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— AND NOW WE’RE FOUR AGAIN — Plus:
TORO Y MOI TUNE-YARDS HUNX AND HIS PUNX HOLY GHOST! CULT OF YOUTH SILK FLOWERS THE SOFT MOON PANDA BEAR ANIKA YUCK EARTH KURT VILE KODE9 Cut Copy photography Marley Kate
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CAROLINE Verdugo Hills
YOUNG WIDOWS In and Out of Youth and Lightness
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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 Travis Huggett Contributing Writers Trevor de Brauw, Alyx Gorman, Cassie Marketos Contributing Photographers Shawn Brackbill, Nick Helderman, Kyle Johnson, Marley Kate, Caroline Mort, Suzy Poling, Bryan Sheffield, Elizabeth Weinberg 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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the 17 best comments on self-titledmag.com — Not one of these darned popularity contests I hope? — Wonderful!! Thanks so much for sharing. — NO way that’s Justice. These are even worse than last year’s fake Justice song! — This is insane. Best Monday of 2011. — What I want to know is what happened to guitarist Kevin Allen? — Love them. ANR rocks! — Better than Shadow. — Wow! Say no to love. — “Since the White Stripes belong to us now...” Heh, I was thinking exactly the same thing. It’s time to share everything! — If Jesus could sing, it’d sound like that! — Titus Andronicus definitely. Lil’ B definitely not. — Strangely, found by Googling “Minim” and “Basil Kirchin”—lovely tribute. — Excellent cover IMO. — “Monkey” is easily one of the best crossover tracks Matthew has written and got the biggest response in Seattle. — FUCK YA. — This is freakChristmasy epic. — Makes me feel all warm and weepy inside!
Born and raised in New York City, Marley Kate graduated from NYU and went on to study photography at the School of Visual Arts. Focusing on fashion and beauty, Marley—who has seen her work appear in such magazines as Spin, BlackBook and Nylon—captures a sense of playfulness and energy in her photos, which made her perfect to shoot the four good-looking fellas in Cut Copy for our cover. Marley’s style is luscious and ethereal; her dream is lofty yet simple: to shoot fashion for the magazines, Web sites and brands she admires most.
Twenty-seven-year-old photographer Kyle Johnson loves shooting people, no matter if it’s portraiture, fashion or working with a band, which he does quite often in his home of Seattle. Kyle strives to create intriguing images that are classically executed, often with a hint of humor. His photos have been featured in Vice, Dazed & Confused and Wallpaper, and in addition to shooting Earth’s Dylan Carlson for this issue of self-titled, Kyle also surprised us with photos of Tyler, the Creator, after spending a day with the young MC in LA.
Alyx Gorman is a young person primarily committed to typing words on screens. Her main interests are clothes, boys, postHegelian left-wing philosophy and writing about herself in the third person. Alyx—who caught up with Cut Copy for this issue’s cover story—lives in Melbourne, Australia, where she is fashion editor of TheVine.com.au, and she’s usually listening to music that features shouting girls. Right now, Alyx is considering dying her hair purple again (what do you think?) and contemplating about how nice it would be to run away to Paris.
The Carpark Family of Labels carparkrecords.com / paw-tracks.com / acuterecords.com
Coming Soon Dent May, Deakin, Prince Rama, Young Magic, Light Pollution, Tickley Feather
Cloud Nothings Cloud Nothings LP/CD/digital Out now on Carpark
Young Magic You With Air / Sparkly Seven inch/digital Out now on Carpark
Toro Y Moi Underneath The Pine LP/CD/digital Out now on Carpark
Adventure Lesser Known LP/CD/digital Out March on Carpark
Panda Bear Tomboy LP/CD/digital Out April on Paw Tracks
Ear Pwr Ear Pwr LP/CD/digital Out May on Carpark
subscribe subscribe subscribe subscribe subscribe subscribe Photography BRYAN SHEFFIELD
Andrew’s “Getting Shit Done” Playlist
350 WORDS OR LESS
1. Earth, “Mirage” 2. Rafael Anton Irisarri, “Passage” 3. Windsor for the Derby, “Empathy for People Unknown” 4. Belong, “Perfect Life” 5. Tim Hecker, “The Piano Drop”
From the Editor: A couple years back, I spent a long weekend in Sydney, Australia, for a story about Modular Records. More than just a simple label profile, the piece examined the popculture presence of Modular artists, from Top 40 stations to festival bills to clothing stores. My takeaway from the trip was clear: Indie acts are often regarded with the same reverence as pop stars in Australia. What’s contemporary can be “cool,” and vice versa. Now that we’ve watched Arcade Fire win Album of the Year at the Grammys, the same can be said for the changing of the guard in American music as well. At self-titled, we’ve always embraced a simple ethos: Cover what we like, not what we’re supposed to like. It’s why we’ll have Florence and the Machine on our cover one issue—years before the Oscars and MTV vetted her—and an embryonic artist like Cold Cave or Zola Jesus on the next.
This issue is no different, as we shine a spotlight on everything from one of the year’s most promising pop acts (Modular’s own Cut Copy) to a guardian of the UK underground (Kode9), a political journalist turned postpunk provocateur (Anika), and an Animal Collective member who happens to love the Police, Boston, and ambient techno in equal measure (Panda Bear). We’re also quite proud to say that Obits frontman Rick Froberg, aka the man behind one of our favorite albums of all time, Drive Like Jehu’s Yank Crime, contributed an exclusive art piece to our back page. We’re pretty sure it would disturb the musician who inspired it—James Blake—but that’s kinda the point. Have fun with the issue!
Andrew Parks, Editor-in-Chief / Publisher
| CI V IL I A N
Beach Fossils fans / 285 Kent Ave., Brooklyn / 02.18.11 Photography
The Exâ€™s Terrie Hessels / ATP, Minehead, UK / 12.03.10
The Hundred in the Hands / The Netherlands / 07.17.10 Photography
1MM Tyler, the Creator / Fairfax strip, LA / 02.19.11 Photography
Guards / East Village, NYC / 02.03.11 Photography
Mike Watt + the Missingmen / ATP, Minehead, UK / 12.03.10 Photography
RECORDING UNDER THE INFLUENCE
TORO Y MOI Photography aaron richter
Chaz Bundick explains what really inspired his second record, Underneath the Pine. South Carolina: “Yeah, we’re on the map for bad things. But that’s cool; we’re on the news!”
1. The death of a close friend
I remember when I first met Ernest [Greene] from Washed Out. Long story short, we were riding a jet ski at his lake house, and we flipped it because we put three people in a two-person one. Since we went in with all of our clothes on, we were soaked. So there we were, taking all our things out of our pockets: cameras, keys, phones, wallets, whatever. And as it was all drying on a table, I saw this piece of paper that was an obituary for a friend of his. It was weird. You don’t think about dying young, you know? I’ve experienced a lot of family funerals, but going to my first funeral of a friend was unreal. When that hits you, you realize, “Okay, this could be anyone I know. We’re all going to die.” I wrote “Good Hold” the day after [my friend] passed away. I feel like I had to force that song out so I could move on.
2. South Carolina
I have a lot of SC pride. It’s a small community, with lots of art and culture, though it doesn’t get much press. Everyone just thinks of backwoods people and Confederate flags. There’s still some of that, but I’ve never experienced any racism there. And the flag, it’s not that big of a deal. Once in a while, you’ll see 20 people protesting it, but most people are moving on with their lives. You know that phrase “Any publicity is good publicity”? I think that’s how people feel in
3. El Guincho’s “Bombay” video
There are weird compositions amid the naked girls in this video, like when there’s a girl with her head on a table and a bowl of cereal over it. The cover of my album was unplanned. It’s actually me holding a camera and taking a picture of myself with some pomelo fruit. It’s inspired by the imagery of ’70s soul—these overtly sexual covers.
4. Arthur Russell’s lyrics
“Wild Combination” is so straightforward. I like how you get an idea of what’s going on right away. They don’t have a rhyming scheme, either. It’s almost like a journal entry.
5. Oddly designed magazines
I like magazines with oddly placed photos and text placed over type. It makes you wonder why people think any of it’s good because anyone with a design background knows it’s technically wrong. I guess it’s rebellious in a way. My favorite album covers are simple, though. I try to change up my art as much as the music. With Causers of This, I was going for an ’80s motif, like old SeaWorld photos. This one’s more ’70s. read other installments of Recording under the influence with Kylesa, How To Dress Well and more.
tuneyards Photography elizabeth weinberg
Merrill Garbus on MC Solaar. MC Solaar was one of the most famous rappers to come out of Paris in the ’90s. He was born in Senegal, and his lyrics often reflect the perspective of French-African immigrants in Paris. They also use the French language so fluidly, humorously and creatively that he puts to shame any doubt that French is as valid a language in hip-hop as English. I was working at Mocha Joe’s coffee shop in Brattleboro, Vermont, when I first heard MC Solaar. My only access to hip-hop were the mixes a friend sent me from Brooklyn and my co-worker Jake, who was a reggae and Fela Kuti devotee and skilled at scouring the world for deep grooves. He put on MC Solaar at the shop one day, and it instantly became my soundtrack for the winters ahead—as well as the primary reason I continued my painfully slow study of French.
Qui sème le vent récolte le tempo (Musicrama, 1991)
This is Solaar’s first fulllength album. I picked up my barely used French dictionary
to try to translate the title of this album and came up with “He who sows the wind reaps the beat.” Jeez. I fell in love instantly—with the French I’d been struggling to learn and with the dude who made French poetry relevant to my life. This record includes the classic line, “Il dit, ‘MC Solaar, tu manges du chat.’ ” (“He said, ‘MC Solaar, you’re eating cat.’ ”) If you don’t think about the ’90s while you listen, it’s remarkably timeless. Don’t think ’90s! — Listen: “Bouge de là” —
Cinquième As (Elektra, 2001)
I never spent a lot of time listening to this album all the way through, but it contains what is perhaps Solaar’s most recognizable single, “La Belle et le Bad Boy.” There are plenty of sick tracks, though. Political and biting and groooovy. — listen: “Lève-Toi et Rap” —
For true fans: Paradisiaque (Polygram International, 1997) This album would creep me out on a cold, dark night. Solaar connects mobster culture with modernday politics and takes you on a trip with him down the sewers of Paris (metaphorically speaking). It’s one of the last albums I can remember drowning in; I fully allowed its mood to permeate every moment of my day. I miss that feeling, however dark it was. — Listen: “Gangster Moderne” — tUnE-yArDs’ latest album, w h o k i l l, hits shops on April 19 through 4AD.
h u n x and his p u n x Photography suzy poling
Attack of the 50 Foot Woman
Wouldn’t it be funny if my feet were two really big thumbs-ups? I’m into this look because it reminds of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, a really great movie. Some people have a fetish where they want to be six inches tall. I met a guy like this once, and he asked me in all seriousness, “What would you do if I was six inches tall?” I didn’t laugh or smile; I just looked right into his eyes and said, “I’d put you in my underwear.”
One Big Musical Note
I’m a fan of oversize items. I have a six-foot-tall toothbrush and pencil and a jumbo telephone. I found these huge foam handcuffs, and we wore them for a cops-and-robbers vibe. I think a really good fashion move for me would be a big musical note to cover up my privates. Something about this turns me on.
Hunx sketches his three dream stage outfits.
Hunx the Musical
Bodysuits and musical notes are two of my favorite things, so this one is a no-brainer. I specifically want Peggy Noland to design this for me. I don’t know if musical-notes boots exist, but I think they are really cool, and I want some so bad. My dream footwear.
Hunx and His Punx’s latest album, Too Young to Be in Love, hits stores March 29 through Hardly Art.
Holy ghost! Photography travis huggett
Holy Ghost!â€™s self-titled debut album finally arrives on April 12 through DFA.
HAPPY WHEN IT RAINS
Three of self-titledâ€™s favorite minor-key maestros tell us what makes them smile. Photography CAROLINE MORT
cult of y o u t h
Frontman Sean Ragon: Happiness is more of a sense of tranquility and satisfaction with life than joy or pleasure derived from an object or activity. These days I feel as though I have a place in this world, and I actually feel normal as I go about my daily business. That’s a happiness I wouldn’t trade for a thousand kittens or a million blow jobs. People with nontraditional interests have a difficult time being happy; they are forced to fight for the life they want. It can be scary to feel alone, and it’s easy to ask, “What’s wrong with me?” Unfortunately, society pushes drugs and alcohol on its countercultures to kill the potency of outsider thought. Transcending this vicious
cycle is one of the finest stages of enlightenment. Displaying kindness in the face of ignorance, showing patience, creating fearless works of art and staying true to one’s own values are just a few examples of the righteous path. Wicked are the ways of condescension, crookedness, cruelty, simplemindedness and stubborn inflexibility. Heavy is the burden of shame. Regret is the cruel wine of the naysayer. The righteous man finds tranquility in line at the post office while the rest of the world is restless at Disneyland.
Ethan Swan, electronics: Just before my 19th birthday, some friends decided to have a “formal” party. We were a punk/metal crew, and it would be a new experience—seeing each other in anything besides band T-shirts. I wanted to do a good job. It was the first time I chose to dress up, and it took confidence to transition from post-grunge derelict to upright young man. It also took the right clothes (I didn’t even own a tie). The thrift store yielded a mustard double-breasted jacket and some Sta-Prest Levi’s—a clumsy shot at being mod. At least I avoided the baggy dark suits everyone else wore. An hour into the party, I left to pick up a couple of girls. It was the start of a snowstorm, and we skidded into a ditch on the return trip. We spent two hours waiting for the tow truck, another 30 minutes inching along the icy road. We returned to toppled chairs and aired-out
grudges, the party dismantled by fistfights. Which brings me to happiness: NBA draft photos and Free Darko’s analysis of them. To prepare rookies for the league’s strict dress code, the NBA makes them sit for formal press portraits. A radical shift in self-presentation at age 19 is normal, but for 30 young men, these photos make it public. I have a lot of sympathy for their awkwardness, but I’m not above laughing at an almost-superstar faking determination in a sweater vest. I probably look at these photos once a month to see how their development matches these first impressions, but mostly to recall my favorite part of a bad teenage party.
the soft moon
Frontman Luis Vasquez: As I sit and think about what makes me happy, I realize that I’m usually in a pretty good mood. On a day-to-day basis, simple things make me happy. For example, good food and good whiskey. But when I dive deeper into what truly makes me happy, I realize that I have a genuine curiosity for the unfathomable. Fulfilling my curiosity is what makes me happy, and I do so by reading short stories by Jorge Luis Borges, Ray Bradbury and Italo Calvino, or watching Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, along with a healthy dose of science and nature documentaries in the hope that my mind will be blown. The ironic part about all this is that most of what I’m curious about scares the shit out of me. In fact, being alive and sharing the planet
with an infinity of other living things is just crazy. Or is it fascinating? Maybe it’s fascinating because nothing makes sense and there’s no true explanation? Human flesh, the ocean, jungles, reptiles, bombs, life, insects, teeth, evolution, sound waves, animal behavior, eyeballs, birth defects, dreams, fingernails, mating, death, breathing, airplanes, saliva, limbs, memory, fetuses, the fucking galaxy! It’s all unfathomable. I guess what I find enjoyable is the attempt to make sense of things and the mental journey that follows. It’s also a way for me to distract myself from the drudge of our daily lives.
panda bear Photography brian deran
THE SOUNDTRACK OF OUR LIVES THE RECORD THAT WAS A REVELATION
— Vladislav Delay, Multila (Chain Reaction, 2000) — This came out right around the time I first lived in New York. Some of the tracks moved in a way that sounded like magic, and the music really took its time going where it wanted to go, which I appreciated. On the Vocal City album that he did later as Luomo, everything was more focused and up front. On Multila, everything was blurry and just out of reach. I hadn’t experienced something electronic that hit home emotionally quite like this one.
THE FIRST RECORD I JUDGED BY ITS COVER
e’ve interviewed Animal Collective many times, and nearly every conversation’s quickly turned to one topic: records. And not their own. More like everything from small folk pressings to the subterranean techno of Pantha Du Prince. Though soft-spoken in person, Noah Lennox (known in the group and as a solo artist as Panda Bear) is animated when speaking about his favorite music. Here, the former Other Music employee—whose new album, Tomboy, dials down the sample-heavy psychedelics of his previous LP for a harmony-driven pop opus—tells us about his most treasured records.
— Boston, Boston (Epic, 1976) — My brother and I listened to the radio a lot growing up. We would usually go back and forth between the oldies, Top 40 and classicrock stations. I’m not sure if it was my brother or father who picked up this Boston record, but I remember seeing the cover and thinking it looked cool. It was a big futuristic guitar spaceship. The music didn’t really sound like that, but I still really liked it. It all sounds very meticulously put together—even the singing—but the songs are great. I still listen to some of them to get psyched in the morning.
THE RECORD THAT MADE ME WANT TO BECOME A MUSICIAN
— The Orb, U.F.Orb (Big Life, 1992) — I boarded throughout high school in Pennsylvania. I moved into my host family’s eldest son’s room, and he had just left for college when I arrived. As I settled in, I found items of his scattered in drawers. One thing was a CD copy of this album. I had a pretty good idea of what techno was and what raves were—though I’d never been to one—but techno to me was this really aggressive, militaristic thing. This album seemed like its dreamy, comfy cousin. It sounded so peaceful, and when I would listen
to it, I’d forget what I was doing or thinking about. Listening was like getting on an airplane and staring down at the ground below. I had already begun making songs and sequences and electronic things, but feeling the transportive power of this album got me excited.
THE RECORD THAT REMINDS ME OF BEING YOUNG
— The Police, Zenyattà Mondatta (A&M, 1980) — The Police were far and away my favorite band growing up. They were a pop band, but they didn’t sound like anything else on the radio or MTV. And most importantly, the rhythms of most of the songs were so unusual and different. They didn’t use rock beats. When I was young, my family and I used to go down to the Carolinas some summers, where my father would serve as a doctor for a camp. Whenever I hear “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” I think of walking down dirty pathways, past camp shacks filled with bunks. In the daydream, this song is always faintly playing out the windows. I really got into rock climbing down there. My dad would take me along with all the bigger kids, and I’d harness up and scamper up the rock. One time I made it up some rock face younger than anyone at the camp had before, so the camp honored me at the massive mess hall. Traditionally, the honoree would stand on top of the table at which they were eating. I was over it. I just stood and held on to my father’s leg as people clapped.
THE RECORD THAT’S LIKE A RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE
— Skip Spence, Oar (Sundazed, 1969) — There’s nothing quite like this album. There’s a spontaneity to it, but also a very intense sadness. There’s just an emotion emitting from it that no one else has really put to tape before or after this one. A lot has been said about it, and I’m not going to pretend like I can represent it fairly. It’s a record of contrasts, I suppose. I’ve been on more than a few late-night or early-morning drives where this album was featured right at the witching hour. It always seems more powerful then. I’d say it’s at that hour that my mind finds the right way to filter this music into itself.
THE RECORD THAT MADE ME WANT TO MAKE PSYCHEDELIC DANCE MUSIC
— Gas, Pop (Mille Plateaux, 2000) — I went over to my friend Joe’s apartment late one snowy night. He and I had been talking about some Kompakt tracks earlier, and he wanted to play this Gas album for me. His place was just a box, really, and had long plastic tiles painted to look like wood along its walls. Like many NYC apartments, the radiators had minds of their own, so he kept his window open a little, and the cold air snuck in with the smell of the snowflakes. He put the album on louder than I was prepared for, and we just sat there taking it in. The room felt like it took on the elements of the music; the noises and parts of the melodies kind of snaked around. It felt like it could have been made in an hour, but the sounds were alive. Perhaps he labored over the mixes for weeks. I’m sure I would have, and I never would have gotten it to sound like this. It sounded like remembering.
THE RECORD THAT MADE ME WANT TO LAUNCH MY OWN LABEL
— Avey Tare and Panda Bear, Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished (Animal, 2000) — Dave [Portner] and Josh [Dibb] and I had played music together for some time before Dave asked me to record drums for the album he had been working on all summer. When the three of us got together, we’d mostly just make things up for fun. I remember this process going pretty smoothly despite it being far more involved and technically demanding than anything I’d been a part of up to that point. We had a couple doozies where we couldn’t get the take, so we’d go outside and sulk a little. But for the most part, we’d write parts quickly and record in a couple of takes. Sometimes Dave would play me a bit of a song and make drum noises with his mouth, and that’s what I would try to play. After those initial skeletal recordings, I didn’t hear anything until the album was finished. We were super psyched about it, of course, so we sent it out everywhere that we really respected. Nobody wanted to put it out, so we did. Josh and I had manufactured an album of mine previously, but this album set us off on trying to always control our own destinies.
“Listening was like getting on an airplane and staring down at the ground below.” THE RECORD THAT TAUGHT ME THE IMPORTANCE OF HARMONIES
— Fauré, “Requiem” (1888) — There was a choir thing after hours at my high school that community members were also invited to, so it wasn’t just kids. I suppose that allowed us to take on more difficult projects. There was no more confounding puzzle than this group of songs, though. I would often think we were hitting wrong notes in our practices, or changing at odd times, but sure enough, it worked once we put it all together. I’m sure I’ve never made anything remotely as involved vocally as these songs, but singing this in high school certainly got me interested in trying to figure out my own versions.
THE RECORD PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED I OWN
— Black Sabbath, Master of Reality (Vertigo, 1971) — I don’t believe in what people call guilty pleasures, but I’d guess it’s safe to say that Master of Reality isn’t an album that people might guess I’d be into. All the songs are great. The singing is great. And nothing is too much or too little. When you listen to it all together, it makes more sense than if you just take one song out of there. I like that a lot. And the mellow songs are really beautiful and soft, and then when things get heavy, the contrast makes it so much heavier. I
could say this record has been a continual source of inspiration for me. The song “Tomboy” is very much about this album to me.
THE RECORD THAT HELPED INFORM PERSON PITCH
— Beastie Boys, Paul’s Boutique (Capitol, 1989) — The process behind Person Pitch didn’t come from nowhere. I’m pretty sure nothing does, if you know what I mean. This record was a Christmas present from my mother. There was a foldout that featured the guys fully dressed in robes, floating in a pool looking goofy. The lyrics were printed there, too, so I used to read along and check out the production info as I listened. In terms of sampling, this was a benchmark for a long time. I don’t know if it was surpassed until [Dilla’s] Donuts came out, but I’m not going to claim to be an expert, really. The sampling choices are all over the place. I like that a lot. Of course, this one came out just before the sampling laws really started jamming, so pretty much everything was in play. There’s kind of a recklessness about the choices, which feels great. Like with Person Pitch, the Dust Brothers didn’t use any computers to sync the samples, and that lends it a unique feel. Another record (also made in part by the Dust Brothers) that doesn’t get mentioned in this kind of conversation often is Odelay by Beck, and I don’t think that’s fair or right. //
Words cassie marketos Photography shawn brackbill
a n i k a
Touring NYC’s Museum of Modern Art with the UK chanteuse.
nika says she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. But she does—clearly. As the UK singer walks through the galleries of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, her reactions to the Abstract Expressionist pieces—by Rothko, Gorky, Pollock and Hoffman—are honest, observant, articulate and, at times, intimidating. As it turns out, Anika grew up in a family of German artists and worked as a political journalist in London before her recent decision to write and perform music full time, reinventing icons—Bob Dylan, Yoko Ono and Skeeter Davis, among them—as moody, minimalistic post-punk, No Wave and dub on her self-titled debut (Stones Throw) this past year. Follow along, here, as Anika explores MoMA, and click on each piece’s title to see the works on the tour.
MARK ROTHKO’S SLOW SWIRL AT THE EDGE OF THE CITY (1944) self-titled: What is your artistic background? A lot of my family [members] are artists—pretty much all of them—so I was always taken to galleries when I was younger. The reason I go to galleries a lot now is because I move a lot, and I find it quite a settling place. If you’re running around all the time working, it’s always nice to come here and turn off for a bit. This isn’t what people think of when they think of Rothko. Are you a fan of his work? It’s kind of interesting. I don’t know if I’d sit here looking at it for three hours like some people at the Tate do, but it’s kind of like a Magic Eye thing. It becomes almost 3D. Not so much this one, though. This [piece] is kind of strange because it’s more like a lot of the other stuff at the time. I don’t know if this is before or after he developed his “signature style,” but it looks like he kept reconsidering things—like he’s redone it and redone it and redone it.
ARSHILE GORKY’s DIARY OF A SEDUCER (1945) This seems violent. The shapes look like people cowering or holding themselves. I guess you can draw parallels between violence and seduction. The eyeball thing, as well; it’s...strange. That does look like a figure. The eyeball seems aesthetically at odds with the rest of the painting, like it stands out on purpose. Do you like this piece? It’s hard to say whether you “like” something like this. “Like” always seems to say it’s something you find kind of pleasant, but you can hardly say this is a pleasant picture. I’m trying to figure out the title. Maybe you are supposed to look at the cowering person. The eye is looking at him, and so we are. It’s almost like saying, “Ha! I called you out.” It’s quite playful, which is a feeling the colors don’t necessarily lend themselves to. It doesn’t really matter what we think about it. Normally, I just go away and think about things, and that’s it. It’s the same thing with music. I like going to this stuff without knowing anything about it; you make your own conclusions. I remember studying at school and getting something completely different from a picture. And they’d say, “No, you’re wrong. You’re actually supposed to think this.” And it’s like, “Why am I wrong? That’s what I was thinking. That’s how it affected me.”
JACKSON POLLOCK’s ONE: NUMBER 31, 1950 (1950) I like Pollock because it’s easy to imagine how he created it. Process and product are married. Yeah, you have a really quick flash of him being right in front of it [mimics screaming and hurling paint]. It’s very refreshing. A lot of people enter creative fields and don’t know how to express themselves. They’re forced to put it into a certain form, and that’s that. They end up compromising in a way that isn’t fulfilling. So this is good. Pollock didn’t try to make it into a picture. He was just trying to get it out in a way that worked for him.
Do you think about that when you make music? Definitely! I’m not the best singer, but that was not the intention—in the same way that Pollock is not trying to make the greatest masterpiece. It makes it a lot more genuine and real.
JACKSON POLLOCK, ECHO: NUMBER 25, 1951 (1951) I’ve heard his work compared to a really good jazz soloist—something working within a very bare frame and veering back and forth across it. If you’re a musician, you can improvise and still be completely following your instincts or your heart, but you will still need to follow certain rules in order to produce a product at the end.
VARIOUS ROTHKO PAINTINGS Paintings like this blew up the spectrum on both sides. There was no end point. Leaving a piece open to interpretation afterward was part of the meaning of the work. Unless you’ve gone home and read a book about each painting, you have to kind of talk the idea around in your head. Your initial instincts are invaluable. It can often become clouded when you know too much about it. When you study films, all you see is the technicality, and it drives you crazy for a while. When you’re younger, you see it in such a way where...it’s innocent. I spend a lot of time thinking about the size of the canvas. A Rothko in a book is not as thrilling as it can be in person—when it’s huge. When I was in Berlin, there was a lot of old Nazi architecture. It’s so overbearing when you see it in person. It looks down on you, and it’s so vast and huge. If I saw a photo of the same thing in a book, it would look normal.
VARIOUS HANS HOFFMAN PAINTINGS I like being able to see the brush strokes. It helps you understand it. You can see all the exposed bits. You know you couldn’t have done it on a computer.
What do you think was the artist’s intention? To challenge and provoke. If this guy had been a portrait painter and followed the rules, he would have gotten less criticism, but would he have been fulfilled? Probably not. If he just channeled it into a really, really tiny box of perfect portraits...all of those emotions, it just doesn’t fit. Same with being a musician. If you can do it in a way where you don’t mind being vulnerable, and you don’t mind doing exactly what you want to do, it’s very satisfying. Is music a vulnerable thing for you to do? Doing something different makes you vulnerable. If I fit into a mold, I probably wouldn’t be happy. People say [my music] is cold and unemotional, and that’s not true. But then, a lot of people could say the same about this, and the closer you look, the more you realize, it’s not. When people don’t understand something, they try to squeeze it into their norms—what they understand. People have to accept that they can’t always do that. Especially in the West, we have an obsession to put stuff in categories. It’s funny to say that while we’re standing in a museum which specializes in categorization. Exactly! What if [Hoffman] didn’t want to be with these other guys? That’s the problem: You’re at the mercy of the onlookers. But stayed true to yourself, it doesn’t matter where they put you. It’s like they always say: If you try and replicate, you’ll always be second best because the original will be best. If you do your own thing, then it will just be in its own little field. With art or music, you pour yourself into something and put it out there, and you can’t always control how the world will interact with it. When Hoffman did this, maybe he didn’t really know why he did it. But he did it. Maybe he hadn’t figured out the unconscious stuff he put into it, so when people ask him, “Why did you do this?” he might not know. Maybe that’s why meaning is applied to stuff later on because if you’re that close to something, you don’t always know why you did it. I think if you know exactly why you did it, it might be contrived. It’s difficult answering questions about your own [work]. Why did you do this? Why did you do that? I don’t know. I just followed my instincts. //
yuck Photography bryan sheffield
“Get Away” —
“This was one of the first songs that [frontman] Daniel [Blumberg] and I ever made together. It was during a productive period for the band, when our output was a song a day or something. I was recording on my 8-track at the time, so I did this instrumental and gave it to Daniel. Everything was quite instinctive about this song.”
“The Wall” —
“Daniel was playing the main chords to this song and singing the lyrics ‘Tryinaa makeee ittt through tha waaallll,’ and we weren’t sure what to do with it. We decided to make it the same chords all the way through and vary things musically instead of having a verse-chorus type thing. The demo was faster than the album version, but when we played it with the band, it ended up becoming slower; I like it better that way.”
t’s hard to believe now, but at one point, people said “alt rock” with a straight face. Before downloading, before blogs, back when bands were discovered from browsing in record stores or watching MTV and not from browsing Tumblrs, dorky-looking guys with dorkier-looking haircuts played imperfect rock music, fuzzy yet melodic, sloppy yet intentional. Alt rock was a beautiful thing. The self-titled debut of London’s Yuck, which wires swiftly through the crunchy-sweet sounds of ’90s radio, brings us back to that less-cynical time—when discovering an album felt like an accomplishment, not like clicking a Mediafire link. So we asked the band’s guitarist Max Bloom for a track-by-track breakdown of the selfproduced record Yuck cut at his parents’ house. Of course they did. Because that’s what an altrock band would do.
“This song was the only one we didn’t record at my parents’ house. It’s a demo, but we didn’t want to mess with it. This track is the only one I would have chosen to record in a studio; it’s also the one I’m most proud of from the album.”
“Holing Out” —
“I liked the idea of having a loud guitar solo, as we don’t really have that in many songs! I spent the longest time recording and mixing this. I wanted everything to be exactly right; it’s as close as it’s ever going to get. You have to draw the line at some point; otherwise you drive yourself insane.”
“Suicide Policeman” —
“This was an unusual track for us. I don’t really know where it came from. I was just playing around and adding trumpets and stuff. I learned trumpet for a year when I was in school, so I can finally say that it wasn’t a waste of time. I wasn’t sure about this instrumental at all, but when Daniel wrote lyrics and vocals, it made sense.”
“This song was the only one we didn’t record at my parents’ house.”
“This was also one of the first songs we ever did. When I came up with the instrumental, it was originally really slow and then sped up loads for the chorus. But then I decided to make it all fast, which was when the vocal line came. Something that I like about this recording was the distorted organ all the way through. It adds loads of drive and heaviness to the track. We decided we would double Daniel’s vocals with his sister Ilana’s voice. It was nice to hear them together because Ilana’s voice is genetically very similar to Daniel’s, except an octave higher. In the mix, I made Ilana’s vocal the lead and Daniel’s the backing, and I felt it worked better.”
“This is also quite a poppy song. It’s relatively simple and wasn’t that hard to write. It kind of wrote itself; I was playing with those verse chords, and they just kind of lead into the chorus. They’re all simple, open chords, so there were a lot of opportunities for different vocal lines. This was the other one apart from ‘Shook Down’ that was mixed by someone else, though this one was still recorded in my bedroom. Both ‘Sunday’ and ‘Shook Down’ kind of lend themselves to a cleaner sound as such, or maybe just mixed in such a way that nothing is overcrowded.”
“I can’t even remember writing this song aside from being excited to use the slide guitar. When recording the demo, I used a deodorant can to do the slide guitar. Really early on, someone said it reminded them of Gram Parsons. I disagreed.”
“This was the last song we recorded before mastering. It was going to be a B-side to the ‘Rubber’ single, but we thought it should have a place on the album. It was a track where I felt I could be more experimental with the recording. I was trying out things I had never done before, like bit-crushing drums. (What the fuck is bitcrushing anyway?)”
“Rose Give a Lilly” —
“This was added the morning of mastering. We wanted to have a link between ‘Sunday’ and ‘Rubber,’ and I had this instrumental I made ages ago lying around. On the train from my house to the mastering studio, I listened to the album with this track included, and it made perfect sense. I always make loads of instrumentals. Some just fall by the wayside naturally and don’t get used, but it’s always useful to have little instrumentals lying around like this as there’s a chance it could fit into a perfect place.”
“Daniel came to me with these chords and vocals, and we recorded a version that was just guitar and vocals, and then some synth parts at the end, and it faded out after four minutes. We tried it with the band, and Jonny [Rogoff] started playing this amazing drum beat, and [bassist] Mari [Doi] just “Operation” put on her Big Muff to top volume, and it became — something completely different. It was verging on “This was the first Yuck song ever written, which being a softer song before. It became a lot longer is why I’m singing instead of Daniel. I was through playing it over and over, and it developed making some stuff on my own, and it was only into a slow build that lasted seven minutes. This afterward that we started making stuff together. I was the first track of the album that I mixed. I had wanted him to sing it instead of me because I had the opportunity to experiment quite a lot with never sung properly before, but it kind of stuck weird backward speech and stuff. On the single that I would sing this one. When I first recorded version, it starts as normal, but on the album the demo, I turned up the vocal mic so loud that version, Mari had the idea for the weird delay it distorted hugely, and we kept that effect for the loop noises at the end of ‘Rose Gives a Lilly’ to album recording. Same thing with the guitar. The fade out and for ‘Rubber’ to fade in. I really like feedback became part of the song.” that idea, and I’ll always love her for it.” //
let’s dance Words Alyx Gorman Photography marley kate
THE ONLY THINGS MISSING FROM CUT COPY’S PERFECT UNION ARE A MARRIAGE LICENSE AND MATCHING TATTOOS.
here’s a man smashing a wooden block against the door of a Melbourne graphicdesign studio. He’s threatening to call the cops. “I know what good music sounds like,” he screams at the guys inside, three minutes into their firstever jam session, “and this is just noise.” “To be fair,” reflects one of the musicians, some eight years later at a nearby café, “what we were doing at the time probably was just noise.” The men learned one lesson that night in 2003—never to rehearse in that space again— and though they didn’t realize it at the time, the aborted attempt at a casual practice would become one of Australia’s most fruitful musical projects in recent memory. The band’s origins go back even earlier, to 2001 when Dan Whitford, a graphic designer and sometime DJ, began an electronic bedroom experiment under the name Cut Copy. He released a single, “1981,” followed by an EP I Thought of Numbers. “It was very programmed,” says Whitford. “Synthesizers, drum machines. Very sample based.” In 2003, Whitford joined forces with Tim Hoey, himself a bedroom musician taping grungy guitar tracks. “The result was this raw sound, fused over the structured electronic stuff I was doing,” Whitford says. “That was an interesting contrast and formed the basis of Cut Copy in the beginning.”
As self-titled speaks with the band months before the US release of its third album, Zonoscope, the topic of bedrooms comes up fairly often. Not in a sleazy, vice-stained way one might typically associate with rock-star decadence. It is, however, still a place for love affairs, where obsessions spark with instruments and sounds. Like so many stories that begin in the bedroom, Cut Copy, says Whitford, “was just a fun experiment.” Yet it resulted in the kind of catchy charm that thousands of other people wanted to take home, too. And at the moment, the unassuming foursome can claim Rihanna, P!nk and the Burlesque soundtrack as their bedfellows in the Top 5 of Australia’s album charts.
Mitchell Scott is agonizing over the menu. Behind him a waitress hovers, patient, surrounded by a thrum of activity. The Cut Copy drummer picks over options like a kid reciting a rote-learned poem, earning an “of course” from her when he eventually decides on a dish with avocado. The waitress, it seems, knows them well. Hoey steals a sheepish glance at the specials board, while Whitford loudly extols the virtues of corn fritters. “We might come here a lot,” Hoey mutters like it’s an apology. As the waitress lays out utensils, Hoey shares how Scott’s introduction to Cut Copy came after a case of tool confusion. It was 2003, and Whitford and Hoey had decided to add live drums to the music they were making together. Hoey purchased a full kit and dragged it to Whitford’s house for a rehearsal, only to realize he’d forgotten to buy drumsticks. In their stead, he attempted to use paintbrushes. “It was at that point we thought we should probably get a drummer,” Hoey offers ruefully. Around the same time, bassist Bennett Foddy was also added to the lineup; he left following the group’s 2004 LP, Bright Like Neon Love, to get his Ph.D. Four years later, the guys asked Ben Browning to play bass with them midway through touring their second album, In Ghost Colours. “We’d known Ben from around the ‘Melbourne club scene,’ ” Hoey drawls for ironic emphasis. “He’s always lurking around in the dark Melbourne indie clubs, hiding in corners!” Whitford interjects, earning a slightly nervous glance from Browning.
“Yeah,” Hoey continues, “he’d played in bands that had supported us on a few tours, and we asked him to come and play with us. Then at the end of the tour, it felt like he was part of the group.” Hoey concludes, a little sunshine creeping into his deep voice, “And now we’re four again!” The members of Cut Copy talk in quantities proportional to the length of time they’ve been involved in the project. Whitford is confident and self-effacing. His speech is exuberant, especially on the topic of music. “If I look at Bowie’s arc from ’71 through to ’81, he did so many records and followed through so many different eras,” he says, “and it’s just like, ‘Woah!’ This guy has done so many different records, so many different ideas. When you look at artists that have that spirit of experimentation and look at their output, you think, ‘Okay, wow, there was a point to that.’ ” Whitford brings up Bowie in reference to his own work, in particular Cut Copy’s decision to craft distinctive sounds for each of their albums, but he speaks with such enthusiasm that one suspects he could sustain a monologue about the man’s career for hours without losing pace.
Hoey, on the other hand, is more considered, quieter, slower with his words. His voice is deeper than Whitford’s, and he gets quite forceful when speaking about subjects of particular annoyance. “I’m going to strangle our manager for letting that one out,” he mutters when the topic of Lady Gaga pops up in conversation. Just a few months ago, news spread that the band had turned down a tour with the mega-starlet, and what followed, to Hoey’s dismay, was a bit of a media storm in Australia. “Bands say no to tours all the time, for all sorts of reasons,” Hoey says. “I mean, we were recording at the time! [The news] was everywhere, and it was so...” He trails off in frustration. They’d be mortified at the suggestion that this has anything to do with their success, but Whitford and Hoey are both tall and goodlooking. Whitford is larger, with an athletic frame, while Hoey has the kind of slight physique and tousled hair that is often pinned to girls’ bedroom walls. Scott and Browning are more reticent than their bandmates, though Scott, throughout the conversation, chimes in to ponder how the Internet’s affected music and lament the scarcity
“We spend so much time together. There’s no ego between us.”
“This album was about st of local scenes. Browning, for the most part, is quiet but engaged, tucking into his breakfast and nodding his head in agreement. As self-titled watches the four gently tease each other, reminisce about tours past and contemplate their futures, it’s easy to tell that Whitford, Hoey, Scott and Browning are close friends. “We spend so much time together,” Hoey reflects. “With a lot of bands, especially after they’ve been together for a while, they tend to drift apart a bit, but for us, it’s the opposite. We get back from a tour, and then the next day we’ll be calling each other up to hang out or get coffee. “I can’t help but feel that that’s ultimately going to help the music,” Hoey continues. “There’s no ego between us.”
“Tall Poppy Syndrome” is the proud Australian tradition (or terrible affliction, depending on whom you ask) of tearing down those that rise above the rest. Stories of diva-like behavior or loutish drunken antics emerge, buzz gets tarnished with terms like “sell outs” and “wankers,” and members of certain hipper sets wear tales of sexually rejecting promising musicians as badges of honor. Cut Copy, however—and, at least, so far—seems to escape such accusations. “We share the same ideas about what it means to be in a band and what we’re doing this for creatively,” Whitford explains of their dynamic. This explains how the group’s managed to stay so staunchly independent despite external, commercial pressures—such as the question of who would produce their second album. That record, In Ghost Colours, was Cut Copy’s first big US release, and unlike with Zonoscope, the band worked closely with its then label in America, Interscope, to create it. (Cut Copy has released each of its albums in Australia via Modular.) “There [was] definitely external pressure to work with a name or someone that’s made hit records in the past,” Whitford shares. “A lot of names were thrown about that we maybe weren’t so excited about in the beginning.”
At one point, Cut Copy even rejected Interscope’s suggestion that Timbaland produce the album. “We put in a lot of names, too, and thankfully one of our names, Tim Goldsworthy [the DFA co-founder, who’s helmed albums by the Rapture as well as Hercules and Love Affair], was the one we ended up making a record with. [Ultimately] we’d pick someone to work with because they’re creatively interesting—not because they’ve made a big record.” So how has the group managed to sidestep disagreements with its labels? Hoey is blunt: “Just don’t answer the phone.” “At the end of the day, they can’t make you do something you don’t want to,” says Whitford, before hesitating and retracting his statement. “We’ve stuck to our guns and said we won’t work with anyone if that’s not what we’re interested in doing. Thankfully, they’ve never held us by our ankles off a building and made us do otherwise.” He pauses. “Never say never, though,” he adds with trepidation.
Sound and Vision
They may appear modest, but the members of Cut Copy aren’t opposed to the occasional grandiose act. A week after we first speak, the group bursts forth through a lit-up portal amid flashing psychedelic projections at Sydney’s Laneway Festival. The ambitious structure was created as part of a new, more theatrical stage show to accompany Zonoscope. Performing before Cut Copy and hoping not to get overshadowed, Oxford, England’s Foals was left to fashion a masking-tape “F” for themselves over the massive stage setup. But as the tape is torn down and Cut Copy begins its set, festival-goers—wide-eyed, sweat-smeared and hoarse from screaming— dance wildly against one other while others stare transfixed at the onstage spectacle. This new live direction is appropriate for Zonoscope, a swelling work that fuses smooth vocals with glimmering synth bursts. Polished, clear and even a bit galactic, the tracks stretch and swirl together before a backdrop of tropical beats that recall Men at Work and XTC’s Skylarking LP.
tripping back everything.”
Exhausted and homesick after long-haul international tours, Cut Copy decided to stay put to record Zonoscope and rented a large warehouse space in the outer suburbs of Melbourne. The frigid industrial area was already packed with disused musical gear, and the group dragged in mattresses, glockenspiels and a myriad of other sonic flotsam and jetsam, looking to outfit the vast room as a space entirely their own— essentially, an outsize bedroom, where they wrote and recorded the album throughout 11 months. From screaming unselfconsciously at all hours of the night to programming time-swallowing loops of noisy guitar, the musicians calmed their at-times chaotic songwriting with cigarettes and endless cups of tea. “This album was about stripping back everything we’ve done and
starting with something new,” says Hoey. “We thought we’d learned enough to give producing something ourselves a try.” “We could have just made In Ghost Colours Volume Two, but that was the opposite of what we wanted to do,” Whitford adds. “Nowadays a band will get really big on their first album and not have any time to grow,” Scott suggests. “They’ll just get stuck in that sound.” “Yeah, that’s not how it used to be,” Whitford says, again nodding to his Bowie infatuation (the band members even joke about creating a 3-D remake of Labyrinth). Hoey has said before that Cut Copy’s first album, Bright Like Neon Love, felt half-finished; Zonoscope, however, is undeniably complete, playing like a grand declaration from its opening shimmer to its closing hypnotic thump. “We weren’t going to send something to be mastered that we thought ‘kind of got there,’ ” he says now. “It had to be perfect.” In addition to enjoying critical admiration for Zonoscope, the band members are also finding themselves recognized on the street (“It’s weird,” notes Whitford)—which isn’t entirely surprising: As we sit in the Melbourne café, Whitford, Hoey, Scott and Browning are totally unaware that, according to The Independent in the UK, they’re currently the world’s most blogged-about band. “We try and avoid the Internet,” Whitford says. “Once you go down that rabbit hole...” “You can get really cynical,” Hoey adds. A few weeks from now, the band will be back on the road, hitting Australian festivals, and shows across Europe and the US, but Cut Copy’s ambition for the year reaches far beyond Zonoscope. “I’ve been suggesting this for a while,” begins Hoey, earning nervous glances from his bandmates, who know exactly what’s coming next. “I want us to get tattoos. There’s a lifetime thing here. It’s like a marriage; we’re entering into it for life, and rather than doing a traditional thing like giving rings, we need to do something else to symbolize that we’re all in it together. I think tattoos are the way to do that. So this year, we’ll be getting those tattoos.” “Yeah,” Whitford says, “Tim will get four.” “One way or another, we’re getting them. I’ll be at you when you’re asleep with a pen and a needle,” Hoey threatens, suggesting that even among the most agreeable of bands, there’s the occasional bedroom tiff. //
e a r t h Words Trevor de Brauw Photography kyle johnson
Dylan Carlson chats with Pelican’s Trevor de Brauw about the power of the riff.
ylan Carlson has fronted variations of Earth for more than two decades. Developing an aesthetic rooted in lethargic tempos, oblique melodicism and hypnotic repetition, the band’s first four albums drafted the doctrine for a generation of power-drone devotees like Sunn O))) and Boris. After dropped off the musical map for six years due to health issues, Carlson has reemerged with 2005’s Hex; Or Printing in the Infernal Method, 2008’s The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull
and this year’s Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I—all bleak yet beautiful soundtracks to seemingly incalculable sun-bleached landscapes. The members of my band, Pelican, have made no mystery of our deep appreciation for Carlson’s work. While writing our first batch of songs, a copy of Earth’s debut, Extra-Capsular Extraction, helped us veer from overt Goatsnake worship to a path of trance-inducing repetitiveness. In those early stages, we never expected to one day share a stage, label (Southern Lord) and, finally, a studio with Carlson. (In 2009, we covered Earth’s “Geometry of Murder” on our Ephemeral EP, to which he graciously contributed a guitar track.) I spoke with Carlson for self-titled about how his guitar playing has developed over the years and where he might go next. self-titled: Around what age did you start playing guitar? I was 16. I don’t remember what year that was. Sometime in the ’80s [laughs]. Were you part of a scene? I grew up listening to a lot of classic rock and folk music because of my hippie parents. Sixth grade is when I got into music on my own— AC/DC and Black Sabbath, the Outlaws, Judas Priest, all that kind of stuff. And then, when we
moved to New Jersey in ’84, I read an ad in the back of Creem magazine for Slash Records. I had seen one of [the X’s] videos, and that’s when I first got into punk rock. Billy Zoom was my first guitar idol, so I had to get a Gretsch—this big red hollow-body ’68 Streamliner. I didn’t start a band until my first year out of high school. Did your earlier bands have vocals? Yes. Earth actually started out with vocals. At the time, I was writing a lot of longer songs. I felt bad for [former singer Kelly Canary], because there were long periods of time onstage where there
was nothing to do. So we decided to become instrumental. My guitar at that time was a B.C. Rich Mockingbird, though I had taken off the tremolo and put on a Tune-o-matic, and gone through a couple of different kinds of pickups. Did playing with Sunn amps come later? No, that’s when I was playing on Sunn amps. The Melvins turned me on to the Lead, which was one of their later solid state heads. I was looking at one the other day and realized that the chip they used for the overdrive is the same in a
Tube Screamer [overdrive pedal]. That was the Earth sound for a quite a while. It’s kind of funny because most bands that use Sunn amps now are into the tube model, but solid state was prevalent around here. Cheap! The early Earth recordings are really riff-centric. Was that a conscious decision—to make the guitar the focus of the music? At the time I started Earth, my influences would have been [Pink] Floyd and King Crimson. As the songs got longer, there was less and less place for vocals. Earlier, it was all about the riff.
Did you collaborate with your bandmates on the arrangements? It was pretty much my thing at the time. [Former bassist Joe] Preston had one song he never seemed to finish, so we kind of did an ad hoc version live, but it was never recorded by Earth. Earth 2 feels more like meditation on tone and space. Yeah, that album is weird because I was listening to the separations. There’s a lot of stuff going on in there. It’s audible, but it’s also murky and mixed up, and sounds hazed.
Did you self-record Phase 3 also? I was pretty much the only person in the band at that point. I had a friend—Rick [Cambern], who is deceased now—play drums on one of the tracks [“Site Specific Carnivorous Occurrence”], and then Tony Hansen, who was in one of the first punk-rock bands in Seattle, played second guitar on a couple of the tracks [“Harvey” and “Song 4”]. A lot of that record didn’t get finished because it wasn’t particularly a good time for me.... I love the title track, though. It’s one of my favorite ones I’ve ever done. Everyone in Pelican loves “Harvey.” That one I actually wrote lyrics for. I tried to get Mark Lanegan to sing on it, but our schedules never quite met. In the background of that record, there’s an acoustic guitar, which doesn’t really show up on any other Earth record. How often do you play acoustic guitar? I actually don’t own an acoustic. I’ve been looking at one again, especially since I was planning on doing a solo record at some point. I need to figure out when I can record it; hopefully I can at least get started at the end of this year. I’ve always been an electric kind of person. That’s definitely your reputation. I’ve never owned an acoustic. I like amps too much. It’s hard to get the same visceral thing out of an acoustic guitar. And recording them is so problematic. The
acoustic guitars on newer albums sound really bad to me—weird, shimmery. Like Alison Krauss’ band. They’re all great players live, but the way they record, it just sounds horrible to me. You took a long break in the late ’90s. When you came back in 2002, the shows weren’t a big departure from your early work. Did you make any changes with your gear at that point? I hadn’t owned a guitar since [the 1996 album] Pentastar. When I started playing again, I had no intention of doing a band or Earth. It just kind of worked out that way. I just used one of those inexpensive Ibanez guitars and a lot of Marshall amps. Marshall makes great amps. Not so much anymore, but they certainly did. Up to the [JCM800] I like. After the 800, I’m not really fond of them. There was a huge stylistic change between your first live shows in 2002 and where you ended up with your next album, Hex. What were you looking to as far as guitar influences at that time? That was when I started on my Tele binge. I had used a [Telecaster] on Phase 3 actually, and then I was listening to a lot of Merle Haggard, Tom Rich, Buck Owens. Basically, all the Bakersfield Telecaster stuff were sort of my obsession during that time. I just sort of went Tele mad! Did that music come naturally? A couple of years passed before we did Hex, and pretty much all I was doing was working. I’d get home and practice, and before I went to work, I really played guitar—probably too much! I just
“We just record, tape and
pressed rolled played.”
got better. I never really used bends that much, so I got really into them. The music still has a groove to it, but it’s more precise than the older recordings. Were you aware of that? When we did Hex, Adrienne [Davies] started playing drums again. She played when she was younger and then took a long break, too. My rhythm wasn’t as good as it used to be, but her meter was rather strange at the time. Her drumming’s improved quite a bit since then. She’s gotten a lot tighter and more expressive, and my rhythm has gotten back to where it used to be. I used to program a drum machine for the earlier works and got really good at rhythm, then sort of slacked off. A lot of the playing now is me and [cellist] Lori [Goldston] improvising, so it’s nice to have that foundation. The new album actually does feel more improvised than the previous two. Bees was very improvised live, but the record was overdubbed and constructed. I like the album, but it has a weird, almost constrained density to it. The new album—except for the first song—was developed live, and then we played them in the studio with a minimum of overdub. I think it’s also the first album where Adrienne really got to step out and play. It’s almost like Bees was this sort of calculated big rock record, and then the new one is more understated and pastoral. Definitely. I would agree with that. Is there any change to how you approached guitar playing on your new record? I was definitely more relaxed then I’ve been. The solo on “Father Midnight” was cut live in the basic track. I didn’t overdub it at all; the overdubbing was more atmospheric. Some songs don’t have any overdubs, like the last song [the title track], which wasn’t even written. We just pressed record, rolled tape and played. Yet it feels perfect. It’s definitely my favorite song right now. And then the second part of the record, which will hopefully be released next year, is mostly more stuff in the style of that record.
“If it were something different, it wouldn’t be Earth.” Were both parts recorded at the same time? Yeah, we did it all in one bit. Tried to do the whole thing so it would fit on a double vinyl, but the production costs would’ve soared. Did you compose collaboratively? It’s more of a group thing now. I wanted this [album] to be [done as] a group, and then I can do a solo record. That way I can do my own idiosyncratic thing. There are certain things that are necessary to Earth, like longer songs, slower tempos. If it was something radically different, it wouldn’t be Earth. I’d start a new band. You said you practiced every day when you were writing the Hex material. Do you still practice that regularly? I’ve been reading a lot, and I play a couple times a week now, but I’ve definitely scaled down the practice a little bit. If I take a break, when I come back, I’ve absorbed what I’ve learned better, and I can move on. //
Photography SHAWN BRACKBILL
IN THE STUDIO
Shawn Brackbillâ€™s photos were shot during the making of Kurt Vileâ€™s new album, Smoke Ring for My Halo, which is available now on Matador.
THE SELF-TITLED INTERVIEW
kode9 Words Andrew Parks Photography aaron richter
irst it was a mask. Then a samurai helmet. And finally, after days of deliberation, we settled on a simple sunglasses-and-snowcap ensemble for Steve Goodman—the DJ, producer and Hyperdub founder, best known as Kode9—to wear to his self-titled photo shoot. Simply put, Goodman prefers not to have his picture taken, but after stopping by our office for an interview, the genteel Scotsman relented on the condition of maintaining a sliver of anonymity in his image.
Call it finicky, but such controlling behavior is fitting for an artist who’s just crafted the postapocalyptic dance tracks of Black Sun, his second album alongside the Spaceape. An otherworldly listen that unfolds like a paranoid film adaptation of Philip K. Dick, the album brims with chestcaving bass lines, radioactive synths and beats that riddle the pockmarked countryside like swiftly sprayed bullets. It’s also his most fully realized musical vision yet.
self-titled: You’ve been DJing for about 20 years and got your start playing jungle. Do you remember when you hit a wall with that kind of music? It was ’96 or ’97. Whenever there’s a period of rapid innovation, things start to solidify and it feels like the record you just bought sounds like the last one. You stop getting a [high] off that fix, and you get addicted to something in a self-destructive way. You’re essentially spending money on the same record over and over again. I [eventually] hit the same wall with dubstep. What holds your interest now? I’m into stuff that’s infused with elements from dubstep, house and grime. I love when those underground UK niches come together. What I take from dubstep is the tempo and having a strong sub-bass element. That’s it. So maybe half of [my new] album has that vibe, but with vocals on it. And the rest has some broken-house, or some beat-less things. There’s differences between all these scenes, but their relationships are stronger now than ever before, because not one of them is dominant. Dubstep laid down an infrastructure for all these sounds to spread internationally. At this point, dubstep has become fairly mainstream in the UK, which is weird to see in the US. Skream and Benga are having a lot of success with Magnetic Man. They are pop stars, with all the sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll. Sometimes with a scene, people come out nowhere and get all the adulation. So what’s nice with Benga and Skream is that they were there at the beginning, and they’re getting the love they deserve. You hosted some of the earliest Hyperdub parties with Darren Cunningham, who people know as the producer and Werk Discs co-founder Actress. What kind of stuff did you all DJ back then? In 2001 we did this sort of prophetic party called Hyperdub 130. I was playing UK garage/twostep; Darren was playing Detroit techno and electro, and the other guy, [Werk co-founder] Gavin [Weale], was playing broken-beat. The only thing that held us together musically was keeping things around 130 BPM.
How do you relate to an audience working like that? As a DJ, I have a bit of a “fuck you” attitude. But your ultimate goal is to get people to dance? Yeah, but in my way—not just playing the tracks people know. You want a good response, but you want a good response on your own terms. I have a lot of unreleased dubstep that’d drive crowds absolutely mental, but I’m not really into the music. A lot of the music I play exists in this diagonal between hip-hop and house—hardcore, jungle, UK garage, dubstep, grime, UK funky. I’ve been in phases where I can’t bear to hear anymore breakbeats, or 4/4 kicks, but looking back, it’s all about surfing the line between these two extremes. Your new album has a bit of a “fuck you” attitude in its own way. How did you first meet Spaceape? I met him through his partner at the time, who’s his wife now. We ended up sharing a flat together in about 2001 and started messing around soon after that. [The 2004 single] “Sign of the Dub” was the first track he’d ever made.
On your first record together, 2006’s Memories of the Future, you pitched his voice down to get the vocals you wanted. How has his voice changed on this record? It’s still manipulated a bit, but it’s closer to his natural voice. The changes don’t have to do with pitch so much as the sense that he’s transmitting from another place—like a radio transmission. How do you two develop concepts? The concept always seems to come out after the music. We knew we didn’t want to make [this album] as catatonic as the last one, though. That felt like sleepwalking, really. Listening to it now, we can’t figure out how we slowed our metabolism down that much and got into that headspace so easily. We experimented with elements of the music over the past three years in our live set. We’d make a melodic element, a sample, or a synth riff, on a month-by-month basis, always changing up the bass lines and swapping the vocals between different tracks until it crystallizes. The album emerged out of these “Bass Fiction”
live sets that we were doing, which had no drums in them at all. We wanted to make the tracks danceable without using any beats—whether that means using a rushed hi-hat or more dynamic bass lines. And that took on a direction of its own. Some of the arrangements are quite weird. Apart from “Am I,” we don’t tend to use versechorus structures. What we generally have instead is verse-verse-verse, with a chorus at the end. That wasn’t deliberate; it’s just the way Spaceape was writing. When did the lyrics come together? A story emerged out of what we were making. It’s set in a world where some kind of radioactive event has happened. We don’t know what it is, but it changed our sound and the content of his lyrics. We have these different-colored suns because they’re refracted through this really toxic air. And the population is undergoing changes from this radioactivity. Part of the world is turning to monotheistic gods for salvation, and the other part is taking synthetic substances that enable them to survive. There are certainly resonances with what’s going on in the world, but it’s fiction in the end. So while a song like “Bullet Against Bone” sounds like it may have come out of the student riots in London, that wasn’t intentional. The lyrics were written before that. So it’s not a political statement? It could be for some people. We’re not against that, but that wasn’t the intention. Does Spaceape embody different characters? The album is from his point of view, and if anything, he’s telling stories of people in this world. So for example, “Promises” is a bit like that [George Lucas] movie THX 1138, where sexual relations have become outlawed. Spaceape’s lyrics come from things that are going on around us. Everything’s a building block for something else—like there’s this cereal in the UK called Ready Brek. In the ’70s, they used to have these adverts where there’d be this radioactive glow around you after eating these oats. We were obsessed with this image—that certain people in this world have this glowing aura around them; certain people were hostile about that, and certain people went with it.
“The only thing that held us together musically was keeping things around 130 BPM.”
“You want a good response, but you want a good response on your own terms.”
Is the radioactivity viewed as a threat? For us, it’s not a threat, but it is for this monotheistic population. They seek salvation from the mutation by turning to god. The story ends with some people trying to escape to this Babylon-like world, and we just stay and bathe under the black sun. Flying Lotus contributs to the album’s final track, “Kryon.” How did you two collaborate? We started it three or four years ago in my studio. I probably did about 20 different versions since then. Kryon itself is meant as a New Age movement—our name for the section of the population in the story who’s reacting against the mutation and wants to retain their humanity. Judging from your interest in storytelling, I’m surprised you haven’t done any film scores yet. I just don’t have the time. I’m desperate to, though. What we did with the new record was essentially create a storyboard for a film. At this point, we’re basically doing invisible cinema. In addition to the album, you’ve also been interviewing producers for a book. How is that coming together? It’s a sequel to my  book, Sonic Warfare, and it’s all interview-based—some musicians, some scientists, some military [personnel], some people who work in advertising. What interviews have stood out? Definitely Hank Shocklee. Talking to him about sound bombing and using music as a form of warfare was an important starting point. What have you been reading lately? A lot of [J.G.] Ballard. What’s weird is I stumbled upon this short story of his from the ’60s—“The Day of Forever”—and it’s set in a world that’s a lot like what we visualized with our artwork [for Black Sun]. There’s even this great line: “She felt it on her face like a black sun.” I was like, “Fuck!” It’s great when you have these coincidences, these parallel tracks between different things you’re interested in. Suddenly they all resonate together. // Click here to read more from our interview with Kode9.
Obits frontman Rick Froberg created the art above while listening to James Blakeâ€™s self-titled album. Obits latest LP, Moody, Standard and Poor, hits stores on March 29 through Sub Pop.
Published on Mar 9, 2011