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Archive for May, 2013

Joe Carducci

Joe Carducci

These are series of questions that were edited out of my recent interview with writer and former SST lynchpin Joe Carducci. I wanted our interview for “The Quietus” to be oriented around his writing career, but during the course of our correspondence we covered many other topics that deserved to be featured in an entirely seperate interview. I think Joe’s replies will be of great interest to those who read the original interview.

As a fan of both Throbbing Gristle and Flipper, I was very interested to hear about your involvement in putting on the gig at Kezar Pavilion in 1981. What are your recollections of that show? And given that both bands were reunited, what do you think of their more recent work? (Flipper recently played here in York back in April – it was one of the most powerful shows I have ever seen).

 

I’m glad to hear they’re still great. Jack Endino said he worked on their recent album and was really impressed by them. It’s hard to imagine them without Will Shatter. I didn’t know Will as well as I knew Bruce, Ted or Steve but I think of the early San Francisco bands people really respected Negative Trend and The Sleepers, and of the people in the bands Will and Ricky Williams – they seemed the gold standard of that scene. Flipper sounded great in that big arena, though you did lose a bit of Ted’s detail on guitar. They were great in little clubs too just before then. They didn’t want to open the show and we didn’t want it to be a regular gig with a normal bill so they snuck The Church Police out to play a couple songs on the Flipper set-up. They were a very loose Flipper-inspired group of space-cadets; one of the songs they managed was Black Sabbath’s “Killing Yourself to Live”. I hope someone has a tape of them; I was just asked if I had one, as their stuff is being compiled. I liked TG in that more musical period, maybe “Heathen Earth” is the album most like how they sounded that night.

 

There was an article in a UK newspaper about people that described as “double jobbers”: creative people who work a job to support their other endeavours. That type of financial need clearly impacted on Naomi’s creativity as well as many others at SST. It seems from your book that she often hedged her bets about her creative work despite her obvious love for it. Was there ever a moment where she could have made the breakthrough to full-time photographer alongside the likes of Colver, Friedman, Lavine etc?

 

Once she was a daily SST employee she was freer to cover things. I remember it was frustrating when she couldn’t get off at the restaurant to do a gig for us. At that point I didn’t want to ask anyone else to shoot for us. I found that she had started getting calls from the Voice and elsewhere in 1986 and after but none of that would’ve been real money. I don’t think anyone in LA made any money. The people who made a living then had been at the L.A. Times, and maybe dipped into the scene for them. It seems to me that the Manhattan publishing industry grabs later mid-80s shots by New York photographers when they need something. They must know of Glen Friedman and Ed Colver but they are lazy and have some kind of relationship with Manhattan photography agencies. Ultimately it’s about a lack of respect for the music, Los Angeles, etc. There’s a lot of books on SST bands now and the publishers are generally crippling their own books. There were to be six Naomi shots and a dozen others in Clinton Heylin’s “Babylon’s Burning”; he paid for the photos himself and then the publisher just dropped them at the last minute – at least in the American edition.

 

Have there been any new developments with regard to some of the photos she lost over the years, and the proposed anthology of her work? You described some photos she took of the Nig-Heist and I’ve never been able to track them down to see what they look like.

 

I don’t know when the negatives can all be digitized and looked at – it’s a big job. Right now I’m going through the Husker Du negatives that she had labeled for a Grant Hart documentary being made by the producers who made The Replacements doc. Its good stuff and a lot should make it into the film.

 

Can you tell more a bit more about your own label Thermidor, and whether you have any plans to reissues any of its back catalogue in the future?

 

We didn’t keep any rights to the catalog. Several things have been reissued via the band’s efforts (Nig-Heist on Drag City; Oil Tasters on Lexicon Devil), and the ONO albums will be reissued soon, plus they just recorded a great-sounding new album for release soon. I imagine the Toiling Midgets album “Dead Beats” will come out again at some point.

 

At one point in ‘Enter Naomi’, you write: “After their second album Meat Puppets were the only band every other SST band could agree on”. What was it about the band that could unify such a disparate coterie of people?

Well I think the bands all liked each other, its more that tensions began to increase as what had been little bands began to tour and have greater ambitions. So it was more a case of the Meat Puppets were in their own world in Arizona and no threat to anyone’s ego. But also when “Up on the Sun” was heard it did seem to be the best opening up of a band’s sound. Husker Du, Minutemen, Saccharine Trust were also trying to do that and did it less well.

 

You also refer to a ‘European embargo that seemed to last until 1987: they missed out on a most of the best records and bands’. This is something that we in the UK are acutely aware of! I only managed to score a CD copy of “fROMOHIO” by fIREHOSE second hand last year, and records by other SST bands like Saccharine Trust, Slovenly, Tar Babies etc are next to unknown in this country. What forces stood in the way of the label making more of an impact over here? (I’ve met literally hundreds of people over the years that I’ve worked in record stores fruitlessly searching for anything released on SST, quite apart from my own desire to find these records)

Well I did what I could at Systematic in the years 1979-81 to get Rough Trade to import the American stuff that we were moving domestically. We’d been selling great American stuff as best we could but then the younger hardcore type stuff began really selling. Building off of Dangerhouse releases and Misfits 45s, were the Avengers 12”, D.O.A. LPs, Dead Kennedys 45s, Black Flag 45s and 12”, Adolescents LP, certain Posh Boy 45s… We didn’t expect reciprocity exactly but Rough Trade wouldn’t even buy for their own shop. Now Jon Savage is focused on some of the earlier stuff, but it’s interesting that he also exhibits the problem that Rough Trade had with the young macho rocking end of things. And today you can see how allergic the indie rock world is to hard rock in its sound and style. I’m glad but sad to hear you confirm that the records weren’t over there. My point in the book was more about the interest in allowing American bands to tour over there. I thought the last great UK bands were debuting in 81 maybe, so the UK music environment got bad for five years before suddenly pretty obscure American bands seemed to be pulled over there with ease to tour London and the continent.

 

I’m glad that Naomi was such a great friend to and fan of both Scott Weinrich and Saint Vitus: her photos of them for “Born Too Late” and “Mournful Cries” are two of my favourite photographs by her. I wanted to ask about your memories of working on their “Mournful Cries” LP. I know it’s often gets overlooked in favour of “Born Too Late”, but I think is just as strong in its own way.

 

I was no longer at SST but they seemed happy to have me work with them again and I always enjoyed working on sounds in the studio. They weren’t really selling records yet, maybe about 5,000 but Greg and Chuck must’ve known about the studio, Music Grinder on Melrose Ave. It was great and I thought the engineer Casey McMackin was very good. It had a big open quanset hut style room, with some booths and a midsize room if I remember. Wino was living up in Hollywood, finding the Vitus vibe in Lomita much too boring I’m sure. I preferred to go back down to stay with Dave and Mark, though I thought Scott wanted me to stay with him so he could ask me some business questions or something. I wasn’t sure I wanted to answer questions about SST or his Vitus bros. Now I don’t remember why we didn’t have Naomi come for photos. I think she couldn’t make the sessions and I was kind of focusing on that and we had very little time. We had four consecutive days 12-hour sessions to record and mix. And I think I had tapes of the tunes before I came out and probably was there for two days practice before going in. I liked the songs Scott brought to the album and his second guitar. The band hadn’t played the songs live so there were some clumsy rhythm things and I probably didn’t get the sound right for Scott’s solos but he and Dave were very active and in motion in their solos with distortion which can be hard to catch up to. I love most of the sounds on the record. “Looking Glass” is a favorite of mine. But “The Troll” is also a sleeper fave that you have to meet on its own terms before you discover it. I stopped by the new SST in Long Beach but Naomi wasn’t in that day.

 

Do you know what led to Saint Vitus leaving SST? And I was wondering what you thought of Weinrich’s career since Vitus, in the likes of The Obsessed, Spirit Caravan, The Hidden Hand etc? For me he is the American equivalent of Lemmy, though he’s more of a nomad in heavy music rather than being a stalwart. (Have you heard Weinrich’s recent solo acoustic work and new band Premonition 13? They’re terrific)

 

I got a call from Dave Chandler at some point after “Mournful Cries” was out. They couldn’t get Greg on the phone and they had this offer from Hellhound in Germany. I think they would’ve stayed on SST if Greg had taken the time, but he was in some vortex of his own music, SST’s release-mania, and wouldn’t come to the phone or set up a meeting. I didn’t advise them go to Hellhound except as a last resort. I didn’t think I could intercede with Greg myself because, though we had an interesting talk mostly about the thesis of “Rock & The Pop Narcotic” which I was working on when I stopped by SST-Long Beach, I could tell that Greg didn’t want any advice from me. So I guess Dave tried once more and then signed with Hellhound. He told me later that once they did that, then Greg called them to find out what they did and told them it was a mistake. But of course everything was a mistake in those days, and soon enough Hellhound kind of enabled Scott to quit Saint Vitus to reform The Obsessed, now also Hellhound recording artists. That took awhile to patch up I’m guessing. Good to see they did though.

 

Can you tell me more about Monitor/World Imitation? I’m fascinated by the photo of them in the book. I read that some of their music was reissued in Japan recently, but I know little else apart from that.

 

One of the corrections I have to make in the second run of “Enter Naomi” is that that photo is actually of World Imitation rather than Monitor. Monitor was not the same membership as World Imitation who predate the band actually. In that photo you see Michael, Laurie and Steve of the band plus two whose only involvement were with World Imitation, which had a lot of influence with Devo, Throbbing Gristle and others with their mail art booklets in the mid-seventies. There’s a great book of graphics and history of the band that may not have been printed but was up online in a PDF.. I think the author is called Anthony Beecroft, so Google it and look for it. The band did a 45 in 1978 which was one of the first American 45s we distributed when we were called Renaissance Records, up in Portland. Their album was self-released and also released on the Ata Tak label in Dusseldorf. My side label at Systematic, Thermidor released the Tikis 45 which was a Monitor side project. Laurie from Monitor and Boyd Rice did a two person noise and vocal performances under the Barbie and Ken name. Boyd was a friend of theirs and he and they were fonts of ideas and image memes which spread all over the place. Monitor also had tracks on compilations on the LAFMS label, and Michael was in The Romans and drummer Keith Mitchell was in Opal and Mazzy Star. Steve may have done some soundtrack or ambient stuff, not sure.

 

How long did you run Owned & Operated Records with Bill Stevenson, and what sort of bands did you release?

 

It started slow and then we got it sorted out as two labels, O&O for rock, and Upland for roots/acoustic stuff. We didn’t feel the internet hurting our chances except that we could tell nothing had any traction. Wretch Like Me, Someday I, Tanger, Armstrong, Shiner did great records on O&O, and Spot, Grandpa’s Ghost, David Lightbourne, and Drag the River did great records on Upland.

 

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leviathan3

LEVIATHAN

This interview featured in “SALT” issue six, which was published in 2003. Black Metal was beginning to exert its dominance over me at this point, exacerbated by my exposure to the Black Metal ‘scene’ emanating from the Bay Area at that time. This was principally down to the glut of Black Metal-oriented releases from Andee Connors’ illustrious tUMULt label, which was responsible for releasing classics such as “Dead As Dreams” by Weakling, “From Which Hatred Grows” by Draugar and the double CD monolith “Verrater” by Leviathan – the collection that began my obsession with Wrest’s extraordinary music. For me, the malign yet exultant force of his music remains one of the most powerful aural experiences of the last decade; their bleak interior worlds of his albums are seared with a romantic countenance that is a defining characteristic of solo Black Metal artists from that era. At this time Wrest gave few interviews, and I feel privileged that I was able to speak to him via email (many thanks again to Andee Connors, who played a major role in making this interview happen), and feature these responses in the pages of “SALT”. This interview was the beginning of the Black Metal deluge……

There is always true beauty in horror…Leviathan, in the form of one man Metal prince Wrest creates music from limitless darkness…his is the sound of ultimate misanthropy…primitive, romantic Black Metal…a magisterial excess…boiling oceans of guitar…the violence of drum machines… lyrical wounds of despair unknowable…Wrest’s vocals spewed as if from a volcano of blood…raging in the chains of his soul…screams swathed in torment…the nihilist Black Metal poetry of “Verrater”, the visceral clouds of doom in “The Tenth Sub-Level of Suicide”…welcome to Leviathan…

SALT: How long have you been making music as Leviathan?

Wrest: I STARTED RECORDING THESE MUSICS IN ‘98

Why did you choose the name Leviathan?

LEVIATHAN IS THE ADMIRAL OF SATAN’S NAVY, THE DEMON OF THE WEST, KRAKEN…MONSTROSITY OF THE DEEP…A TWISTING SERPENT THAT DEVOURS CHRISTIAN “CHARITY”. SOMETHING MASSIVE, SUBMERGED.

How did you first become interested in Black Metal?

AS A TEENAGER, I LISTENED TO MERCYFUL FATE, CELTIC FROST SOME VENOM…I’VE ALWAYS HELD CELTIC FROST IN HIGH REGARD. I GUESS ABOUT ’96; A FRIEND STARTED BRINGING NEWER STUFF AROUND. I BECAME OBSESSED. I STARTED PLAYING GUITAR; MUCH MORE…BEGAN PUTTING IDEAS DOWN…

From what sources do you draw inspiration to create your music?

MY EXPERIENCES IN, HATRED OF, PERCEPTION OF THIS PLANET. MELANCHOLY, PAIN, DESPONDENCY, NUMBNESS…

Why have you chosen to keep Leviathan as a solo project?

 I DON’T WANT TO HAVE TO EXPLAIN, CORRECT, OTHER MUSICIANS. I DON’T THINK THE BAND MACHINE RUNS WELL WITH A DICTATOR. THE BAND UNIT AND THE MUSIC IT CREATES REQUIRE EQUAL INPUT FROM ALL MEMBERS. TO HAVE OTHER INPUT IN LEVIATHAN, AT THIS POINT, WOULD BE TOO DRASTIC A CHANGE. I’M NOT WILLING TO COMPROMISE ANYTHING, MUSICALLY, LYRICALLY, OR OTHERWISE WITH LEVIATHAN.

What do you feel that your music allows you to express that that you cannot elsewhere in your life?

IT’S THE BEST I’VE FOUND TO EXORCISE THE AGGRAVATION OF BEING ALIVE, THIS TIME. IT’S ALMOST LIKE RESEARCH…FINDING OUT WHAT I’M MADE OF. TRYING TO CONVEY EXPRESSIONS I’VE NO WORDS FOR. I FEEL LIKE IT’S ALWAYS GOING THROUGH CHANGES, ALWAYS TRANSFORMING…INTO WHAT?…I DON’T KNOW AND IT’S NOT IMPORTANT TO ME. IT’S BECOME SOMETHING I HAVE TO DO WITH FREQUENCY.

Why was your music initially restricted to cassette-only releases?

I’VE ALWAYS LIKED CASSETTES. I STILL HAVE AND COLLECT A LOT OF TAPES. UNTIL I GOT A CDR BURNER, CASSETTE WAS THE ONLY MEANS OF ME MIXING THE MATERIAL DOWN FROM MY RECORDER. I PRODUCED 6 TAPES BEFORE I GOT A BURNER…I SOLD 2 OF THOSE TAPES AND 3 TAPES, CONSISTING OF VARIOUS CDR SONGS AT A LOCAL RECORD STORE. IT WAS THE ONLY WAY TO GET THIS MUSIC OUT.

How did the idea for Leviathan CD compilation come together?

WHEN ANDEE SAID HE’D LIKE TO PUT SOMETHING OUT, I WAS AT #4 OR #5…BY THE TIME IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED, I HAD MADE 13 SETS OF SONGS. DOING A DOUBLE CD WAS ANDEE’S IDEA. ACTUALLY, “VERRATER” IS 2 PARTS: “SCAHDENFREUDE” IS THE CDR STUFF; “KRANKHEIT” IS THE 1ST TAPED MATERIAL.

How hard was the selection process given that you had so much material to work with?

PRETTY HARD. I WOULD HAVE MAYBE PICKED DIFFERENT SONGS FOR THE 1ST DISC.

Have you ever played out as Leviathan? Is live performance something you would like to do?

NO, I’VE NEVER PLAYED LIVE W/ LEVIATHAN. IN LIVE SITUATIONS, I’M A DRUMMER…NOT THAT GUITAR PARTS ARE HARD, BUT I WOULDN’T WANT THEM CHANGED. IF I FOUND THE RIGHT PEOPLE, MAYBE I’D JUST PLAY GUITAR, OR JUST DO VOCALS. I THINK PEOPLE MAKE FAR TOO BIG A DEAL ABOUT BANDS NOT PLAYING LIVE. I FUCKING HATE PEOPLE, FOR THE MOST PART.. I LIKE TO SEE LIVE MUSICS ON OCCAISON…BUT I HATE CROWDS, “SCENES”, CLIQUES…ALL THAT SHIT. MOSTLY THEY JUST TALK, TALK KSHIT ABOUT SUCH & SUCH OTHER BAND, WHATEVER THEIR WEAK MARDUK-CLONE BANDS IS(N’T) DOING, WHATEVER, BOTTOMS UP, SHITHEADS.

On the sleeve of “Verrater”, you write: “Death to all hip-hop influenced nu ‘metal’. I agree with you, but I wanted to ask why you feel so vehemently about it?

THIS IS NOT METAL., IN THE LEAST. I THINK THE WHOLE “WIGGER” THING IS PRETTY FUNNY, BUT FOR THEM TO CALL THIS METAL…NO FUCKING WAY. SUBURBAN RICH KIDS THAT WANT TO BLEND EVERYTHING…MAKE IT “FUNKY”…WHATEVER, FUCK THAT. I FUCKING HATE EVERYTHING ABOUT SHIT HOP “CULTURE”. IT HAS ABSOLUTELY NNNOOOOO PLACE IN METAL.

What impact did the “Dead as Dreams” album by Weakling have on you?

I ACTUALLY SAW WEAKLING BEFORE I HEARD THE RECORD. SOMEONE TOLD ME THEY NEEDED A DRUMMER, SO I WENT TO CHECK THEM OUT. FUCKING EPIC. DEVASTATING SADNESS, HARMONIES THAT WERE TRULY MOROSE, NOT SOME GAY “GOTHEN-BURG” NONSENSE. THEIR DRUMMER WAS PRETTY AMAZING. UN-TRIGGED STAMINA. BACK THEN, I COULDN’Y HAVE PLAYED THE DOUBLE-KICK PARTS. THEY BROKE UP SOON AFTER THAT SHOW. AS FAR AS “DEAD AS DREAMS”, IT’S ONE OF MY FAVOURITE RECORDS. TOTALLY UNIQUE AND A CUT ABOVE THE RESTOF MOST US BANDS.

Do you treat your music as series of compositions, or are you a more instinctive musician?

 A LOT IS QUITE BY ACCIDENT. SOMETIMES I’LL HAVE SOMETHING REVOLVING AROUND MY HEAD FOR A WHILE.

Do you have any other musical projects besides Leviathan?

SOMETIMES, I’LL DO A MORE AMBIENT PROJECT CALLED “LURKER OF CHALICE”. IT’S A LESS FOCUSSED THING. IT’S DONE W/A DRUM-MACHINE AND HORRIBLE SINGINGS. I REALLY WOULDN’T KNOW HOW TO DESCRIBE IT.

 

 

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This is an interview I worked on for many months, and I’m very pleased to present it to you all:

http://thequietus.com/articles/12184-joe-carducci-interview

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