Top Singles of 2014
1. Powell Club Music 12″
2. Morgan Buckley Shout Out To All The Weirdos In Rathmines 12″
3. Sheer Mag Sheer Mag 7″
4. Demdike Stare Testpressing #005 12″
5. Priests Bodies And Control And Money And Power 12″
6. St. Julien St. Julien 12″
7. Portable Surrender 12″
8. Impalers Psychedelic Snutskallar 12″
9. Pang Young Professionals 7″
10. Oren Ambarchi Stacte Karaoke 12″
11. Lil Ugly Mane The Weeping Worm download
12. Frau Punk Is My Boyfriend 7″
13. Lumpy And The Dumpers Gnats In The Pissa 7″
14. Dan Trevitt The Missing 12″
15. Mark Pritchard Untitled 12″
16. Henrik Schwarz Masse Remixes III 12″
17. Vladislav Delay Ripatti 03 12″
18. Galcher Lustwerk Nu Day 12″
19. Karenn Sheworks 006 12″
20. Samuel Kerridge Deficit Of Wonder 12″
Donato Dozzy Terzo Giorno 12″
DJ Richard Nailed To The Floor 12″
Helmer Sated 12″
Modus Adderf Arreug 12″
Gary Wrong Group Floods Of Fire 12″
Top Albums of 2014
1. Vessel Punish, Honey
2. Riff Raff Neon Icon
3. Iceage Plowing Into The Field Of Love
4. Total Control Typical System
5. Watery Love Decorative Feeding
6. Gazelle Twin Unflesh
7. Beau Wanzer Untitled
8. Julian Casablancas & The Voidz Tyranny
9. Steve Gunn Way Out Weather
10. Andy Stott Faith In Strangers
11. Pharmakon Bestial Burden
12. Cold World How The Gods Chill
13. Actress Ghettoville
14. Siobhan Southgate
15. Lee Gamble Koch
16. Objekt Flatland
17. Moodymann Moodymann
18. The Jazz June After The Earthquake
19. Boston Strangler Fire
20. Torn Hawk Let’s Cry And Do Pushups At The Same Time
Predator The Complete Earth
Lucy Churches Schools And Guns
Golden Pelicans Golden Pelicans
Hank Wook And The Hammerheads Stay Home
Another year down the drain, and while my advanced age surely has something to do with my perception of time, I swear they’re moving faster than ever. Anyway, I figured I’d take a quick moment to acknowledge some other year-end favorites that weren’t music releases, while I’m at it. The best book I read this year was Lindsay Hunter’s “Ugly Girls”, a dark and complex vision of American misery. The best live band I saw this year was Vexx, who came through with such a frenzy of passion and energy that it made me feel silly by comparison (coming to the East Coast in 2015, I can only hope!). And of course, the best live video of 2014 goes to Lumpy And The Dumpers with the poignant and touching clip known as “Boy Hit By Fireworks In NYC”.
Powell Club Music 12″ (Diagonal)
As you probably know, I listen to a ton of underground experimental techno, and while I truly enjoy it, most of the time I’m just waiting around for someone like Powell to show up and twist my head around completely with his left-field, entirely original take on electronic dance music. There’s really no place to file Powell besides “Diagonal Records”, the label he owns and operates, and while it’s great that he has created his own scene entirely, it’s even greater that the music is as zany, uninhibited, banging and severe as Club Music. Synths bubble, samples sword-fight each other, beats drop and never return, and the concept of linear music is diverted, teased and avoided entirely, much to my delight. After retroactively checking out his earlier EPs (they’re all killer too, but not as killer as Club Music), it seems like Powell is poised to take over 2015 if he wants it.
Vessel Punish, Honey (Tri Angle)
Alright, quick caveat: the decision to rank Vessel’s Punish, Honey over Riff Raff’s Neon Icon wasn’t an easy one, as Neon Icon probably provided me more musical entertainment than anything else this year, and I never reviewed it simply because once I start talking about this record, it’s nearly impossible to stop. That said, Vessel has rightly claimed the top spot, as no other album this year was as cohesive, inventive, stark, pounding, twisted and downright astonishing as Punish, Honey. Using a set of homemade electronics to create these varied-yet-consistent tracks, it’s as if Vessel was trying to clone humans and just ended up with mutated human flesh, like a foot with an ear on it scampering across the floor as a hairy belly with a face looks on from the operating table. It’s more epic than metal, more brutal than power-violence, more alien than Shackleton, and you can still shake your ass to it. Just let me hibernate with this record and come knock on my door once it’s warm out again.
Here at Yellow Green Red, the policy for interviewing artists is to only interview those I am genuinely curious about. You gotta actually care about their answers if you’re going to interview someone or else why bother, you know? That’s never been an issue here, but every now and then there is an artist that I am just dying to know what makes them tick – even if I didn’t do this website, I still probably would’ve emailed Beau Wanzer for the info that follows in this interview. In a sea of home-recording anti-techno electronic weirdos, Wanzer has a wonderfully distinct sound and vibe – that is, drum machines shocked into consciousness under a blanket of dust, all while a dying Speak & Spell coughs its final words over top. It’s fascinating, ruptured music, and I’m so glad he shed a little light on the mystery for me. Also, side note: I wonder how many people’s lives have been changed by stumbling upon a Sleep Chamber LP in the dollar-bin back when they were a kid? I know of at least four people (myself included) that shared this epiphany. What a great and criminally under-appreciated group.
It’s my understanding you’ve been messing with drum machines and synths since you were a teenager. Was that the first musical instrument you picked up? Why did you gravitate toward that instead of a guitar or something more “traditional”?
My very first instrument was actually a guitar (I was 12 or 13), but eventually I got bored with it and bought a synthesizer from a friend a couple years later. I think the reason I gravitated more towards synths/drum machines was because of their quirks. Back then (and even still now), I’d just hook up something and see what happens. I also think it was what I was listening too at that time… I wanted to make the sounds I was hearing on records like Skinny Puppy’s Bites, Front 242’s Geography, and Sleep Chamber’s Submit To Desire. I didn’t have enough money for a sampler, so I’d just hook up a tape machine/synth/drum machine and try the best I could.
How close did you come to re-creating Skinny Puppy or Sleep Chamber? Also, how was it that you got into Sleep Chamber at an early age? Surely a lot of their concepts went over your head at first, unless I’m just projecting…
I wasn’t trying to re-create the exact music… more so the vibe and feeling of those projects. Honestly, I don’t remember what was going through my head back then. I still have all the tapes. I’ll go back and listen to them. In regards to Sleep Chamber, I remember going to the record store and finding Submit to Desire in the dollar bin. I was attracted to the cover initially, than turning it over and seeing that picture of John Zewizz hanging out in a grave yard looking like a total fucking freak secured the purchase. Yes, their music does rely heavily on sadomasochistic/ritualistic overtones. They weren’t apparent to me at first, but probably leaked into my subconscious, making me the man I am today… haha.
Your recent album features tracks recorded over nearly a decade. So often, the mindset of the electronic artist is to constantly move forward, with the sense that music over a year old is already stale. Why isn’t that the case with you?
I can’t speak for other electronic musicians, so I don’t know what mindset they are in. For me though, I’ve never really moved forward since I first started playing with machines. Maybe technically I’ve learned a thing or two, but in regards to actually making ‘music’ I don’t think about what context it will be listened to, when it will be played, or how it’s perceived. I just do it.
So you’ve essentially hit what you wanted to do early on, and are working within the same general framework? Do you foresee your process changing anytime soon?
Yes and no. I think the framework/work flow should always change, even if you are using the same equipment. It’s important to change the process as much as possible, straying away from your comfort zone. It helps the creative process, more or less. Something as simple as recording in a different room/environment can drastically alter what is created. Occasionally I’ll rent a seedy motel room and bring a couple drum machines/synths/mics and record all night, just to feel a different vibe.
Many of your tracks are incredibly minimal, nothing more than a drum machine and vocals… how did you determine that other people would want to hear and enjoy your music? At what point did you decide that releasing vinyl and performing live would be something other people would enjoy?
Again, I don’t consider other people when I make music. I’m very grateful to the people who enjoy it and buy it, but that has nothing to do with the creative process. I think the most important thing with any form of art/creative outlet/whatever is to do what moves you; sounds cliché, but it’s true. I’d much rather put out a record I love that nobody hears than a record catering to a specific sound/trend/etc. The amount of music coming out, both old and new, is never-ending. I’m just a drop in a bucket.
Where did “putting out records” come about, then? Was it a friend who heard your material and pushed you to make it available, or offered to release it?
I’ve never recorded music with the intention of ‘putting it out’, it’s always been more of a hobby for me. Over the past 13 years or so I’d just make CD-rs and give them to my friends in Chicago. Some of the tracks on the recent LP my friends have had since 2002. My first “official” track released was on a compilation 12″ via Traxx’s Nation Records in 2008 with D’marc Cantu and Saturn V. After that I mostly just kept to myself and continued to record. I did release a couple solo tracks on a few more compilations over the years and released various collaborations. Eventually I was talking to Ron Morelli and he asked me to send him some stuff. I sent him 30-40 tracks and he picked a couple for my first solo 12″ on L.I.E.S. I’ve known Ron since about 2006, way before he was doing his label, so it felt good to let a friend do it rather than some random outlet.
How did you meet Ron? Do you go to a lot of DJ events and shows? Your music seems to come from a place of isolation, but I understand that how it sounds might be different from your reality.
I met Ron when he was touring with DJ Overdose, Novamen, and Manhunter around 2006. I set up a Halloween show for them with my friend Jim Magas at this weird place in Chinatown. Yes I do DJ, but it’s not something I’m interested in pursuing… I’m more of a record collector than anything. I’ve been doing a monthly here in Chicago for about eight years now, so that gets it out of my system.
Your music seems to be aware of your “drop in the bucket” status, and that’s one thing I find so appealing. The fact that you aren’t catering to any audience, or trying to draw attention to yourself is clear and sincere. Do you ever feel lost being a part of the rapidly changing electronic music underground, where it’s a constant barrage of Soundcloud links and remixes of mixtapes of edits?
I don’t really think about it to be honest. I just do my own thing, whether people are or aren’t paying attention. It doesn’t matter. I’ve been doing it for a long time and not much has changed, except there is a little more interest lately. Basically, as long as I’m able to put out physical pieces of music, travel, and grow creatively, then I’m completely content. I’m still relatively unknown in the grand scheme of “electronic music” and I’ll never make a living from my music, and I’m ok with that.
I guess I also meant, not so much for your own music, but for when you are checking out other artists or producers. How do you go about finding new music? What are you into these days?
I just go to record stores and dig. I rarely download music because I never end up listening to it. It usually just sits in a folder and eventually gets deleted. I often listen to the same records I’ve been listening to for years… I’m trying to break that habit though. Over the past couple of years I’ve been listening to a lot of early Blackhouse, Bruce Gilbert (specifically Dome/A.C Marias), Die Tödliche Doris, Marko Laine, The Residents, Pyrolator, Nurse With Wound, Frak, Die Egozentrichen 2, Akliah Bryant’s Arachnophobia, and stuff on Sterile Records/Earthy Delights, Inner-X-Musick, Vinyl on Demand, Walhalla Records.
What’s high on your want list right now, record-wise?
Everything, ahaha. Hmm. Off the top of my head: Caroline K’s Now Wait for Last Year LP, Eurythmics’ The Walk 12″, Ti-Tho’s Traumtänzer 7″, Andy Giorbino’s Frechheit Siegt cassette, and Mania D’s Track 4 7″.
Do you think some of that stranger, art-minded NDW stuff filters into your music at all? Or are you coming from a different place entirely?
Definitely. I’ve always thought the NDW era was a bit magical in terms of creativity. There was such an amazing amount of variety and experimentation, it’s really inspiring. I was already a huge Residents fan, but the first time I heard Der Plan’s Geri Reig it blew my mind. I’ve always enjoyed music that gives off a sense of queasiness, or just the feeling that “something isn’t right” and a lot of the NDW era bands have that. As far as where I’m coming from, I don’t know? I’m inspired by everything from Beat Happening to Diamanda Galas to Polygon Window. I just love music.
Many of your songs are kinda short, at least by dance music standards – there are a bunch of tracks around three minutes long on your recent album. Is that intentional, or just how things ended up? Could there ever be a 12+ minute Beau Wanzer track?
They just ended up that way. I don’t know… haven’t really thought about it. I guess the album isn’t catered towards DJs (i.e. long mixable tracks). Not saying that DJs can’t play it, but it’s more of a song-based record than a track-based record, if that makes sense? There are 12+ minute tracks and eventually they will get released, but I’m taking my time. I’m not in a rush.
Your track titles often conjure a sort of real-life doldrums, like “Shitty Cough 2” for example. Are we supposed to read that into your music, or are they more just random place-markers to designate one track from the next?
Depends on the song. The “Shitty Cough” tracks are only recorded when I have a cold/flu.
Where do your lyrics come from? Does it matter that the majority of them are too distorted to be understood?
I don’t think lyrics are too important, as long as the delivery is right. Personally, I enjoy not knowing what people are saying, but I guess it depends on the type of music/mood.
What was the inspiration behind “Lotraf” and its video? Is that you as a child? I can’t help but view it as kind of creepy, even if there’s nothing inherently dark about it…
Yes that is me (my sister is the one filming). We used to film everything when we were younger. I wanted to do something with it; it’s a bit intrusive, but that’s why I like it. I don’t find it creepy at all, but I like that you do.
Don’t you think your nasty drum machines would make any innocuous sample kind of creepy? How does your music sound to you?
Ahaha. I don’t know? Maybe? To me, my music sounds pretty straight-forward I guess? There is a lot more creepy/fucked up music out there than mine.
Do you have any personal goals for your own music, besides just continuing to make tracks at your leisure? Would you ever want to perform live?
No personal goals really, other than having more opportunities to travel and collaborate with people. I’ve been performing live for a very long time, since 2003.
I had no idea you’ve been playing out, my bad! You said you weren’t keen on DJing, but do you enjoy playing your own music live?
I actually love both DJing and playing live, but I get more pleasure/fulfillment from playing a live set. I always write a new batch of songs for the my live sets and switch out machines. It’s fun to start from scratch with different setups and see what comes out of it.
It’s interesting that I think many people who only know your records might associate you with the modern underground techno scene, L.I.E.S. and all that, but it sounds like you are coming from a pretty different place than the majority of your labelmates. Does it feel weird if someone lists your name as a techno producer next to Vereker and Jahiliyya Fields?
I think it’s a bit of a misconception that L.I.E.S is a “techno” label. The first Jahiliyya Fields record (and one of my favorite L.I.E.S releases) is pretty much a beatless affair. As far as being classified into a certain genre or whatever… I really have no control over that and don’t really think about it. It’s easy for writers/etc to just lump something into an association based on one common factor (i.e. labels, etc). Overall, it doesn’t matter. It’s all subjective to the individual listener anyway.
Did you release your LP yourself? What’s next, record-wise?
I had a little help, but yes, it’s self-released. Next year should be a busy year. A couple more solo records, new JUZER 12″, Mutant Beat Dance 12″/LP, Civil Duty 12″, Streetwalker EP, and a couple new collaborations (one with Corporate Park from Denton, TX, which I’m very excited about!).