Here is the third installment of my ongoing series ANIEC — Adam Naworal Interviews EC — in which I interview a member of the Electronic Cottage community and they interview me. You can read Leslie Singer's interview of me here.
You grew up in the same northeast region I'm from, relocated to California, and then to New York. What would you say is the major difference between each of these as far as the arts and music scenes go?
I think that the major difference was that San Francisco in the early '80s when I was living there was way more open to artists, musicians and all around free thinkers than the DC area where I grew up. DC was very conservative. The same thing could be said of NYC when I moved here in the mid '90s. Unfortunately, SF and NYC have gotten so expensive for artists and musicians that many have had to move to other cities but that is good for the US. That is one of the reasons why I love the Florida noise scene and everything you all are doing throughout the state. You are getting out of the so-called financial centers and spreading the good word!
No New York is a favorite of mine as well. Do you feel that, like that old saw about The Velvet Underground & Nico, everyone who heard it formed a band?
Yes, I do, though I think that probably more bands were influenced by what the No Wavers did AFTER No New York such as the punk funk of James Chance and Pat Place with the Bush Tetras.
EC is a great continuation of the mail art/tape trade aesthetics of the '80s. What are the advantages of networking in the digital age vs. the old via mail ways?
I agree-- EC is a great continuation of the mail art/tape trade aesthetics of the
'80s. It is truly the next logical step. I'm really enjoying the immediacy and the ease of networking and production in the digital age.
Back in the early '80s I had multiple cassette decks, guitars, microphone, a heavy mixing board and amplifier. I was going for a thick, gooey sound of layers of compressed noise (a band of guitars) with screams and gruesome and absurdist lyrics on top. The space between idea and realization wasn’t that long. I lived in small spaces with the equipment all set up and ready to go.
Now the sound layer is a bit more open—more natural room tone whoosh. No amplified reverb. I do just about everything in real time. It is a sound work and a documentation of a performance. It’s about being in the moment and creating and hearing what happens. It’s more about the process and the relationship between the sounds. Not doing a ton of editing---keeping the piece whole and being open to the results. Today’s technology such as the iPhone, easy to use recording apps, and the Sony ICD PX-470 digital recorder make it easy for me to go with the flow on inspiration.
Right now I’ve swapped out the tactility of the guitar with hand held toys and gadgets (a veritable petting zoo/animal farm of a band who I call Barnyard) that can make interesting and weird noises without amplification. I work out the choreography as the spatial relationship with the microphone in the phone or ICD PX 470 is an interesting element. Like in the past to get compressed effects, I continue to mess around with the volume outputs such as using my little iPod as a playback device cranked up to 11.
Back in the '80s, writing the letters and including little bits of artwork with them was nice—it was part of the expression of the music. Back then one mailed the tapes and letters out and waited for a reply. Sometimes things got lost in the mail. (Which still happens now so one has to be philosophical about it—it is all part of the process…) With email, there is more of an immediate reaction to the work and faster communication that can be really helpful and supportive. I think that this also contributes to the feeling of closeness that I have with a website/e-community like Electronic Cottage that wasn’t there in the same way back in the fanzine days.
What a hell of a box! Cherry Red's third volume in their series of "formative electronica" overviews (the first covered the UK, the second continental Europe) draws in names both well-known (Suicide, Ministry, the Residents, Moev, Chrome) and obscure (Data-Bank-A, Architects Office, XX Committee, Rational Youth). Modern composers like Terry Riley and Philip Glass comfortably share space with Controlled Bleeding, Executive Slacks, and Voice Farm in this 4-CD set in a 48-page hardbound book.
Some of our illustrious EC community also appear! Hal McGee is represented by a snippet from the first ever Dog As Master release, a lo-fi bit of industrial sound collage bliss that's somehow related to yet much less refined than his current assemblages (not that there's anything wrong with being less refined!). Rick Franecki appears both on an F/i track AND an F/i collaboration with the criminally underrated industrial group Boy Dirt Car, both of which show why F/i is a legend of American space rock. Al Margolis contributes a fascinating early If,Bwana track from the gorgeously punny Freudian Slip cassette (look up the album cover for the pun!).
Everyone's favorite girl on fire Leslie Singer provides a charmingly DIY bit of sound collage madness in the form of Girls On Fire's delightfully named "Cat Vomit Punk House". Mental Anguish, Chris Phinney's project, is there as well with a lovely piece from MA's fourth cassette.
As with any compilation, the listener will play a mental game of "If I curated this.....", but the selections are solid throughout and they flow perfectly. Get this to hear our wonderful fellow EC'ers during their early years, and stick around to be enthralled by the rest! Even Ministry's goofy synthpop-era dub track sounds good in this context!
A REQUEST: If anyone has ANY information on Isosceles, please contact me! They seem to have been scrubbed completely from the internet (and history as a result) bar their track on disc four. Their track sounds VERY ahead of its time, reminding me of some of the dub techno I enjoyed in my younger years.
Chris Phinney has eight copies of Third Noise Principle for sale.
You can contact him by email to arrange a purchase.