I first came to Toli Nameless’ music via a recommendation from my friend Annabell (the awesome lady behind Rocketoire Radio). Toli is an inspiration, constantly creating and performing as a vocalist, percussionist, band leader, actress, and dancer. Her music – which she defines simply as “good music” – is uplifting and exudes such a joyful spirit that you can’t help but smile when listening. She’s shared the stage with greats, the Sun Ra Arkestra, Toots and The Maytals and worked with folks like Sly and Robbie. Toli also works with various woman’s groups, and non-profit organizations that promote women and girls making positive vibes in the music industry—she’s the driving force behind Paris Girls Rock Camp.
You were in Paris last summer; tell us about what you’ve been doing there.
TOLI NAMELESS: In addition to a well-received music career in the EU, I have founded the Paris chapter of Girls Rock Camp. It’s an international organization of music programs and creativity workshops for girls and women with 60 locations world-wide.
What are your favourite things about Paris?
TN: The people, the architecture and the centralization of arts appreciation in their culture.
What’s been the most rewarding thing that’s come about from your involvement with PGRC?
TN: Watching the girls (and women) flourish in such a short amount of time. There is no other experience like it, and to be a witness of this growth and transformation; is the ultimate reward.
I’ve read that you will play any time, any place, anywhere; what’s been a) the most unique show you’ve played, and b) your most memorable show?
TN: It’s a tie between the shows with the Arkestra and Small Boat Cruiz (that turned every 20 mins). [My] most memorable show: Willie Mae Rock Camp lunch time concert.
You have played and worked with so many amazing musicians, including Sun Ra Arkestra and Toots and The Maytals; what was it like to play/work with such legendary artists?
TN: Some lessons can only be passed through on the job training. I believe that these amazing experiences are what contribute to my ease and comfort level on stage. Once you’ve spent time with a level calibre of musician on stage in front of an audience, everything else seems very easy. There are some many gracious musicians that have opened their stages and imparted their knowledge to me.
You were named by your godfather, reggae soul super star, Keith Rowe; is there any advice Keith has given you about music or creativity that you could please share with us?
TN: Be organized, on time, stay focused, pay what you owe, be honest, and love every moment of what you do when you are doing it. Please note that I am still working on SEVERAL of these lessons.
I know that you decided to make music your main career and attend the world renown, New School Jazz Conservatory, in New York City; when did you decide that you wanted to do music as a career? What was the catalyst?
TN: Yes. Attending the New School at that time was a great experience. I decided I want to have a career in music at the age of 14. I went to see Mikey Bassie’s sound check at a club in New York called S.O.B.’s. He was such a phenomenal force both sonically and on stage that he had me hooked.
What inspired you to found your once twelve member all-female ensemble, The Femm Nameless?
TN: Ha! Youthful ignorance and musical/life experiences had up to that point.
I’ve read that The Nameless were to signify every female musician and unsung heroine whose name would be otherwise forgotten; who are some of your music heroines and what is it about them that you love?
TN: Outside of Nina Simone, I actually have more male influences in music. It’s the real life women that I cherish in the music I write. They are my mom, grandmothers, school teachers (too many to name!), co-workers, and historical figures that quickly fade because there are no squares or statues erected in their honour. But women musicians who should be mentioned here would be Melba Liston, Mary Lou Williams, Bonnie Rait, Kathleen Battle, Meshell Ndegeocello, Ella Fitzgerald, Dolly Parton, Fontella Bass, Roberta Flack, Joan Armatrading, Billie Holiday, Sara Vaughn, Jesse Norman, Lolly Beinfield, Tracy Chapman, Bobbi Humphrey, Missy Elliot. Large List and covers many genres please indulge in them all.
What do you love most about what you do?
TN: Living my words, keeping my promises, implementing empowerment through music, and when the audience is signing my songs.
Other than music, what are some other things that you’ve passionate about?
TN: Food, laughing, traveling and learning about how things work (mechanics, history etc.)
In an uncertain world, how do you continue to keep so positive? Would you say you’re an optimist?
TN: Yes. The glass will always be half full. The work that I do motives and energizes me further. Awareness of the suffering of others is very important.
What are you currently focused on?
TN: Lots of my focus is on Paris Girls Rock, and my forthcoming album (spring 2013).
If you don’t believe in yourself, who the hell will? …I do everything at 110%. I am like a pit-bull; I can’t do it half assed. Got to go with all heart and balls! There is always someone younger than you, smarter than you, better looking than you and more talented than you who is willing to sell their soul to take your place! You can’t let them take your ground. You’ve got to fight for what is yours and guard it with dear life. You’ve also got to understand that it is not only about you, your fans are the reason why you are where you are so you got to be cool to them. Also remember where you came from. That is why I always tell people I am from Queens!
Punk ferocity, bloodied knees, ripped stockings, smeared lipstick, frenetic energy, hard driving synths, a devil-may-care attitude, and a DIY ethos—are the hallmarks that make this French duo, Kap Bambino so great! Once described as having “a party or die kind of vibe, like Crystal Castles, just a bit more evil!” this pair know how to have fun. Whenever I put on their records I can’t help but dance. I first caught the Kap Bambino dancing fever when my Jhonny showed me this:
Here’s my interview with très cool frontlady Caroline Martial doing her best to answer my questions in broken English.
Kap Bambino originally started as a 4-song project Orion was working on solo; how did you come to be a part of Kap Bambino?
CAROLINE MARTIAL: I remember, it was in 2001 during the first Kap Bambino show—Orion in a little Irish pub in Toulouse south of France. I joined him with a mic to try a few songs, and we had a big time together on stage! After that we decide quickly to do music together. Less than one year after we released the LOVE LP (in 2002).
You’ve been a band for a decade now. Congratulations! That’s certainly an achievement; what else are you proud of that you’ve achieved?
CM: Thanks! Yeah we can’t believe, we still alive! We continue to trust in our shit.
What do you love most about collaborating with each other? What strengths do you each bring to Kap Bambino?
CM: It’s chemical like the fries and the ketchup. It worked since the first day we met. It’s a big mix of both personalities: energy, craziness, tenderness, stupidity, melancholy, sensible as fuck and addiction to cigarettes and coffee; completely real people, raw, direct, and burn by this crazy world.
How did you first discover music?
CM: For me, since I was born. My Mum played Janis Joplin, and my dad, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Serge Gainsbourg. My parents were simple people, but really into records, and listening [to them] a lot at home. I am lucky.
What was the first concert you ever went to see? Can you describe your experience of it?
CM: It was L7, at the door [they said] it was an underage show. I was 16 and my best friend lied [about my age] to help me get in the club. Trust me, it was a blast to see these girls performing! At the end of the show they jumped naked into the crowd, and fought people with French baguette bread. They opened my mind, like Sonic Youth, Nirvana at this period.
Kap Bambino has been touring a bunch this year. What’s the most fun you’ve ever had performing?
CM: Lots! ’cause Kap Bambino shows are always adventures everywhere in the world, in a good or bad way—fun or fuck. One I can describe for example is the Osaka show in Japan. We were like little French kittens for the first time in Japan, completely disconnected, jet lagged, lost, and really scared no one’s heard about our shitty band in this part of the world. After losing a few hours around the venue, drinking some beers and buying stupid Pokemon stuff, suddenly [at the] front of the club a massive fan club was there, completely excited! I was impressed so bad….and the show was hysterical…so much… I can’t remember I have sing (!) but the crowd sang our songs with a Japanese accent on “French Glish” lyrics…I let you imagine. They were too shy to crowd surf at the start, but after five songs, trust me, they all flying in the air and do the chaos. The bruises and the emotion to realize we play for real in Japan was so big after that, we have crying and laughing at the same time.
At the end of last year you supported Blondie in Santiago. How was that?
CM: INTENSE. Blondie fans are our child for sure, they know, they understand what we doing like everywhere.
I know that your fans are very important to you, other than live shows are there other ways you like to connect with them? I love your blog/site by the way!
CM: Thanks yeah I love running this stupid blog and share our normal life with my fans. Yes, the only thing we have is our fans—I love them so much. They are the most important thing for our mojo. We don’t do commercial and mainstream music, so it isn’t the money that keep us alive you know, believe me, it’s our fans!
A recent post (for your Italian shows) had a picture of a kitty with a marijuana leaf on its head (I’m assuming you like to party?); have you found an altered state of mind is conducive to your creativity?
CM: Ahahha for our creativity not really, we are already sicko. But, sometimes yeah we like to smoke, but ndlr: I love to do rubbish visuals, and this one is just another bad one I do when I can’t sleep and laughing front tumblr or blingee; it’s the cannabis kitten king of the streets!
I’ve read that you enjoy making your records at home as opposed to in a traditional studio; what do you love most about working from home? Is the environment you create in important to the process?
CM: We’ve never been in a studio, ’cause the coffee is better at home. And we can do how we want, no times, no regrets to have a shit talking sound texture with a dude fan of U2.
Why did you choose to sing in English rather than French?
CM: To get out of France! And, to not be a cool French band and only play in dad’s festival with ugly pop band or play only in basement with six people and wanna die after 15 shows. To sing in English is a passport.
Your album Devotion came out last year, have you been working on any new music recently? What are you currently focused on?
CM: Yes we’re working on new stuff actually!
Lastly, what are some things that Kap Bambino is passionate about?
CM: The Ocean. Old horror movies. Listening to records. Thinking today is the last day, let’s do all in one night, and wake up the day after and feel it’s not over yet, but we get a big headache.
I’ve always been drawn to bands that are original, highly creative, innovative, provocative, funny and courageous—all the things that The Units are. They’re one of my favourite bands. Starting out life as a multimedia performance art group in San Francisco at the tail end of the ’70s they went on to be known as one of the pioneering synthpunk acts. They were the first punk band in SF performing just using synths and have shared the bill with acts like the Dead Kennedys, Screamers, Dead Boys, the Bags, Noh Mercy and Sparks (all bands that I think are pretty neat). I recently caught up with The Units’ Scott Ryser to give me a little insight into the band, his musical journey and what he’s been up to since activity in The Units’ camp went quiet. I was super stoked he shared with me a story of an out-of-body experience he had which contributed to him starting The Units. I’d definitely consider this one of the most interesting interviews I’ve ever had the pleasure of doing.
What in your life do you think led you to music? I know you were in a band when you were a teen with your two younger brothers and some neighbourhood kids called, The Brothers and The Others.
SCOTT RYSER: Music is one of the few things in life that gives me hope that we are not a doomed species…and that we can do something together besides hunt like a pack of wolves. My experience of the world, and especially childhood, reminds me of the novel “Lord of the Flies” …people congregating out of fear…always on the verge of slipping into some kind of chaotic mob mentality…people yearning to be part of the groupthink instead of nurturing individuality…and the will to power overcoming the will to help each other.
Music has the power to light up dark, lonely and dangerous places…and give a comforting order, feelings and personality to chaos. Playing music made me feel like I could finally communicate…not just with people…but with “life” in general. When I played music, even as a kid in a small town, it was the only way I could escape the predictable, predetermined, assembly line fate of my future.
Playing in a band helped me with my social awkwardness…and allowed me to be a part of civilization on my own terms.
The “Brothers and the Others” was the first band I was in. I was 12, my brother Ken was 11, and my brother Tom was 9. There were two other neighbourhood kids in the band too. At first we were really more of a gang than a band. We all dressed in the same exact clothes and we went everywhere together. We thought it was especially fun to go to a movie theatre and take up almost a whole row of seats. None of us knew how to play, but somehow we figured out three chords and based all of our songs on those three chords. We played a few gigs at our local elementary school…those kind of school dances where a teacher with a ruler makes sure you’re at least 3 inches away from your dancing partner.
It was great therapy…it made us all feel soooo cool.
Can you tell us about the first piece of performance art that you can remember witnessing? What did it mean to you?
SR: I remember seeing Spaulding Grey do a monologue in the mid ‘70’s just after he’d founded the Wooster Group in NYC. It was in a very small place with about 20 people in the room. What it meant to me, was that you/I could be scared/sensitive/fragile/vulnerable…and if you had the courage, you could still pull off a really great performance. In contrast to someone like Chris Burden (who I also admire) shooting himself, or crucifying himself…sometimes it takes more courage to confront something less obvious…like stage fright…and not trying to hide how vulnerable you are.
It helped me value and even get power from my vulnerability before I’d go on stage. If you’re talented and totally confident in your art, it becomes almost fun to walk onstage like a lamb and go out like a lion.
How did synthesizers manifest themselves in your life?
SR: In 1971, prior to the time Tim Ennis and I started The Units, we were working the graveyard shift at our little town’s lumber mill. The lumber mill was in a horribly desolate little redneck area of northern California…an all day’s ride away from any kind of city…and it seemed like we couldn’t make it through the night without some cowboy or lumberjack taunting us. We’d been out of high school for about a year…and we definitely, without a doubt…had no future. I guess it was that sense of hopelessness and despair that inspired us to sneak in the life-sized plastic baby dolls…and send them down the log assembly line to be sawed and chopped up in the wood chipper.
Our little statement on how we felt people in our culture were similar to identical conveyor belt products. We thought it was pretty funny at the time, but the boss and the rest of the crew didn’t see it our way. We were 19 years old, and we were lumber mill history. It was time to reinvent ourselves. We decided to drive to San Francisco with our lumber mill money, so I could buy this new synthesizer that I had been reading about.
Robert Moog had just introduced a portable synthesizer called the Minimoog, and according to the salesman at the music store, I turned out to be the first one in SF to buy one. I had been reading about the Minimoog, and the idea of being able to create new sounds with it, in new ways, intrigued me.
I was tired of the sound of the “guitar boy band” formula. I wanted to create a new look and a new sound, and the only way I thought I could do that was with a new/different instrument.
Synthesizers seemed like the perfect instrument. You could create new sounds completely from scratch. They were a very D.I.Y., Punk idea to me…because any amateur could play one and sound as good as a 4 handed pro, if they had good ideas. They could automate sounds and riffs that you didn’t have the dexterity to play in real time…speed up and slow down time…in real time!
Up until the Minimoog came out, synthesizers were too big, heavy and expensive to afford or use. Only big institutions had them. But the Minimoog was portable and affordable. It really democratized electronic music. You no longer had to go to a university to get your hands on one. And you didn’t have to be “taught” how to use it “correctly”. You could pioneer whatever sounds you wanted.
I couldn’t help but extend the idea. Just the name alone was full of possibilities. “Synthesizer”. The ability to create or re-create yourself and remix the world. One that synthesizes. A wizard. Some definitions of synthesis I like are; “the combining of often diverse conceptions into a coherent whole”, and “the dialectic combination of thesis and antithesis into a higher stage of truth.” That’s what being a synthesizer means to me. Remixing the life you are given, recreating it as you see fit, and creating a higher stage of truth.
Being able to find some kind of coherent whole, some kind of personal meaning in all this swirling chaos. No wonder we applied it to create synthpunk and to punk up disco and the music industry. It was the perfect instrument to reinvent the status quo.
So it seemed like perfect timing to me, that perhaps the most famous synthesizer player of the time, Walter Carlos (Switched on Bach, Clockwork Orange soundtrack), would take this idea to its extreme…by not only synthesizing his sound…but by synthesizing himself! And changing his body from a man to a woman.
Carlos’s first public appearance after her gender transition was in an interview in the May 1979 issue of Playboy magazine, a decision she regrets because of the unwelcome publicity it brought to her personal life. It was the same month that we were bashing images of cops on the hood of a Cadillac as our synths played on autopilot.
The (musical instrument) synthesizer itself is defined as a “computerized electronic apparatus for the production and control of sound (as for producing music).” But I’m afraid that definition just doesn’t cut it. A better definition would be: a “computerized electronic apparatus capable of reinventing music”. NEW YORK CITY – 1979.
You’re a self-taught musician. What do you feel are the greatest things about being self-taught?
SR: The best thing about being self-taught, is that you can write songs in a key that you can sing in. It also helps you connect with, and express, your inner feelings. Puts you in touch with your intuition. When I have some strong feeling come over me, I’ll go to my piano or synth and just start playing. I don’t even have a melody in my head when I put my hands on the keys. The melody comes out of my hands…not my head. It’s weird to talk about your body in such an outsider kind of way…but I think there is a body-mind divide…and sometimes it feels really good show your body some faith and respect, and let your mind take a rest.
What is your most beloved piece of musical equipment? What significance does it have to you?
SR: Definitely my Minimoog. It has taken me on a great adventure and given me a voice that I can use to express myself, in a more understandable way sometimes, than that of my own.
I understand that back in the beginning days of The Units you viewed guitars as a “negative symbol” that represented socially acceptable rebellion for young people. Was there a catalyst for this realisation? Do you still view them this way three decades on? Have things changed?
SR: I don’t have anything against guitars as a musical instrument. But it annoys me that in popular culture, many musicians and the music industry have taken the politics and good intentions Woody Guthrie had with his guitar, the one with “This Machine Kills Fascists” written on it, and turned the future of it into a commodity and a fashion statement.
The entertainment/advertising industry has homogenized the piss out of guitars until they might as well be the symbol for Coke, Budweiser or Marlboro. The USA media is great at taking confrontation and dissent against the status quo, and repackaging it, and selling it back to the masses as sex, entertainment and fashion. That’s what happened to the guitar heroes…for the most part, it’s all just posing now. I felt like in order to make a new statement of dissent, I would have to accompany it with an instrument that didn’t come pre-tagged as a symbol of sex and entertainment.
I liked watching (The Who’s) Pete Townshend smash his guitar during old footage of ‘My Generation’. But at the same time I thought, “Fuck your generation, Pete, if all it’s going to do is smash guitars on a stage instead of on a symbol of Margaret Thatcher’s head.” I wanted MY generation to take it a step further. Do you see what I’m getting at here? I have nothing against Margaret Thatcher personally, but you know what I mean? There are PLENTY of things to be angry about …why not point a few of them out! If you are so angry that you feel like you have to smash a guitar, why not do it on an image of George Bush! So that’s what we did!
We cut out stacks of life-sized plywood guitars and smashed them on images of George Bush and other corrupt politicians and symbols of authority…that we were projecting on a metal Cadillac car hood that we were using as a movie screen, not only because it sounded like a big gong, it was like smashing the auto industry and the music industry and at the same time saying “We’re tired of all the lies and bullshit you’re selling us.” (Our synths would be playing at full blast, on autopilot, in the background while we were doing this.)
We weren’t just putting on some show…we were pissed! Our country is made up of an exclusive, white, corporate, good-ole-boys club of rich bastards…fucking the millions of the poor! Raping the earth and trying to strong arm third world countries out of their natural resources. What did you want us to do? Sing ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” like the Beatles?
Oh dear…I sound like such a grouchy old man here…
The guitars were a convenient symbol. That’s all. A lot of people still don’t get it. Including my own kids!
Things have changed over 30 years…but I still prefer guitars being played by people that preceded Woody Guthrie …ok…throw [Bob] Dylan and Neil Young and Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson into the mix too.
So much has changed in the last 34 years. Back in 1978, The Units were called the first “all synthesizer” band in San Francisco…and along with Suicide in NYC and The Screamers in LA, we were one of the first all synth bands in the USA. None of us got any airplay on commercial radio stations…and MTV and the internet hadn’t even been invented yet. It would another 20 years before the word “synthpunk” would even be invented. The word “Electronica” would not become a music category for another 20 years. Now, in 2013, there are 693 radio stations on iTunes radio alone, that ONLY play “Electronica”, (all synth music). So as you can see…these days I have very little to rebel against…when it comes to guitars having a monopoly on popular culture.
Who are the artists that you find interesting? Do the artists that move you have any commonalities?
SR: I have a very eclectic taste in music. I like classical music, jazz, folk, blues, funk, reggae, rock, punk…pretty much the best of everything. I can listen to Beethoven’s 5th followed by Buddy Guy & Junior Wells, followed by Diana Ross and the Supremes, followed by Jimi Hendrix, followed by Jay Retard & Terror Visions, followed by Philip Glass, followed by John Coltrane, followed by Kitchen and the Plastic Spoons. I have poor taste in synthesizer bands …I like them all.
I guess the common thread with bands I like is that they all have to have a lot of originality and a “wow” factor. The musical artists that most influenced my playing and songwriting were probably Louie Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Jimi Hendrix for my synth chops, Hank Williams and the Beach Boys for my singing, John Cage, Meredith Monk, Terry Riley, Philip Glass & Steve Reich for experimentation, The Troggs, The Modern Lovers & Iggy Pop for fun.
As to the last part of your question, what I find interesting about these artists is their differences rather than their commonalities.
I’ve read that back in the 70s you didn’t just have problems with popular music but also with our culture in general. You’ve commented that “It seemed like I was swimming in an assembly line river of advertising and products.” I can really identify with that and personally feel the same way today, to me it seems like things have gotten worse in that regards not better. What are your thoughts and feelings on this?
SR: Yes, I think that in some ways it has become worse. The vibe I get from advertising and the world of entertainment is that they’re trying to convince us that you can solve all your problems by getting a shiny new surface image. Now we have all these TV shows we didn’t have back then. Really popular shows like “What Not To Wear”, “Project Runway”, “American Idol”, etc., etc….Shows that focus on teaching people how to conform to the status quo. How to win the hearts of industry leaders. God forbid you are an “individual” and stray too far from the status quo. Along with a multitude of commercials for “whitening your teeth”, “growing your hair”, “breath fresheners”, “erection helpers” …on and on. It can make you feel like you’re being processed, packaged and being sent down an assembly line.
Do you think there are any solutions? Where do we go from here? Are there things you do in your life to counterbalance this?
SR: I think this is the solution, blogs like this…people making creative statements, art and music. It can take as little as a child crying out (as in The Emperor’s New Clothes), “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”
Correct me if I’m wrong but, I think I read somewhere that you and your wife and band mate Rachel, decided to leave music in 1984? What inspired this change of path? Can you tell us a little about the time that followed please? Was music still a major part of your lives in anyway?
SR: By 1984 the system that we were trying to subvert was feasting on our band. We had signed to Epic, and they wanted to repackage our music as mediocre shiny bullshit. We were trying to record a new album in England and the A&R guy kept showing up and telling us to change our music to sound more like Michael Jackson, or Cyndi Lauper. We had two albums shelved because they weren’t “commercial enough”. When we toured we were now the opening act for a lot of big bands …which was great, but we weren’t allowed to show our films anymore …which we considered half of our show.
Within this year our manager, who happened to be Rachel’s brother, died of a drug overdose. I got a call from the S.F. police department and a detective told me a former Units roadie was being investigated for a string of murders. Because we hadn’t renewed a deal with a Bill Graham influenced label, The Units had been banned from playing Bill Graham venues on the West Coast. As you can see, all of a sudden, “The Music Business” started to feel really dirty…and playing music was no longer fun or meaningful.
We moved to NYC and started a family and a successful design business…and in retrospect, it turned out to be a really good decision. Between the business and raising two kids we were really busy 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even though we always listened to a lot of music, it wasn’t until my kids went to college that I’ve had time to get back into playing and recording music.
You’ve been married for over 30 years, congratulations! What’s it been like to share your journey with Rachel? What does she bring to your life? How does she inspire you?
SR: My life with Rachel has been wonderful and exciting since the first time I laid eyes on her. I couldn’t be more fortunate. You’re lucky if you find someone you love, but it’s even better to share your life with someone that’s a partner, a best friend, and someone that will take risks, back you up, and collaborate with you on everything you do. I can’t imagine how different my life might have turned out, without her. She balances all my weaknesses and inspires me to take risks and be creative.
Could you tell us about the work that Rachel does with Horizons at Brooklyn Friends School?
SR: Rachel is the executive director of Horizons at Brooklyn Friends School. It is an academic enrichment program, mostly serving low-income black kids living in the projects, in the Downtown Brooklyn area. It’s a free program that provides the academic support that these children need to stay on grade level (compared to their more affluent peers). The program also teaches the kids art and music…and how to swim. You know how most kids hate school. Well, it’s unbelievable how much these kids love it.
Your son, Sam, is in a punk band called Crazy Spirit. Have you been to one of his shows?
SR: Yes, I’ve been to a few of his shows…even filmed them. They’re very popular here in NYC, and have toured the USA and Europe. All the guys in the band are artists as well as musicians. They screenprint all their record covers and inserts, posters and t-shirts. They are very DIY and punk. They’re great.
My 18 year old daughter Nina is also in a band and has a 7” EP out called “Nina Ryser – September” that was put out by a record label in Mexico. Unlike me, Nina can actually read and write music for other instruments. Needless to say, I’m very proud of both of them and we have lots to talk about.
I know that your style of humour is a little darker/has a dark bent than most; what’s something that’s amused you lately?
SR: I just saw this picture of former president George Bush standing in front of some paintings he did of dogs…poodles and such. I always got a good laugh out of what an idiot the guy was as he was destroying our country…but I found this especially funny. Like Hitler’s paintings…what is it with these guys. It just makes no sense to me…it’s funny and frightening…all at the same time. Here’s the link to it.
Have you ever had a really life changing moment that you could share with us?
SR: I’ve always had bad social phobia…fear of being in groups of people. One time I was in this new college class at SF State University…and all the students had to sit in a big circle…and one by one…tell the class your name and what you wanted from the class. I was so anxious, that when it came to my turn to speak, I had an out-of-body experience. My consciousness actually floated up to the ceiling and I could look down at myself and the classroom. “I” was up on the ceiling, invisible, calmly looking down at this body that used to be mine. Obviously, it’s a weird feeling to look at humanity as if you are viewing it from the outside. I wrote the song “i Night” that night, quit the class the next day…and started the Units.
In the year 2013 what does The Units mean to you?
SR: Pretty much the same as it did in the beginning. I never meant for The Units to be a performance group, or a band, or a film. To me the important thing about it is just the idea of it. The concept.
I’m happy that after all these years, there are some people around the world that still find The Units compelling.
Is there any possibility (no matter how remote) that The Units will play shows again?
For you, what was the most memorable show that The Units played and why does it stick in your mind?
SR: It was a show we played at the Geary Theatre in 1980. There was always a certain amount of pushing & shoving, crowd diving, spitting and whatnot going on at punk shows back then…but sometimes it got out of hand…especially from out of town kids that didn’t know the limits. I saw Klaus from the Dead Kennedys hit a guy over the head with his bass once because the guy just wouldn’t stop fucking with him…and I saw one of the guys in the Toiling Midgets slam a guys face on the stage for the same reason. At this show at the Geary Theatre we were on a 4 foot high stage, which was unusual compared to other punk venues. The place was big and it was packed, and there were 3 guys in the crowd that kept fucking with Rachel…throwing stuff at her. I got so mad, that right in the middle of the song, I ran and jumped off the stage and on to them as if I were jumping on to a horse. My legs went around their three heads and we all crashed down onto the floor with me still on top of their necks…I’m sure they were stunned…and I started punching them. The horrible thing, that I thought about later, was how good it felt. I had never felt so good…and that is a horrible thing…to realize you have that kind of killer instinct in you. I got up and jumped back on the stage and we finished the song and the rest of the set. Afterwards I was quite worried that I might have really hurt them…and shaken that there was a part of me I had not known about.
Is there anything that you’re currently focused on or working on?
SR: I just finished that huge 3 CD “The Units – Connections” project that features 50 tracks that were written by The Units between 1977 and 1984, that were remixed/reworked by over 45 international DJs, producers and bands for the dance floor. It’s also on vinyl and digital, with several E.P.s and 12” singles. There’s still a few things going on with that.
Other than that, I’m kind of in between things. Doing a lot of work on my house. Trying to decide if I want to write some more music, work on another film, or just write.
Lastly, what’s something other than music that you’re passionate about or would like to raise awareness of?
SR: I’ve always been passionate about politics. I try not to get too discouraged about how long it takes for things to change. But I’ve seen things change in my life so I still hold out hope and continue to vote. I’m happy that we actually have a black president now, and for the advances in women’s and gay rights. I’m glad how the internet has had a democratizing effect throughout the world.
What bothers me most right now is the disparity and inequality of opportunity that happens to children that come from poor families vs. those that come from wealthy families. Because it just perpetuates the status quo…indefinitely.
I really see it through the work Rachel does with her Horizons program. It’s really in your face here in NYC and Brooklyn…kids of millionaires living a few blocks away from poor kids from the projects. The wealthy kids have tutors, coaches, private lessons, summer programs and usually two parents that are both highly educated, into the arts, read to their kids, and expect their kids to be highly educated. The wealthy kids go to private schools with dedicated college counsellors that have personal connections with the admissions people at Ivy League schools. The kids from the projects have almost none of these opportunities.
I think it’s a crime that public school kids have so few opportunities to do art or music or to learn how to swim. It amazes me to see how empowered a kid becomes when they learn how to swim, or when they do a painting that their parent puts up on the wall, or play some music, or do a dance where everybody applauds for them. No wonder that kids who have none of these opportunities to feel self-confident and empowered end up feeling bored and disinterested at school.
Obviously, the more your parents care about your education, the better you will do. But it’s almost impossibly hard for a single working parent with no money to offer much help, no matter how much they care.
The Horizons program is funded entirely by volunteer donations and private grants. I just wish the city, state and federal government would lend a hand in funding programs like this for low-income kids.
Josh Weier and Alex Ball are two inspiring Creatives based in Brisbane—a photographer and film maker respectively. The two friends are also (after much searching) the folks J and I have entrusted to capture our wedding day! Regular CWB readers will know that I only like to collab/work with awesome, positive, pro-active people whose work I can totally get behind…I love Josh and Alex’s work and I’m excited that not only are they talented but, also incredibly generous, they want to spread the love for what they do as a gift to a lucky couple!
Currently, they’re embarking on a very special project called a wedding adventure!
A wedding adventure was born from an idea that we shouldn’t be afraid to embrace whimsy – that nagging idea that life could be magical; it could be special if we were only willing to take a few risks.
we have a heart for giving. we want to go on an adventure and make something wonderful for two people. why? to give back to the world which has given so much to us.
Here’s a little more insight into what they do, why they do it and what makes them so awesome…
Have you always been creative? Tell us a little bit about your creative backgrounds.
ALEX: Grew up drawing cars and painting watercolours with dad. I pinched mum’s camera when I was about ten years old. My brother and I went on adventures with our bikes, documenting things we found with mum’s camera. I was that kid who had fancy title pages on his assignments. I never chased this career as it seems too difficult to get into. Instead I got myself a BA in Computer-Based Art and Design which covered really broad range of things from design and art history, graphic design, web, animation, film and sound. I’m mostly self-taught with the photo and video skills, learning from magazines and websites, blogs and experimentation.
JOSH: Truly, I don’t know how to answer this. I mean, we are all unique and creative. We each see the world differently, through different eyes, different cultural references and through different experiences. We were made to be a creative people. I think it comes down to how well you can articulate your thoughts and ideas using an artistic medium which tells your peers how creative you are.
I think it’s only now that I’ve found my voice, the way to express myself artistically, through photography, that I could somewhat stake my claim that I’m a creative individual. And I’m right at the end of that very, very long line of our creative brothers and sisters.
What inspired you to get into photography and videography?
ALEX: Initially, how creative you can be with a camera. I would describe it as looking into a dreamland, where time can be slowed, the eye lead and a story told. It was also an escape, a getaway and a pursuit to make art. Today it’s more about the purpose and meaning of the picture. Why document this, is this memorable.
JOSH: I love to see, watch, read anything that provokes emotion. To me, visuals are the most powerful and immediate way of evoking an emotional connection. There are so many great images throughout history that are completely arresting. That make you stop. Look. Contemplate. Feel. Perhaps even listen to that little voice that only whispers in the quiet and tells you about the important things in life.
The thought of making an image that matters to someone and that causes them to stop, look, contemplate and feel is a rush that I find hard to explain.
It’s also an incredibly difficult thing to do. If everyone with an SLR camera could make images that matter, then I’d be out of luck!
How did you meet and what were your first impressions of each other?
ALEX: We met at a party through a mutual friend. Josh had just returned from being overseas in Europe. My first impressions of Josh were funny, easy going, well spoken. I think a naked man ‘popped in’ the front door momentarily that night. That was something I don’t forget.
JOSH: I thought, “Damn, who is that tall, skinny dude who looks like Woody from Toy Story?”
Alex was full of a light, humour and kindness that was easy to see and want to be around. It was almost too easy to become friends. Coincidently that was the first time I saw Lauren, who I am so eternally grateful to now call my wife.
Oh also, I wasn’t the naked man that Alex spoke of. That is quite the entrance though.
When did you both realise that capturing weddings and telling a couple’s story was what you wanted to do?
ALEX: For me, it started when I filmed Josh’s wedding. It was a different experience to make something that meant so much to someone. It has a life longer than the ads I would make at work. This was given a massive re-enforcement recently when we both attended a workshop run by We are the Parsons and hosted by Jonas Peterson. Jonas also shot Josh’s wedding photos. It was seeing his work and his approach that also opened my eyes to another world of photography which I related to. I realised that this is something I’m so very privilege to do, especially when I enjoy it so much.
JOSH: It started when I asked Lauren to marry me. I began looking for wedding photographers that weren’t ‘wedding’ photographers. I wanted to find someone who was actually interested in telling a story.
I ended up finding a bunch of pretty incredible photographers, who just happen to shoot weddings. People like Feather & Stone, Todd Hunter McGraw, Matt & Katie, Samm Blake, We are the parsons and a number of others. Lauren and I ended up choosing this crazy talented Swedish dude called ‘Jonas Peterson’. He was named top 10 wedding photographers in the world the year Lauren and I were married. You can check out our photos here, we’re thrilled.
I’ve had a deep love for photography and film for many years, and when I discovered what wedding photography had become, I fell in love and it consumed me.
And then somehow, someway, I found myself shooting weddings. Giving my all to couples, for the thrill and the happiness of presenting to them something that made me feel the same way when I saw the photos that Jonas gave Lauren and I.
How would you describe your style and approach to your craft?
ALEX: Candid. Documentary. Softly cinematic and genuine. It’s important to tell a couples story, not just make art. You need to listen to their story to tell it. And have fun.
I’ve been trusted by two beautiful people to be a part of one of the best days in their life. They deserve someone who will appreciate that, not take it for granted and give them their absolute everything.
That is an honour.
Generally I stay out of the way and just let the day happen. Watch the joy and adventure unfold. I’m always pushing myself to find a better shot, asking myself if I could have done that better.
What does making good art mean to you?
ALEX: I’m going to sound like a broken record here, but it gives me so much enjoyment to make art that means something to people. The memories I capture may well out live us. It’s nice to think what I’m doing might be around longer than I ever will be.
JOSH: A deep appreciation for the gift and opportunity I’ve been given. To always remind myself that it is a privilege to do what I do and make even better art next time.
Who or what inspires you? How do they/does it inspire you?
ALEX: Creativity in its many forms. Writing. Design. Food. Fashion. Art. Film. Photography. Probably missed a few there. Nature, our world is infinitely variable. Nothing is from the same mould it is all unique. Look at the clouds. I find inspiration wherever I am. I’m inspired by people who value life, who love, who share, who take risks, who make big mistakes and learn from them. People who are living a great story.
JOSH: My sister. She is beautiful; she is ridiculously talented and never gives up. She’s never had the easy roads in life, and for that she is an inspiration. I love her.
My wife, Lauren. I don’t know anyone else who is so crazy gifted at anything they try their hand at. She constantly amazes me. Like, daily amazement.
Alex. He always has a different viewpoint that I’d never considered. He pushes me to be betterererer.
How do you complement each other?
ALEX: With a slathering of sarcasm. We have fun, we encourage, we share.
JOSH: Yeah right Alex, you jerk.
What can a couple expect working with you?
ALEX: To feel like we are friends. That they can laugh, cry, snort, be themselves, unreservedly, in front of us.
JOSH: We’ll have dinner together before your wedding. How many photographers, actually, how many strangers would invite you into their own home and cook a meal for you and get to know you? I’m not even talking about Swedish horsemeatballs. We’ll cook a feast, get out the wine and finish the night with port or whisky.
And then, when I see you on your wedding day, I will hug you, as friends do. I will smile when you first kiss, I will bump into you on the dance floor cause I like to get up all crazy close when you’re letting loose!
I’ve found that often people can look quite stiff in wedding photos, your work seems to transcend that; what do you do to put your subjects at ease?
ALEX: Listen to their story. Become their friends. We don’t look at what we do as a business transaction, they are our couples. Give them a space to be themselves. Don’t come with any preconceived ideas.
JOSH: It’s an odd thing, I mean, for people to look comfortable in wedding photos. How does that even happen?
Oh I know why…it’s because we know each other. I’m not just some guy you’re paying money for. We’re totally Facebook friends :)
What is one of the happiest wedding moments you’ve witnessed?
ALEX: Josh glancing at his wife Lauren, whilst in a row boat with her on a lake on the day of their wedding. The moment seemed to stop in time.
JOSH: Hey Alex, that’s lovely :) I remember that so well.
Sorry, I just can’t pick one. Every wedding is so great in so many ways. It’s impossible for me to choose.
What is your favourite part of a wedding that you like to capture?
ALEX: My favourites are always changing. At the moment, I actually really enjoy hearing the speeches. Boring right. I find there are some really great words spoken at this time. Words are important, they can empower or tear down.
JOSH: I love the dancing. It’s the end of the night, there’s nothing left to do other than to dance the night away, raucously. No inhibitions, no nothing. Just fun.
How did ‘a wedding adventure’ project come into being?
ALEX: It came from the idea that if we embrace whimsy, something unexpected, unknown and memorable will happen. And that is pretty exciting to us. We love to travel, to explore, to go on adventures. Seemed like a good fit.
JOSH: What Alex said!
What’s some important lessons that you’ve learned along the way?
ALEX: Don’t take any preconceived ideas into a couple’s day. Take it all in like it is Papua New Guinea. Even if you have been to the venue before, look at it like it’s all new.
JOSH: Comparison is the thief of joy. Do it your way, not anyone elses. Trust yourself.
What is your greatest joy?
ALEX: To exist. To be a friend. To share life with others.
JOSH: I wake up next to the most beautiful woman every morning. It still spins me out.
Do you have a favourite quote?
ALEX: Again with the favourites! Here is one I’m fond of at the moment: we shouldn’t be afraid to embrace whimsy – that nagging idea that life could be magical; it could be special if we were only willing to take a few risks. ~Don Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.
JOSH: What is essential is invisible to the eye. ~The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
Other than art, what is something that you’re really passionate about or would like to raise awareness of?
ALEX: My mum has a form of dementia known as Pick’s disease. The easiest way to describe it, is forgetting how to behave and socially interact. There is little awareness about it. Little known about it. It is also often misdiagnosed and consequently mistreated.
JOSH: Three things that Lauren and I support.
Kiva.org which empowers and illeviates poverty through small loans.
Please look them up; they do a much better job of explaining their cause than I could ever do.
What’s next for you?
ALEX: To gather some people wiser than myself and form a plan to raise awareness about Pick’s disease. It has been something in the back of my mind for a while. That and growing the business of telling couples stories, making images that matter, to a place where it can support me.
JOSH: I really hope to continue what I’m doing on a bigger scale. I hope that people connect with what I do and that they’ll place their trust in my gift. I can’t think of anything more worthwile.
Thank you so much for taking an interest in what Alex and I do. We can’t thank you enough, truly.
As many of you guys already know, Jhonny and I are getting married in a few short weeks! To say that I am excited would be an understatement—I’m beyond excited! We’re having a DIY Mexican fiesta! Work and writing commitments, plus all the wedding planning, has been taking up my time of late, hence it being a little quiet around here at Conversations With Bianca. I have lots of amazing things in the works to share with you guys coming up soon though!
In-depth interviews with: musician and artist Guy Blakeslee of the amazing The Entrance Band; synth-punk pioneer Scott Ryser of Units; Irish rockers And So I Watch You From Afar—“Solidarity, Positivity, leaving a trail of sonically destroyed venues and new friends in our wake.”; Tim Nordwind and Drea Smith of PYYRAMIDS; the artists behind The Flower of Fixed Ideas and, my girl May from UK punk band Shot! (pictured below) + lots more!
Here’s a little peak at what else I’ve been up to:
Making and sending wedding invitations.
Getting fun packages in the mail relating to the wedding. Thanks Gibby & Meg for these beauties! Love you guys forever!
Another beautiful gift from a friend…you rock Leasha.
Gifts for my besties (for helping me put everything together) I bought at Lokoa.
I first discovered the amazing Brooklyn/D.C. band noon:30 – Blue (vocals + bass) and Aissa (noise + guitar) – when music critic and tastemaker Everett True wrote about them on Collapse Board. He praised the ladies, describing them as “protest music like mainstream commentators keep saying doesn’t exist these days” and as reminding him of “great lost 80s femme-punk duo Toxic Shock”. They’re one of the most interesting bands I’ve heard lately. They describe themselves simply as electronic-rock but I believe there’s so much more going on. I’m with Everett when he talks of noon:30 blowing his mind! I’m excited to hear their new EP they’ve been busy working on!
What inspired you to start noon:30?
BLUE: I wanted to experience what life would be like if I lived it for myself and under my terms. Music has always been in my veins. I just needed an outlet.
I’ve heard that you’re sisters?
BLUE: Who told you that? I thought we kept that a secret.
AISSA: She’s not my sister, she’s my brother.
Why are you called noon:30?
BLUE: It was a toss-up between noon:30 and Fists Full Of Unicorns. The first one won.
Tell me about your neighbourhood, what’s happening music and arts-wise?
BLUE: A few years ago you could walk down almost any street in Mt. Pleasant and hear bands playing. [I’m] not quite sure what is going on now since I spend most of my time writing new material and teaching kids music.
AISSA: I live in New York so I’m sure music and art of all kinds is happening. I mainly keep to my world and inner thoughts, just shy of a hermit, not really into scenes, so I don’t know. If the artists and musicians are not our friends, not at our gig, or not taking a class with me at Dubspot I don’t really know what they are about or doing. Hum, I feel like I should have made something up so I’d come across cooler.
What was your first introduction to music?
BLUE: I feel like as soon as I was born I was introduced to music. All throughout my childhood, music was played or being sung by either myself or my family.
AISSA: Oh I cannot even remember; music was always around me growing up.
What was your musical up bringing like?
BLUE: Being from Detroit, Motown was very much a part of my life. My uncle would sing old school songs, as well as my aunts. I also joined an acting troop and was frequently asked I sing solos.
AISSA: My dad used to play the guitar in a blues band, so it was natural for me to want to play the guitar and play music. When I told my Dad I wanted to play the guitar, he just went out got me a guitar and took me to my first lesson, didn’t blink twice. And I think since then, that has been my whole experience with my drive for noon:30—I don’t blink twice.
When did you start writing songs?
BLUE: I was writing songs when I was about 8 years old.
noon:30 has a real punk vibe, what was your first introduction to punk rock?
BLUE: Honestly I feel like I was introduced to punk when I met Aissa.
AISSA: I was in high school; a friend introduced me to Bad Brains, Fugazi, Minor Threat, Black Flag, and so many others. But when I was younger I was very much (and still am) into industrial rock and electronica. I would have thought that would play a bigger influence in our sound. But I guess there is something about the expression in punk music, the protest and rawness of it, that took center stage as an influence in our music.
What attracted you to it?
BLUE: It was dirty, raw, hard and nasty. All things that I really like. In that order.
Who are the artists that have had the biggest impact on you? How have they impacted you?
BLUE: Hmmm I really like a bunch of artists. Waaay too many to name. I like feeling like I can teleport…Bjork does that for me; Kelela’s voice makes me feel like I’m floating. Honestly Aissa does the same. They each have reminded me how lucky we are/ I am to have such a gift.
AISSA: Blue. She has an amazing voice, she’s the best bandmate one could ask for, and she constantly pushes me (even when I buff up against her) to be better. There is no other artists that have had a stronger impact.
You’ve currently recording a new EP; how’s it all going? What can you tell us about it?
BLUE: I think it’s great. But I guess all artists will say that about their project yes? It’s a perfect story of the biggest storm.
Is there a certain mood you’re trying to capture with the new EP?
AISSA: When we started writing we were in a state of anger over feeling disempowered our experiences in the band, and issues in our personal lives. However, when we completed the last song for the album “Dream” there was a lot of acceptance and self-empowerment. So the EP really brings you the feeling of moving from rage to revenge to acceptance and love.
Lyric-wise what are some of the themes that you express on the new songs?
BLUE: This EP was writing while I was in a place of anger. So lyrically it tells the story of my rage mixed with the love of embracing it.
What is your recollection of the first show noon:30 ever played?
BLUE: Ha! Wow ummm it was fun and interesting. I was so scared and raw. Almost like a calm chaos. Waiting to bust into this world of music but being scared shitless…but so ready for it.
Describe what happens mentally-physically-spiritually for you when you are on stage.
BLUE: I morph. All the nerves vanish and I am no longer myself. My mind goes blank. I feel like I’m floating. I live for those moments.
Why is playing music important to you?
BLUE: Because it’s the only time I feel real.
AISSA: It’s the only way I can fully express myself, what I’m feeling, and who I am in that moment. Words always fail me.
Do you feel music can be revolutionary?
BLUE: Fuck. Yes.
AISSA: I don’t believe you can separate music from society. I think now you have more of a recipe for music to be more revolutionary than in the past thanks to DAW – being able to create music “in the box” so to speak – and the internet (YouTube, SoundCloud, etc.). Now the division between the “professional” musician – who can afford expensive studio time and has the backing of major labels to distribute their music – and everyone else, is gone. Now if you have a voice and a drive, you have an audience that will listen. Granted it might not be as large as those on big labels, but any revolution and evolution will always have small beginnings.
I was speaking to my friend Drea from PYYRAMIDS not too long ago and we were discussing that in our experience (as women of colour) that there doesn’t seem to be too many ladies of colour for younger ladies to look up to or identify with in the electro-rock world; what are your thoughts on this?
BLUE: I mean if we are looking at it from a mainstream view then yes. But I feel like from an underground scene- we are plenty. Just have to turn the radio off and you will find them.
AISSA: Yes and no. There were definitely not that many women of color to look up to in the electro-rock or electronica world. I think the younger generation after this one will have women of color idols in electro-rock and EDM, as I see a good number creating amazing work, which for me now includes Drea (thanks for the intro!).
What could we find on your playlists of late?
BLUE: Bjork, E.D. Sedgwick, System Of A Down, & Kelela.
AISSA: So directly from today’s playlist (drum roll please): Thomas Azier, Austra, The Knife, Deadmau5, Andy Stott, and Raime.
What is your biggest dreams and hopes for noon:30?
AISSA: …we leave a legacy that inspires other when we are gone.
What are some things (other than music) that noon:30 really care about?
BLUE: I care about love.
AISSA: My family, my Buddhist practice, if they will make a Battlestar Galatica movie, tree houses, obliterating tyranny of all forms, did I say tree houses?, the digital divide, music technology, and tree houses.
Is there anything you’d like to bring to our attention or raise awareness of?
AISSA: Yes, I had the opportunity to volunteer last year for iGotITToo, a NY based organization dedicated to preventing the growing digital divide in the world by offering information technology courses. It was an eye-awakening experience on how far reaching digital inequality can affect the under-served / low-income population. In terms of health care access, job opportunities, education, I could go on. It’s deserves more attention.
What’s next for you?
BLUE: Everything. All-encompassing and in between.
Where did your passion for art and design spark from?
MARK ZEIDLER: I guess spending a lot of time with my grandmother and uncle when I was younger sparked my passions for art and design. They were both artists heavily into drawing using pastels and watercolours.
I’ve always lived an arty life, ever since I can remember. Drawing everything I could see when I was younger was all I wanted to do. I even wagged school two out of five days to stay home to paint and draw. School did not inspire my imagination one bit. I absolutely hated it!
What’s your creative background? You’re essentially a designer, right?
MZ: I’m pretty much a self-taught artist and graphic designer. I was a full time artist for seven years having exhibitions around Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne under my label called Audiodirtbath. My style was kind of pop art /grunge/ vintage. I love to experiment with screen printing and stencils. A couple of years back I lost the plot with the artist lifestyle and I had a meltdown and this led me onto working freelance design. I later enrolled into uni and I’m currently completing my third year in Bachelor of Communication Design. I also have a background in music. I played in bands and in my room throughout my younger years and studied classical guitar at the Conservatorium of Music in Brisbane but ditched it in the third year…that place gave me the creeps. Sorry Julian.
Can you share with us some of your favourite trends and happenings that you’re currently digging in design culture?
MZ: I don’t know exactly how to answer this one but I guess I’m enjoying minimalism in design at the moment. Less is more.
Who are some of your design heroes?
MZ: I’d have to say Paul Rand. I loved his minimalistic approach towards design and all the wise things he had to say and contribute to design. The guy is a complete legend and godfather of design, so many designers are influenced by him today. No matter how lost you get in design always go back to the Paul Rand approach it will put you straight back on your feet. (“Don’t try to be original just try to be good” – Paul Rand.) Stefan Sagmeister is also a trip he’s so clever, clever, clever!
What do you look for in a piece of art?
MZ: Originality, taste and good composition. I like all types of art but I swing towards more contemporary pieces. I love art pieces that smack you in the face when you walk into a room. Pieces with impact, a good story or a clever concept behind them.
Why did you start No Cure?
MZ: I started No Cure because I love editorial layout and design. I was inspired by the lack of art and design inspiration out there on the news stands and online. Don’t get me wrong there are some amazing titles that I adore such as IDN, Monster Children, Wooden Toy Quarterly just to name a few. I guess I just want to be a part of this culture and join the battle because the art world needs all the help it can get. We all have to stick together like an army because art will kill you if you’re not careful… If we could change the majority of our culture from going to the Friday night footy to catch an art show opening that would be amazing, but it’s not going to happen! If more art and design is making an appearance in everyday life the more opportunities there will be. From my experiences I have a good understanding about how hard it is to make a name for yourself in the creative world and all the dicks you have to suck to get there. No Cure gives the creative community another great outlet to help get exposer. At the end of the day I just wanted to launch a young fresh magazine and a look book full of eye candy with good layout and design because I couldn’t dream of doing anything else.
What is the ethos of No Cure?
MZ: Good design, Good art, hardworking artists and passionate people.
No Cure magazine has been exclusively available digitally online; currently you’re working towards the very first print edition. Why print and why now?
MZ: No Cure is currently an online flip book magazine and in just over a year we have released five great issues. I believe these days people are so used to getting things for free like ripping off music on the net they don’t feel they need to pay for anything anymore and yes I have been guilty of this but it must stop here. My point is that the artists that give us these wonderful things have worked their ass off to the bone and have suffered dearly to be what they are. At the end of the day money controls our way of life and we have to live so therefore we must start being responsible and give back to the people that provide us with these simple joys of life. If you’re an artist or musician you don’t really give a shit about the money because you get up in the morning inspired and pumped about what you’re currently working on but we all need to eat. Working a 9 to 5 day job is out of the question because you can’t concentrate on anything else except your craft and that’s a sign of a true artist.
The reason I want to take No Cure to print is that in hope I can obtain a little budget I can work with. Supporting my contributors and paying artists by providing jobs within the magazine, putting on cool exhibitions and expanding the magazine little by little. I’m not a greedy person I would just like to be able to survive doing what I’m doing. Is that too much to ask?
As editor-in-chief, how do you source a good story? Which are the elements you look for?
MZ: Tough question. My mind is always on overdrive in trying to achieve this. I usually go with what I’m passionate about. I think thoughts just randomly jump into my head and I go with the idea. The idea for a story might be triggered with something I see in the paper or online but most the time it’s just from thinking too much. Back in issue three when we had the ‘Driven’ feature – the journey of nomadic businesses, I just thought wouldn’t it be cool to get together a bunch of people from all over the world who live on the road travelling around in a van to make a living. We featured Mimsy’s Trailer Trash Tattoo, Eldiablo Tacos, The Little Van That Could, The Green Pirate and Grill’d. I just appreciate people that work hard and go with their ideas and do something they like with their lives apart from being an economic slave to society.
What single skill do you rely on most of all as editor?
MZ: Probably having a good eye for detail. Selecting the overall content of the magazine. Having good taste and to know exactly what’s interesting and works within the magazine.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
MZ: Worrying what’s going in the next issue!
What are your favourite pieces from the first five issues of No Cure?
MZ: This is hard to name because I dig everyone and every article that has been in No Cure since the beginning. Kindred Studio, Jasper Goodall, Faile, Birds barbershop, Bleed studio, Mr Bingo there are so many!
As well as visual art I know you love music too, what is one of the most memorable concerts you’ve been too? Why does it stick in your mind?
MZ: I would have to say Radiohead last year when they came to Australia. Thom Yorke hand downs would have to be one of the most influential musicians of this time. When you look back through the history of Radiohead the band has always looked forward to the future, time and time again they continue to reinvent themselves and I admire that. I’m also a big believer of visuals accompanying music because it stimulates all the senses into overdrive. For me Radiohead ticks all the boxes.
Other than the magazine is there anything else you’re working on?
MZ: I’m always designing and giving my life away to the computer and it’s really starting to fuck up my chi. Ever since I started No Cure there has been no breaks. I work freelance when I can, at the moment I have a heap of branding and website design jobs to do and I don’t know where I’m going to find the time!
If you’ve picked up any one of alternative rock band the Pixies’ studio albums between 1987 and 1991 you’ve seen Simon Larbalestier’s work. Discovering, and being moved by the album art, I was inspired to seek out more. What I found was beautiful and emotive imaginings that through Simon’s lens seem to go from worldly to otherworldly. The English photographer’s art evokes a sense of loneliness and atmosphere of bleakness. It always makes me wonder about the story behind the image. My mind goes into overdrive trying to imagine just how the vision came to be and how the subject got to the point at the moment Simon documents. Compelling stuff (contemplate his work for yourself below).
I’m excited about this interview also because it is the first in a series of collaborative interviews I am doing with my friend Erik Otis, editor-in-chief of LA-based publication Sound Colour Vibration. We put our heads together and came up with the interview questions for Simon. We thought it’d be interesting, challenging and fun to do interviews together—a first for me. It’s exciting after 18 years of interviewing to try something new. No matter how much I think I know about interviewing, there’s always so much more to learn. I like to think of an interview as a collaboration between an interviewer and a subject…I hope you enjoy this collab from me, Erik and the amazing photographer, Simon Larbalestier. Welcome to Simon’s world…
BIANCA: What compels you to record the things that you see and experience in the world via the medium of photography?
SIMON LARBALESTIER: This is an interesting question and often asked of me. When I see something (often out of the corner of one of my eyes) something subconscious is triggered inside of me and if I am carrying a camera I will stop and shoot what I see. Sometimes the reasons for the photos are not immediately known but later I see they relate logically or emotionally to something from before – right now (as in today 24th January) I am tending to work shooting pairs of objects/images – something I saw today relates to a thing or things I already have in my archive and so there is immediately a relationship but it is not always like this.
I am currently writing this whilst shooting new work in the province of Chiaphum, North East Thailand or Isaan as it is more commonly known. Having just net a block of time in South Korea I have stacks of images that I wish to pair or make series of. The wider the geographical location between them the better as it enhances the sense perceived distance and time. Space and Time if you like a concept I am very interested in. I can only make this kind of work using lens-based mediums and right now these are digital capture devices: cameras. I prefer to visualise and represent the world as I see it through the specific choice a camera lens. Each lens has for me a different visual signature although sometimes the nuances are so subtle you would be hard pressed to see them. So I am primarily interested in presenting the viewer with a photographic 2D vision of the world as I see it.
ERIK: I tend to ask this to every photographer I meet who has some years of experience in them through the art form, did the work and legacy of the Photo League or other organizations like it play a role in how you approached your craft in the beginning or at any other stage of your career?
SL: The legacy of the work of certain photographers certainly influenced me at the outset but it was their lifestyle and the way they saw their world more than the images themselves. I remember reading Edward Weston’s Daybooks cover to cover at a time when I could relate to so much of what he was thinking and feeling especially in terms of his personal life and relationships. I took great stock from this. I was always interested in the photographers who tended to exist on the fringes of the photographic world; people like Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Duane Michels and Arthur Tress. Their work was deeply personal and not conventional or commercial and this was important to me. I did also follow others who did well in the commercial world but they did not hold the same fascination for me. Why? Because their work was for a client and I was already busy doing this myself and compromising (read diluting) the final images. There were of course exceptions to this but these appear further down in my answers to your questions.
ERIK: You have been known for much of your career with shooting in black and white and have recently been shooting in digital mediums with lots of color involved. With a long extensive career in analog photography, what were some of the catalysts to using digital mediums?
SL: I held off from working with digital cameras right up to late in 2008. I had taken a compact (Sigma DP1) to Cambodia along with a larger kit of film cameras 120 and 35mm panoramic. I wasn’t too impressed with the results of the Sigma although it did present a color world I had not visualized before and I think this was subconsciously an important trigger/catalyst. Later in the year I began what was to be a long series of book jacket covers for the works of Charles Dickens (I think I did 14 in all you can check on Amazon!) the first 3 were shot with film cameras – an Xpan and a Leica – dutifully hand processed, printed, toned and then scanned by me. But costs in materials and the time it took outweighed the budget and I realized that this analog approach for this project was not financially viable. So I purchased a small Ricoh GRD 11 and shot the rest digitally using the Sigma for long views and the Ricoh for close up/macro work.
This critically coincided with me also landing the Minotaur Project who would have thought that 22 years later Vaughan and I would be asked to revisit the Pixies legacy! By this time I had returned to Asia and knowing that I had already achieved what I felt to be the best of what I could have done using film cameras already for the original Pixies’ sleeves I decided to use the project to explore the potential of compact digital cameras. I travelled around SE Asia using Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia as location sources for the Minotaur work. Because I was shooting in RAW color was always the first option but I still enjoyed converting files to monochrome and working on them much as I would have in a conventional wet darkroom. And I still do this today although software and cameras have moved on a lot since 2008. Some of the last shots for Minotaur were made with the Leica M8.2, Leica’s first foray into the professional digital market. The Leica M9 followed later the first full frame digital rangefinder camera. Had this been available at the time I started the Minotaur project I think the images would have been quite different as the file rending of the M9 images is second to none in my opinion (I am of course curious to see what Leica’s latest offering can produce). You will have noticed how in these answers I always refer specially to the type of camera this is because I like to match certain cameras and lens combinations to certain types of subject matter and their rendering. I was exactly the same when working with film. The advent of digital photography finally opened my eyes to being able to work in color although I has always admired and loved the 120 film work of Richard Misrach and Wim Wenders’ color work.
ERIK: With the industry changing a great deal since you began shooting photos, what type of advice can you give someone looking to shoot in analog formats who has little or no experience in that domain yet?
SL: I think this is an extremely hard question to answer in a helpful and positive way. It depends very much on what the perceived outcome of the imagery is to be, who will see it and how it is to be presented. I have a whole stock of film cameras back in the UK and a fully equipped darkroom but both need maintenance and for the darkroom easy access to the constant supply of chemicals and papers. Sadly I am never back in the UK long enough to set up print run and then when I do the chemical left soon become out of date. But that’s my situation! My advice would be buy cameras that you know can still be repaired and serviced and decide how you want to output the final images. Does one want control over the entire process and do everything oneself. I did! If so then the investment in quality darkroom kit and hi res scanning equipment is certainly not cheap.
Sahara Desert #1, Morocco, 2010 from the series “The 5th Quadrant”. Selenium Split-toned Silver Gelatin Print. Image Size: 18x46cm. Paper Size: 34x50cm. Printed on the very rare Sterling Premium F Grade 3
BIANCA: I’ve noticed that in most of your current online galleries – Sepium, Direction of Last Things, Odyssey and PIXIES – on your site that there is reoccurring subject matter of religious and/or spiritual iconography in shots; is there something in particular that attracts you to these kinds of shots; is there something in particular that attracts you to these kinds of symbols?
SL: Yes there is always a strong link on the spiritual iconography it continues to fascinate me even on the current trip now. Part of the fascination is hard to explain I am just drawn to it but a logical part of me would say that it’s the human belief in FAITH – that makes me want to a capture such iconography and this dates right back to the mid 80′s when I was documenting Catholic Churches in Italy and Greece. That single human element of faith is the connection between man and landscape (at least for me). Recently I have been reading much around the subject of Pychogeography and I can see how my work has always subconsciously fitted into this niche. Much if what I shot back in the 80/90′s was as relevant to this subject as to what I am shooting right now.
I also like to cycle between projects, themes and subject matter and then preset works that cover a longer distance of time and space.
BIANCA: In an interview with you back in 2004 you commented that “Angkor Wat still remains singularly the most significant place for me”. Do you still feel this way? Why is it so significant to you?
It certainly was then and I often think about it now but sadly the last time I was able to visit was back in 2008 and I would guess much has changed since then based on the rate of change I was recording between 2001-2008. Cambodia still represents the most significant country for me. But in present circumstances and my family within Thailand such a move there would not be appropriate. Why was it significant? Hard to say because it was an overall feeling – the light, the sense of slow rebirth from the genocide regime of the late 70′s, the air, the color of the earth and the people. Much of this was located around the Angkor Wat Temple Complex. I guess it represented a kind of microcosm to me. And I still think and dream about it now especially these last few days up in Isaan which reminds me so much of Cambodia.
BIANCA: You’ve also mentioned previously too, that “Shooting is always a very intense time for me” could you elaborate on this a little for us please? In what way is it intense for you? Is it a positive intensity or not-so positive, or a little of both maybe?
SL: Yes always intense – I get lost in the moments or moment of capturing what I see and feel. Often I find myself shooting at difficult emotional times, I could sit down and probably map them all to personal events. Maybe one drives the other maybe I subconsciously drive myself into a personally difficult situation to then be able to go and make my work – perhaps that’s sounds too self indulgent or too reflective but I think it’s how I tick looking back on it. I am driven emotionally not logically – I tend to feel first and think later – not always the best course of action when living one’s life.
ERIK: You had the pleasure of working on the box set reissue for the Pixies collection Minotaur. What types of emotions or feelings did this experience draw from you and what were some of the most memorable experiences with compiling that project with Vaughan Oliver?
SL: Most of the answers to this have been addressed in the answers above but to add to this I felt at the time back in 2008 that I wanted to embrace, capture the rawer rough essence of available light photography and in 95% of cases shoot things exactly as I found them. The Pixies’ work from the 80/90′s was always shot in studios using controlled lighting, maximum sharpness, and an almost surgical precision. Situations were built in front of the camera lens. Even the portrait images (Surfer Rosa, Spike and Nimrod’s Son) were essentially setup as still lives and recorded photographically the traditional way. Minotaur was the opposite of this and there was a darker humor in the imagery and I liked the fact that all of it came from South East Asia. Because I was using smaller camera and everything was hand held I had much more freedom to snoop and scope my dark material. I put out of my mind the work I had shot before I looked at everything with new eyes but was careful to make sure that the subject matter matched with the earlier work.
The nature of the fact that I was in SE Asia and Vaughan was in the UK set up a different kind of working relationship in that I shot everything before showing Vaughan and in the days of the early work, back in the late 80′s, I would wander in for a lunch of Guinness and show Vaughan the contact sheets. This time the material being digital meant that, that particular aspect was lost to us (this is what I miss the most about working digitally – the physical sense of leafing through contact sheets and being able to smell their chemical makeup). I think the most memorable experience for me was when we were putting up the photos for the Secret Gig at the Village Underground back in 2009. My children were with me at the time helping and so was Terry Dowling. Terry was both tutor and mentor to both Vaughan and myself still we burn bright candle for him in our respective works. My kids grew up with the me printing the Pixies images the props from the shoots were in the house and the images so they were well acquainted with the Pixies but to meet them as young adults was as amazing for them, as it was for me. There we were, Vaughan, Charles Thompson (aka Frank Black), myself and Jack and Lucy all laughing about some joke. I made an image of them all laughing and it represented perhaps the most significant moment in the pixies legacy – a moment in time when we were all united.
ERIK: Your contributions to the 4AD family in the 80′s along with the design companies 23 Envelope and v23 really put your legacy on the map in the musical arena. What type of working atmosphere was present in the studios 23 Envelope and v23? What was your favorite project when working on 4AD materials?
SL: To be honest I kept outside of the 4AD/v23 social and work loop. We had a young family and I was busy trying to straddle and juggle commissions of all kinds, teaching work, developing my own work and managing a family. Sometimes I was working all-night and teaching the next day. Working with Vaughan on our projects was always liberating something I could not really have when workout on more conventional commissions which required much compromise (there were executions of course – one being working with Chris Jones at New Scientist Magazine we always had a great time making images for science stories). So my trips into the v23 office were often brief and we would retire to the local pub. I always appreciated that Vaughan and Chris Bigg (and others who joined the duo for periods of time) were always busy and tightly bound to music deadlines. There was a big social network as there always is with the music industry but I kept to the outside of it perhaps in the same way that my heroes and mentors Ralph Eugene Meatyard and Edward Western did in their own way.
ERIK: What are some projects that you have out, are working on right now or will start working on soon that you’d like to mention and let the people who read this know about?
SL: There are several new projects some of which will probably interlace or fuse into each other. They are all psychogeographic in their nature. Some have unusual working titles that may change by the time the works become more finalized. Here are a few:
“Something Seen Whilst On The Way To Somewhere Else”
“Something That Happened Whilst On The Way To Somewhere Else”
“HOUSE RELIC” or “Relic of a House destroyed by Fire”
“Parallel Monoliths” or “Parallel Dialectics”
The recent work I exhibited in Seoul, South Korea was based on this concept
“I Can Be Here While Somewhere Else” whose working title was: Supplanta (dis | place | ment)
“A series of photographs which represent evidential documents of places I have momentarily inhabited whilst experiencing a strong sense of personal displacement both physically and psychologically. The combination of an aesthetic that utilises an analogue retro-framing of digitally captured imagery further enhances this state of displacement. The very fact that the reading of photographs is always retrospective, acknowledges the notion that the passing of time is always referenced in the present moment. The content of the photographs record fragmented details of unfamiliar texts, abandoned objects of sedentary interior comforts, disintegrating,distorted, disembodied or malformed vegetation, foggy landscapes or habitats that are in a state of decay. Evidence of modes of transport (a boat by a stone jetty, a railway track and cycle signage) have also been documented to elicit a desire to escape from this sense of displacement. ”
Visitors can see the exhibition details at this link on my Addenda Blog.
There is also the big project Cyphers which I begun last year and now have a lot of new material to update it with in the coming months. This is all housed on its own blog; Cyphers and will consist of a large number of images that inter-relate or provide background info to past projects.
Also just out is an interview with me about the Repository series. The magazine is called Photo Art Contemporary and Fine Art Photography Magazine and is just recently out – I haven’t seen a copy yet until I get back to Bangkok. I don’t know if it’s a Thai magazine or International but from what I read of the initial interview it raised and asked some interesting questions of me, which might further inform readers/viewers of my work.
I’ve been corresponding with Dan Newton – frontman of Brisbane band Galapogos and editor-in-chief of Heavy and Weird blog – for a month or so now. The dialogue has been refreshing and engaging. In this lengthy interview Dan talks about the ‘pure punk rock experience’, keeping ticket prices low, of having integrity, the ‘evils’ of the music industry, feminism, Riot Grrrl, spirituality, Patti Smith and more.
If you’re in Brisbane this Thursday (Feb. 7) you can see Dan in action with Galapogos at The Zoo playing with The Halls, Foxsmith and Little Planes Land. Doors 7:30pm. Tickets $10. For more details go here.
You’re a busy guy Dan—the vocalist for Brisbane band Galapogos and, the creator and editor-in-chief for site Heavy & Weird (focusing on music, politics and art). What motivates you to do all that you do?
DAN NEWTON: I like to keep busy and focused and I don’t like having my time wasted basically. So, I guess instead of interacting with life and having it wasted with pointless and fruitless pursuits I decided to go after and do things that I like doing. I love to write, whether it is music or an article for Heavy and Weird. I just love sitting down and collecting my thoughts and expressing myself. I love communication and doing my best to get better at it. Communication is at the centre of everything and as human beings when anything breaks down in any relationship it comes from a lack of communication. Playing and creating music and doing the self-diagnosed journalist thing allows me to engage in so many levels of different communications. It allows me to connect with a great many people and in the process plug into so many different points of view. I love that exchange, when active communication is connecting you to someone regardless of whether it is through debate or a mutual love of something. The fact that you are sharing ideas and communicating is positive, you are learning; all great points of view come from that kind of knowledge where you are just plugging into all the different human beings that make up this amazing ocean of chaos. So there is that, and also the fact that I want to slow time down. When you spend your time dreaming instead of doing you just see time rush by and you waste your opportunity to live. I’ve got no time or patience for that process or any sympathy for people who dream but don’t act. I’m doing what I want because I have a desire and I don’t believe in being content or satisfied with having “just enough”. I always want more from this life.
Oxygen is like a fucking drug to me, so I don’t have time for partying, boyfriends, girlfriends, marriage, kids or the freedom of Friday night. So I have a lot of time for my work and if I’m going to have so much time to do it then I better be prolific and I better be consistent and I better create at all hours. You can either waste life and waste time or you can take it by the fucking balls and keep moving forward and do what you want. My advice to anyone who complains about their position in life is to shut the fuck up and just “do” and fucking get it on. Only you will fail you if you don’t.
On your band Galapogos’ Facebook page the lone ‘Band Interests’ listed is: The pure punk rock experience. What do you mean by that? How would you define it?
DN: Punk rock for me and the rest of the band is not a sound. Certainly we all love the genre of punk rock and the whole history of it but when we talk about the ‘pure punk rock experience’ we are referring to the attitude and discipline that you need to be an individual and remain independent. It’s about being awake and aware to the world around you and using your experience with disappointment to engage in positive and forward thinking movements of change; to use compassion instead of hatred and to invest in the basic principle of choosing love over fear. It is about striving for equality and justice for those around you. Most importantly it is about using our vehicle of communication – music – to help people strive for peace, both inner and outer and to ensure that across all levels of our career that we do everything possible to tell the truth.
It isn’t about fashion or tattoos or the clichéd identity that mainstream culture plugs into when it talks about punk rock, for us it is a spiritual philosophy that requires you to open your mind to everything, even the enemy; to make sure that you are doing your best to educate yourself and the world around you. You got to make sure your message is funded by love and has that understanding of the darkness and never ever be satisfied. Always question but always remember to listen. That is the pure punk rock experience and it is an energy that has filled all the great minds of our history.
What was your first encounter with this ‘pure punk rock experience’?
DN: If you had of asked me this question in my early twenties I would of given you a whole bunch of important names like Henry Rollins, Ian McKaye, Patti Smith, Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon, Ed Vedder, Phil Anselmo and Neil Young. As a 30 year old man, I can tell you that my parents – Brian and Aileen – were my first encounter with this. You see, they may not have been influential punk rock musicians and in terms of their own taste they would much prefer listen to Roy Orbison and The Beatles than Black Flag and Fugazi, but the reason why they are so important to my philosophy is because they taught me how to be an individual and to go out into this world and combat the cruelty and to stand tall. They taught me how to avoid becoming a victim of the cruelty and to love life as opposed to fear it.
My mother is the ultimate feminist icon in my life because she is a leader and taught me the many virtues of love and compassion and how to cope with the many different levels of loss that can occur in your life. She taught me self-respect and how to be proud of whom I was and that just because I was different that didn’t mean I had to feel like a freak. She taught me how to respect the world around me and how to smile even when the bastards are trying to kick you when you’re down. She plugged me into the importance of education and reading books and engaging in active communication and to tell the truth. Her greatest lesson was that you get into more trouble if you lie and this stays with me to this day.
My father, he taught me how to sniff out the bullshit in every situation and his almost supernatural ability to be so spot on when it came to sensing if someone was full of shit or was genuine is a lesson I am glad he taught me. He taught me the power and importance of a firm handshake and that sometimes optimism has to wear heavy boots and that although by telling the truth and being honest you may not always win every single popularity contest, you will have a clean soul and sort out who belongs on the ride with you and who needs to be removed and left behind. My father also taught me how to be a gentleman and how to respect and love woman. He taught me about equality and the importance of when to say “fuck you” and how to use my mind instead of my fists. My parents are the greatest examples of human beings ever and all of those qualities that they taught me were amplified when I became fans of people like Henry Rollins, Ian McKaye, Patti Smith, Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon, Ed Vedder, Phil Anselmo and Neil Young—who to me are the musical epitome of the pure punk rock experience.
What do you feel personally when you perform? I know from our previous chats that it is a spiritual experience for you.
DN: Music is the place where I celebrate my spirituality. I think it is important to outline that music for me is not about entertainment nor is it a hobby or simple pastime. I love learning about and investigating the full history of music. I believe that in order to be a successful artist you have to plug yourself into the history of your artistic vehicle. People who don’t are just making a bunch of empty calories and it is simply tolerated vandalism and pollution; all the fevered egos and the music they make is so insignificant to my journey. Like all investments in history, you need to understand its place in the story of evolution. Know that enemy, consume it and understand how to do what you want as an artist despite it. You have to make that choice of whether you want to be a musician or an artist. Trust me there is a big difference.
In terms of performance, I like to muse on that history of music and how it has influenced me to manipulate and create my own sound. A great band is a group of people who are madly and deeply in love with each other and through this love they use the same kind of energy that is involved with great sex and together make a sound that is unique to their souls and their truth. It has to reflect all of the emotions pulsing through each individual making up that group so that the collective consciousness aka the band, can birth all of those feelings and emotions into a sound that is coming from the many different dimensions of existence. It is about channelling inner and outer space and helping give the idea of God a face and a voice to exist. God may have many different faces but she is known by one name and that is love. For me as long as love is at the centre of it then you will always arrive at a pure sound experience.
Now let me dull down internal dialogues that read the word “God” and think I am some religious freak. I am not and our music is not a celebration of religion, it is a celebration of the divine, of the shiver that we all feel. Our sound is funded by the darkness and the disappointment of life and it is incredibly emotional. These emotions come from our own experiences but also the greater experiences of the world around us.
When we play we plug into something higher because a lot of what we write and release is fully improvised. A lot of the times, in fact pretty much all of the time we don’t even remember playing it because we are all in such a trance that we just become conductors of the different spirits and dimensions surrounding us. All we do is tell the story through our imaginations and musical skill. Sometimes it is a personal story that gets told whereas other times it is the emotion and energy of whatever room we are in. It can be intense. Sometimes it may be an exercise in nonsense or humour but, the most important thing at the centre of it is the fact that we arrive at it through our collective meditation on that shiver to help a divine communication to transpire. When you see a Galapogos show you will always experience the moment as opposed to some rehearsed show.
If you look at the spiritual principles of the difference between meditation and prayer, meditation is listening to god and prayer is speaking to god. When we play live, our noise meditations are about listening to the energy of the Universe and all of its wonderful dimensions and through that delivering the other human beings experiencing that moment with us some kind of dialogue to what is happening and to hopefully open them up and wake them up and ultimately spread love.
Getting into that space before each performance requires discipline and you have to allow yourself to get both comfortable and vulnerable, which is my first instruction to any audience before we begin. In those moments before we begin I try as much as I can to be in a silent space and to plug into a degree of calm because my performance requires me to muse on all of my emotions and the many different ups and downs that have motivated me to open my mouth and sing. Prior to this, when we first arrive at the venue I like to walk around it and get a feel for the energy of the space and muse on the history of what has occurred inside of it. It’s important to engage that ambience so that you can feel what kind of mood that space is providing you. Before we all hit the stage I make sure I tell each member of the band how much I love them through either words or an action like a hug or kiss and then once we step on stage I simply close my eyes and surrender. What happens after that surrender is beyond my control. Anyone who has any inch of spiritual knowledge understands how important surrender is.
Once I get off stage I just need to get away from everyone and to be by myself and to give myself the space to come back to earth. It is exhausting but orgasmic and on a basic level, feels fucking really cool. Like I said, oxygen is my drug of choice and after those noise meditations I’ve had my fucking full hit and maximum high. In that moment I feel so connected to the world and have the most love ever pulsating through me. It’s in that moment; however brief that I glimpse inner peace and it feels fucking beautiful.
Galapogos seems to operate a little different from most bands, you guys have such a prolific output of music; can you give us a little insight into your process?