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#28    JANUARY 2009 - APRIL 2010     "IT'S ABOUT THE MUSIC"


Here's the space where the standard "oh my gosh im sorry its been so long" zine apology is supposed to go, especially considering it's been around 16 months since the last issue, but you know what? I'm not sorry at all! Believe me, I've got plenty of other things to do! You're lucky you got a new issue this fast! But I'm still a guy who loves to listen to music, and when I do, sometimes I like to write about it, so I guess new issues of Blastitude will still come along. But I have learned something for certain in this last 16 months, and it's important: I am not a journalist. I do not cover new music. I mean, sometimes I do, but I hardly ever listen to new music, so there ya go. (NP: John Terlazzo, Honour Among Thieves, released in 1983.) If you want timely and astute coverage of your records or records by others, just go to Still Single or Tiny Mix Tapes or YellowGreenRed. As far as I'm concerned, those are the top three places on the web that write about the releases I intend to write about, and they do it in an actual journalistic and timely fashion. By all means, you can still send me your records, and they might show up on the Twitter or the Blog as soon as I get 'em, and they might even get reviewed here several months or a couple years later, it's just that timely music coverage is not what I'm here to offer. What I'm here to offer is... get ready... timeless music love. Unfortunately, and this is the cranky old man part, I'm just not hearing enough musicians playing actual music these days. You might notice this opinion sprinkled throughout this issue. It's certainly a problem with the drone/ambient/experimental/noise scene, as it continues to proliferate, and where the very philosophy behind the music can be misinterpreted as "you don't have to actually know how to play music to play THIS music." Well sorry, even if you're playing one note for 30 minutes, you're still playing a melody. You've got to make that note sing and breathe. If all you know is how to play a cool sound, or ape a cool style, you might not know or care to know how to go from one note to another in a way that actually states something. Another thing that is in short supply these days, and again the drone/ambient/etc scene deserves a good chunk of the blame, is a lack of rhythm. Driving rhythms, syncopated rhythms, heavy rhythms, subtle rhythms... music needs rhythm. You might even say that music IS rhythm. This doesn't mean that you have to suddenly lay it down like Aphex Twin or James Brown for me to declare what you're doing to be music, but again, even if you're playing one note for 30 minutes, there's still a way to do it with an innate understanding of rhythm, and a way to do it without any clue about rhythm whatsoever. But whatever, you don't have to listen to me. Keep on making those rad sounds and rushing out those non-songs. No wonder I'm always listening to Hawkwind and the Rolling Stones (NP: Out Of Our Heads, 1965)........ Anyway, I'm pretty happy with the way this issue finally came together... I started interviewing people again, after going about 4 years without interviewing anybody (see features below on Crazy Dreams Band, who have recorded what will easily remain one of the best albums of 2010, and renaissance man M Ax Noi Mach), and Derek Monypeny did a cool interview with the awesome duo called Bulbs, and new contributor Vinnie Paternostro sent an interview with the drums/noise collective Sikhara, whose music I've barely heard but I liked their brief descriptions about where they've been and where they're going. Plus another rambling D & D installment, another long record review section by yours truly, and a Best of 2009 summary, appropriately months late (see above). So thanks for looking and have fun clicking around....






D & D



PHOTO: Jenn Fever


On April 13 the Crazy Dreams Band of Baltimore, Maryland will release their second full-length album War Dream and embark on a North American tour (dates below). Maybe you heard their first album, called Crazy Dreams Band, released in mid-late 2008, a groovy proggy stomping self-titled head-scratcher that got some good reviews, mine included. And well it should have, but the new one is somehow twice as massive, made up of four long and heavy songs, recorded very live, that not only tighten, hone, and refine the previous approach but also expand it upward and outward into confidently blossoming riff suites and carefully controlled and sustained emotional surges. These songs are epics, and not of any genre, as if the band got this way not from actually listening to Saccharine Trust, the Bad Seeds, King Tubby, King Crimson, Diamanda Galas, and/or The Doors, but simply from interacting with and talking to people who have. All filtered through one popular classic that everybody actually has heard, as noted in the album's official press release, Led Zep's "Carouselambra." On acid literally. In a summer rainstorm. I had an e-mail chat with lead vocalist Lexie Mountain where we sort of talked about some of these things.

Okay, so Lexie you used to live in Chicago. Same time as me and possibly even same block as me. I was even going to shows a lot back then. But I never knew about you. Were you playing shows at the time, solo or otherwise?

Sort of. Ben Johnson, Craig Klein and I had a fun instrument-swapping stoned-joke band called Creamweaver. We played two shows. Maybe three. Speaking of our block, do you remember that time around the turn of the century when someone set a car on fire? It was right in front of my house, 2501 Mozart. One day a kid with a mudflap haircut, tanktop and a baseball bat whales on the side of a tan Pontiac, the next day the car is a charred heap, the day after that it was gone. Do you remember it? Did you see the fire? That was nuts.

Actually I was at 2158 Mozart, but I saw car fires of my own! Now the neighborhood looks about 8 months away from having its own Sur La Table store. When was the move to Baltimore, what brought it on?

I felt like I wasn’t capable of changing as a person as long as I lived in Chicago; that’s the only way that I can explain it. I wanted to go from a consumer-based personhood, to be a creator. I needed to figure out what I’m good at creating. These days, I miss Chicago. But in 2002, the lure of a town that looked like it was filled with little dreamy cottages, swearing children and trees – plus, so cheap one could spend endless amounts of time trying to figure oneself out? -- was impossible to resist. Chicago was one endless swath of concrete that smelled like blood and iron, and Baltimore was a tiny green hamlet of mini-houses and opportunity.

That's an intense insight about Chicago locking its residents into consumer-based personhood. I definitely felt that. I got out of it somewhat by moving to this awesome uncool beach resort neighborhood on the far north side but that's not what we're here to talk about. Back in Baltimore, how did you hook up with Chiara Giovando, Nate "the drummer from Mouthus" Nelson, Nick Becker, and bassist Jake Freeman, also known as the Crazy Dreams Band?

We all met through the power of positive thinking. We were destined to unite. Things that helped us come together were Tarantula Hill, Matt Franco and acid.

Did any previous discussion or strategy lead to the extended rock-band jamming style? How does it feel to be singing and performing with a rhythm section, compared to your solo work and the Lexie Mountain Boys?

Nate, Jake and I initially combined in 2007 for fun as a trio of bass, drums and voice. We were riffing on genres, trying to write at least one song for every one we could remember and play. Thrash, blues, dub, funk. We played a show at the Golden West opening for Sam Rosen & Nat Baldwin, peppering a few weird originals (like "Nightcrawler") with audience requests. "Whose Line Is It Anyway" meets a way less practiced Stooges. After our set, Chiara approached me and announced "Nick and I should be in your band." A jam session was only a matter of time. The only strategy we had was that the practices were exciting, weird and promising and we wanted to continue because we wanted to see (hear) what would happen. Performing with a band seems more like lateral exploration rather than a real leap from my other work; I was improvising with various ensembles around town, writing little ditties as a solo artist, and Lexie Mountain Boys often employ some sort of vocal rhythm/low end section in our loose songwriting processes. Crazy Dreams Band became an opportunity to try to hone the compulsion and desire to write songs, or at least become a more versatile lyricist and singer.

You do actually sing. I can't believe how many punk/noise type singers don't sing, they just put distortion on their vocals and go "rah rah rah-rah rah." I think most reviews of the first album compare your vocals to Janis Joplin. I think I even did in my review. Do you even like her? I can only listen to Janis Joplin if James Gurley (RIP 2009) is in the band. You've gotten some Stevie Nicks comparisons too... who is better, Janis or Stevie? And who is better than both of them, besides Mr. Roth?

When I think about Janis I like to think about when she played in Memphis, and was so excited to play in Memphis, so honored, and people were not into it and she was so crestfallen she drank herself to death. Also how lonely she must have been. And that she wore tablecloths. Stevie Nicks was totally ubiquitous in my childhood; she and Kim Carnes had voices that I found really terrifying and therefore compelling. Christine McVie is better, though, drowsy bluesy Christine Perfect, with Dagmar Krause and Catherine Ribeiro shadowboxing for ne plus ultra. For men besides Diamond Dave I like Tom Smith, Scott Walker, Sam Herring, Bill Medley and the guy from the Darkness.

Who's Sam Herring?

Sam Herring is the lead singer of Future Islands.

Speaking of bands and singers and stuff, I thought it might be interesting to list the bands David Keenan named in his Volcanic Tongue blurb for your first album. The more he likes a record, the more bands he refers to. Instead of giving a record "5 stars" he gives it "7 bands." Here's who he mentioned for your album: Royal Trux (specifically Jennifer Herrema), Janis Joplin, Meredith Monk, Suicide, Bruce Springsteen, Flesheaters, and The Band. I was wondering if you could describe any experience you've had taking in the work of any of these musical entities?

I saw Royal Trux once; Jennifer Herrema wore sunglasses and a poncho and rasped and scolded an audience member for heckling. She was so atypical of what was happening at the time; in Boston lots of women played in bands but I had never seen or experienced anything like her. Even with an increased female presence in the underground, I witnessed very few female singers who were gnarly and anti-social and genuinely crazy-seeming.

Regarding the new album War Dream, although the songs still run for long and extended periods, it seems like a conscious move away from what could be described on the first album as "jamming." Is this accurate at all, at least for the first side? Side B, the 19 minute "Life is the Knife," is obviously an extended jammer like on the first album, but it also feels more exacting and precise like the Side A songs do, especially for the first half. Any thoughts?

The first album, recorded in about 20 hours, is comprised of gently edited song-jams. We performed the songs regularly and they developed through improvising off their basic structure, but the record is like their graveyard, where they live in perpetuity but also die in commitment. The second record shares similar qualities to the first in that, due to Jake's roaming, we had a limited period of time to play and record, and when we entered the studio we had the structural apparatus of four songs fairly well in hand. This time around, though we were still jamming, our practices became more focused on figuring out what the songs were and honing them. We also practiced constantly or as much as we could stand.

In the song "Feels So Good," what feels so good?

The whole awful fantastic experience of trying to be good and true.

On "Awkward For Everyone," what is awkward for everyone? When you sing "commit or get out," what is the commitment being asked for, and of whom?

I was thinking of US/Iraq specifically, but the colonial metaphor could easily apply to a variety of situations both personal and political. Being somewhere you’re sort of half-wanted/half-resented, ruining everything for everyone, and then being stranded there with no clear way out, that’s awkward.

The lyrics to "Melanie" are really straightforward, almost like a short story written in the first person, or a letter, sung out loud to a bluesy vamp. Is Melanie a real person? Are you the "I" in the song? (You don't have to answer.)

Melanie is real. She lives somewhere in Baltimore, probably the Waverly area. I am not the I.

Is "Life is the Knife" about being tough?

“Life is the Knife” is about being hunted down and killed or raped by your neighbors, and then living with the consequences.

Although these songs are clearly studio recordings, at the endings you can hear some chatter, laughter, and movement. Were all four live takes, with the band completely set up live?


It sounds like there might not be any overdubs or post-production fixes (actually the "life goes on" background vocals at the end of "Life is the Knife" might be overdubs, but they're pretty subtle). Was the first album recorded the same way?

Yes also. I think I'm oversimplifying the answer. We recorded both albums with the whole band in one room; overdubs were limited to some vocal tracks, guitar or bass chunks and some things were gently edited out. I would say that the records were "live, plus" as in mostly live, with assorted ornaments added or subtracted. Live, garnished.

So the lineup has changed on this new album... is it just Chiara Giovando leaving and being replaced by Jorge Martins, a guitarist from Portugal?

Replaced is such a harsh word, it makes it sound as if the change was deliberate. The opportunity that arose for Chiara was too good to turn down, so she went to LA. At the time, it was a difficult decision for her. We talked about playing with Jorge even before Chiara went to the west coast. We wanted to see what happened, sort of like how everything coalesced in the first place.

Good point about "replaced." How did you meet up with him?

Jenny Graf spirited him here from Lisbon in her hair. They met while Jenny was in Portugal, dated internationally and eventually married. Jorge performed in Harrius with Chiara and Jenny, which is where I first saw his guitar playing. Nate knew of him from touring through Portugal with Mouthus.

How have the changes affected the sound?

Well, we have a guitar now, and a different person and right there you’ve got a whole different musical vocabulary. The most basic change is that, inasmuch as we’re capable of, we sound more like a traditional rock band.

I don't entirely agree with that! Who's doing the crazy sound effects on "Life is the Knife"?

Nick Becker! These days he’s focusing heavily on becoming an herbalist. I miss playing with him. He has a group called The Sky Crab (with Gerry Mak from Bloody Panda and sometimes Patrick and sometimes Jake). Gerry plays violin and screams; it’s really great.

What about Jake Freeman, a great bass player... he now lives somewhere else?

Jake is currently residing in Baltimore. He likes to dance, and he wants to go back to California soon.

Is the War Dream lineup going on the road for the album?

Sadly, no. Nick is developing his professional practice, and Jake couldn’t make up his mind about whether he wanted to come with us for an April tour. Our friend Jonathan Ehrens, from the Baltimore trio Art Department, is getting in the van instead.

Has Crazy Dreams Band been on the road, either lineup?

CDB v.1 did a handful of shows throughout the east coast megalopolis, and CDB v.2 actually made it to the American Southeast for 10 days with Jana Hunter & Band (now Lower Dens).

Please come to Chicago.

OK. We’re playing April 27, 2010 at the Empty Bottle.

I'll be there. Still got some Lexie Mountain solo and/or band stuff going on? Nevermind, just saw you on YouTube cuttin' up Huey Lewis to an audience of pensive intelligentsia (meant approvingly). "Heart and Soul" is actually a pretty good song. Maybe. But seriously, what are your artistic plans and goals for this new decade?

Both my solo “act” and Lexie Mountain Boys are active. The core Mountain Boys are spread across the country chasing their dreams, so our togetherness is like a crucible. I’m working on a cassette-pen-pal collaboration with Vanessa (Learned Helplessness/Coughs) that Jeremy Harris may or may not publish, and I perform in John Berndt’s performance confusion entity Geodesic Gnome. This decade I’d like to venture deeper into theatre, painting and writing, return to Europe, hone my stand-up comedy with fellow Gnome Ric Royer (as Martin & Lawrence), keep making tape works, host dinner parties, start homebrewing, raise chickens, attend some community meetings, put up some shelves, go to the dentist and be a good and helpful person. I would also like to plant some fruit trees. “Heart and Soul” was written by the same songwriting team that made Suzi Quatro’s career.

Chapman & Chinn! I didn't know that! No wonder it's so catchy. Wikipedia also just told me that Huey Lewis played harmonica on Thin Lizzy's Live and Dangerous.

War Dream (pictured) is out April 13, 2010 on LP and CD from HOLY MOUNTAIN

Live in North Carolina (PHOTO: Ryan Martin)

Here are the War Dream tour dates:
4/15 baltimore FLORISTREE
4/16 philly CONNIE'S RIC-RAC
4/17 nyc CAKE SHOP
4/18 providence DARK LADY
4/19 cambridge CHARLIE'S
4/20 hadley GREY MATTER
4/21 burlington ENTER
4/22 montreal FRIENDSHIP COVE
4/23 ottawa 854
4/24 toronto TERANGA
4/26 detroit PJS LAGER HOUSE
4/27 chicago EMPTY BOTTLE
4/28 cleveland COOL RANCH


introduction by Larry Dolman

So many young people are jamming and improvising and playing stoned-generation music these days, and their bands all have names like Cryptic Teeth or Meth Tiger, and they put out tapes on labels like Gnarly Prism and Swollen Tapes (as DJ Brian Turner tweeted not too long ago: "Cougar Cruise, a new travel trend, or a Not Not Fun band?").... but most of it isn't that great. Most of it, honestly, doesn't really seem to even be music. Sound and style, yes, but actual singing/breathing/rhythmic music, not too often. Back in 2008, a two-man San Francisco Bay Area band called Bulbs put out a CD called Light Ships on Pete Swanson's Freedom To Spend label, and it was filled with actual music, techno-informed free-form future-jamming boasting the non-drums drum kit of William Sabiston and the jaw-dropping granular guitar work by Jon Almaraz. Their music is haunting me right now, and I haven't even pulled the CD out for a few months. When I found out that Derek Monypeny, author of last issue's Sublime Moroccan Tour Diary, was a Bay Area friend and former bandmate of Sabiston's, I wondered if he would want to ask the duo some questions for Blastitude, especially since at the time they were living in Austin, Texas and he hadn't caught up with them in a while. By the time the interview was done, the band was back in the Bay Area, still maintaining that refreshingly low profile where they know it's better to put out a cassette on no label at all than on a label like Harsh Tendrils or Ffast Tapes or Pukeflower. (Actually, Pukeflower is pretty good.) P.S. They have a new release, a split LP with Mouthus on Important Records.

William - I don't want this interview to be about me, but you and I have a musical history and friendship going back a few years. Could you give a little background on your own musical past, starting from the time you moved out to San Francisco from North Carolina and formed a band with me?

I have been lucky to meet many great and influential musicians here. I moved to San Francisco in 2000 from Athens GA, where I'd been living for about 5 years. I met you soon after I'd moved and I was still getting adjusted to the Bay. I was used to the extreme humidity of North Carolina and Georgia, and when i came out here it was like some blanket of air had been swiped from under me. The fog and the constant shifting of weather, micro-climates, the absence of distinct seasonal changes....those things affected me more than I would have guessed. I felt like I could not get in rhythm with the place. I think the same week that I met you, I had heard Love Cry for the first time. I hadn't played drums in about 5 years but I really connected to the abstracted time on that record and it made me want to play again. I saw your ad looking for a drummer, and it mentioned both the Magic Band and Ayler so I figured that was a good sign. Then after we met, you were constantly playing stuff that blew my mind, stuff I'd never heard. But there was this big gap between the music I wanted to be playing and what I was physically capable of. Eventually I started thinking more about the sounds of the drums and just tried to make rhythms out of interesting sounds rather than coming up with drum patterns.

Another guy who came into our little world shortly after moving to the Bay Area was Karl Bauer, who is now world-famous as Axolotl. William, talk about your meeting Karl, forming Axolotl with him, and the connection between you guys.

Karl showed up just as I was beginning to think of rhythm more in terms of texture and trying to find new drum sounds. It was getting too abstract to continue to play drum set in the way I was used to playing. Karl had just moved out here after his house burned down in NY. His violin was the only thing that survived the fire. He was working on rebuilding his sound, and I felt kind of like I was starting over. He can make a lot of noise with very little and so even though it was skeletal at first, it was fun and sounded good. He would use whatever was in the rehearsal space or whatever he could borrow for effects, and I had a few contact mics, some percussion, and maybe one electronic drum sound. We would just try to make interesting layers of sound and shape them into something. It was difficult finding people to play with, and there weren't many opportunities to play shows. Once we met Brian (Tester) it became a little more live and organic. We were able to play at his house and the atmosphere was just more relaxed. Both of us had acquired more equipment and with Brian's contributions the sound really began to grow. That was a fun time and what is on Archons is only a tiny portion of the music that we made together. Karl and I both moved around a lot and nothing ever stayed very consistent. After that we went back to our apartments and jamming with headphones. Eventually it was just easier for him to work on the Axolotl stuff alone. I was starting to use more real drums and percussion and wanted to try playing a drum set again. I love his music and wished he still lived out here. It was nice getting to hear him play all the time. There are always plans for Axolotl/Bulbs collaborations, and I hope that we are in the same place again long enough for that to happen.

Okay, that leads us up to Bulbs. Jon, give us some background on what brought you to SF. How did you guys get together? How was it the first few times you played?

I moved to San Francisco from Bakersfield in 2005 because I was in love with a harper. I lived in the city and gave out 28 cassettes of a recording I did with Beaux Mingus using a bicycle wheel, guitar and some yard sale finds. Bakersfield was full of the best 80s electronic instruments where we'd score reel to reels, a hotlicks keytar or an indian tabla machine for a couple bucks.

That tape got into William's hand from a friend of a friend.. I met him playing with one of my favorite artists in the bay, Zeek Sheck, a single being that drums, crafts robots, paints and is great inspiration in my learning and craft.

The three of us played with a bassist, Jake Rodriguez of Bran Pos and he described our short lived sound as "a large cardboard box of musical instruments tumbling down a hill." There definitely was a play of strings and something secretly joyous in our wall of sound. William and I met eye to eye on the micro aspects of that play. We had the same favorite parts. We both wanted to expand on those secret sounds and keep on searching ourselves in hopes of finding something rare or even beautiful.

Was there an initial thought or plan behind what you wanted to do musically as Bulbs, and how true do you think you have been to it? In other words, how much or little do you feel you've changed musically since the beginnings of the band?

Jon: When I started playing in Bulbs I knew I could make the music I've always wanted to hear. We've played for 4 years now and at this point we are more confident and capable to make the good stuff early on. This time we're trying to get the record and the live sound to sound compelling in their proper place and we have included a new member, Wyatt Sanders, and he's been a great spirit send. If the new record and live set sounds good it's because of him.

William: When I met Jon, I was tired of playing on the floor and using contact mics. I wanted to use sticks and wanted to be more physically involved with an instrument. I'd picked up used bits and pieces of electronic kits playing with Karl, and I finally had enough to mix them with a real set. I had always wanted a set like this. There is a texture to sampled drums that you can't get out of a real drum. But electronic drums don't respond as well and it doesn't feel live in the way that hitting a real drum does. Playing both together was a new experience and had an interesting sound to me. When Jon showed up there was an immediate connection with our sounds. I think Bulbs started the first time we listened back to a recording. I had only been aware of the immediate, physical level of sound that I was making. Listening back later, I heard a completely separate dialogue happening between our effects and rhythms and textures. It sounded balanced but in many moments also confusing and mysterious. I guess this was sort of the idea behind the band, though it was much more visceral than conceptual; it was within the music already. We want to always maintain that same balance of mystery in sounds, and life in making those sounds.

Jon - There are lots and lots of guitar douches out there these days using a ton of effects (I'm raising my hand), but in my opinion your own use of guitar effects processing is at another level from anybody else I've heard. Without turning this into "gear talk," could you talk about where your interest in effects comes from, and maybe some of your thoughts about sound in general as it applies to you and your playing?

Thank you for the compliment. I've played since I was very young. I've been through so many phases of sound so it was early on that I had to explore effects because I could not relate to guitar players. Kids in my school liked hacking Jimi riffs to ugly shreds or playing Stairway. I only wanted to hear Jimi make that sound not some wanker. I started avoiding even the sound of guitar even in my listening. Freestyle, international music and thrift store hauls like the Swingle Singers, Korla Pandit or the Golden Voyage series were more interesting to me than Yngwie Malmsteen. I wanted to make the guitar sound less like it is and more like everything else. Its exciting to expand on the tiny sounds while playing guitar. Effects provide a way for me to focus on a specific sound on the guitar like only the sound of my hands sliding across the strings. Sometimes i just want to hear that. In trying to accent or play with that I may be able to find a sound that relates to a bird or hopefully a fleet of plumed jets. When we have enough sounds then its a matter of composing or navigating along on a path embedded with colorful happenings in the peripherals and spirit.

In some of your early shows you guys did some really great, elaborate costumes. Maybe you still do this? I'm interested in the aesthetic motivations behind everything you present in the band - music, live shows, films, etc.

Jon: We, people, are boring to look at. Sometimes we turn the whole playing area as a tent, aquarium or cover everything in white to project on. I don't want people to focus on the mechanics of what we're doing. I don't even like to see it. I'd rather they see the sound. William works on video when not drumming and I am best at the sewing machine and drawing pad. We wish for all the performances to be unique and lively.

The stage is meant for a show and we wish to always offer something visually besides the music. We tend to be make more elaborate performances when we've been still long enough. We're constantly moving. I believe we'd offer a better show if we could have more hands and material - we want to make the whole venue a stage, platform, launch pad, dance floor and instrument at the same time. The next dream record should be a sound ship.

William: I think there is a strong visual element to our music and the shows are a chance to focus on that. I agree with Jon that we aren't always so interesting to watch perform. But we also don't want people to come to our show and watch a screen. I think visuals are much more interesting in a live setting when they are involved in the performance or with the performers and crowd. We try to weave the sound and visuals together. It has been challenging to make both compelling, and we don't always have the time or resources to bring it all together. Its something we are working towards though. I come from a family of visual artists and they have helped us with the visuals. My mom's quilts are big inspirations. And my brother and sister both have made animations for us, sometimes to project live and they also contribute to our artwork and website.

Talk about the influence of electronic music genres such as techno, minimal house, etc. on Bulbs.

William: I love dance music and going dancing. When I started getting into house I was just excited that there was music I could go dance to that wasn't entirely nostalgic. If I go out dancing, hearing something that was a favorite song in high school doesn't usually make me want to dance. At techno clubs it seems no one is waiting to hear a song they recognize but just to hear something that makes them want to dance. I like being a part of this, of being pulled in and together by music. It is cool to see a song or rhythm work itself into a crowd. The lights in clubs are great too. It would be nice to experience sight and sound this way outside of dance clubs, at other types of shows, but the way they are set up does not usually allow for it. People joke about the oonce oonce sameness of House, but I think of that as just the beat, or the pulse, only one aspect of the rhythm. In my favorite electronic music everything is woven together and it is hard to separate the melody from the rhythm. Or often times the melody grows out of the rhythm. In the best tracks, this is a very slow evolution, and I don't usually hear these out in clubs. But the times I have are some of my favorite musical memories.

I think most people reading this will be familiar with you via your brilliant "Light Ships" CD. I remember talking to you guys shortly after "Light Ships" came out. You both felt strongly that, while you were both very happy with it, you had moved beyond it musically. Could you elaborate on this? Maybe talk about your other current and future releases besides "Light Ships?"

Jon: Thanks for listening. We recorded it live with Brian Tester in his living room in Oakland throughout a few weeks. We really wanted to make a record that really caught moments in our live playing. We avoided overdubbing and cut and paste. We made hours of music and what stayed on the record was what we though was our favorite moments. Some of it was crafted on the day of the recording or we'd bring in ideas and just play around that. The record was pressed promptly but we never stopped writing. By the record was released we didn't sound like Light Ships.

William: Now that we have a few different collections of songs, I think about them less in terms of the order they might be heard in and more in terms of where we were and what we were doing when we made them. We've self released a few tapes and that process is so much more immediate. If you make 50 or 100 tapes and give them to everyone you know, it feels like it's out in the world. There is much more involved in a proper release.

A couple of years ago you relocated from SF to Austin. Are you still out there? Could you talk about what impact, if any, the change of scenery has had?

Jon: Austin was an attempt to change my surroundings in hopes that it would influence me in a fresh and exciting way. I love to travel and Austin had a lot to explore and experience. We met some great artists and collaborated with great beings there. I was influenced by some great music makers like Tom Grzinich, Jacob Green, the cicadas, lightning bugs, grackels and the summer storms raining hail. I miss the summer bike rides there at 4 in the morning after a couple late night dances. My favorite time in Austin was probably playing as Bulbs at a house party right after Thurston Moore threw down a sick living room jam on guitar with bass. We made my favorite music in Austin but I missed California. We're back and content for now.

William: We first visited Austin on a road trip we took from San Francisco to North Carolina a few years ago, and our sound really changed during that trip. We stayed at my brother's for a while in Austin and wrote the Imagos 7" and we recorded Emerald Isle in North Carolina. We could immediately hear the change of environment in the sound. There is an air or breathe in those recordings that reflects the drive through the desert and the open space we felt during our stay. We both liked what we heard opening up in our sound so we decided to move to Austin a few months later. Things move a little slower in both of those places, so we were naturally adjusting to a different pace and sense of time. I think the humidity of both places makes things feel in slow motion. It drains some of your energy without you noticing. But I think it is a good state to be in for making music. The thick air is very meditative. And it seems to also carry more sound. My memories of those places are full of sounds. San Francisco has a special air too, but for me it seems to function more visually, it is more connected to the sunlight there. I think that there is always this play between the sunlight and wind there that make it visually, a very stunning place to live. It is very kinetic and maybe this is why the recordings we've made there have more movement in them. Things in Austin are more hazy. We worked on the Infirmary of Dream cassette, which began after a friend, Tracy Maurice, asked us for some music to accompany her sculpture in a show. That tape is a great document of our experience there.

William - you released a solo CD as Ball Lightning on the Jyrk label a few years ago. Do you have any plans to do another Ball Lightning recording? Jon - do you have any other side or solo projects?

William: Ball Lightning is a collection of recordings I made a few months before meeting Jon. Pete and Gabe (JYRK) have been huge supporters always, and they encouraged me to do a solo drum release. When I put it together, I had in mind certain percussion records and drum break collections I used to find in thrift bins. They are oddities and sometimes it is refreshing to hear the isolated drums. I don't plan to do another one. It is more interesting and fun to me to work on Bulbs.

What have you guys been reading these days? Any all-time favorite books you care to mention?

William: A big influence for me while in Bulbs has been Philip K. Dick and Stanislaw Lem, especially in the beginning. Lately, I've been reading a lot of Jung.

Anela of Talio Too (cassette, self-released)
Light Ships CD (Freedom To Spend)
Infirmary of Dream (cassette, self-released)
"Imagos" (split 7" w/Wobbly, Ache Records)
"Emerald Isle" (split 12" w/Mouthus, Important Records)




PHOTO: Michael Alan Goldberg

About a year ago I was digging around in a dust-laden box of various messed-up cassettes that had been sent to Blastitude over the months (years?), and buried in there was this funky little hand-made book called Up All Nite by Robert Francisco. Pulling it out flashed me back to a vague memory of it arriving in the mail, but this time I actually sat down and looked at it, and as its psychedelic silk-screen/line art/photographic visions of human life growing and wilting amid slow urban deterioration unfolded before my eyes, an intense 80+ pages of ugly beauty, I started to realize that this was the same guy who did those cassettes by that weird name M Ax Noi Mach. That stuff also had excellent artwork, and the music was something too... on one level raging power electronics, complete with extreme vocal declamation, but also working somehow as a dark and extreme strain of techno/dance music, and somehow all exhibiting an interpersonal discourse more subtle than the average PE shock tantrums. Then I started looking at his blog, American Rager, with its stark street poetry and unflinching street photography, and realized that this guy has a lot going on... I decided to ask him a few questions about it all... not too many, just a few...

Why do you make this music? Does it come from music you've been into over the years? Or is it just Philadelphia?

Documentation & fetish. Documentation focusing on the underworld, in particular the Philadelphia (local) underworld. Glorifying non-celebrities, (un)famous for being human and having human faults. Documentation glorifying something other than mystic popular culture. Fetish, getting off by the completion of creating an atmosphere... through music and the time control of performing. Setting a scene, setting an atmosphere, fetish to make life a little more selfishly enjoyable. And hopefully there are others that can see this subtle pleasure. As far as the actual visceral heaviness and pulsing sound, I would say in a slightly comical way: pseudo-punishment, punishing myself & others, sado-masochistic reasons. Pleasure from pain. Enjoyment in indulgence, relatively. The pulse stemming from an assumed nature. Analogously, finding pleasure in monotonous everyday life's actual complexities/beauties.

Do you think of your music as noise, power electronics, techno, something else, or nothing in particular?

I don't think of it as any of those genres. I think of it as something else, that I don't care to share fully. I am influenced by all of those things & more.

How does your approach differ, or does it differ, from M Ax Noi Mach to Angeldust?

The difference in approach is simple. With M Ax Noi Mach I have complete control and with Angeldust it is a collective effort.

You've had quite a few releases so far, spanning 10 years... what are your personal favorites?

My four favorites: the first Angeldust CDR, the Angeldust 7", the M Ax Noi Mach/Noise Nomads split cassette (all of the music was made exclusively by instruments powered by 9-volt batteries), and M Ax Noi Mach "CREEPER" which has yet to come out..... But more than whole releases, I have favorite songs off of each release. Soon, I am going to make a CD-R called "1998-2004" which will be some of my favorite songs off of my first releases. It will be an edition of 10 or 20, so if you are interested get in touch. They won't be going fast.

Also, do you have any books available right now like the Up All Nite book?

I have a new book available called "Another Day". It is very similar to "Up All Nite" except it is a lot shorter and looks a bit more professional. I use the term "professional" loosely. Like "Up All Nite" it has multi-colored silk-screen prints and black & white photocopies, the only difference is that "Another Day" has color printed copies of my cell phone photographs. Other than that, nothing else. I make an art book about once every 3 years.


Details from UP ALL NITE and ANOTHER DAY books by Robert Francisco

How long have you lived in Philadelphia? Your cell phone photos make it seem like a long time. Would you say you are documenting these scenes from within or without? Or from somewhere else?

Approximately 10 years. From within.... 95% of my photos were taken in my day-to-day life of things that I find aesthetically pleasing or scenes that inspire a deeper story.

Are all of the words that appear on American Rager written as song lyrics, or poems, or both, neither?

Both & neither. A few are written as song lyrics but most are written as poems. Some are documentations of soon-to-be forgotten violent occurrences that happen in Philadelphia, the rage that happens in dark corners of our growing city. News blurbs expanded by my mind, usually coming about when I see the criminal's mug-shot in the Daily News. Others are something that I call "Character Profiles", which are written from or about imagined or real characters. Some are a documentation of assumed collective-unconscious thoughts (personalities) and some are a documentation of actual people that I know, live around, & think need to be remembered but otherwise wouldn't.

"Welcome yourself to the fucking darkside / Have a fucking party / Do it yourself / No end, dude / Welcome yourself and then thank your fucking self later / rotten teeth / rotten teeth"... do I have it right? The Darkside also shows up on Side B of the new Angel Dust 7". Is the Darkside a personal philosophy, a reality, a myth? It sounds humorous and conversational to me, not harsh and one-sided like most of the power electronics genre, is that accurate at all?

You're missing the last line - "Fuck a Turd, man."

I'd say part observed philosophy, part myth and a possible reality. It is as if being spoken to someone else. That someone else might be myself. I woke up one morning after a night of heavy drinking, etc. I was pretty hungover and upon waking, emptied my pockets. In one of them, I had found a crumpled-up piece of a brown paper bag. On it, I had scribbled those words. This was at a time when I was saving empty Olde English 40oz bottles. I had approximately 100 in my bedroom, they stayed there for about a year before I threw them out, and with them that little piece of a brown paper bag.

I generally dislike lyrics that are personal manifesto's or autobiographical.

Any future plans you'd like to announce? Any tours or releases coming up?

Yeah, most likely I am going to play a show in your city & you won't notice, even if you are there.

Angeldust will keep playing one or two shows a year.

M Ax Noi Mach: No plans to tour, but I would like to. I am playing one show in Barcelona in late May during the week of the Primavera Sound Festival. I've been recording more than ever & better than ever onto a reel-to-reel 8 track recorder. I would like for the recordings I am doing now to be released on vinyl as a full length release. I also have a cassette coming out within the next couple of weeks called "CREEPER" but it was recorded almost a year & a half ago.

Silvox Recordings: Yes. I have a lot of releases in the works. Cassettes from Kriminaalist Metsanhaltijat, Bastard D-Struction, Synb and Dawn C. I recently released a Fasenuova double cassette, which is a collection of their music from the early 90's to the early '00's. Soon, I am going to be releasing a 7" which will be of their newest songs. Dark, catchy, angry, analog synth & drum machine. With Silvox I am trying to release full albums that are mostly on professionally duplicated cassettes with professionally printed covers that are in ode to the old ways of making an album... Quality music that is intended to be heard the whole way through.


For more cellphone photo sets by Robert Francisco, visit
For audio, extensive discography, and more information visit
See also
Silvox Recordings website



Sikhara has been known for playing some “unusual” places. Please give me an example of some of these unknowns.
The strange thing about playing in “unusual” locales is they can be equally glorious and dubious. One of our more well documented experiences: I had asked Kazuya Ishigami to find a temple we could record in near Osaka. The Senkoji Temple where he chose was ideal. Filled with 5th century old drums made by hand by Samuri. When we arrived he asked to join us in the session. That was actually the inspiration for my current film project in Taiwan. Yet by contrast, we were asked to play in an abandoned tunnel underneath the city of Linz, Austria, and we arrived to find it was the place where homosexual prostitutes bring their johns to fuck and shoot up. So the ground was littered with old condoms and syringes. I was always obsessed with visiting Turkey and at the first show in Istanbul in 2002, the venue turned out to be next door to the Taxim police station and was guarded with machine guns. Kind of a good reconciling of the two: I had been visiting Zabrze, Poland frequently and heard tales from many people of their fathers/grandfathers contracting horrible diseases working in the mines and had asked to visit one. They had called for me and told they don’t really offer tourism, but some time later they arranged for Sikhara to play in the tunnels of the mines. They showed me around before and I saw the temple to Mary, where they would pray each day, due to the frequent death of the workers.

Out of these experiences, what has shaped the sound of the band the most?
The experience working on the "Temples of Taichung" video, having come in the same time that we have been incorporating a lot more "conventional" instruments, like bass and guitar, has had a big impact. On one hand, we are stepping towards a more accessible sound, but the primitive, ritual element I can see becoming more cohesive. I attended a ceremony in November for the birthday of a god and the monks were performing this sort of dance while chanting that was really in tune with my own style of body movements in concert. Doing a project for so long, you need that occasional reminder what the origins of your whole concept is, and that affected me strongly. It inspires me to take things in both directions at the same time.

The modern primitive, if you will. Is this an extension of a religious rite in itself? Do you feel that your music can give people that same experience as the shamanistic rituals once provided?
That is clearly the goal, to provide this feeling and experience, but I still consider myself a performer. Our shows are heavily influenced by film and books, and I am trying to create a character. I don't think this makes it any less valid, as the nature of the musical project is very entangled with my own existence. Yet, I am trying to tell a story, and I certainly hope my own life to be considerably less violent and disembodied than the subject of my art.

What upcoming projects are you involved in now?
One of my primary units has become my ongoing studio war with Jonathan Saldanha from Soopa, called United Scum Soundclash. The new record has people from Barbez, Ovo, Steve Mackay, Love 666 (my heros) and more people than it's possible to count. It is exploring music from the technological side, but ends up sounding more organic than many of my projects. Now, I am just getting ready to start a tour that I organized and am playing on for Amps for Christ, who is Henry Barnes from Man is The Bastard. MITB is one of my all time favorites and none of them have ever played in Europe. I tried to book the tour to visit a variety of locations and incorporate some audiences that might not be prepared for what they are getting into. Right now, the "Temples of Taiwan" project is my main concern. I have been invading the Taiwanese temples, where they worship a combination of Buddhist and Taoist gods, with a heavy influence from Confucianism. I put up a sketch of my work so far on our website, but I won't get around to the final results until this fall.

Is there any uncharted territory Sikhara plans to invade in the near future?
Right now I am in Taiwan, seeking out some new cities for the "Temples of Taiwan" DVD. So many of the best spots seem to be hidden away. Lots of the best opportunities for footage occur at small festivals where they make ritual performance. They don't generally advertise these events, so you have to stumble into them. Although when you visit 20 temples a day, you have plenty of opportunity to ask the Gods for help. I just found a village in San Yi, which is only known because of their woodcarvings. They had just skinned a massive drum with Tibetan buffalo hide. The master monk of the temple took some time to show me around and let me play a 6-foot diameter gong that his teacher had designed. Next stop is Sun Moon Lake, sort of a mystical place of Taiwan. The Thao, smallest of the aboriginal tribes, are based there, so I am hoping to engage them in a little collaboration. It is certainly a shame that Sikhara will be off the road this spring, but I am very excited about the film and recording projects that will be coming together over the next months. Definitely encourage everyone to check out our website for updates. There is a rough draft from the Taiwan film available and also recently posted is a segment from the Hop Frog Kollectiv's most recent festival in the Mohave desert.