Reviewed by Susanna Glaser (The Wire)
The Wire 254, April 2005
Unedited transcript by Susanna Glaser
It seems the more complex and fucked up your music becomes, the more we love it. What is that about?
Maybe what you really desire is more and more fucked up music? I know I do sometimes.
Why though? Why do we desire increasingly 'discordant' music - there seems to have been a trend in music making to do this from year dot...
I suppose, as they say, the state of art is reflecting the state of society, a sort of cultural gauge. I would agree with this to some degree. What you cannot deny is this constant debate, "what is art and what is not art" and in this case "what is music and what is noise." It seems there will always be people that want to challenge these definitions and as a result this act challenges conventional ideologies. Modern day dadaists maybe?
Can it get too extreme though? Take the extreme end of the Japanese noise scene for instance.
Yeah, puking and shitting does not make for a good party, but that's just me. For me, the music I make is beautiful but for someone else it could be far too extreme. They can't handle this overwhelming beauty...
Your music could be described as addictive, you've even called it the music that gives you the "crack rush" and users commenting on your blog seem equally addicted, they just can't get enough... Any reasons why your music should have this effect?
Ha ha, my 'myspace' blog? That site is amazing, my mom is on it now. That crack rush comment is likely quite old, but yes, for a period I would literally do crack all night and then after I came down I'd sleep a couple hours, get up and do music. I would twist the music until it gave me that same rush I got from the crack, that full euphoric adrenalin blast. Bit of a dangerous experiment but a couple wicked 12"s came as a result, Shitfuckers and 7sevens.med. Those were strange days. I remember the whole time making those I was staring at a devil on an empty can of some kind of energy drink I don't think they sell here anymore.
Fuck me, I thought you were just imagining the crack rush - so where on earth do you score crack in Winnipeg? And does your mum know?
You can get crack anywhere. I knew a guy. Yeah, I'm sure she has an idea hahahaha.
I think the reason my music might have this effect on the listener is because I am doing an accurate job of expressing myself, I'm transferring what I feel onto [the listeners]. It's the same in all art, you have never met Picasso, but you stand and stare into his Weeping Woman, where he once stood, and you feel it. I guess I see art as the bridge between artist and listener, a transference of idea, energy, emotion, everything. I am very addicted to my own music, so if others become addicted, I have truly succeeded in transferring that onto them.
What music are you addicted to?
I listen to The Saints - Eternally Yours a lot these days and the first Wire album, Pink Flag. I need to move onto the the second Wire album Chairs Missing, 'cuz the only one I had for the longest time was 154 and I listened to the shit out of that. I like to spend a lot of time with an album, really get to know it. I remember when I was a kid I'd save up my paper route cash and get a record I really wanted and I would just play that all the time, 'til it became a part of me almost. The whole time I was writing Rossz Csillag Allat Született, the only thing I listened to was Static Age by The Misfits and Singles Going Steady by the Buzzcocks, that Misfits album is incredible.
You've said that you might have become an alchemist 1000 years ago... is that a clue as to what drives you forwards, creating ever more complex ways towards the 'perfect beat'? Creating 'gold' from some dirty old fucked up samples, so to speak?
Perhaps, I suppose that is part of it, but really a piece of music to me is all about the intent behind that piece of music. Of course changing one element into something else is a common side effect of that intent. I am far more interested in the "why is this?" than the "what is this?"
What was the starting point for Rossz Csillag Allat Született? What prompted the whole Hungarian theme and the mood pre-empted by your words?
It all started in Budapest. I was on a castle imagining how great it would be to be a pigeon, to experience that place as a pigeon would. That really opened up a lot of other possibilities instantly, it was a great moment, and the whole album was really born out of that moment and that moment falling apart. Of course I had to come home to Winnipeg to start on it, which I did as soon as I got home.
What were you doing there in the first place?
I was playing a gig there, thought I'd stay and check the place out for a couple days as I'd never been there and really knew nothing of the place.
It must have been a bit of an undertaking (ie, knowing what you had to do and then having to go do it before it 'disappeared' type thing)
These inspirations don't disappear, they eat me up until I act on them. I did pick up the violin, although I would say I am pretty shit, would record like 50 takes of a phrase until I got it right, again the beauty of samplers! I had played around with a violin bow on guitars and basses quite a bit in the past so the bowing was easy, it's the fingering that gets me, my hands are are maybe too big.
I didn't do anything else while making this album, I was locked away for months at one point. I was quite depressed once I finished it, I really enjoyed the process. It's hard to come out of that and know what to do with yourself. Then, Chinaski, my cat became very sick, I looked after him for a couple months and he eventually died. I became very depressed at that point. Then I went on tour for a month and I think something in my head finally snapped. I'm feeling a bit better now.
What does the title of the album mean? Does it bother you that most people aside from Hungarians won't have a clue what the actual titles mean? And have you had any response from Hungary yet?
Rossz Csillag Allat Született in English means Born Under A Bad Star I think people will have an idea of what the titles mean by the feeling they get from the songs. A rabbit cannot understand French but a French person can say to a rabbit in their garden, "rabbit, get the fuck out of my garden," in a loud angry tone and the rabbit will understand on some level. That might be a silly example but I think a lot of music and art is beyond language and titles. A piece of music to me could be an expression of true emotion transferred directly from the artist onto the listener. In that case, titles become irrelevant and in the case of Rossz Csillag Allat Született, I do like the fact that language is one step removed. A lot of Hungarian journalists have been emailing me but I really haven't written them back. As I told you before, I'm really bad with interviews. I think I am answering this one because I have been listening to Wire so much lately and your magazine is called The Wire. Maybe I feel it's too signifigant a coincidence not to answer, like I would be cheating some kind of natural synchronicity in a way, and I don't like to do that!
Regarding the introductory words, or poem [published on the album sleeve]. Was this what you were thinking when you started getting inspiration for the album or something you wrote later that consolidated what you felt you had created?
Yes, it is exactly what inspired the album. Although I did write that after completing the music, it is comprised of all the thoughts running through my head during that initial moment of inspiration. Mike [Paradinas] had asked me if I wanted to write my own press release for the album, so I wrote that. Of course it was rejected by the distributors and now the press release reads something like "Venetian Snares has done it again with his crazy beats but this time with full orchestral arrangements, blah blah". Rubbish. To me, what I wrote, that is what the record is about and normally I would never include an explanation of an album with the album but Ben who did the design layed it out so pretty I didn't have the heart to ask him to take it off!
You did it once before, though, with Winnipeg Is A Frozen Shithole?
No, I did write the press release for that though! It reads:
"Things will be much better for me once I move to Vancouver." Everyone born here in Winnipeg is born with these words ready to launch out off their tongues from the first school recess they get that very tongue stuck to the zipper of their parka. This is my tribute to those people! My love for their hate, this is Winnipeg science gabber! Is Winnipeg really that shitty a place to live? Yes, it likely is. It's really fucking cold and people still seem upset about Eric's Trip breaking up. Sometimes I like to go out and listen to the Sisters of Mercy with like 5 other people that are scared to talk to each other. Mostly we stay inside, sometimes go to Safeway and get some stuff, I like fruit salad and cigarettes, but I can't smoke here anymore anywhere and not much fruit grows here in the warm season, maybe crab apples or something. Never really liked those and Al hates rhubarb with a passion. I hope to die here under the wheels of a transit bus with a picture of Randy Bachman on the side.
While overwhelmingly beautiful in places, there is a seam of dark melancholy seeping throughout the whole, for instance your cover of "Gloomy Sunday" or, as it's also known, the Hungarian 'Suicide Song'... why go there?
It is not a happy album, no, it's heartbreak.
A current one or based on previous experience?
I really can't reveal that, I'm sorry...
...off course I had to include the Hungarian 'Suicide Song'. Rezsô Seress, who wrote it, killed himself by jumping from his building. Perhaps he thought he was a pigeon?
Did you know of this song already?
Truthfully, I didn't! Which makes it pretty spooky because I was really feeling those lyrics and didn't realize the origin until after I'd recorded it.
I was thinking about your general association with the morbid side of life. Is this morbidity, the darkness 'within', something you look for or something that you discover without trying?
Again, it is something I am expressing, the morbidity would either already be there, or what I am saying would be expressed through this morbidity.
Why are you a little reticent to do interviews or 'be public' about yourself? Like when Mike was going to sign you, you, in your own opinion, 'gave him a hard time' before you agreed. Is trust difficult for you? Or is it nothing more than wanting to keep mysterious? Is it a general 'media is evil' thing or maybe you just hate the idea of talking about yourself?
The number one reason I hate interviews is that I feel like a fucking asshole talking myself up. That's not who I am, I don't sit around bragging about myself. I am really not trying to be mysterious, perhaps I just don't trust putting my thoughts out into the world in this form, officially. I will talk to whoever about whatever anytime. It's really not a lot of fun to answer the same questions all the time and, like I said before, journalists seem so concerned with the "what?" and don't even approach the "why?" Who gives a fuck what sequencer I used? I don't.
I do feel that I like my music to speak for itself, to have whatever impact it does have on someone solely from the music itself, not clouded by whatever I or anyone else says. There's a sort of impurity there. That said, I would go as far as to say even the act of releasing my music is a mutilation of its true intent.
That's an interesting concept. I guess you might feel that way because when your music is 'out there' it means others can add their meaning(s) to it. That the original meaning could get lost or abused, its original reason for being would (naturally) be diluted
That's exactly it. I'm funny like that, I hate seeing movie previews too, I like to go into a film not knowing anything about it. I suppose I do see a lot of crap films as a result.
There's a huge amount of classical / modern classical music you take and twist and play with on this album - are you able to reveal some of the original samples? I suspect some is Bartok (who was Hungarian himself), but there's also Elgar's Cello Concerto and I'm sure there's some Bach...
I did sample Elgar's cello concerto. Sampled bits from here and there, even some Bartok. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes to accentuate my own playing.
Your music also seems increasingly 'symphonic' in the sense of sheer breadth and depth of single tracks which go on for longer than run of the mill 'dance' tracks, often up to 7 minutes or so... is this something you're aware of or wanted to challenge yourself to do?
It is not a matter of challenging myself or trying to go against the standard. When I make a track it is what I want it to be, it says what I want it to say!
The intensity is also always there but there's a new fragility too. Do you think is this to do with your maturity as a person or as a musician or just a new mood you're exploring?
Maybe I am maturing, I am certainly getting older as each year goes by. I think that fragility, as you call it, has always been there. I think a lot of people must listen to my music and not see past the initial bombardment of it.
Yet you say your influences were more from the punk side (your mother) and from the rave scene and so on. When did you find yourself checking out orchestral work more fully as you do here, and why?
I have been listening to orchestral music just as long as anything else.
Various stories abound about your musical background - your mum played tubular bells at you in the womb, your mum's old skool punk background, your gran had a piano, you experimented with ghetto blasters... is there a definitive version?
That's about it.
There's the whole DIY lo-fi gabba/drill'n'bass approach to music making which your music can often be categorised alongside - but as your music has developed your methods must be becoming more sophisticated, is this something you're worried about?
Well, I think a lot of the lo-fi etc approach came from the fact I couldn't afford proper gear. My early records were done on $50 Amigas from like 1987. I guess that's where the alchemy comes from, working with what I had. I'm glad I started out like that. I'm not afraid of leaving any sort of attitude behind, I want to move forward, I want to bring out what is in my heart right now, not what I was feeling however many years ago. I think trying to adhere to such an aesthetic is the wrong approach and would be ultimately disastrous and unfulfilling. Although I do find myself constantly going back, exploring gabber and jungle, but in new ways. I'm really not big on nostalgia at all. But I think gabber and jungle must play a huge part in who I am musically. So at the same time, even though I feel I don't need to be repeating myself, I do have to be true to myself and not censor my approach.
You say Winnipeg Is A Frozen Shithole but as somebody who has never been, I 'see' Canada as this beautiful mountaineous curious beast...
Anywhere looks beautiful on a postcard. Canada is like an existential kick in the ass, at least where I live, it literally is as frozen shithole.
You once said 'some times things just need to be completely synthetic, it's the only way to express that which does not exist on any tangible level...
Yes I do believe things need to be completely synthetic to express that which does not exist on any tangible level. With Rossz Csillag Allat Született this is not the case, what I am referencing is very tangible.
And did you realise, while you were in Budapest, that you'd need this to have an orchestral/acoustic feel?
Yes, of course! The place just feels orchestral and the surrounding circumstances were absolutely epic, like a symphony, it was natural.
But some might say this album is 'nostalgic' in feel yet you say you shy away from nostalgia...? Interesting how for you going back to your gabber roots is 'nostalgic' but covering a really old song is not... I understand you though (I think!)
Yeah I really did have to use real instruments, orchestral in particular, I suppose that in itself is nostalgic on some level. I was really speaking of personal nostalgia, like, say, buying the house I grew up in and living in it. Unexplored territory, such as the Gloomy Sunday, to me is not nostalgic. Maybe I am contradicting myself, it all makes sense up here *points at melon*. Maybe I am lying and I am all about nostalgia! No. Yes. Something.
Apparently you quite often get inspiration from slipping into a type of REM sleep and seeing things, lucid dreaming... Did this happen while making Rossz Csillag Allat Született?
Is this something you have to make yourself do in a controlled environment or will it happen when you're sitting on a sofa and all of a sudden there you are dreaming your next piece...? And is it a common method for inspiration?
It's something that just happens, I don't want to understand it or attempt to conjure it.
With A Giant Alien Force More Violent & Sick Than Anything You Can Imagine you actually created a mini TV set with viewable images in it. Will there ever be something like that package again?
Yes there will, I won't say what though.
How important is the visual side of the music to you? Would you get actively involved with making the visuals too?
I love scoring but have never scored something I've created the visuals for. There is something I would really like to do but don't have the means, so it stays in the back of mind for now.
if you do a 'googlism' on 'Venetian Snares' you get, amongst others: venetian snares is the most violent
venetian snares is overwhelming
venetian snares is one sick puppy...
Do you agree with google?
The internet is never ever wrong!
An article based on this interview appeared in The Wire 254, April 2005
© 2005 The Wire.
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