The nearly three hours of back and forth are represented here, edited for style and clarity (click here to read it in its entirety), as Zomby reveals much of what drove him into the dark corners of his 4AD debut, Dedication.
self-titled: Let’s start by talking about your nonmusical influences. Dedication was inspired by things like Givenchy’s street casting—the way it creates a dream for some people. That’s what Zomby is about for me—a little bit of imagination that’s alive. Maybe Zomby is sitting next to you on a train or bus stop, or maybe I don’t even exist. There’s an immersive quality to this album. It’s more introspective because I stopped writing music for [other] people. It had a lot to do with being pushed out of scenes I hadn’t asked to be part of, and also to do with my father dying of cancer suddenly. All of a sudden, you’re completely alone, no matter where you are. Man, that sense of sadness hit me right away. Was that recently? In the year [the album] was being compiled and finished. My music and my [personal] life are separate, but the time and work [put into the album] is in dedication to him. ST—044
Did you get your work ethic from him? My dad never took a day off work. He had two kids, got married and worked hard, got us a nice house and lifestyle. He had dreams. He’s more talented at writing music than me, but I get the chance because he sacrificed his life for his family. That shit isn’t a joke. That’s what real people do. Devote their lives to their family, you mean? Devote yourself to something with no compromises and no regret.... When it’s someone so close, you might not see it, but actually all you have to thank for is there— like, my dad would explain things to me philosophically as a child. I didn’t realize how much wisdom I’d been given until later. Just general thoughts on life? And science and nature. I was really close to my dad. I miss him like fuck. Obviously, there’s nothing I can do but carry on. It’s natural—life and death—so here I am. Was your father an artist, too? He had a band and wrote the songs. He was fucking good, of course—recorded at Abbey Road before me, anyway. He could [just] pick up a guitar and write a melody. Do melodies come to you naturally? Yeah, I’m almost a savant now. LOL. I just sit in front of the piano and feel it out. There’s a natural pop sensibility to your new record, for sure. I would like to take the journey of Zomby to a larger audience without sacrificing any integrity.... Once music is discovered as a style, it loses its charm, so I try to work in the middle ground where the songs often ripen a year later. You also seem to just run with your ideas. You have to. The music follows itself. You’re just witnessing it, really. Did your dad share a lot of records with you when you were young? Yeah. Looking back now, a lot was way over my head. He was Brian Wilson mad. I was taught all sorts of things early on I had no idea the value of. ST—045
“It takes to a
oo long to take a piss, let alone reach for a pencil.â&#x20AC;?
“Man, that sense of sadness hit me right away.”
Way over your head, songwriting wise? He’d explain to me why this or that’s important; I wanted to just go play football in the park. Give an example of what you mean. An artist can show you how to look at a painting; my father showed me how to listen to music— really listen, not just passively absorb it. ST—047
My dad spotted me as a small child playing keys. I’d stand hitting keys and playing with the reel to reel. I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing; I just thought it was fun to play with keyboards. I do the same thing now. LOL. Ever want to play with other people like he did? I never had any interest in being in a band. I
think that’s why I got started later, rather than as a teenager because I didn’t have a clue how to wire up a studio. Was your father into electronic music? Anything well written, like Kraftwerk. He’d also ask me what certain dubstep tracks were all about. He thought they were funny and obtuse. He loved Wiley’s beats. I think he loved the sonics and momentum. He could sense originality; it was the underlying notion of his taste. Was he critical of your early stuff? Yeah. It rattled me because I was so scared to play anyone my music. My dad was the first person I shared my plans with. I remember saying to him, “I’m going to have my stuff played on pirates, then raves; then I’m going to put records out.” He must have thought your Where Were U in ’92 record was pretty mad sounding. He was probably thinking, “Where did I go wrong?” LOL. He loved that record, though. See, in England, we know that music well. Those were the sounds we’d sit and listen to from pirates.... I was close to my dad. I’d go to music shops with him and look at gear. We’d have fun playing things and laughing about how expensive they were, as I plugged in a MiniDisc and sampled what I needed. My work blew him away a bit because of the amount I’d make. I’d give him a CD to listen to while writing another 20 beats. I think he couldn’t work out how you could make so many on one laptop. LOL. I love my family, but as you get closer to your work, you forget how much certain things mean in your life. Do you live close to them? Nah, I left home at 17 and moved to the South of France. I came back to England at 21 and went to live in Brighton, then back to London. I went back to my parents’ house when I was, like, 25 to say hi. LOL. Then I stayed really close to my dad, bonding again through music. Is music what brought you two together? Yeah, and being men, of course. As a man, it’s different. When you’re a child, you’re so immersed in growing up. When you’re grown, there’s time to see other things in people.
You must feel fortunate to have such a close relationship with your family. My music has no place in that. They don’t really know what I do; only my dad was involved. I think they think I sell drugs, to be honest. Because they just judge you on appearance? I don’t live a regular lifestyle. I’m out shopping for diamond rings for myself, and [stores] call security to watch me. LOL. I’ve got $3,000 wrapped in elastic bands in my pocket, a Rolex on and all Supreme clothes; they still call security. You play piano on Dedication. Do you know music notation? Sometimes I’ll do it all freehand, sometimes with notation. Sometimes I can see the notation without having to write it. It just takes too long to take a piss, let alone reach for a pencil.... Automatic writing is as good as it gets. You’ve kinda laid low since your last mini-LP [2009’s One Foot Ahead of the Other]. I didn’t lay low. I started to be approached for a album deal, so I took my time. I had offers from fucking everyone, man. It took ages. If it was up to me, I’d have released about nine albums by now. Believe me. What you think of how modern R&B is influencing producers, like your single “Natalia’s Song.” Well, it’s British R&B, really. Someone who’s 50 might say that’s dance music, but someone who’s 16 might just hear the beauty of the intent of the song. Something like Burial hits the same emotive quality that a gushing ballad does. Younger kids don’t see the genre distinctions? They don’t care to see them. It all blurs. All distinctions are fine until they become restricting. And you only find that in older artists who are trying to protect an area of revenue. No kids care whether Flocka is rap or hip-hop or whatever. They just wanna hear him shout “Bow bow!” because the music’s sick. I can play Philip Glass to a kid like that, unless he’s like, “Oh, that’s some old-school piano shit.” Then the attitude’s wrong. To be honest, I couldn’t care what color the chick is if she’s pretty. Know what I’m saying? She could have blue fucking hair. I don’t give a shit. If I like it, I like it. // ST—048
a new lan Words T. COLE RACHEL Photography marley kate Styling Ian Bradley STâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;049
JOHN MAUS DANCES WITH THE DEVIL AND EMERGES THE VICTOR THIS TIME.
he first time we see John Maus, he’s surrounded by fluffy white clouds. Or, rather, he is standing on a stage surrounded by an artschool diorama of fluffy white clouds, which seems appropriate somehow. We are in an overcrowded, oven-like room at a makeshift Brooklyn venue, and it is nearly 1 a.m. by the time Maus walks onto the stage and is greeted by thunderous applause. Eyes closed and fists clenched, he regards the crowd uncomfortably and proceeds to add a howling vocal accompaniment to one of his pre-recorded tracks. Though he occasionally reaches down to twiddle knobs and add effects to his mic, Maus is largely just singing along to his own records. It’s a show that reads like an odd mix of performance art and psychotic karaoke: Maus’ gauzy, otherworldly synth pop playing with and against the real live John Maus—a screaming, sweating live wire who spends the duration of the show wildly gesticulating, yelling into a microphone and emphatically dancing. Compared to his records—which are dreamlike, enigmatic and vaguely somnambulistic—the live incarnation of the mysterious John Maus is a stark, almost shocking contrast. For those in the crowd who appear to know him, he is a ST—051
kind of pied piper, encouraging them to reflect the energy he expends onstage, usually in the form of screaming, fist-pumping or nonstop pogo-dancing. For those in the crowd who aren’t familiar with him, the John Maus experience is somewhat confounding. Standing in line for the bathroom after the show, a girl tells her friend, “He’s definitely super interesting, but I’m not really sure I totally get it.” Maus has been creating music for nearly 20 years, but only in the past five—since the release of 2007’s Songs—has a larger audience started to notice. For many, Maus entered the cultural radar as band member in Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti (he played on 1999’s Underground and 2002’s Loverboy), yet Maus’ solo work—droney synth-pop symphonies that sound almost lost in time—is what made the musician a mythical figure in the realm of outsider music. Political philosopher, college professor, hermit and sublime master of baroque bedroom electronica, Maus has cultivated an arcane aesthetic, whether he intended to or not.
Top 40 Turnaround
The second time we see John Maus, he’s buying a hot dog in Central Park. We’ve agreed to meet for a walk through the zoo and, despite the perfect spring weather, Maus is wearing a sweater and heavy down jacket. In person, he is handsome yet nondescript, friendly and funny but admittedly socially awkward. “I have a hard time explaining myself sometimes,” he says soon after we sit down, “but I guess it’s a good thing to try, right?” This, we gather, is a recurring theme: the endless struggle to articulate the impossible. Maus is in New York to talk about his forthcoming album, We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves (Ribbon Music), but it’s clear that the idea of talking to journalists and participating in the creaky, creepy business of the music industry weighs heavily on Maus. “I’ve never messed around with any kind of real label situation before,” he says, “especially not in terms of setting up tours and doing lots of interviews. I had a friend who kind of encouraged me, reminding me that sometimes it’s good to share your creative work with the world. I mean, what’s wrong with wanting to share the work with as many people as possible?
You hope that noble intention will carry you through, but you quickly find that you don’t ever really appear as you actually are. You become complicit with these mechanisms that really privilege the visibility of just a few, which doesn’t feel good to me.” We walk by a large primate enclosure, full of fake boulders and monkey-appropriate climbing structures, though seemingly devoid of actual monkeys, and Maus pauses as flocks of baby strollers pass us. “I feel that impulse to want to change the way people do things like this,” he says. “I’d like to sort of call out the artifice of it while participating in it, but that’s a delusion lots of people have had, and I’m not sure it really matters. You throw your lot in with the devil, no matter what.” It’s nearly impossible to have a casual chat with Maus. As we stroll around the zoo, stopping to observe bored polar bears and overheated penguins, even the most mundane subject goes from trivial to theoretical in a matter of minutes. For instance, talk of George Romero’s Monkey Shines quickly evolves into discussion of cultural
criticism. (“In a way, movies like RoboCop are the only things being made in our lifetime that dare to be as audacious as reality,” notes Maus.) Maus also bristles at the distinction between highbrow and lowbrow, specifically when it comes to his music. “I didn’t realize that the music I was making was especially weird,” he says. “Honestly, I thought I was making Top 40 kind of stuff. It wasn’t until people kept telling me so that I realized my work was thought of as something ‘other’ than that.” Maus grew up in Minnesota, a childhood he describes as “rural middle class” and fairly unremarkable. As one of four children, he spent his adolescence listening to rock bands and fooling around with music, though he says he never viewed rock stardom as his destiny. “Both music and academic work are creative enterprises, and I was always interested in both, though I’m not sure I’m truly good at either one,” he says. “When I was a kid, it wasn’t about making art or doing anything noble; you just wanted to be a rock star. You just want to be seen. Then you get older and you see the fallacy in the
whole rock-star thing...so then it just becomes about the work. I mean, what else are we to do except try to share ourselves in some way? I’ve always just wished we had a new language—a better language—to represent ourselves.” This fascination with theory and philosophy is tied in large part to Maus’ academic life. He is currently a PhD candidate at both the European Graduate School in Switzerland (in philosophy) and the University of Hawaii (in political science). At some point during the next year, he will have to put his musical career on hold once again to complete a doctoral thesis. “It’s tough work,” he says. “I trade obsessively working on one thing for obsessively doing the other.” Maus seems uncertain about his future in academia, but his intellectual pursuits seem just as important to him as music. “They inform each other,” he says. “They don’t need to cancel each other out.”
We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves is the product of several years of frustrated effort and, to some degree, profound isolation. Many of the songs originated while Maus taught poli-sci classes at the University of Hawaii, an experience that was both illuminating and surreal. “While I was in Hawaii, I’d go into my office at school around 10 o’clock at night, drink some coffee, maybe eat some ice cream. Then I’d spend hours working until I just couldn’t take it anymore,” says Maus. “I’d work just as long as I could, then finally just zone out by watching something really bad on TV. Then the security guy would show up in the morning with this disgusted look on his face because I’d been in there all night long. “The entire time I’d find myself thinking about how the beach—all this tropical beauty—was just outside, but for some reason, I was stuck in that room trying to work. In my mind, I was constantly asking myself, ‘Why are you doing this?’ “So when I left Hawaii, I moved back to my hometown in Minnesota with the idea that I could be closer to my family, and I could focus on the work,” he continues. “I rented a place out in the country surrounded by cows, which are actually really loud, by the way. You have this romantic notion that you’ll be out in the country listening to the wind blow through the grass and
feeling really calm and inspired—except you don’t do that. You just get lost in your own head. I was sucked into the worst kind of opiate: watching television. Work is not enjoyable and feels like this crazy burden. It all kind of snowballed. I think it’s because I didn’t have anyone around me. I didn’t have any kind of life happening. I really lost my shit out there—like, my furniture was talking to me and stuff. It wasn’t good.” Feeling trapped out in the country in his tiny rental house and faced with trying to complete a batch of songs that had become overly complicated, Maus knew he needed some kind of feedback if he was ever going to finish his record. “I did something that I never do,” he says, “which is reach out to people on the Internet. I found this fanboard that someone had created for my music, and I just posted a lot of stuff on there and asked for feedback. I just felt like, ‘I’ve got to get out of this house. I’ve got to finish this record. Now.’ And I took the suggestions I got from those people to help me shape what I had into a finished record. The experience taught me that, left to my own devises, I don’t fare too well.”
A Handful of Freaks
Despite its title inspired by French philosopher Alain Badiou’s “Fifteen Theses on Contemporary Art,” We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves is surprisingly straightforward. Clocking in at just more than 30 minutes, it retains the ghostly, insomniac vibe of his past work but ditches a lot of the abject weirdness. Like previous Maus releases, the new songs are full of soft edges—deep echo-chamber vocals and submerged bass lines—but while albums like Love Is Real seemed to emanate a cold, detached vibe, We Must Become is genuinely emotional. “Hey Moon” is a beautiful declaration of loneliness and romantic longing (“Hey moon / It’s just you and me tonight / Everyone else is asleep”), and on “Keep Pushing On,” Maus tries to answer a question once posed by Merle Haggard: “On ‘White Line Fever,’ Haggard says, ‘I wonder what just makes a man keep pushing on.’ I was trying to figure that out myself.” Maus is the flagship artist for Ribbon Music, and founder Morgan Lebus says the decision to launch his label with We Must Become was obvious. “I’d been a fan of John for years, and he already has this amazing body of work behind ST—054
him,” Lebus says. “He’s seen as this eccentric guy, but after meeting him, you can’t help but be struck by how incredibly smart he is, and how kind. Sometimes people don’t immediately understand what he’s trying to do, but people that love his music tend to do so in an intense way.” Perhaps fittingly, Maus seems to view We Must Become as the end of a long chapter in his life. “I was hoping to transition from the juvenilia of my early work into something different,” he explains. “But it really became a kind of consummation. I’ve basically had the same general method of working for the past 10 years, so I really wanted to hone in.” In concert, new songs like “Quantum Leap” (actually inspired by the TV series) and “Believer” blend seamlessly with earlier tracks like “Do Your Best” and the now-infamous “Rights for Gays,” but Maus is still trying to sort out the role of performing live. “I don’t know how much longer I can continue to perform in the way I have been,” he says. “I wouldn’t want to lose the violent, dissonant quality of the performances...but it’s really difficult. Playing in concrete rooms that smell like stale beer with five people frowning at you— it wears on you. “Also, the idea of simply going through the motions is horrifying to me,” he adds. “I know it’s audacious and presumptuous to try and make any kind of statement—to say anything real—in this world, but I at least have to try. The performance is my way of trying. I don’t want people to ever think that I’m kidding or that my tongue is in my cheek. It isn’t a joke.” We suggest that, for many fans, the unhinged nature of his live show adds an extra dimension to his work, and Maus agrees. “The real hardcore folks that turn up at shows in places like, say, Hamburg...well, it’s a damaged lot,” he says. “They want or need to let me know that it’s the terror and disillusionment in the music that they relate to. There was a guy who came up to me after a show and said, ‘You gotta get up there and keep doing this. You’re gonna die up there. You’re gonna destroy yourself. There is something wrong with you!’ You hear something like that, and it either frightens you or it makes it easier to convince yourself that it’s a worthwhile thing to keep trying to do.” ST—055
As we talk, a worker comes along to tell us that the zoo will be closing in 10 minutes. We are sitting next to a small turtle pond, and the turtles are everywhere—dozens of small turtle eyes (and ears?) taking in our conversation. “Sometimes you give everything you have to creating the work and doing the performances—you really jump off a cliff for it—and what you get back is a handful of freaks,” Maus says with a laugh. “And I mean that in the best possible way! You couldn’t necessarily ask for anything better in terms of a response.”
The next day, we meet up with Maus in Brooklyn for coffee. When we arrive at the coffee shop, he’s outside and already seems to have consumed more than his fair share of caffeine. “I gotta tell you, I barely slept at all last night,” he says. “I just can’t help feeling somehow weird—complicit—about all of this press stuff. I just wish there was a way to go about this without feeling like my hands were somehow dirty. I’m afraid I’m not saying the right things.” We end up parked with our coffees on a bench near the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, and little can be said to calm Maus of the weirdness involved in talking to journalists. No matter how hard one tries, artists often feel misrepresented or pigeonholed, their work devalued or misinterpreted, their ambitions misconstrued. So instead, we tell him that it’s been refreshing and inspiring to talk with someone who approaches their work with such thoughtfulness, which is true. And we decide to proceed with something simple: What would you like to see happen next? “I’m 31 years old now, so it’s a lot different than it might have been if this had all happened when I was in my early 20s,” Maus begins. “I’m not interested in the visibility as much as I am interested in being able to do good work. Whatever I do next, I want to collaborate with other people. I don’t think I’m that interested in working alone any more. One of the reasons I had to put the record to bed and move on was because I knew in doing so that I’d get to go out and meet new people. You gotta have that, you know? It’s good to be out in the world.” //
“You throw your lot in with the devil, no matter what.”
One Night Only:
Synthesist Photography Shawn brackbill STâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;057
IN THE STUDIO
Behind the scenes of a special performance featuring ARP, Blondes, Julianna Barwick, Laurel Halo, Pink Skull and Kraut-rock icon Harald Grosskopf.
e all met up with Harald and his guitarist Axel—who I later found out had played with Can and Conny Plank—the day before the show at a rehearsal space in Brooklyn. Each of us jammed through the songs one, maybe two times. Neither of them gave us much direction. They were just into jamming and getting into a vibe. I guess I overlooked the e-mail saying we’d be playing “updated” versions of the songs, so I was taken aback by the ’90s-ish, almost Goa trance aesthetic they were pursuing. I do remember Julianna [Barwick] and I looking at each other and smiling as if to say, “Oh, boy. Well, I guess we’re gonna do this!” — ARP’s Alexis Georgopoulous ST—059
Photography nick helderman
THE SOUNDTRACK OF OUR LIVES
Damian Abraham of
Fucked up B
eyond the blunt trauma of their salad-day 7-inches, Fucked Up has never been just a hardcore band. Yet the throat-burning growl of frontman Damian Abraham never lets you forget the Canadian collectiveâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s roots, even when its singles climb to 13 minutes of creeping chords and its latest, David Comes to Life, unfolds in four acts of rock-opera dramatics. An exhausting affair, the album forces you to seek out its brilliance within the sprawl, and
amid it all, Abraham refuses to calm his bristling howl. We caught up with the singer on tour in Amsterdam (Ajax had just won the national cup, hence the hooligans and revelry on the following pages) to learn about the records that helped shape him and the discs that pushed Fucked Up toward the ambitious ground it stands atop today.
“My dad gave me th around my room imita THE FIRST RECORD I REMEMBER BUYING...AND STILL PLAY TODAY
— 7 Seconds, “Committed for Life” 7-inch (Squirtdown, 1983) — I first saw this record on the wall of a Toronto store called Rotate This. It was the best $20 investment I could have made because it got me through high school. The song is about realizing that you and your friends have different values and are growing apart and being proud enough in yourself not to let that break you. It hit home with me. That song still sends shivers up my spine.
THE RECORD THAT REMINDS ME OF WHEN I FIRST FELL IN LOVE WITH HARDCORE
— Battery, Only the Diehard Remain (Lost and Found, 1994) — I would always see Battery’s CDs in HMV for $30, so I never bought any, but they always intrigued me for some reason. Then one of the first times I went to Rotate This, I found a used copy of their Young ’Til I Die record for a much more reasonable $10. I fell in love with the band, but their later record (Only the Diehard Remain) is the one I keep coming back to. The messages on it are so simple and pure, and the energy just comes right through the speakers.
THE RECORD THAT LEFT A LASTING IMPRESSION ON ME LYRICALLY
— Brotherhood, Words Run... As Thick as Blood (Crucial Response, 1989) — I found this record when I was beginning to feel out of step with my peers. I had gone straightedge, was becoming more politically aware, and started going to shows instead of parties. I felt that a lot of my friends at the time were getting uncomfortable with the person I was becoming ST—067
and many of them who had been into punk started listening to more conventional stuff. What really struck me was the line in the song “’Til Death”—“More than music, it’s a way of life.” In retrospect, I was probably just being a petulant teenager, but I still really believe that hardcore changes a person. It certainly did for me.
THE 7-INCH I’VE PLAYED SO MUCH IT SKIPS
— The Rivals, “Here Comes the Night” 7-inch (Ace, 1980) — The A-side is a cover of a Them song—one of the few times that a cover is better than the original. They rev the song up, and it’s almost unrecognizable to the original. I first heard it when a friend was selling some records. He played it for me, and I bought it off him immediately. Every time I get roped into DJing, or anytime someone comes over and I end up playing them records, this one always makes it on.
THE RECORD THAT MADE ME REALIZE HARDCORE IS AN ATTITUDE THAT CAN BE APPLIED TO ALL KINDS OF MUSIC
— Paintbox, Earthball Sports Tournament (HG Fact, 2000) — For me, the record that redefined what could be done by a hardcore band was Paintbox’s Earthball Sports Tournament. They are from a scene of hardcore bands in Japan sometimes called Burning Spirits Hardcore, which is typified by the speed and power of the music played. Paintbox takes hardcore to its furthest extremes on this record, changing the limits of what I thought a band could do within the genre and still coming out with something that sounds totally crushing.
he cassette, and I danced ating Axl Rose’s moves.”
“Hardcore changes a person. It certainly did for me.” THE RECORD THAT MAKES ME PROUD TO BE CANADIAN
— The Viletones, “Screaming Fist” 7-inch (Vile, 1977) — In Henry Rollins’ book Fanatic, he talks about what a massive influence this record was on Bad Brains and that they used to cover this song at early practice sessions. Bad Brains would, of course, go on to influence countless others themselves, including Cro-Mags and the Beastie Boys. So in a roundabout way, the Viletones were a key influence on the Beastie Boys. As a kid growing up, I would hear stories of their insane frontman, Nazi Dog—how he would bleed onstage. (My dad had even been to a few of their shows, so I heard it from him first, I guess.) I really think that had a massive impact on what I thought made for a good frontman. I had a chance to get to know Nazi Dog (or Steve [Leckie]), and he was a really sweet guy, despite what the name and legend imply.
THE RECORD EVERYONE IN FUCKED UP CAN AGREE ON
— Kurt Vile, Childish Prodigy (Matador, 2009) — We all love Kurt Vile. I have no idea who first introduced his music to the van, but we have all subsequently claimed him. This record is perfect for night drives. We took him on tour around the time it came out, and I think it is the only time ever when all six of us would watch the band we’re touring with every night. I don’t how much the people who came to see us enjoyed him, however, but since when has it been about them?
THE FULL-LENGTH THAT’S FIGHTING WORDS IN FUCKED UP
— NOFX, Punk in Drublic (Epitaph, 1994) — Certain members of this band have not reconciled themselves with their roots and can’t deal when I put this on, while other members think it’s awesome. It basically splits the van down the middle when it gets played.
THE CONCEPT ALBUM THAT INSPIRED US TO TRY ONE OF OUR OWN
— Integrity, Season’s the Size of Days (Victory, 1997) — This is not widely considered to be one of Integrity’s masterworks, but I love this record. Dwid [Hellion], the band’s singer, declared that it was a concept record before its release and that there was to be a companion book that would come out a few months later that would explain the story in more detail. The book never materialized, but through the lyric sheet (which required the purchase of a 7-inch from Dwid’s noise side project) and various interviews he gave, I tried to piece together what the record was about: A loose amalgamation of Process Church doctrine, Manson philosophy and other likeminded occult thought is the guiding force behind this record, as it vividly details an impending (or maybe already begun) war between good and evil on earth...where evil is good...I think. ST—070
THE RECORD THAT REMINDS ME OF FUCKED UP’S EARLY DAYS
— Poison Idea, Feel the Darkness (Vinyl Solution/American Leather, 1990) — When we started this band, [lead guitarist] Mike [Haliechuk] was obsessed with Poison Idea’s Feel the Darkness. We all loved that record; I mean, how can you not? It is paced so perfectly, with slow and fast parts that flow so well.
THE RECORD I ASSOCIATE WITH FUCKED UP NOW
— The Smiths, Strange Ways, Here We Come (Rough Trade, 1987) — I love the stories about the recording of this record. It was as if they knew this was going to be their last one. It’s so restrained and eerie.
THE FIRST RECORD I REMEMBER KNOWING BY HEART
— Guns N’ Roses, Appetite for Destruction (Geffen, 1987) — In about 1987, we got a preview channel on TV for some premium movie station. I’d watch it constantly to see the Dead Pool trailer because it used “Welcome to the Jungle.” My dad gave me the cassette, and I listened to it incessantly, dancing around my room imitating Axl Rose’s moves. I was fanatical about them—so much so that I refused to listen to Nirvana when they blew up because they dissed Guns N’ Roses.
THE RECORD MY WIFE AND I BOTH LOVE
— Roky Erickson, Never Say Goodbye (Emperor Jones, 1999) — My wife likes most of the stuff I like (with the exception of the doom and sludge), but the one record we both love equally is Never Say Goodbye. It’s a collection of lo-fi demos recorded while Roky was institutionalized on drug charges. We walked down the aisle to “I Love the Living You” and have that engraved in our wedding rings. We had the chance to meet Roky and tell him about how much the song means to us. He smiled. //
Boris drummer Atsuo Mizuno created the art above while listening to the Weekndâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s House of Balloons mixtape. download it here, and snag Borisâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; two new LPs, Attention Please and Heavy Rocks, through Sargent House.