Archive for the ‘Artist Interviews’ Category

The Great Interview Experiment!

February 3, 2008

As part of my involvement with Citizen of the Month’s “Great Interview Experiment,” I have interviewed Lauren Elkin, author of “Maitresse.” Her blog is the height of class, due as much to Elkin’s extensive travels as it is to her fine taste in literature. Although my French-lit experience is confined to translations of Rimbaud and Baudelaire, I’ll be continuing to read Maitresse. It is just one more reason I’ve had lately to start learning a new language.

In the meantime, enjoy the interview!

DAVE X: You split time between New York City and Paris, and apparently have some rather long stopovers in Tokyo and Venice. How much of your day do you spend grinning from ear to ear?

MAITRESSE: Correction: I live in Paris, and from time to time have to go live in other
places. The time I spend grinning is inversely proportionate to the time I am away from Paris.

DX: I enjoyed your series of entries, “On Books as Sweaters.” As a host of a radio program featuring avant-garde music, the feeling that many fine works are passing the general public unnoticed is not an unfamiliar one to me. Complain as we may, it seems strategies must be formed to engage the readers (and listeners!)… What actions have you taken in
this regard? What have been your successes?

M: Well– I’m no activist, but I am a literature professor. Every time I go into the classroom I’m bringing my enthusiasms about reading and spending much of my energy throwing it out to the students and creating activities that will hopefully allow them to catch some of it and harness it to their own reading. I feel I’ve done at least part of my job right when I’ve turned a few kids on to a new writer, or made the kid with the bad attitude kind of like something he’s read, or lit up the kids who liked to read before they got there but just had their reading placed into a whole new framework.

And judging from the comments that I get on my blog, to a small extent I’m also turning that audience on to writers they didn’t know, didn’t get, or didn’t like. So between the teaching and the writing, I hope I’m helping in some way.

DX: I have to ask an American on the ground in France– and hopefully, you saw the film– how much of Michael Moore’s “Sicko” documentary was true in regards to France? I’m having trouble reconciling his portrayal of a magnificent health care system with the nation that allowed over 14,000 people to die from heat back in 2003.

M: I didn’t see the film but I live with the French health care system and am very grateful for it, especially as a graduate student and freelance writer. In the States I had pathetic coverage and I paid an inordinate amount of money for prescription drugs. In France, however, a certain monthly prescription of mine costs only 2€50. I don’t think it’s an ideal system, I just think it’s so much better than the American system that it looks great in comparison.

I can’t say much about the heat wave in 2003– I believe it was mostly elderly people without air conditioning who died– but I think it’s more a reflection of the government’s failure to adequately respond to a natural disaster (sounds familiar, no?) rather than a failure of the health system to care for those people.

DX: At the popular level, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of love between the France and the United States. In my experience, this is usually due to simple misunderstandings, or different ways of looking at the same thing. What have you discovered that Americans would be surprised to learn? What have you been able to teach the French you encounter?

M: Both countries have preconceived notions about the other country’s relationship to work, pleasure, and morality. Perhaps Americans would be surprised to learn that France has a corporate culture in which people work far more than 35 hours a week. And the French need reminding that not all Americans are nationalistic undereducated Puritans. More than once when I’ve met a new French person, they say to me “Mais vous êtes très cultivée pour une Américaine!” (“You’re very cultured, for an American!”) I tell them there are plenty more like me back home, but that doesn’t do anything to destabilize their prejudices.

DX: In the same way that I don’t QUITE understand an English lit student studying so many French texts, I feel that I’m missing some key understanding of your Catholic/Jewish existence. Just when I think I’ve got a handle on it, another entry will appear contrary. Are you just sort of dabbling in both?

M: What can I say, I’m impossible to pin down… When I had to choose a PhD program I hesitated between English, French, or Comparative Literature. My advisors at the time advised me against Comp Lit, because jobs are apparently scarce in that discipline, and then I figured since I wanted to live in France I’d probably have more luck finding work teaching English to the French than teaching French to the French. But really, academic
departments are much more interdisciplinary than you might think, and no one thinks it odd that I do comparative work. My doctoral advisor is appointed to the English, French, and Comp Lit departments of my school and she never remembers which department I’m enrolled in. I have masters degrees in both English and French literature. In addition to the French orals list you see on my blog, I am doing lists on British Modernism and Gender Theory. My dissertation is on both English and French texts.

As for my religious background– my mother is Catholic and my father is Jewish, but his father was Jewish and his mother born Catholic (she converted to Judaism). My sister and I were raised Catholic with Judaism always at hand, and I was never much interested in either. Then in college, I began to study Judaism more formally, and by the time I graduated I considered myself to be Jewish, and I still feel that way.

Looking back over the blog now, I see it’s chronicled a few years in my life when I’ve learned how unimportant it is to define yourself by a religion, and I’ve come to terms with the ambiguity of my religious background, to the extent that I’m comfortable forgetting it’s Chanukah, dating a goy, and all the while hosting yearly passover seders. If I make it to shul for the High Holidays, or don’t, it doesn’t make me more or less Jewish, it makes me more or less observant.

DX: How about some more Dada to fill out that category? ; )

M: Ok! This one is from an article in the Financial Times. It’s called “Opening
enthusiasm cools down at close.”

US trading of amid staged
off siasm of broad-based enthu-
as higher nasty nomic although
led markets about close rally
Japan no Asian cuts surprises
recession optimism a buying the drew
eco- interest investors sprang figures
already further Tokyo region a possibility
in early about the nervous on rate stock
batch yesterday trailed to a as a

DaveX gets interviewed!

February 2, 2008

“Through the Looking Glass” author Annika Barranti interviews me here for the ongoing interview onslaught touched off at “Citizen of the Month”… you’ll definitely want to check it out. For more fun, add yourself on the still-growing list of interviewers/interviewees!

DaveX interviews Justin Hardison, AKA “My Fun”

August 22, 2007

Last week, I reviewed My Fun’s fourth album “Sonorine,” a gorgeous electroacoustic work that has really caught my ear. Justin Hardison, the man behind My Fun and label The Land Of, took some time out of being a busy New Yorker to let me do a little e-interview:

STARTLING MONIKER: “Sonorine” uses a lot of source recordings one might not ordinarily expect to find in a postcard– pianos, birds, traffic, radio… what influenced the selection of sound sources you used?

One of the aims in my work has always been to incorporate sounds I’d find on an average day and then edit and transform those elements into compositions whether they’re musical, environmental, accidental etc. I guess when it comes down to it, My Fun is really about creating romanticized portraits of everyday life. Usually when I start a new project I try to build a collection of raw sounds to work with and I take and capture them from wherever I am at the time. During the time I was recording Sonorine, I was doing quite a bit of traveling and I was making field recordings of these trips as a way to remember them and share them with other people.

Freilassing, image provided by JH

SM: With “Sonorine,” you’ve really done away with the usual concept of the “album-as-listener-trip,” and made it something much more artist-centric– at least if the listener chooses to play along with the overall concept. In what ways did this affect how you went about creating the album?

JH: I think the concept of the Sonorine or sound postcards is very loose and open to experience/interpret how ever the listener chooses. I didn’t even think of the concept for the recordings I was working on until much later in the project. The concept seemed to fit the recordings I was collecting and I think has helped explain the ideas behind this sort of music work to those who usually would have no interest in sitting around listening to bugs or shortwave radios.

I really like to use sounds that are at least semi-recognizable because this way anyone can identify with and possibly attach their own memories to a specific sound. It is that immediate emotional response to sounds that I’m really interested in and I think if a listener is first brought into a composition by a familiar element then it leaves me room to
introduce the stranger and more obscure sounds that hopefully pique their interest and curiosity.

SM: I’ve noticed that on many of the tracks, the more obvious “musical” elements– such as the drones in “Radiant,” or the piano in “Phonopostal”– are framed by what I think of as “environmental” sounds such as clattering, walking, mechanical elements, and natural sounds. How appropriate is it that the listener consider the sounds individually in this way?

JH: I think listeners are used to listening and paying more attention to the musical elements but forget about all of the other noises they might hear around them when they’re listening to a musical recording but I think it is those elements that make the central musical element sound more interesting. I’ve heard others mention this as well but I always loved the ambient and accidental studio sounds you hear on some records, especially jazz records and studio out takes. It is those extra breaths, voices, tape hiss, guitar amp crackle and especially the ends of these songs that give a recording that human and mysterious element. I think listeners should take all sounds into consideration when they’re listening. With that in mind, I think noise pollution is a serious problem and I’ve really noticed it more since moving back to New York. The worse culprits are traffic and aircraft noise. It frustrates me to go out recording and and always capture the roar of traffic or planes in the recordings. With all of the added noise, you really miss out on the more subtle and quiet sounds.

Alghero, image provided by JH

SM: If you’ll allow me to take this interview in a “Guitar Player” magazine direction– what sort of recording equipment are you using? What’s your studio setup consist of?

JH: I recently saw these pictures of some of the old studios where people like Tod Dockstader and Delia Derbyshire worked with the crazy tape machines and ten thousand knobs and wish I could say I had such a place! My studio is pretty simple really. I have a software based studio for editing and composing sounds. For field recording I have a couple of mini disc recorders, Audio Technica and Sony mics, some contact and lapel mics if I want to go more stealth. I sample a lot of old records and use all of those strange extra sounds I mentioned earlier or perhaps a single harp pluck or guitar chord. I also picked up a shortwave radio and record a lot from that and have a acoustic guitar, mandolin and various other noise makers like a music box and some toy rattles and cheap cassette tape
Walkman. I started off a long time ago playing in guitar bands and then made a lot of techno and drum&bass music for a few years. After working with so much hardware, I still find it amazing that you can do so much on a laptop computer.

SM: You’ve always said that My Fun is concerned with narrative works. If each track is a stand-alone “postcard,” how much thought has gone into making them a coherent group?

JH: I spent a great deal of time making them a group and it really is meant to be listened to start to finish. I composed the whole thing as a single track and then edited it down into individual tracks. I know it will be split up by iPods and MP3 players and I do take that into consideration but I think that track sequencing is very important when you’re making a collection of recordings and hopefully this will always be appreciated element in recordings as technology changes over time.

SM: What have you been listening to lately? Anything similar in spirit or sound you’d care to recommend?

JH: Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of different things. There is always a ton of great music to be found on net labels like EKO, SKM, Test Tube and others. I’ve also been checking out a lot of CDs from the library like “Premieres Chansons Douces” by Henri Salvador and the Anthology of Noise and Electronic music on the Sub Rosa label. Also a lot of minimal techno and I highly recommend Billowy Mass by Alejandra & Aeron as well as the Yasujiro Ozu Hitokomakura compilation on and/oar!

SM: What’s coming up for My Fun? How about your label, The Land Of? I see something about a Darren McClure release– what’s the date on that?

JH: I recently decided to turn The Land Of into a label that would release material by other artists. It is something I have thought about for a long time and am really excited about. Yes, Darren McClure has an amazing full-length called Softened Edges coming out on October 15th and I have a couple of other projects in the works as well. The Land Of won’t be releasing a ton of recordings. Right now I’m thinking about four or so a year. My wife Kimberly Hall has worked really hard on a visual identity for the label and is designing and hand silk screening all of the cover art as well.

As far as my own work, I’m always collecting new sounds to work with and I hope to get back working on my sound journal/blog. New York is very distracting! Also, a friend of mine is working on a book of various friends artwork and I’m contributing a sound element of some of those small recordable cards like you’d find in a sound greeting card. Each one has a different recording of a particular place. Too bad they only have a ten second memory!

DaveX interviews 1/2 of Pulga

August 17, 2007

As you may have noticed by now, when I hear an interesting album, one of my first responses is to fire off some long-winded questions to the artists responsible. It’s sort of a combination of duty and privilege, and thankfully, my poor victims are usually inclined to go along with it. First to return in a series of “interviews” I sent out recently were these questions, happily answered by Vanessa Rossetto. If you’re one of the slower STARTLING MONIKER readers, or if you claim to have just found this blog, you can catch up by reading my review of Pulga’s debut release “Pulga Loves You,” on Fire Museum Records.

photo provided

STARTLING MONIKER: I’m very curious about the recording process– Valerio is in Italy, and you’re in the States– but still, the album sounds terrifically together. What was the setup? Were you able to work together in person at all?

VANESSA ROSSETTO: No, we’ve never actually been in the same room before. We sent files back and forth through Soulseek for one another to work on and built the tracks up that way.

SM: Although it isn’t the first, “Pulga Loves You,” is a great example of geography’s increasing irrelevance in selecting a musical partner. Out of all the people in the world, why choose each other? Is there a commonality that isn’t immediately obvious?

VR: It started because Valerio and I were friends and we had talked about wanting to collaborate with one another for a while. I had been sending him all the new things I had been making and at one point he took one of the tracks I had sent (“The Forest of Shoes,” which ended up on the Joy of the Mountain CDR) and added saxophone and some other things to it. We both ended up liking the result so when I got home (I had been traveling) I started making pieces specifically with the intent of sending them to Valerio to add to them. The first piece that was made this way was “Witches and Bitches Brew” that was made for a comp Marriage Records was putting out.

SM: Depending on your answer to the first question, this one may be senseless… It seems that a lot of “Pulga Loves You” is improvised, yet I’m imagining you did not have the opportunity to improvise live together. How do you work around the rigidity of your recorded partner? During the process of creating the album, did you find that one of you was better suited for the task of “going second,” so to speak?

VR: I usually went first. Thinking back I am pretty sure I always went first but I’m not 100% sure on that. It worked better that way because Valerio was doing all the mixing and mastering and we just seemed to fall into doing it that way. For this reason, Valerio could probably give a better answer about working around rigidity than I could. It’s really about the most fun thing ever, though, to get files back after the other person has added to and modified them, not knowing what to expect.

SM: Each of the songs has a significant ‘imaginary’ quality to it– “Return to the Forest of Shoes,” ‘Still it Rides Me,” etc… and of course, the sounds are equally imaginative. What influences your music to sound this way? Are these purely “what if” creations of sound, or are either of you drawing on some sort of experience?

VR: It’s interesting because most of the things I make on my own are fairly programmatic in nature, but the Pulga stuff really isn’t. If anything, it’s more influenced by the things that Valerio and I were listening to at the time.

SM: What is coming up in the future for Pulga? Any plan to tour?

VR: Besides the Fire Museum release we have a split with Rob Funkhouser coming out on Phantom Limb/House of Alchemy that is pretty much done and should be out soon and will be making a second full length CD that we aim to have out some time in 2008. It would sure be fun to tour (or even just play in the same room for a change!) but for now it’s mostly a matter of having the money to do it.

SM: Last I knew, “pulga” means flea. Any special significance you’d care to share with obsessive fans who simply have to know this sort of stuff?

VR: The pulga where I live is a huge and amazing flea market where you can get roasted ears of corn and toy musical instruments of all kinds, along with fat scurrying chickens, astonishing and elegant cockatiels, ritual floor wash, cheap car mats, pocketknives emblazoned with flaming skulls, and hair clips (four for a dollar!)


August 2, 2007

Yes, I have drafts sitting around, waiting to get done. No, I’m not finishing them today. Sorry, I’m just feeling a little lazy. But if you’re still with me, and you want to read some in-depth interviews with Ground Fault Recordings artist Eric Cordier or AMM co-founder Keith Rowe, I suggest you go read Josh Ronsen’s latest edition of “Monk Mink Pink Punk.”

Ronsen also has some solid reviews of experimental works, a collaborative fiction piece, and his bizarre interpretation of Kubrik’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

This should all carry you until tomorrow, when I hope to have a bit more focus and energy. If it’s not enough, visit someone new on my blogroll!

“Jeu de Temps” 2007 Top 5 Entries

July 18, 2007

The Canadian Electroacoustic Community’s “Jeu de Temps/Times Play (JTTP) winners for 2007 have been announced! Actually, I’m a tad slow on the uptick this year– I got the list of the top five last week. The JTTP, an internationally-regarded competition for young and emerging Canadian composers and sound artists, has had my ear since 2001 when I came on as a ‘media partner.’

I will be broadcasting this year’s winners during my upcoming show on 7/21. I may also play a selection of past year’s winners. Until then, here is a list of the top five entries. If you can’t wait until then, feel free to click the entries– they’re all mp3s!

1 — Dominic Thibault — Nuit noire, Nuit grise (5:12)
2 — Georges Forget — Orages D’acier (6:59)
3 — Thierry Gauthier — Cycles (8:00)
4 — Olivier Girouard — Le pont du souvenir (5:54)
5 — Félix Lebrun-Paré — La volonté du périscope (6:22)

CKUT-FM 90.3 in Montreal should have the “official” broadcast of these works if it hasn’t happened already. I didn’t see it last week, so I’m guessing it may happen today. (9 to 11 a.m. EST) Of course, they get to interview the winners personally… poor me, so far away in Southern Illinois!

Update: The CEC informed me today that the “official” broadcast of the winning entries, and appearances by each composer will take place on September 12. Let’s be unofficial together this 7/21, shall we?

DaveX interviews Sabrina Siegel!

July 12, 2007

Despite having numerous albums available through one of my favorite labels (this being Pax Recordings) I only recently became aware of Sabrina Siegel’s work; through her latest Pax release, “Grace/Precarious,”which features solo explorations for cello, electric guitar, and voice. This is an album that truly earns the description “visceral,” for it is not only Siegel’s heart that is engaged in the creative process, but her body– with each track reflecting a different sort of physical struggle to balance creation against failure. It’s a remarkable album, which has quickly moved onto my short list of all-time favorites.

Being the sort of person that I am, there was no way I could hear “Grace/Precarious” and not come up with at least a few questions for Sabrina Siegel. Once you’ve heard it, you’ll understand why.

STARTLING MONIKER: I am really enjoying the “Grace/Precarious” album, and my first thought is about how this concept occurred to you. What’s the back story?

SABRINA SIEGEL: I’m so glad you are enjoying……     Well, the concept  is really just a way to think about or name the relationship of the forces at play when i play instruments in general.  And i can say the way i perceive the way i live and practice visual art as well…. perhaps it is the way everything goes in life.  It is the way i play, always in improvisation and experimenting with difficult to controllable extended modes of playing(such as playing electric guitar with a pile of rocks, some of them very large). It is all very spontaneous, raw, natural, moment by moment, sound by sound and finding/creating mastery or balance or grace or flow in the precarious sound-creating situation at hand. One could liken this way perhaps to Jackson Pollock’s action painting, where an unconventional beauty and visual compositional balance was achieved through a grosser and seemingly less controllable mode of applying paint to canvas.

SM: As a liner note enthusiast, I’m sort of let down about not knowing the “setup” for more of the tracks. “Drop Bow Down Cello” seems pretty straightforward, but most of the others are far more difficult to figure out. In fact, without the press sheet, I don’t think I would have put it together with the title. With such an interesting process, why hide it?

SS: Well, i didn’t mean to hide anything.  i did try too point to it with the little poetic writing that i did include. Maybe this leaves more space for the listener to imagine the situation and sounds as well?

photo provided

I could tell you the “setups” if you like. (DaveX sez: SPOILER ALERT!) They all take place in my home, which is an old quaker meeting house made of cinderblocks with a polished concrete floor, which creates a very live sonic space.  most of them are first time”experiments” that i’ve never tried before. “Yom Kippur” (i have sent an image from this one) is playing the electric guitar with rocks balancing on the strings and in hands, with the guitar balanced on a wooden chair which is then pushed and pulled around the room, involving the space, the dimensions of the room, relying on my physical strength, grace of movement, feelings, and ear, to express “musically” through this situation/medium (which evoked the vision and depth of feeling, in the performer, of the experience of Yom Kippur in it’s spiritual weight and it’s ceremonial blowing of the shofar.)

“Fire” is singing as if flame, with the fire that is alive in the fireplace right there.  “I am the bow” is playing the cello with the hairs of the bow (pulled off my ruined bow) between my hands. “Big electric rose” is playing the electric guitar with rocks with an external pickup clipped on, as i had lent my cord to my neighbor and so could not utilize it’s built-in pickups (actually only one of them works, and i like the sound quality it gives this way), the recording device itself was also in a precarious situation as it was cutting out or something, creating several unusual slight rests and a few other interesting and mysterious artifacts in the recording. “After your voice” is simply an emotional or visceral response to the interruption (or one could even think of it as the punctuation) of my recording session by a friend’s voice on the answering machine.  …………to identify a few for you.

SM: I find that I can think of “Grace/Precarious” in at least two manners– as a musician struggling to achieve a sound and failing in many interesting ways; or as an example of a musician using an interesting process to ‘call out’ these interesting “failures”. In the first manner, the album is full of ‘mistakes,’ but obviously not in the other manner. Do you find either of these viewpoints more relevant than the other?SS: I think that both of these ways relate to the process… perhaps the second one more so.  you could think of those sounds as mistakes or just the next sounds in the work.  (Perhaps this is a more valueless process or the values or way of “judging” is different, more open and active……….. to embrace all sound, all expression as what is, as what has come forth for some reason and so is of value and is something to work off of and enjoy.  One could take this way and apply it to one’s whole life…….. accept what comes and work with it.) I could tell you that because i am not in complete control of what i am doing i use my body, ear, hand to come close to what i imagine would be the next sound that i would “want”.

I respond to each sound as well or as true as i can as they come.  So it is almost the constant unknown, and constant intense listening and bodily feeling (you know in the handling of the rocks, with all their crags, different weights, sizes, sonic qualities, balance….etc.) to be able to make a “coherent” piece. (It’s like eating the mushroom in Alice in Wonderland….. you never know what you are going to get exactly) And the rest of it is also how i am feeling at the moment- emotional content and some thoughts too. Sometimes it is more about the energy and feeling/movement of the body, as in “The body moving” than finding a specific sound or note and is more like Dance. So every sound counts and is true to the process and ultimately there are no mistakes.  But perhaps, in my experience playing this way, i could say that some works have more ” coherency” than others, or make more”musical” “sense” than others and this is where the
grace/Grace comes in……………

SM: Did any harm come to your instruments? I am particularly worried about the cello.

SS: Yes… is a bit unavoidable. But i am as careful as i can be.  I love my guitar but it is full of scratches and dents and the strings, which i haven’t changed in two years (part of this “work with what is” way…… also it means that the guitar is always changing,) are all worn down ( i think it’s time for new strings!) and one is now missing.  With the cello i am a bit more careful. There was a time though that i was in the studio with Onomatopoeia and we were recording what became the “Walking On Water” album, (which was such a great and intense experience for me) and i was playing a ceramic flute at one point and we were playing an intense piece that seemed a voodoon ritual and so i ended up banging it on a bottle over and over and there were pieces of it and glass all over……..)

SM: An argument could be made that, like a recording using extended techniques, this album uses ‘extended situation’ or ‘extended setting’. While field recordings certainly offer setting as a point of importance, “Grace/Precarious” may be the first to use setting in this way. What are your feelings on this?

SS: Wow………..I think it is great that you ask this question!  I have thought of and written of “situationist” playing, where the situation is a very personal experience, with all the contents of and encounters of a singular being/beings, the individual musician/musicians with what ever is happening and related to the sound…… strengths, weakness, personality, mind, body, thoughts, the space that one is in; the “musical situation,” all of what is there in this singular moment.  I think this opens  “music” up, sound/noise wise, time wise, content wise, and creates a more dimensional and intimate musical experience for both musician and listener.

SM: Have there been any live performances of the album?

SS: Well it’s all just improvisation and so there really couldn’t be another performance of the album (aside from when it was recorded…but i was alone…..some of it on video) or any of my albums… wouldn’t be the same thing. i could repeat similar set ups for playing though…. but i’m not  into repeating.

SM: The word “grace” has many meanings– the quality of elegance, a favor bestowed, or even a religious concept of a god’s strengthening influence. What is your reading of this word, and how does that relate to the recording?

SS: I guess for me it is both one’s personal physical grace (“elegance”) of movement, which involves strength, and bodily awareness etc. and Grace, G-d’s or the Tao’s “strengthening”, sustaining, flowing, buoyant  “perfection”, and the relationship of the two in the experience of the musician and through it’s precipitate (the phenomenon of the outcome, the music.)

SM: This is the first album of yours to find me, and possibly my listeners as well. What have we missed, and where could we find it?

SS: There are fifteen or so albums that i (and Pax Recordings) have put all on cdbaby online, and so they are available as well on itunes and other digital distribution sites.  There are three other solo albums of electric guitar played with rocks and one album of  a work that i made from a recording in rural upstate New York that i think is very special in it’s meditative quality(intense one though) and experience of the perfect sonic compositional nature of Nature (the world and the way things go/flow) called “G-d’s Music (fill in your name)”. There are four albums with my duo with Charles Coxon (SIECOX), and the rest are with “experimental” ensemble Onomatopoeia, which utilize pseudo pop elements, giving a very pop first hit, but are very “situational”, all improvised, interesting, and intimate in that i sing as well – the latest one is called “The Quality Of Flowers”.

SM: Any projects/albums/performances on the horizon?

SS: I have several projects on the horizon.  One most important one is raising my new beautiful son Isidore, now six weeks old.  there is another SIECOX album, and a Sabrina Siegel and Onomatopoeia album to come.  There is a work made from a recording of a six mile bike ride with an autistic girl that i have worked with that i think will be called “Biking and Swinging with Sara” (exploring the musicality of moving through space and time this way, with the wind, repetitive bike sounds, repetitive conversation, etc.) There is also the project of finding gallery representation for a new photographic project that i am calling “Natures Recompositions”, which are large prints made from high resolution scans of photographic slides that i left out to Nature for four years……. they are a visual illustration of grace/precarious! They (a gift of Grace) show how perfect nature is in it’s compositional beauty, as microscopic plant, crystal, and insect life moved in on the gelatin emulsion and lived a “landscape”, as opposed to a photographic eye’s framing a landscape. They look, on first view, like abstract expressionist works.  I have also been working on a film about Friedrich Nietzsche for a while that i hope to finish before too long.  As for performing, Onomatopoeia and i will be performing in Portland, Oregon in December in the Lunar Music series………… For now.

SM: What albums or artists are you excited about right now?

SS: Right now i’m excited to hear a new release of Erik Satie’s music that i heard about, with his more avant-garde works on it.  I’m excited listening to my tape of Victor Jara again, that has been lost for a few years.  He is so tremendously beautiful and dimensional in his voice, and words and what he stood for. i am also excited for Charles Coxon to release his “Crab to Sun” album soon, with it’s very special poignancy.

My trip to the Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center

June 27, 2007

As my radio listeners know, I’ve snagged a few cool musicians on their way to or from the Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center, a fantastic venue for experimental and difficult music in St. Louis. Over the past few years, I’ve hosted Jon Mueller, Jim Schoenecker, Bryan Day, Alex Boardman, Joseph Jaros, Luke Polipnick, and P.D. Wilder. It’s safe to say that without the draw of a fine tour stop like Lemp, I would not have been able to draw these musicians to the area.

I decided to make it up to Lemp for a show featuring Zelienople; Mike Tamburo; Learn Artist; and Epicycle, a project of Lemp Arts founder Mark Sarich. I was also hoping to have some time to visit the highly-recommended Apop Records store, having recently visited Vintage Vinyl and finding nothing that interested me. (more…)

DaveX gets interviewed!

June 25, 2007

HTXMR! O RLY?Hollow Tree Experimental Music Report has posted a loooong interview with me today. It is the second part in a series of cross-interviews with Zeno Izen, the first of which I posted last week.

Topics include how I choose music for my broadcasts, the state of modern radio, and the nature of experimental music. It’s all straight from this horse’s mouth! I hope you’ll take the time to read and respond to both.

Finally, I want to ask all my readers to please keep my new horse in your thoughts. As you can see here, he seems happy, but for some reason, he won’t eat. I am sick of eating sugar cubes to demonstrate how “yummy” they are. If this situation doesn’t approve, I may have to send him to meet Barbaro.

DaveX interviews Zeno Izen!

June 21, 2007

Zeno Izen is a fellow blogger, whose writing at his Hollow Tree Experimental Music Report has inspired me on more than one occasion to get off my ass and provide for you, my reader! Back in March, we decided to interview each other– and while Zeno has been slaving away over his half of the writing, I’ve taken my cue from Andy Warhol, and simply present it as a huge block of unedited text.

Carry on for the full interview, and some random photos I have taken over the past few years… (more…)

DaveX interviews Ophibre

June 20, 2007

In the interest of learning a bit more about the mysterious artist Ophibre, whose anonym serves as the sole appellation of both his person and label; I wrote to inquire about conducting an e-mail interview.

Knowing full well the abstruse nature of Ophibre, I was still somewhat surprised to receive his answers– each as a separate audio file, with his voice bearing the stamp of several different transformative processes.

Although I had initially considered transcribing Ophibre’s responses as well as offering the recordings, I was concerned that doing so would encourage users to avoid the audio files, which certainly lessens the total experience. Ophibre also wrote to encourage me not to provide transcriptions, and his reason is compelling:

“I would feel better if the answers were not transcribed and the listener would be forced to listen multiple times to fully comprehend, like learning how to understand another language.”

What follows are my original written questions, each followed by a short audio file with Ophibre’s response. The total size of the six files is less than two megabytes, so do not fear, dial-up users! –DaveX

1) I have to get it out of the way right off– how do you say “Ophibre,” and what does it mean? Barring a meaning, where did this name come from? How long have you been making music?

2) If “Puzzle Pieces” and “Shattered CD” are any indication, repetition is a pretty big element of your work. Still, I have to admit that I find some moments, such as the opening to “Shattered CD” to be pushing this repetition a bit far. Assuming this is purposeful on your part, what’s the idea?

3) One thing I have noticed (and some other reviewers as well, it seems) is that you have a good sense of space in your recordings– be it lengthy periods of silence, or simply the feel of the recordings themselves. When considered alongside the ubiquitous bagged items, it seems safe to believe the physical to be a strong influence for your ideas. What are your thoughts on this?

4) In my review, I mentioned your relative anonymity– both as an artist, and of your work’s intent. Sometimes, however, a blank slate invites listeners to over-examine a recording. Care to shed any light on the meanings behind your recordings, or on your anonymous status?

5) What are you listening to lately? Any favorite recordings you’d like to share with STARTLING MONIKER readers?

6) What’s coming up for Ophibre, both artist and label? Any plans to tour?

Here are some links to the artists mentioned in Ophibre’s response to question five. Because at least one name is rather common, it is entirely possible that Ophibre was referring to another artist. Here they are, in order of mention:

one, two, three, four, five ::::::::::::::::::::::::::

DaveX interviews Matt Weston, somewhat disgruntled review recipient

March 27, 2007

Following my reviews of Matt Weston’s “Rashaya,” and “Resistance Cruisers” albums, I contacted him to find out if he would be interested to do a small interview– I had hoped that such an opportunity might provide some balance– and also allow STARTLING MONIKER readers a chance to further pursue some of the ideas raised in the original entry.

If it hasn’t become clear by now, I’m perpetually interested in digging deeper into topics. I have tried to make my approach to reviewing in general not one of simply saying that something is bad or good; and even beyond explaining why. Instead, I always attempt to place the work being reviewed into a greater context for readers, and though I sometimes fail, I hope that this intent at least “colors” my efforts.

While originally listening to Weston’s recordings, it did not take me long to realize that the interesting question was not why I disliked the albums, but how meaningful a review could hope to be, especially given the finite framework of a reviewer’s own experience and taste. I included examples of two reviews, each a dramatically different “take” on Lou Reed’s “Metal Machine Music” as illustration of how a single work could inspire multiple viewpoints.

Naturally, this led me to other questions– how important is external information for reviewer? How much info is a musician expected/needed/wanting to present alongside a work before it overshadows the work itself? If everyone is said to have their own unique vision, at what point in time does it become appropriate to judge this vision? In what way could something completely unique ever be judged? (more…)

“It’s Too Damn Early” Commentary for 2/3/07

February 3, 2007

Today’s broadcast of “it’s Too Damn Early” was fantastic. Ambient/drone guitarist P.D. Wilder played two live sets in the WDBX “Hi-Life Room” (as I call master control) and of course, a lot of good music was broadcast as well.

I was able to give some more time to the Edgetone Records group Eddie the Rat, as well as a nice long set of Dan Joseph Ensemble works from the “Archaea” album. However, the best part of the show was just having a nice “behind-the-scenes” conversation with Wilder, a touring improvisational musician. We swapped stories about our various motivations for abandoning (and of course, coming back to) making music; our hopes for cultivating interest and understanding about experimental works in our respective areas, and the general “who’s on what label” so necessary to keeping up in today’s often super-obscure CDR label scene.

On a super-cool note, The Carbondale Nightlife (a local entertainment newspaper) published a short write-up noting “It’s Too Damn Early’s” 5th anniversary, and information about Wilder. STARTLING MONIKER even got a brief mention near the end. Thanks, Nightlife!

As a small service to STARTLING MONIKER readers, I am making a complete recording of this broadcast available for the next six days through the slightly more offbeat “Senduit” website. The recording is taken directly from WDBX’s streaming broadcast, as a single 64kbps mp3 track. It is by no means as good a quality as purchasing any of these albums yourself, which I strongly urge you to do. To download, simply click here.

For the last remaining dial-up afficianados, here is a playlist. Feel free to use your imagination to recreate the show in whatever quality or format you wish.

Eddie the Rat — Anamnesis #1
Eddie the Rat — Mu (Unask the Question)
Eddie the Rat — Dim
Nick Didkovsky — She Closes Her Sister with Heavy Bones
Nick Didkovsky — Machinecore
Nick Didkovsky — Tube Mouth Bow String
P.D. Wilder — LIVE pt.1 , on “It’s Too Damn Early”
Kotra, Zavolonka — Out of Nowhere
Kotra, Zavolonka — Uneven Walk
Kotra, Zavolonka — A Taste of Live Life
Kotra, Zavolonka — Analogue Tender
Kotra, Zavolonka — Spacy Drift
Dan Joseph Ensemble — Percussion and Strings
Dan Joseph Ensemble — Archaea Quartet
Dan Joseph Ensemble — Lotus Quintet
P.D. Wilder — LIVE pt.2 , on “It’s Too Damn Early”
My Fun — The Pursuit of Old Pleasures

Startling Moniker interview with GRKZGL

December 5, 2006

The new album “Esque,” by anti-vowel electronic artist “GRKZGL” is available now through the Angle Rec label. Despite enjoying the album in a “pure sound” sense, the near-total abstraction of the work left me with lots of questions– what could hope to be understood from this album? Was this another example of “message-less” art? It was with these (and a few other) questions in mind that I conducted this interview…

GRKZGL “Esque” available on Angle.Rec.

Let’s start with the proverbial “elephant in the room.” How do you say “grkzgl,” and what does it mean? (more…)

DaveX interviews Supermodernist musician Frank Rothkamm

November 17, 2006

DaveX:  Interestingly, in the few days prior to your disc’s arrival, I had been part of a listserv discussion about microtonal tunings and new instrument designs for accommodating such tunings. The day before I got your disc, I had asked a question about whether or not anyone had ever utilised an entire piano’s keyboard, but modified the instrument in such a way as to span only one or two octaves. From there, some other members replied that such a thing was possible in MIDI, and that Carillo had used a 96-tone scale on a piano.

I posted about your FB02 liner notes where you mention the IFORMM’s “768 frequencies per octave”. I said that I assumed this to be the end of the “how many” sort of discussion we were having. Another member wrote off to microtonal composer Warren Burt, who wrote the following…

“Well, I did a piece once tuned in cents, so that might be considered 1200 tones per octave….but the point is, how are the tones used? Is there really a compositional way to make all 1200, or 768 tones perceivable as different from one another? Actually 768 rings a bell….that’s the number of tones per octave available on the old Yamaha TX81Z, I think (early fm synth).”

Of course, there is the FB01 in the pic on the cover and as you can see by now, I’m very curious about the IFORMM setup. Why 768 frequencies? (more…)