In order for any marginalized, obscure or difficult music scene to survive under
otherwise unfavorable conditions, the existence of a small number of highly-dedicated
and passionate individuals has always been a necessity. I’m not talking about those
superficial scenesters in the business of self-promotion, I am referring to the people
who tirelessly set up the shows, put out the records and lend a hand to the like-minded.
Though the name might not have popped up as frequently as others when noise
“broke” a few years ago in the underground, BLOODYMINDED (their capitalization,
which I respect) are certainly one of the cornerstones of the modern noise scene,
for whom much praise is due. Frontman Mark Solotroff has been crafting and performing
some of the most provocative, intense and entertaining American noise music since
the mid-80s, not to mention some of the most unfairly underrated. And while all of
his community-building and dedication to the international noise network is commendable,
it wouldn’t mean much if his musical output wasn’t as startling and unique as it is. Any
given BLOODYMINDED show comes fully equipped with copious amounts of leather,
skin, feedback and energy, a human explosion that sustains the rock n’ roll catharsis
into an elongated violent release. For newcomers, there is a lot to dig into with
BLOODYMINDED and previous groups such as Intrinsic Action, and for decades-long
fans, BLOODYMINDED are constantly evolving and pushing themselves into unchartered
and fascinating territories. Here’s what Mr. Solotroff has to say.

What was your first motivation, artistic or otherwise, to create noise?
I had already been listening to the first wave of early-industrial, power-electronics,
and related minimal-synth and post-punk, for a few years, prior to starting Intrinsic
Action in 1984, and I was getting pretty obsessed with these music subgenres. I
was enrolled in a sound class at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, so I had
access to a studio, and all of the resources that were included, such as an Arp 2600
synthesizer, reel-to-reel tape decks, etc. Things just developed from there.

How did you first discover industrial, minimal synth and noise music?
It came pretty easily, naturally, and quickly, as I progressed from early punk to
new-wave to synth-pop and post-punk. Between groups like Soft Cell — with their
Some Bizarre labelmates — and Cabaret Voltaire — who had domestic releases for
most of their early LPs on Rough Trade — the doors opened up to the whole world
of Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, S.P.K., Whitehouse, Einsturzende Neubauten,
Test Dept., Laibach, M.B., the Mute label, Factory Records, etc.

BLOODYMINDED has been performing for nearly fifteen years… how different was
it performing your style of music to audiences in say, 1995, compared to today?

When we first started playing live in New York in 1995, I had only recently ended
Intrinsic Action, so we immediately had a small, built-in audience. The scene for
noise in NYC was pretty tiny, but it was dedicated group of people. The hardest
part was building a new audience in Chicago, when I moved back here in 1997.
The no-wave scene was really big here, and luckily, we had some support from
people in that world. But there were a few really lean years that passed, with
minimal activity on our part; only sporadic live shows and no significant releases.
So when I decided to get things moving at full-speed again, in late 2002, it took a
while to find an audience and a group of bands/artists with whom we could connect.
But aside from the occasional large-scale show, we are still playing to relatively
small crowds of dedicated noise fans, so things are not all that different. I suppose
that since the scene has better recognition now, compared to what it was like in
1995 (or even earlier with Intrinsic Action), every show with every sound guy and
club employee is less of a struggle than it used to be… but only somewhat.

How much does your body and physical presence play into your live show?
Physicality is definitely a key component of our performances, and while my size – or
Pieter Schoolwerth and Xavier Laradji’s size – might be an issue, I would hope that
Isidro Reyes, or James Moy, who may not be in the six-feet-tall-plus club still maintain
an equally important presence on-stage, through their movements, their voices, etc.
But there is no doubt that when we get going at full steam during a show, physical
movement, interaction with each other, interaction with the audience, etc., is vital
to our presentation.

Do you think BLOODYMINDED would be a different group if you were smaller
physically, or dressed differently?

It is hard to say if things would be different if I was smaller… I would hope that our
shows would still be visually stimulating, based upon our overall stage presence and
activity. Finally, since we have not played outside of Chicago in over a year, most
people would not be aware of this trivial personal information, but I did in fact go
through a significant wardrobe transformation last year… from black leather to black
suits… but I do not know how that has changed things from the audience’s perspective.
In my mind, nothing has changed, as far as what goes on up on the stage.

Is the transition from black leather to black suits evident in the music at all, if
that makes sense?

Errr… I do not think so. The sartorial shift was more of a personal thing, but there
has never been much of a divide between my private and my public lives. I think
that we continually push ourselves to expand our sound, and we are always trying
to make it get heavier, louder, rawer, more disorienting… and I do not think that
clothing affects that at all.

I get the impression that the popularity noise had received in the early-to-mid
’00s has waned, that whatever “trend” may have taken place has greatly subsided.
What is your take on that previous surge of popularity? Was it good, bad or
inconsequential to BLOODYMINDED and the scene at large?

In general, I agree that a certain “bubble” has burst, or that a surge in popularity
has passed. But I have seen similar, if smaller, peaks and valleys occur since Intrinsic
Action started 25 years ago. I did not have a problem with the most recent increase
in popularity… I have no great desire to remain hidden or “kvlt.” I certainly knew that
it could not possibly last… I mean, it is “noise” that we are talking about. I suppose that
when things started to level off, or “drop,” it meant that a significant number of fair-weather
fans of this scene fell away. Aside from the decrease in revenue that some labels and
bands must have experienced, it probably tightened the ranks a bit… getting back to a
core audience for this music that is a bit more streamlined and devoted. So it probably
had a combination of positive and negative effects.

There seems to be a community of artists, either by geography or musical style,
that BLOODYMINDED often work alongside, which is especially evident in your BloodLust!
label. How important is that sense of artistic community to what BLOODYMINDED does?

There are a few ways to look at this. Early on, as I was getting interested in this
music, and as I was launching Intrinsic Action, I was fortunate enough to meet up
with a number of people from Milan, Italy, who were also very involved in the scene,
from groups and projects such as The Sodality and Sigillum S. This led to friendships
and connections with Mauthausen Orchestra, Iugula-Thor, and related people like
Sshe Retina Stimulants. Then as the second wave of Italian power-electronics and
noise began to gain popularity in the mid-1990s, I began releasing music by Italian
artists such as Atrax Morgue, Dead Body Love, and Murder Corporation. Most
recently, that has included a handful of U.K. shows with, and a great CD from,
Fecalove. The most consequential relationships from that original group of people
remain in place to this day, and that is probably obvious from numerous collaborations,
live shows, releases, etc. When BLOODYMINDED was re-gaining momentum in
2002-03, as previously mentioned, we were fortunate enough to make some significant
connections with people from the Detroit scene, which resulted in great friendships,
numerous shows, and work with all sorts of artists including the Wolf Eyes guys,
Hive Mind, Redrot, Mammal, etc., as well as many of the newer Michigan folks. And
most recently, I have been placing increased emphasis on working with some of the
groups and artists from Chicago that I really enjoy, including Locrian, Neil Jendon,
Haptic, and The Golden Sores. I would like to see that aspect of the label increase
in scope, if things work out as planned and I am quite pleased to develop a local
component with the label. I am not so sure, however, that an overarching music
style is as easy to identify. I have released plenty of pure power-electronics (Slogun,
Deathpile, etc.), sure, but there has been Japanese noise, industrial-metal (Dead
World), dark ambient, death-industrial, minimal-synth, drone, etc. The bottom line
is that my tastes and my interests are the threads that run through all of those
types of decisions, of who to release music by, who to play with, who to collaborate
with, etc. So, in a nutshell, “community” is extremely important to me, whether
you define it as something local, regional, international, “scene-based,” or however
else it makes sense. BloodLust! has a few different types of sub-families, but they
all make perfect sense to me, regardless of how the bonds were formed.

Credit: Charlie Draheim

I would think that a lot of people with your experience and seniority wouldn’t be
as quick to help out and foster younger artists who may not be as well-versed or, for lack
of a better word, skilled. How do you maintain such an open-minded view towards new
generations of noise artists? Do you ever feel jaded?

I still get excited when I hear interesting new music, and that makes me want to
know more about who made it, what sorts of things that they are into, etc. I have
never lost my curiosity when it come to good music and I still devour it at a voracious
pace. And there really is no point in sitting on my ass, being all jaded, and such.
That accomplishes nothing — for me personally, for the evolution of my own music,
for the longevity of my label, and for the scene that I exist in. Sure, from time to
time, one can get a bit burned out. This winter, I took off a few months from performing
live. Doing so got me in a good frame of mind for launching back into upcoming shows,
and it gave me some time to really focus on creating new music.

Is there any intended humor in your music? How often, if ever, does that ever play
a factor in your creative process?

I would like to think that we strike a very careful balance between both po-faced
gravity and a strong sense of humor. I am dead serious about everything to do with
BLOODYMINDED, but I am not so deluded that I cannot see that many people may
find great humor in what we do — both when we intend for that to happen and when
we least expect it to happen. People respond to BLOODYMINDED in a myriad of ways.
Some fans take us extremely seriously. Some people have difficulty accepting the
“dark” and severe aspects of what we do, so they respond to their discomfort by
somehow finding humor in it. And others simply enjoy the excitement, the energy, and
the great “release” of a good BLOODYMINDED show, and they may express that with
a demonstration of joy, laughter, movement, etc. Sometimes the serious fans are
disturbed by the lighthearted fans, while the opposite certainly holds true, too. I have
always maintained that the best band members, and the core of great friends that I
have made through this music scene, all have tremendous senses of humor… regardless
of how dark, violent, or horrific the music that they produce is. But my earnest
involvement in this band (as well as my other bands and projects), this label, and
this scene, and my interest in the often “disagreeable” subject matter permeating
much of it, should never be doubted.

I would think that in order to succeed with a project like BLOODYMINDED, one
has to accept that humor is just part of the emotional spectrum and inevitably inherent
in some aspect of it, intended or not, rather than ignore anything that isn’t completely
serious and dark.

Definitely. And I would have to assume that is the case, whether you are in a
power-electronics band, a black metal band, a crusty-punk band, etc. As an artist,
you can never fully control how people will receive your work. One enters into a
collaboration with an audience and with that comes a need to recognize and accept
the fact that whatever is going on inside of their heads might not sync-up with what
your original intentions were when creating a piece of music, or a painting, or whatever.

Is there any specific reason for self-releasing the majority of your music?
I suppose that maintaining more control over what I do is desirable to me, but I may be
softening up on this aspect of things, as time moves on. There never really seemed to
be much reason to have someone else release my music. Most offers – with only a few
exceptions — came from people/labels with a similar “status” to BloodLust! I am sure
that I missed a few opportunities over the years, but any mistakes made with existing
releases were mine, and mine only. It has minimized the potential for disappointment
brought on by other people — who care less about my work than I do — being in
charge of things. And as the music industry continues to spiral out of control, it
seems best to keep closely involved with my own music. That said, there will be a
few BLOODYMINDED releases coming out on other labels in the near future…

There’s an upcoming triple 7″ release that sounds interesting, any word on
when that will be available?

The “PHASES : THREE” box set, which is being released by Rococo Records is
currently in production. The three singles are already at the pressing plant and the
label has been gracious enough to have the boxes custom made for this release.
As it is related to our last full-length, “Magnetism,” there is still a strong lunar theme
going on, as there was with “PHASES : ONE” and “PHASES : TWO.” These 7-inch
boxes will have an embossed moon on the cover… they should be amazing! That
series will end with the “PHASES : FOUR” 12-inch on Land o’Smiles as part of their
Black Lodge Series.

What single BLOODYMINDED release would you recommend to someone who is
unfamiliar with the group?

I suppose that our first CD, “Trophy,” makes the most sense to me. It has the full
range of what we do: the two- to four-minute songs, the ultra-short “blast” songs,
and the long, dense “soundscape” sort of thing (“Overdrive”). It is raw in a similar
way to our live presentation, but I feel like it still represents the essence of what
we are all about. On the other hand, because MySpace has become a more prominent
entity for us in the last couple of years, the unofficial “greatest hits” that can
currently be found on our profile’s music player is as good a place to start as any ( And come to think of it, the
“PHASES : THREE” box set will accomplish a similar presentation of really raw live
blasts with more considered studio manipulations.