Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Negative People Playing Negative Songs :Night Wounds & AIDS wolf speak out on Beefheart , alienating audiences and busted tape decks

Hi folks .Happy freakin' new year! Mine was sweet as my crew, The Pirates of the Lachine Canal hosted a sick loft party and thee awesome Clockcleaner came up, all the way from the depths of Hell aka Philadelphia. I've been lazy on the updates the past few weeks but hopefully this one will be worth the wait!


See, Yannick from AIDSwolf and Toby from Night Wounds had a nice chat about all the important things in life. Hope y'all enjoy it.
xo
chloe
t-nw:

I guess the first question that comes to mind when I think about you all is"what is it like being a fairly inaccessible band from Canada?" I know
there is a great history of bands like the Subhumans and D.O.A coming from
up North but how did this music find you?

y-aw:

My first contact with music was through my brother, who was a big
ELP fan—
The appreciation for 70's British prog is still something that is going
pretty strong in Quebec, and all these bands enjoy a heavy mainstream radio rotation despite 30 years past their heyday; anybody with interest in music who has siblings born in the sixties can attest of this here. I was alwaysmore fond of the polyrythmic, noisier, atonal, heavier songs of ELP's repertoire, like 'Tank', 'Knife Edge', 'Tarkus' or 'Toccata' for example. As I grew in my teens, I wanted to separate myself from classic prog, and got into local punk bands that had a proggy sound--- At the time, these groups sounded more ferocious than their 70's British forefathers while still torturing atonalities out of Hammond B3's— this will sound totally cliché but the immediacy in the structure and the tempo had me hooked up big time at that point. Today though, I returned to listening to the older classic stuff,taking the time to weed off the duds ( i.e. The wankier pieces), and I completely stopped listening to the local punk prog-inspired bands, because they don't supply enough experimentation and atonality.

So, by meeting other people who had an interest in the same bands, this brought me to listen to the local college stations, and slowly learn about more difficult bands. Shows like 'Entertainment Through Pain' and 'Stereophobic' on CKUT and all the late Saturday night programation on CISM in the 90's totally touch my sensibilities then. The local CBC also had radio shows in both French and English of electroaccoustic and experimental composition, 'Le Navire Night' being one I could not miss. That's another thing about Quebec: experimental music history stops at boring orchestral
experimentation or electroaccoustics. There are lotsa groups and composers,
even a whole bunch of them who totally evolved within the realm of pop
culture (Raoul Duguay or L'Infonie for example), but nobody ever did atonal rocking stuff. That part of time was difficult for me because I truly wanted to discover more weird music, I wanted to invest interest in all this boring stuff but it ended up getting really hard--- despite buying records by atonal composers, there was always a voice in me saying 'It's boring'!! I just couldn't find anybody with a shared interest in atonal stuff who could direct me to the rockier bands. I was trying to broaden my knowledge even by getting soundtracks by visual fine artists working in sound installations, and making sound installations myself ( I was studying fine arts in college). I would never even listen to any of this crap anymore, so much of it puts me to sleep.

This at the time made up all I knew about difficult music. It was easier for
me to access 'classic' atonal works than more recent, rocking, no-wave or
now-wave. My only knowledge in these genres was Sonic Youth, Glen Branca and the likes and all their friends involved in brainy boring stuff like Christian Marclay etc. And at that point i was also getting pretty heavily into trashy garage rock (Oblivians, The Sonics and such) and slightly into
Japanoise. So I was basically totally unaware of the Chicago now-wave and whatever fucked bands that was talking the atonal language through rock dialogue until I paired up with Chloe in 1999.


To what level do your musical influences taint your compositional abilities?Is it hard for you to get rid of them, or do you want to embrace them? And what do you value the most in atonality: tones though instrumentation or structure? If both, how do you manage to balance them to make a good song?

t-nw:

I am not a very good guitar player. I spent my youth learning the basics on
drums, guitar and bass so that no matter what ideas I or whoever I wanted to play with got, I could at least somewhat pretend to play along. When I found post punk/no wave and even to a certain extent traditional goth, I was immediately drawn to bass/drums being very solid while everything else did as it pleased. This is probably the only influence I do not try to escape whole-heartedly. When I attempt to write something with a particular band in mind, it either comes out as a direct rip-off (and is tossed aside/changed/reworked) or it comes out nothing like I intended, which can almost be frustrating. I think what is most interesting about the type of music we all play is that it's so untraditional in terms of tuning/rhythm...whereas you can easily go to a teacher and say "I want to play this Aerosmith album" and he'll say "here is the tab"... I feel like a lot of people (or at least myself) fall into what they are doing now by trying to learn these almost unplayable no wave or post punk songs and kind of discovering their own way to play the instrument they we're holding.

I like when notes clash. I'm obsessed with rhythm. The only instrument I was ever confidently good at playing was drums, and I play my guitar in a very percussive way, so that causes a lot of what we do to rely mainly on the bass for any sort of melody. So I think we take the easy route and
create something very rhythmic based and atonal on drums and guitar, and let the bass make it a song. I feel like most standard songs if played out of
tune and off key could sound more interesting then they already do, at least
in theory.

What you said about finding the "rockier" bands is very true, and I can
relate because I feel like I was introduced to this sort of stuff by what I
thought to be at the time as the worst gateway drugs: like (Beefheart's) "Trout Mask Replica"... albums that I laughed at for months and listened to for novelty purposes before I started paying attention to what was really going on."Doc at the Radar Station" and "Lick My Decals Off, Baby" are my favorites now, but I'm honestly somewhat glad that I was handed something that ignored a lot of the shit that makes those other two albums memorable... I feel like those are accessible rock albums in comparison! But "Trout Mask" is memorable for completely different (and equally awesome and relevant)
reasons.

Most of the bands I'm influenced by that I got to see completely alienated
themselves from the audiences and/or embraced playing shows out of their element. I have to mention Arab on Radar (since I'm originally from New England). I saw maybe one show by them where people as a whole were moved by it. It seemed like they were fairly unpopular, but undoubtedly amazing.
I hate to reference myspace, but you guys have over 300,000 plays. Is it
unreal to imagine people listening to your songs that many times? How big
of a role do you feel the internet plays in keeping a scene going? Obviously it's much easier to find out about music these days because of it
but that hardly explains the overwhelming interest in what weird bands are
doing these days. Seems like we've gone a long way from relying solely on
college radio and picking albums by the art or record label that did it.

y-aw:

I have a hard time myself understanding the mechanics of the whole internet
diffusion thing. I am still skeptical of how representative of popularity
the traffic numbers are. But I get the point you are making about the
challenge in 'playing out off your element' or 'alienating the audience'--
This is something I was discussing recently with Mark and Richard from
Sightings; although it is always baffling to be in the position of being the bummer band, no matter how many successive times it happens, it seems that those situations create the best dialogues with the public, or provoke the most interesting encounters with individual persons who are genuinely interested in music. I find it also an interesting gauge for our music in an aesthetic point of view, although this could be skewed. I love being the
bummer band. I actually have a hard time working my music to be weirder.
Reaching the catatonic state, like Van Vliet said.

Working to make our music more difficult to access actually involves finding
new writing methods. One thing that has been working for us lately has been
taping our practices with a crappy mono tape player, and then try to reproduce the craziness by deconstructing it. Or I have been signing parts on tape, and we replicate these parts, and play them. The parts never really fit together (different time signature or canceling registers) but the result is often interesting, and brought us to push our exploration of polyrythms. It's interesting that you bring Beefheart up, because it's by knowing his material and deciphering it more lately that I feel it opened our
writing methods. I also decided to fully embrace our influences and just
play off our similarities with the stuff we like, because, you know that's our creative personality. I think it would be just unproductive to steer away constantly from what makes us exited about music when comes time to write.

I think the internet does make wonders for weird music by making things that would be hard to access otherwise available to more people, it actually made us able to connect with bands we like in almost every city in the US, and play shows with them on one tour, something that would have probably taken years to build up in successive tours before the nineties. It seems that there is at least one person per city that would come to our show, something unthinkable before, especially because of the genre we are into. I doubt the audience actually widened, I think it rather revealed this music to other people playing it or people interested by it, solidifying the
collaboration between bands, making the nerds come out of their cubbyholes, stop worrying about keeping their mailorder noise tapes collection in alphabetical order and finally go out and see shows. So I guess it became also partly alienating the audience and playing alienated sounds for the already alienated.

I often draw parallels between music and visual art when we write music---
often parts just come up in my mind, completely made up, just like a full
picture would sometimes pop up when I feel really inspired. I also tend to
be in favor of reproducing songs as close to the written original as
possible, unless some parts where pre-established to give leeway to the
player--- just because the aesthetic form as a whole would not be disturbed
there. Do you have this relation with music, where the language is very
monolithic, or do the players get total freedom during performance?

t-nw:

I feel like we are completely stuck between wanting to play tight songs and
be a complete free-form mess. I think the contrast between the two, when
placed together in one song, has not gotten boring to me yet. I used to be
under the impression that anybody could play in this band as long as they
could pluck two notes on a bass or bang something. That is somewhat true,
but it relies completely on how I and people I play with connect. I think
I'm over trying to control this band... it was always about having people
who had no idea what they were doing... total "I could be in your band if
you teach me how to play this instrument" sort of thing, but in recent
months of playing with people who kind of finish my thoughts for me
musically, I have realized this was a form of denial. Music is very sacred
to me... finding someone that I can play with (in any band, not just Night
Wounds) is like finding a boyfriend or girlfriend. Years and years ago
before this band even started I had played with a few people who came from
the same world as me, and when those projects broke up or people moved on
(myself included), I remember being left with a very bittersweet taste in my
mouth, like I had been dumped or broken up with someone. I think that
scared me away from being in a fully working band where everyone contributes
equally from that point onward till a few months ago. I don't like losing
people I connect with.

So no, people have not had freedom in this band to do as they please. But
it was over time that I realized that was by selfish choice as much as it
was necessity, as I automatically assumed no one would be okay with living
in a van for months or just getting up and moving across the country to
breath different air. But this theory has been proven wrong time and time
again, including recently.

To answer your question though, I like songs to be performed the way they
were written. But the free-form moments have more than once thrown everyone
off and turned the song into a disaster or sent it down a different path
with positive results. Usually things that are impossible to recreate...
things that will only be heard by the 15 people in whatever random city that
came that night... which is probably the best yet most-frustrating thing
about attempting to "jam" live.

You were subject to some pretty bad sound when we played together. During a few songs rhythms I didn't know where there would all come together and it started to make sense.Really WEIRD rhythms... more disjointed than I would have expected. Who creates these rhythms?Is it solely based on the drums or do you find yourself being guided by the guitars when you write songs?

y-aw:

It’s kind of a matter of chance. As I wrote earlier, we sometimes compose
out of laying a bunch of different ideas together, then learn our parts and
practice them as much as possible until me match up at certain points for
changes. We constantly practice with the tape recorder on. Since our playing
volume is pretty high, the sound on the recorder gets pretty distorted. Once
a week I put down the best moments on a disk and we start writing from
there. So the final result is pretty hard to predict, even though if I come
up with an idea all-made up on my own for a part with something in mind for
everybody to play--- you know when someone plays 7/8 and another plays 3/4
at the same time, it is hard to know in advance when and how cool stuff is
going to happen... I mean I have a good idea of the physics of it in
advance, but I know there is going to be surprises before we get on it and
play it. So it’s part planning and part chance.

I usually come up with drum lines basing myself on how the guitars are
acting. Even if I have an idea for a song, I usually build up or deconstruct
it starting form a guitar. In the practice space, we often start from one
guitar, where I interact and add my part as it comes along, or one guitar
and me will just fall on an idea together by chance, and then add the second
guitar as a consequence to that. This is not dictating most of the way we
compose together, but this happened in situations where I felt the most
productive or comfortable or that the songs resulting out of this process
where really successful.

I try to keep it minimal to not undermine the guitar work with more
wankiness. It’s also important that my lines keep simple but odd, so they
keep being playful and recognizable but at the same time feel like i did a
bit of research to get to the final result. But one thing I always try to
keep aware of is negative space: just like visual art, in music working with
negative space is a great way to create dialogue, create content within the
songs. I could repeat guitar parts, play against them, or play in the
‘holes’--- I also like the idea when i write of having the ‘drums sing’, as
if the tones coming off the kit will play in the register of the guitars to
compliment them.

t-nw:

I was wondering what makes an album memorable/important to you?

y-aw:

It’s a combination of fluidity from song to song and the intrinsic
qualities of each individual songs. Obviously, I thing a good album will
speak as a whole, but for that I think you should steer away from having
songs that are really similar. Just like different parts in a song, songs on
an album should Ideally kinda fall into each other, make the whole album a
giant ‘song’.

The thing is that is fine and dandy and shit to say that but I definitely do
not write with this in mind. It’s more like if we have a good dozen songs
ready for the studio it’s awesome— but we never really work following a
guiding concept for our writing. In other words, forcing the songs out could
work as a short term experiment, but not for a whole album--- or composition
methods are too organic and democratic for that. Actually I would find it
quite castrating to impose myself this working method— especially since I am
primarily a visual artist working with sounds. So good fucking luck if we
come up with a fluent album by any standard.

How do you place yourself vis-a-vis the crowd when you perform? Do you want
a confrontation somehow? Do you want to embrace them?

t-nw:

I've always had more fun watching bands play on the floor right next to me
as opposed to up on a stage (there are exceptions). My own personal anxiety with being up there was the initial reason, but after touring it seemed obvious that a lot of venues do not have sound engineers that grasp music like this.Someone from Animal Collective once told me that they had sound people gawk at the fact that their wasn't a bass guitar. They (the sound guy) just couldn't grasp it.I feel like that is a prime example of why I
don't like relying on a venue to sound good.It's much easier to play on the floor with our own PA, which also works well considering one night might be a big bar, the next could be a kid's living room.

But more importantly is the fact that we like both embracing and confronting
an audience at the same time. I like being uncomfortable at shows and I
like a band that is challenging to embrace. We are negative people playing
negative songs so it should be no surprise if you get a negative vibe from
watching us play, but every person who comes to a show is different and will
perceive the performance in their own way. There are certainly people who
embrace negativity and will come up and give you a hug after you play a set
of songs about hating work and letting depression control and suffocate your
mind.

And of course there is the one guy at every show who compares us to Flipper.So sometimes any emotion just completely goes over people's heads and they just embrace the musical side of things which is something I wish I could do myself more often.

Half of your band is responsible for a lot of really unique and exciting
art. Are Chloe and you responsible for the entire aesthetic side of things
or do you all sit down and talk about ideas with them before you draw up a
design? 90% of what I bought when I was in middle school was based off of
the art. I did not have the internet so chances had to be taken. This may
seem like a no-brainer, considering your day job, but how important is the
packaging side of things to your band?

y-aw:

Well i think you nailed it right, big part of what dictates how the final
product is going to look like visually is basically this: is it going to
look cool or not? The front cover has to be visually striking or the whole
cover art should be visually engaging, if not provoking or subversive. We
always try to push our own aesthetic agenda somewhat through our designs,
but obviously the visuals have to refer to the music contained in the
recording. I mean this is the most important part of our job, even when we
work for our band. So at the same time, representing the music somehow,
create visuals interesting enough to get someone interested in the record
just by seeing the cover, and also advance our general visual research by
doing this work--- these are the three elements we usually have to keep
aware of when we work.
Chloe and me got pretty much 100% Andre and Myles’ confidence in creating
the graphics for our band... We usually preview everybody with the work that
is being done before going to press when we are dealing with high
circulation pieces, like record covers for instance. But for t-shirts and
posters and most of the rest we basically just churn it out and everybody
else sees it once it’s out for sale.

The packaging side of the band isn’t really important per-se, it’s
definitely something that matters, the music goes first, of course--- but I
have a hard time imagining ANY music devoid of visuals- it seems natural
to me that any art has a multidisciplinary potential— music with packaging
and performance displays that very well.

I agree with your preference with playing on the floor- the closer to the
public, despite if they move or not, despite any of their reactions, the
closer the easier it is for me to perform. I guess this why, by being
involved in visual art as well, I seek to do dark or annoying or striking
stuff--- I want the spectator to at least come closer, to at least show a
millisecond of interest. Floor level totally helps translate that for a
band.

How’s your take on your own band’s visual image. Do you think the work that
has been done now really speaks who you guys are visually? Is there any
visual art or whatever image that provoke musical thoughts in your mind?

t-nw:

The only person we have had do art for us on a regular basis is Chris/
Steak Mnt. Cobatwoundedveteran was a band that came through where I grew up (which is a feat) and I remember being really blown away by how their records looked. I've always had that band placed in the back of mind, artistically as much as musically and I think what he has gone on to do now
is really exciting to us. The back cover of the LP was something that had
to grow on me, but now it's my favorite thing we've had done. I think it is
perfect and it was cool that he made up his mind for me because I was not
feeling it at first glance.

We used to just have tons of people make us stuff and a lot of it was cool,
but over time we had dozens and dozens of grindcore-looking logos and gross,
gory stuff which rules but has not been really fitting in my opinion since
maybe early 2005. I have always liked the looks of old no wave records... a
lot of them you couldn't necessarily even tell you were getting something
related to punk ("Off White", "Sonic Youth", the DNA LP are all examples).
I almost think they look slick... like big label new wave albums. I sadly
think the whole "abrasive (and sometimes challenging) music inside, cover
that would lead you to believe otherwise" thing was beaten to death by
metalcore bands over the past decade, but I still like when it works.

I had heard the name Aids Wolf ages ago. What is the actual history of the
band? Did you guys fall off the Earth and pop back up?

y-aw:

Yeah, we started back in March 2003 and managed to go through 2 guitar
players before we got the first recording down. Also we couldn’t do shit
during the summer of our first three years of existance because either Chris
went planting trees for months twice, Blake went to Russia once, then our
bandmates being gone we decided to do a Seripop tour instead (twice: 2003 and 2004) because of the impossibility of planning an AW tour. We managed to write 14 songs with Blake in one year, that was the most we where ever productive in terms of songwriting, but we still sucked. We only salvaged 6
songs from that era, and still play 4 of them. Once Blake out of the band
(April 2004), Nick replaced him and went on tour with his other band,
scrapping our plans to do shows that year (2004). The stint with Nick ended
with only two new songs written in a whole year. Fuck 2004 was a total
waste. Also Chris being in school made it impossible to do much during
school season. Then Andre joined in spring 2005, we recorded The Lovvers LP
sessions practically a month after, and then we tried to do some shows in
the us that summer. So between when the "live-deth" demo (summer 2005), and
the release of The Lovvers LP nothing much happened apart from a bunch of
new songs written and one seven inch split with the fugue that we had out
just before getting our copies of The Lovvers LP. We were technically barred
from the states from 2004 to 2007 (apart from some short 6 month period in
2005 where we could actually go to the US because of some legal loophole),
until one of us dealt with some court problems. So we played a dozen shows
in the Us in 2005, including CMJ and our 5 us shows leg of our 5 weeks
Canadian tour that year. In order to compensate for our incapacity to cross
the border, we did a 16 days European tour in early 2006 and a 6 weeks
Europe tour in late 2006, in conjunction with the release of The Aw –
athletic automaton split and the split of Chris from our band. Now that
Chris left, we got Myles in the band, did a 7 weeks North-American tour and
everything seems to go much better.

I dunno, we played the Montreal-Toronto areas LOTS, tried to keep the band
alive somehow by sustaining songwriting and trying new tecniques and keeping
releasing things, toured anyhow. Also, Chloe and me being in Seripop (that
basically means not being stable financially and busy working 16 hours a
day) made things a bit tricky for the band to get around at the start--- but
because we are unemployed, we always manage to find a way to liberate
ourselves from our Seripop duties –or just bring Seripop on the road with
Aw- in order to tour. Actually, the joint existence of both projects help
each other getting more known. It also solidified our relations with other
bands, being either our clients or our touring buddies.


What are you next projects? Tours? Releases?

t-nw:

Our first tour ever... which was more of a random vacation with shows in key
cities I wanted to visit... we played below one of your openings. Someone
at the door was mentioning the inability for half of you to get into the
country I believe.

Besides the split with you, we have splits with Twin Crystals,
Shearing Pinx, Cutter (new Fugue band), 10LEC6, Mutators... seriously too many to
name. After that is a one-sided 12" on Corleone and then an album, which
will either be the split with you and that combined or all new stuff. We
aren't sure. We will be touring as often as possible... this March, Summer
and Fall for sure. I am excited about the ability to be an active band
again as we have not had a set line-up since July 06 and it feels good to
have that period over with. This Fall will be our first venture to Europe
as a band. I like the idea of achieving things I've always wanted to do
(like traveling) through playing in a band. There really is nothing that
can compare, and it is totally possible for anyone to do and I wish more
people would.

1 comment:

camden said...

cool blog i'll link it to mine. i glad to see there is interesting stuff going on in the world