JANUARY 2009 - APRIL 2010 "IT'S
ABOUT THE MUSIC"
THE DESK OF LARRY "FUZZ-O" DOLMAN
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....
AX NOI MACH
ALBUMS OF 2009
CRAZY DREAMS BAND
INTERVIEW WITH LEXIE MOUNTAIN
BY LARRY DOLMAN
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
Herring is the lead singer of Future
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?
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.
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
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.
the song "Feels So Good," what feels so
whole awful fantastic experience of trying to be good
"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?
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.
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.)
is real. She lives somewhere in Baltimore, probably
the Waverly area. I am not the I.
"Life is the Knife" about being tough?
is the Knife” is about being hunted down and
killed or raped by your neighbors, and then living
with the consequences.
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?
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?
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.
the lineup has changed on this new album... is it
just Chiara Giovando leaving and being replaced by
Jorge Martins, a guitarist from Portugal?
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.
point about "replaced." How did you meet
up with him?
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.
have the changes affected the sound?
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
don't entirely agree with that! Who's doing the crazy
sound effects on "Life is the Knife"?
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
about Jake Freeman, a great bass player... he now
lives somewhere else?
is currently residing in Baltimore. He likes to dance,
and he wants to go back to California soon.
the War Dream lineup going on the road for
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.
Crazy Dreams Band been on the road, either lineup?
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).
come to Chicago.
We’re playing April 27, 2010 at the Empty Bottle.
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
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
& 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.
Dream (pictured) is out April 13, 2010 on LP
and CD from HOLY
Live in North Carolina (PHOTO: Ryan
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
INTERVIEW BY DEREK MONYPENY
introduction by Larry Dolman
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
- 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?
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.
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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.
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
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
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
What have you guys been reading these days?
Any all-time favorite books you care to mention?
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,
M AX NOI MACH
INTERVIEW WITH ROBERT FRANCISCO
BY LARRY DOLMAN
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...
do you make this music? Does it come from music you've
been into over the years? Or is it just Philadelphia?
& 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
you think of your music as noise, power electronics,
techno, something else, or nothing in particular?
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 &
does your approach differ, or does it differ, from
M Ax Noi Mach to Angeldust?
difference in approach is simple. With M Ax Noi Mach
I have complete control and with Angeldust it is a
had quite a few releases so far, spanning 10 years...
what are your personal favorites?
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.
do you have any books available right now like the
Up All Nite book?
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
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?
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.
all of the words that appear on American
Rager written as song lyrics, or poems, or 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.
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?
missing the last line - "Fuck a Turd, man."
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
generally dislike lyrics that are personal manifesto's
future plans you'd like to announce? Any tours or
releases coming up?
most likely I am going to play a show in your city
& you won't notice, even if you are there.
will keep playing one or two shows a year.
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.
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
more cellphone photo sets by Robert Francisco, visit
For audio, extensive discography, and more information
Silvox Recordings website
INTERVIEW WITH SCOTT NYDEGGER
BY VINNIE PATERNOSTRO
has been known for playing some “unusual”
places. Please give me an example of some of these
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?
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.
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?
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
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?
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. www.sikhara.org