Getting To The Heart Of The Drone – A Interview With Locrian   Leave a comment

Aleks Evdokimov presents an interview with Chicago’s Locrain, this is a “must-read” for fans of drone and experimental music. Enjoy and thank-you Aleks and Terence, Steven and Andre from Locrian……Ed

Q: Salute man! I’m very sorry for such huge delay, I hope that you understand – thank you for patience. It’s a bit strange but thinking out questions for you I suddenly have realized that I have done only one interview with a musician who play in a similar genre – it was Stijn van Cauter. So I afraid what we begin with is a very simple questions, what is Locrian about?

Terence:  Decay 

Steven: I agree with Terence.

André: Really too much to be summed up easily with words, I think that’s why we make music. It might mean a different thing to everyone in this band and to every listener. The best way to understand what we’re about is to see us live or play our releases, or look at our album artwork. What we’re about is all there.

Q: Sorry comrades but what does the band’s name mean? I may be wrong but it’s some musical term, isn’t it?

André: It’s a mode of the major scale.  It was banned by the church for a long time because it has a dissonant tone in it, and the church equated dissonance with evil. The mode got its name from an ancient Greek tribe.

Q: When and how did you gather together? Was Locrian a duet from beginning? As I’ve read there were only you and Terence in the band since the beginning but you welcomed also Steven Hess for your 3rd full length album “The Crystal World”.

Terence: Locrian was just André and I for about five years.  And after some collaboration with Andrew from Velnias on drums, and with other people like Blake Judd, Jeremy Lemos, Bruce Lamont and Mark Solotroff we knew we needed one more person on drums.  Steven fit the bill.

Steven: Thanks.

André: I’m going to disagree with Terence though on the idea that we were looking for a full-time drummer when Steven started playing with us. But Steven is really not just a drummer so I definitely was elated about the opportunity to play with him.  We’ve been a fan of Steven’s stuff for a long time so his input in this project has really helped us to push and expand our sound as well as explore new moods and dynamics.  I think that playing the kind of stuff that we do was/is really intuitive for Steven so it’s been really rewarding actually.  I think the trajectory we went in after “Territories” would have been limited if we were to play with most drummers.

When Terence and I started playing together we were friends and we wanted to start playing some more free form music, something not as constricting as the music that we’d played before that.

Q: How did the Locrian sound change with Steven’s appearance? Ed (master mind of doommantia.com) wrote that your compositions became “thicker” – so can you say the same?

Terence:  Before we were a lot looser. Steven adds a lot with not only is percussion but also his electronics too.  I think that is what really helped us.

André: I think we’re able to utilize new dynamics and textures.  Though we have drums, our songs aren’t really going to be straight-forward by any means.  I definitely think that we sound thicker than ever.  Our music is still bleak, but just in a different way now. Steven can play really direct stuff if he wants and it’s appropriate for what we’re going for, but he’s really just a great musician and adds a lot of great ideas.

Q; So that bleak sort of sound is the one that you really want to hear in Locrian songs? Drone music often has a tendency to become industrial sound – can you imagine yourself playing such harsh modern stuff with more noisy mechanical vibes?

André: It’s always a possibility.  I think that we’ve been working on some stuff lately that has somewhat of an industrial vibe, but I don’t think any of our music fits neatly into any categories.

Q: I must ask you about JG Ballard and his book “The Crystal World” which lies in a base of your CD. Man, well no one can guarantee that everyone who will listen your album will also read that book… Please tell us a few more words about that novel! You know that it’s a rare chance to see a drone band which compose album based on sci-fi book.

Terence:  I am a huge science fiction fan, and Ballard’s early work is so excellent.  The Crystal World is such a great approach to a tale about the beginning of a new phase of the world.  One where the world begins crystallizing all it touches.  Like a plague of leprosy, and a doctor is sent to investigate and also find some colleagues.  It’s very psychological and fantastic.  A beautiful book I think.

Q: Is this book as frightening as “The Crystal World” CD is? 🙂 If it’s so then it’s not necessary to read it for everyone who listened CD because they already know it’s subject very well.

Terence:  Well it is not a word for word interpretation, but the tone of this creeping apocalypse that is horrifying and beautiful really stood out to me.  We are probably a lot darker than the novel, I think what sets the novel apart is how Ballard describes light though crystals that have formed on homes, trees and animals solidifying them into this tableaux.

Q: Did you deliberately create your Crystal World album darker than original one of Ballard? I sometimes wonder – is it really worth of making things more obscure than they are?.. Some people like “dark” emotions and “dark” music as our real social life sometimes is very dark in itself.

André: If our album is darker than the book then I don’t think it was intentional on our part.  We’ve always been interested in creating work that makes sense, that tells a story, and that evokes some sort of feeling in us and hopefully the listener.

Terence: I think it is a dark book, very ominous, very beautiful on the surface yet this massive weight hangs over it.

Q: What is the composition “Triumph of Elimination” about? There is vocal lines… well… just screams in that track and I wonder why did you use voice in that certain song considering that rarely will anyone understand a word from it’s text, I must ask you about it.

Terence:  I was reading Le Corbusier’s Towards a New Architecture and thought how evocative what he said was and how horrifying some of it could be if slightly disembodied from its source.  So I appropriated some phrases and came up with the lyrics.  The prison of the modern condition.

Q: And there’s a voices in “Obsidian Facades” too – does this song have important lyrics for understanding the album? Because you know – it’s quiet impossible to recognize any word.

Terence:  I think so, I wrote them, but yeah.  I think it is more about texture and like if you can make out lyrics or read them on the CD to me it is important.  I wanted them to be blasted out like the landscape I am describing, that fits the music too.

Q: Hm, how did you record those songs? Now I’m meaning in the process of transforming book’s ideas into music – not record session, because I wonder – are all of songs tided together or are they just separated visions of different parts of the novel?

Terence:  The album flows a certain way, from more electronic towards a more acoustic drone.  I think it has peaks and valleys and vistas.  It is similar to maybe your description of chapters.

Q: Was it difficult for you to express J.G. Ballard’s visions through your music? Did you ever think composing the tracks – “No, it couldn’t be like this. Crystallized jungle doesn’t look like that”!

Terence:  No, I think the title came later after we had been recording.  I had always wanted to refer to that novel.  And just the way the album kind of manifested itself really seemed to fit.  But I had referred to Ballard in the past; his novel Concrete Island was a huge influence on me, and The Drowned World too.  Obviously I love books like Crash and Running Wild.

Q: Can you name other sci-fi authors which influenced upon you?

André: I’m really interested in the twentieth century dystopian writers.  I would recommend people checking out the big names in this genre: H.G. Wells, Yvgeni Zamiatin, Aldous Huxly, George Orwell.

Steven: I personally don’t read a whole lot of sci-fi these days, but those that I have read in the past have been: Philip K. Dick, Aldous Huxly, Orwell, Arthur C. Clarke, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, and Isaac Asimov.

Terence: Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, JG Ballard’s earlier work obviously, Stanislaw Lem and perhaps the biggest for me is Samuel Delaney, I think Dhalgren is a masterpiece.  Certain books by Margaret Atwood are great, like Oryx and Crake.

Q: Drone with power electronics or noise – anyway you have to work very carefully with band’s sound in those cases trying not to fail with studio work and mastering. How long did you labour over recording new songs?

Terence:  We rarely did second takes, it was pretty straightforward.  We had a handful of ideas and live moments we wanted to distill in the studio.  So it was pretty brief.

Steven: Yeah, just a couple second takes, a handful of overdubs, and hours of mixing.

André: We really took our time with this recording.  We had booked studio time a few hours at a time sporadically for a month or two I think.  Yeah, some of our influences include power electronics, noise, and drone as well as a lot of other styles of music, but we don’t really let that limit what we do in the studio.  I think that the broadness of our musical tastes helps us in the studio more than anything because we aren’t limited by trying to fit into some ultra-specific musical category. It’s rather that we use our influences to evoke certain feelings.

Q: Do you play “The Crystal World” live? And which sorts of instruments do you use during live sets or rehearsal?

Terence:  Yep, we’re in the middle of translating more of it into the set now.  A lot of the tracks are contingent upon what we played.  I play a lot of keyboards and do all the vocals, and I use a combo of an ARP and Moog analog synthesizer, with some analog tape delays and reel-to-reel tapes.

Steven: Things are coming along well with the live versions of these songs. There are a couple of them that we still need to try playing in a live setting, but so far, so good.

As far as equipment/instruments I use drums, cymbals, sticks, a looper/sampler, and prerecorded cassettes (with my own material).

André: When we play these songs, I use my electric guitar, a contact microphone, and a bunch of pedals—the more important ones being a loop pedal, a delay pedal, some fuzz pedals, and an Exhoplex tape delay.  In the future, I might weave some different equipment into performing these songs though.

Q: What is this about a second part of “The Crystal World” release? Me and Ed have only the first CD, is second part ready?

Terence:  Yes it is ready, we can get you a copy.  That is one hour-long track, something we did in response to the first disc, and it interprets each track into a more movement-based composition.

André: We think of the first disc as the actual album and the second disc as something special that we plan to keep specific to the CD release.  We’d prefer that the second disc be kept as one continuous sound rather than breaking it up into two sides of an LP.  It’s less accessible than disc one, but I think the material is just as strong.

Q: Of course it would be nice to get second part of “The Crystal World”, but man what is a reason to record one long song? It’s harder to listen as one piece and I guess that it’s harder to compose one monolithic long track than few ones which are shorter…

André: I understand that a track that’s almost an hour long isn’t the most accessible thing, but the idea for the second disc was for it to mirror the feelings of the first disc.  I think of the second disc as an album on its own really.  I’m really happy with how the track turned out.

Q: What is your background? Where did you play before Locrian?
Terence:  André and I played with our wives in Unlucky Atlas, a more gothic-folk project, mainly acoustic.  I make a lot of visual art.

Steven: I played, and still perform with Haptic (Entr’acte, FSS), Ural Umbo (Utech), On (Type), and Pan American (Kranky).

André: I play all sorts of music though: metal, hardcore, experimental, I even play the fiddle.

Q: Is there any place for fiddle in Locrian? Fiddle could sound very disturbing and horrifying – so it fits to Locrian style.
André: Well, fiddling is essentially a folk-based way of playing the violin.  There’s a possibility that we’ll involve more violins in future releases, but I doubt that we’ll involve fiddle playing, but anything is possible.  I play the French Canadian fiddle and there’s actually at least one black metal band from Quebec that involves traditional Quebecois music.  My favorite is a band called Forteresse and they actually put a picture of my favorite Quebecois fiddler on one of their albums.  The fiddlers name was Joseph Allard and he was alive from the mid 1800s until about 1947.  I was totally surprised that someone else that played some sort of black metal was interested in the same kind of music that’s so different from black metal.
I’m really interested in the early Quebecois fiddle recordings and a lot of those sound really dark, but part of the reason they sound so dark may be the fact that they were recorded so primitively.  A lot of the stuff I’m interested in involves an element of drone, for example a lot of fiddlers will tune their fiddles so that there are certain strings that are constantly droning while the higher strings play the melody. I think it’s interesting how bands like Forteresse are putting this traditional folk music into new contexts, but I’m not super interested in doing so myself.

Q: Truly to say I have never explore the roots and past of drone very well, so I would be very much obliged if you introduce that genre a bit deeper for me and some of our readers.

Terence:  I would say Phil Niblock, Elaine Radigue and La Monte Young were early people to check out.  But I think you can also think of drone in many ways like with old American field songs, they were long and very repetitive.  Or religious chants.  But yeah like in the 1970s Klaus Schulze made some great records. I would say some great material recently is this guy Acre, completely amazing.  Vomir is harsh noise but it is like 60 minutes of unchanging static.  I love it.  The key album for when André and I started was the Fripp & Eno album “No Pussyfooting.”

Steven: This is a very tough question to answer, since “drone” dates back so far in musical history and there are many forms of “drone” in music – from vocal chants dating back thousands of years to Southeast Asian music, to modern compositions of the 50’s and 60’s to kids self-releasing tapes they recorded in their bedrooms using a wide array of musical instrumentation and various electronics to create drone. But to start out I would suggest the artists that Terence mentioned, but also Pauline Oliveros, Brian Eno, Main (aka Robert Hampson), Labradford, Tony Conrad, the first couple Earth releases, Thomas Köner, Deathprod, Eleh, Nortt, and Rosy Parlane.

André: I suggest checking out some of our contemporaries making drone music. We put out a tape for one of Chicago’s most underrated musicians: Neil Jendon.  He mainly plays modular synths and guitar.  He’s also got some releases out on Bloodlust!  I highly recommend any of his releases.  I’m also really enjoying Demian Johnston’s recent releases on the Dead Accents labels. I think his stuff is a good place to start too, especially for people who are more into more metallic drone.

Q: Can you name the most significant bands and events in the history of drone? I’m not meaning Locrian in itself now and date of release “The Crystal World” 🙂

Terence:  The Theatre of Eternal Music was really important, and the Minimalist school of composers as well.  But again it’s hard because in a lot of religious music from around the world, and folk music too, you have drone instruments, like the bagpipe, or tambura.  Then you get to the synth based works of Tangerine Dream or something.  So it’s tough.

Steven: I guess my answer to the previous question works well for this one too.

André: I think you have drone based music in totally different parts of the world, and each scene kind of has its own important events and significant bands.  I think there are a ton of significant bands and events in the drone scene just in Chicago.  We’ve been involved with some great drone-based events in Chicago that were significant.  For example, we played the Matchitehew festival last year, which had a ton of great dark drone bands as well as some more straight-forward black metal bands.  Mark Solotroff’s Bloodlust! label has released a lot of Chicago based artists that I think are more influential including his own stuff (Intrinsic Action) dating back to the early 1980s.

Q: Where do you all live? What is this place? It’s funny but your music influence is strange to me,”The Crystal World”, I’m starting to think that you live right there – in that bloody crystal world… Though “Elevations and Depths” makes me sure that you’re from USA – it’s a fact. There is a bleakness which is similar to David Galas songs.

Terence:  Chicago, in Cook County, in the state of Illinois, in the United States. A part of North America, on the earth.  I do not want to live in the crystal world.

Steven: Chicago, IL. United States.

Q: That’s all for this time, thank you very much man for that interview and your patience. I wish you all the best, good luck! If you want to add something then it’s a right time!

Terence:  Thanks for the questions.
Interview by Aleks Evdokimov
Locrain @ Myspace

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Posted November 28, 2010 by doommantia in Locrian

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