As recording studios go, to say that of Edwyn Collins was akin to a living room would be an understatement. It is tucked away on a leafy residential street in North London. Upon arrival, Edwyn’s wife Grace greets me warmly, then shoos away their teenage son, who is slumbering on the sofa in front of a video game. She gets to work on presenting coffee and biscuits, then proceeds to launch into a story about Edwyn’s drummer going missing in New York on their recent U.S. visit, her rapid Scottish brogue going 10 to the dozen. (More …)
From the very beginning, Holy Fuck has defied categorization. The Canadian group has been called everything from electronica to psychedelic rock, with no label managing to properly blanket the band’s untamed sound. But then again, that’s what happens when a band builds its reputation on the spirit of improvisation. Though they have released three albums; Holy Fuck (CAN – Dependent Music, 2005), LP (US – XL Recordings / UK – Young Turks, 2007), and u>Latin (US – XL Recordings / UK – Young Turks, 2010), playing live is where they really won people over and how they made a name for themselves. This feat is truly impressive considering the rumor for years was that they didn’t even practice. Instead the band was said to hit the stage counting solely on instinct, trusting that the noises they produced would come together to form something greater than the sum of its parts. The results may have been ragged and feral, but they were always intensely satisfying. (More …)
Maybe it’s because I’m technically from the South that I always naturally gravitate towards things that are Southern. From biscuits and gravy to crunk, I’m always game. Nice, soothing, minimal, melodic electro–and from the South? Bring that on. (More …)
Los Angeles-based HEALTH are surely one of this year’s biggest break-through bands. By now, if you haven’t heard them or at least heard of them, you’ve been living under a rock. Actually, you’ve not even been living. HEALTH’s melodic noise and diversely amazing new album Get Color (Lovepump United, 2009) is pure, fresh goodness.
Just 48 hours after HEALTH played a party on the Williamsburg, Brooklyn waterfront late last summer, I met with the band even further down the East River. It was one of the hottest days of the year and HEALTH had seven continuous hours of interviews, of which this was the last. They’d been out ’til 6:30 a.m. the night before and were in rough shape, so much so that Jake Duszik, lead vocalist and lyricist for the noise group, had left the previous interview half way due to extreme dehydration (an otherwordly hangover). Half an hour before my scheduled meeting with the band in Greenpoint, Jake tweeted, “I just did a photo shoot where I felt like I was going to shit myself and puke at the same time… and I was weeping.” Unsure of how to respond, I asked if they’d like beer. They did. And so, Jake, Benjamin Jared Miller, John Famiglietti and Jupiter Keyes broke through a rusted chain link fence and chilled on a dilapidated concrete dock behind the old, abandoned American Envelope Factory, got drunk, discussed interstellar traumas and pissed in the East River while seaplanes landed and took off behind us.
This is probably one of the longest conversations with HEALTH you’ll ever read. ’SUP chats with HEALTH about a number of things including the Smell, first shows, tacos, golden tickets, bombing the moon, Segways, gay Twitter hijacking, cuddling chemicals and more.
It seems like everyone has a eureka moment with noise music. When did it hit you? Or what hit you?
Jupiter: One of the eureka moments for me was watching Toxic Loincloth play, who is a friend of ours, Cole, who is this awesome, really charismatic performer. He would make this nasty ass fucking sound and he had these toys that he made that were supposedly creating the sound or were making the sounds. He had all these bizarre set ups and he’d make all these nasty fucking sounds and it would take like a minute. Then he’d just get all the shit and go ballistic and there’d be this crowd around him and he’d just go fucking nuts, rolling on the ground, breaking everything. I’m describing it really poorly. It’s just one of those things that when you saw it, because he’s such a charismatic performer, it was like ‘Holy fuck, this is incredible.’ What he communicated was pure angst and aggression and it was really beautiful because – I don’t know. I’m describing it –
John: Like a bullet! Pure! Crystalline! Diamond bullet!
BJ: If you really want to see it, it’s on 40 Bands 80 Minutes!
Oh, the Smell movie?
John: Yeah. I mean, he does perform in it, but it’s way different when you’re standing right next to the guy.
Jupiter: But that was the performance. That was my ‘Holy shit. Wow’ moment.
John: My moment was – I was never excited about new music ever. I was sort of a naysayer when I was 17 and there was a show right next to my house that was Arab On Radar, Lightning Bolt, Locust and the Blood Brothers. I didn’t know any new bands that I liked and I saw that show and I was just destroyed. Covered head to toe in sweat. Arab On Radar was the craziest fucking thing I’d ever seen and from then on I was excited about music and was ready to be in a band. Pretty sure I was 17.
Had you played an instrument before?
John: Yeah, yeah. I had a high school band. We played punk, rock and classic rock. Anything rock. I hated the ’90s so I just listened to everything rock up until like ’94. I just hated that shit. Ah, the bad alternative error. I had so much angst as a kid and I was so depressed about music because I was so obsessed with music. I couldn’t believe it; it was like everything just fucking sucked.
Jupiter: I actually stopped listening to current music all together for a certain time.
BJ (laughing): I just listened to the Dave Matthews Band.
I can see it in your style.
BJ (laughing): Especially today.
John: But yeah, after that Arab On Radar show, I was like, ‘Wow, there can be modern music that’s really fucking crazy, that’s getting me off.’ It was intense. And I don’t even know what the hell they were doing. Thinking, ‘What the fuck are they doing? That doesn’t even make sense. That’s so awful.’ And then –I’m a bass player and I saw Lightning Bolt and I remember thinking ‘Oh, fuck. Oh. My. God.’ That show just destroyed me.
I’d read that you guys had a hellish time recording your new record.
John: Ugh. Not this one. Well, hellish, mentally.
Jupiter: The recording itself wasn’t hellish. That actually went pretty smooth, as far as that all goes. We had some guy helping us out with the recording.
That was something new for you?
John: That was new. We recorded our first album ourselves.
At the Smell, right?
And that involved bringing all your gear in, loading it out, day in, day out. What were you recording on? 16-track? 24-track?
John (laughing): Yeah, right. There is no way we could’ve had a five hundred pound tape machine in there. Are you insane?
Jupiter: Nah, a friend of mine gave me this thirty-forty-year-old Tascam mixer.
[A sea plane descends behind us]
Holy shit, is that plane going to land here?
Jupiter: Can we get a picture of us standing in front of that landing?
John: Holy shit!
[The sea plane lands directly behind us in the East River]
Have you guys ever been in a seaplane?
Jupiter: No, have you?
Yeah, once in Canada when I was a kid. My brother threw up all over the place.
Jupiter: The landing must feel really cool.
It’s sort of bumpy, but, well, it’s a lot like a regular plane. Just more fluid.
Jupiter: So, what were we talking about?
Your friend gave you–
John: Oh yeah. Right, right.
Jupiter: Right, so our friend gave us this thing and it looked really cool and it got a sweet sound, so we used this really shitty mixer and plugged that right into our computers through a pre-amp that went directly into our computers. Not the ideal way to record but we were on a very strict budget.
You guys were recording onto tape individually and then transferring digitally and then back to analog?
Jupiter (yellling directly into the microphone): DON’T EVER DO THAT. ANYONE. EVER.
BJ: Don’t ever do that.
Do people do that often? I’ve never heard of anyone doing that before.
John: Yeah, I guess. I mean, I don’t know.
Jupiter: We have a tendency to do things like that, where looking back you think ‘Wow, that really didn’t need to be done that way. That was really inefficient.’
John: Totally. The guy editing our music video right now just said, ‘You know what I like about you guys, you guys never do anything the easy way. Never. I’ve worked with a lot of bands and you guys NEVER do ANYTHING the EASY way.’
BJ: It’s true.
John (laughing): I was like, ‘Thanks Luke.’ Also, ‘You guys are fucking crazy. And not in a good way.’
BJ: ‘I love your craziness, you crazy bastards.’
Seems like every time I read an interview with y’all or an article about HEALTH, it always mentions playing disparaging venues; how you guys play a lot of house parties and warehouse shows but you’ve also opened for Nine Inch Nails and played big venues like the Pool Parties. Is it hard for you to go from playing a venue like the Schmarket [a.k.a Bushwick, Brooklyn’s Market Hotel] to a stadium in front of rabid Reznor disciples?
John (laughing): Ugh, no. I feel like with our band it’s mostly the same thing. It’s mostly the same thing in terms of what we have to do.
Jupiter: Unless it’s loading up a flight of rickety stairs at the Market Hotel, it’s mostly all the same.
John: Or sweating, like dying from lack of oxygen, heat exhaustion.
John: At the Market or the Smell, or places like that.
That seems to be appropriate for your sound though.
BJ: It’s not fun though.
John: No, we’d like to make it not appropriate for us.
Although, Market Hotel has air conditioning now.
John: Yeah, I just heard that.
They just installed it last weekend.
BJ: (laughing) Market? Pshh. Okay, I’ll play there again.
John: We are very big proponents of the Smell getting air conditioning, and they can. They can get the system for free, but the problem is that the bill is very expensive. We will definitely join the effort to play benefit shows to cut the bill for air conditioning.
Jupiter: Totally. Air conditioning in the Smell. We’re in.
What’s the deal with that place anyway? You always hear it mythologized around here and all these crazy stories, but I don’t really know much about it. What’s its back story? Like a sort of Todd P thing in L.A. or something?
John: Yeah, sorta. Jim Smith and I think three other people–this is way before my time–started the Smell in the Valley and then they moved it downtown, where it’s currently been for many years. I think the total lifespan of the venue has been about 10 years, but I’ve only known it since it moved downtown. And it is L.A. It is the L.A. scene. As far as good music is concerned. But there are a lot of other good things going on.
A lot of people talk about the Echo Park, Silver Lake area.
John: We live in Echo Park.
Jupiter: We all live a few blocks from each other.
John: I love Echo Park (Yelling directly into microphone) I LOVE YOU BABY! Taco Zone!
Jupiter: May I have another beer please? It’s really helping my anxiety.
Sure. Go for it.
BJ: Quote for the books right there. ‘Beer for my anxiety, please.’ Jup, you’re killing me.
What have you guys been doing since you’ve been in New York?
John: Hanging out on the East River, pretty much. Shit. We played just right over there.
That’s true; you literally played right over there.
John (laughing): Oh shit. There’s our trailer.
You sold out all your t-shirts at Pitchfork last year. Going back on tour after that, I’m guessing you didn’t have any to sell.
John: Yeah, we were in the middle of the tour and all of the sudden we didn’t have any fucking shirts. We’re like, “Where’d all the shirts go?!” So, we had to get some crazy shit sent out and picked it up along the way. It’s okay though, because our next show after Pitchfork was in Oklahoma City and–ugh–we didn’t sell too many shirts there (laughs).
Jupiter: We did get to meet Wayne Coyne though.
John: Yeah, that was awesome.
John: Yeah. He came to the show. Such a nice guy.
What kind of venue?
Jupiter: Just some kinda bar, warehouse kinda place. Not too many people were there. Only 20, maybe 30 people were there. And after the show, this kinda older guy with grey-ish hair walks up to us and says, ‘Hi! I’m Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips!’ He was super friendly and kind. Asked us about our pedals.
BJ: He asked us to play more (laughs).
John: Can I talk about the golden ticket?
Sure. I’m guessing this is sort of a HEALTH take on Willy Wonka.
John: Yeah. It’s not that high budget, but that’s the idea.
So what happens?
John: The winner gets flown out to L.A. for three days and two nights to spend at HEALTH headquarters.
Are you serious?
John: Dead serious.
Jupiter: The winner gets to come out to L.A. We’re gonna fly you out. You get to stay on our couch.
BJ: You get to stay on my couch.
Jupiter: We’re gonna make you food. Breakfast in the morning. We’re going to take you on a hike. We’re going to take you to all our favorite places, like Taco Zone. We’re gonna buy your burritos.
John: And we’re going to fucking Magic Mountain motherfuckers!
Jupiter: Magic Mountain!
Jupiter: It’s going to be the most fun ever. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Tatsu, but you’re actually dangling in the air and it’s the most beautiful backdrop of the mountains and it’s just shooting you around. It’s one of the coolest rides on Earth.
Jupiter: We’re gonna take you on Goliath.
BJ: We’re gonna go bankrupt.
John: We’re gonna take you to Wally World.
Jupiter: There may be mind-bending things involved. If you’re of age, we’ll buy your drinks. It’s gonna be a good time.
John: It’s gonna be so much fun. So, that’s the grand prize. There are a ton of other prizes. Everything is personalized. We’ve hand signed everything. We handmade all the tickets. It’s all directly from us.
How many are there?
Wait–66 people are going to be crashing on your couch?
Jupiter: There are a bunch of different color tickets. The color of the ticket will correlate to a specific prize.
John: My mom painted a picture of a certain celebrity. Jup’s mom will call you and give you an astrological report.
Jupiter: She’ll read your astrological chart based on when you were born and where you were born at.
That’s really fucking cool of you guys. That’s like 22nd century business shit.
[Jake shows up, talking on the phone.]
Jupiter: So Jake was really hungover in our last interview and decided to head back to Lovepump Headquarters and logged into Jake’s [Friedman, HEALTH’s Manager, Head of Lovepump United] computer, which happened to still be logged in on Twitter. So Jake took the liberty of–
Jake: I was just super hungover in the last interview, on the verge of heat stroke, so I’m like, ‘Dudes, I gotta go back to the apartment’ and I get back and I sit down and check my email and I login to Twitter and Jake’s still logged in. Jake Friedman and Mookie run our label, so we have this running joke that they are gay.
Jupiter: They’re not gay, but they’ve done some gay shit.
Jake: So I wrote ‘I’m not sure how I feel about it yet, but Mookie and I finally made love.’
Jake: And immediately, Mookie posts back ‘You are getting fucking curbed.’ So I post back, ‘Just once, I want you to tell me that you love me.’ So he writes back ‘Maybe, just maybe, I’ll talk to you again before you die.’ So I write ‘At least I know what your eyes look like when you climax.’ (Erupts in laughter)
Jake: And Friedman just showed me that someone re-tweeted that with the note: ‘I don’t know who you are, but your last tweet was really honest and tender.’ (laughs) All this controversy.
Do you guys use Twitter a lot?
John: For the most part I do the band Twitter.
Yeah, I heard you were about to shit and vomit at the same time or something. Hence, the Modelo.
Jake: Seriously, it’s gotta be one of the hottest days of the year and first thing I did when I woke up sweating was go for a walk in the hot sun. ‘Great guys. This is awesome. Let’s go answer some questions.’
Jupiter: We offered to rent him a Segway, but–
Jake: Dude! You offered, but you did not come through. Believe me, I would’ve been cruising down the strip with a big smile on my face.
You guys have a lot of pedals.
John: Yes. Yes, we do.
BJ: I’ve got a broken pedal right now.
I’m assuming you guys break pedals all the time.
John: Oh yeah.
Jupiter: Yesterday–or two days ago–when we played on the river was just a nightmare. John’s pedal board went to complete shit.
John: I swear to God it’s not the fucking board. There’s fucking crazy shit going on. The eclipse.
Jupiter: The eclipse, yeah.
John: Black magic voodoo eclipse.
Jupiter: There’s actually been an eclipse, vortex going on for the past–
BJ: You know what? There’s always a fucking eclipse going on. That’s what I hear every time [laughs].
John: Every time something goes wrong, it’s the fucking eclipse, man.
Jake: The sun in the moon. When is it ever like, there’s nothing going on this week?
Jupiter: So anyway, John’s pedal board went to complete shit. Two or three songs there was just no John, just him ripping cables and trying to get a signal from something.
There was a lunar eclipse just the other day.
Jupiter: This is true. It was the longest eclipse this century. Six and a half minutes.
John: I really hope there are sea monsters in Europa.
Jupiter: They are trying to figure out the technology to drill through the ice and then go down into the water because they think there is a really good possibility that there are creatures down there.
You know we’re bombing the moon, right?
A lot of people claim that the state of the economy is directly related to NASA, because so much of the technology that drives spending, and therefore the economy, was developed by NASA during the Space Race.
Jupiter: There’s just no innovation anymore.
John: The ocean frontier people are really smart. They say it will take one percent of NASA’s yearly budget to find out everything they want to know about the ocean in 10 years. Ten years!
Jupiter: Did you see that TED Talks? [TED: Technology, Entertainment, Design. TED is a non-profit academic organization and conference.] Fuck man, it was incredible. By the guy who discovered, ya know in Planet Earth where the electric creatures who live in underwater volcanoes–
Jupiter: He’s the guy who found out all that stuff, the world’s leading expert on the ocean and he says there are endless resources and all these things that could be done and we could be living in the ocean for a fraction of what it costs to go to Mars. Ted.com for all you readers.
BJ: Did you guys see that thing on the airplane about the chemical they found in the brain that actually causes you to cuddle? The cuddle chemical.
John: Cuddle juice. BJ: They broke it all down. There is actually a specific chemical that makes us cuddle. John: I love to cuddle. That’s all I do. Fresh laundry, just wanna curl up with it. BJ: It’s crazy because there are only three animals that mate for their entire lives, humans, something else and then this rat. And this species of rat actually has the same chemical that causes humans to cuddle in its brain. I’m dead serious, too. It’s fucking nuts. Oh, shit. That plane’s taking off now.