Love Boat: An Interview With Crank Sturgeon, Following a Prague Performance, June 2014
Hello over the last couple of years I have been writing articles for some magazines and news sites, some of which were not printed in English at the time of publication. For that reason I have decided to periodically post some of my favorite of these articles and interviews here.
We shall begin with a very late night interview with the Crank Sturgeon. This mess was made following a concert he played in Prague in June of 2014. The photo of the flyer above is the only one of these photos from that actual event, the rest of these are from other events, and I take no credit for any of them, so apologies for that I am not sure who took them….still, they add flavour to this very long and blurry interview. The text centers around Crank’s concert and previous history of visits to Czech Republic, but extends outwards as does his sound and, well, body…uh, ok, enough here it is (originally published in A2, Prague, Czech Republic, July 30, 2014)
J: When did you first come to Czech republic?
M: First time in czech was…first time in czech… I came here in 1996 but it wasnt for a performance it was one of those backpacking expeditions one does in thier twenties, so we gotta write that one off, I think the first time I played here was 06…
J: What was your interest to come here for backpacking?
M: A friend of mine from high school had come here a few years before and, I mean, everything had changed, the walls had broken down as it were, he was in the military and he came here kind of on holiday in the mid 90s and just said Prague was fantastic, unbelievable, beauty. It wasn’t commercialized to the degree that it successively has been commercialized, successively, the old city et cetra, so when I came here in 1996 it was starting to but it hadn’t quite kicked in.
J: So the first time you came here was in 1996 just to have a look around…
M: Just to have a look around. I found a pension and was here for four days just chilling reading, walking around the town, drinking beer, you know… cooking food… I was all by myself and just kind of like at the end of a very very long travel. I’d backpacked all over Europe and I had pre-existing friends, I was playing shows then but I didn’t know anyone in the Czech republic. you know, this was all pre-euro, pre-EU currency, so you know, you are crossing over from Germany and some guy comes on the train….well, the first time was kind of gnarly, god, I flew into Leipzig of all places, and Leipzig was still reeling from the Iron Curtain, nobody spoke English the Hofbanhoff was this old you know Soviet-style brick, well, not brick, but stone building with a market out front.
J: Where there people outside offering accommodation?
M: in Prague yes, the hawkers were out.
J: well, they weren’t all rip offs…
M: yeah I had a lovely place by the main station…
J: that’s just how they were doing it…
M: it was just around the corner from the main station in a empty apartment and I shacked up with two Australians and a really really bloody obnoxious douchebag from Georgia who was completely racist but he went on to his, whatever, hopefully nefarious end… but I had the place to my self because the Australian contingent, these two gals where off doing their thing, and I would just kind of chill at home.
So I just walked around, and then of all things I would go back smoke cigarettes, drink coffee and write in my book, and read Ayn Rand, umm ha ha ha, so…that was my travel book my default I had acquired it from a travel mate and that was kind of interesting coming from this huggy world of art school which was all you know about huggy art school shit and reading this really stark capitalist individualism stuff, it was enthralling because it was really different from anything art school was about.
J: well, she is pretty good thinker,
M: yeah but unfortunately she has been co-opted by the right
J: she’s been co-opted by the Tea Party who doesnt read anything
M: well yeah , and they are trying to claim Thoreau’s heritage, but those fools have nothing to say
they have nothing to say, they say whatever has been put into their brains by whatever corporate powers, be that as it may…
I was coming off a very long trip.
J: You were somewhere else around here, or further east?
M: I traveled all over europe and was kind of going through a mid-20s crisis, and as futile as those are…you know, I was trying to figure out if I wanted to continue being an artist and I made it as far as the southern coast of Turkey and I made myself a promise that I see, I’d get to Eastern Europe.
J: So you where traveling around in the south and east of Europe and having confusion about what it meant to be an artist…
M: Yeah who doesn’t thik about that? I’d had gigs in england and those were the first steps out, and this was all pre-internet, writing letters, I’d met Mike Dondo from Con-Dom and he’d invited me to do a show up in Leeds and at that point I’d already established pretty good communication with Dylan Nyoukis from Prick Decay and Chocolate Monk and between the two of them they introduced me to the guys in Leeds, Neal Campbell and Vibrocathedral [Orchestra], and Neil at that time was with Smell and Quim and they were like, well, bloody hell, you are here we are going to do a Smell and Quim show in London, and I was kind of based in London with a friend, a New Zelander who was putting out a fanzine at the time and who really loved Crank Sturgeon so I was chilling with him at the time and so I started in London, ended up in Leeds and came back to London to do a Smell and Quim gig and I met, through that…
J: So you were playing a bunch of shows in England, but when you came out here…
M: …just to have a look yeah, I was 26, I had met Smell and Quim and Andy Bolis, Evil Moisture, he was living in London at the time, so it was really kind of… I am still in touch with all those guys, and Dylan [Nyoukis] does Colour Out of Space, and I am still in touch with Andy, who is living in Paris now, I know there are personality differences in those circles but I am in touch with all of them still, so its all good…but the thing with Smell and Quim is that they really unraveled the whole noise scene for me, and you know the thing is the noise scene is still so male dominant, its kind of this white hetro-normative behavior, especially in the power electronics scene, and those guys where like “fuck this shit”. They had these costumes and they would be up there on stage screaming wearing an admirals hat, Lol Coxhill, the free jazz saxophonist, showed up and just started wailing at the gig, I mean it was crazy. Smell and Quim dressed up like robot Elvises and everyone just like blasting…Diz was yelling portents of the end and all this crazy stuff, and you know what it was…for me was that noise is not only just fun, costume oriented, but it also spanned the generation, all these kids were there but there were also all these older folks
But I kind of fell in love with Czech republic, I had read Vaclav Havel’s writing in literature classes, but in later years I read his books and his bio from his words, and we studied his plays and he is talking about being a play write in 68 which is way before I was born.
J: When did you first come here to perform?
M: To play, the first show was in 2006 in Brno with Petr Obstik who set up, he’s really invested in the grindcore scene, but he gave Eric Boros and I a show when we were on tour and we were also arranging shows with Michal from Bratislava who does Urban Failure
M: and we had a show at a place called Crosscurrent, or something like that, here in Prague like this crazy bar this sort of post-apocalyptic mad max looking place with gears…
J: oh, its cross club
M: cross club, and we performed there with of all things, turntabalists.
J: Well, yeah, when I was first here before I knew anyone everything I did was there, it was the first place I played here it was the only place I could find to practice.
M: but it was a different culture, there wasn’t a noise scene.
J: it was really different, I think there was a noise scene, it was just hard to find… there are these photos where I am playing some noise set onstage at cross club and there are these guys in the front with their mouths open just kind of stuck in place, it was sort of a post-dub psychedelia rave thing…
M: Yeah, it was still post rave, the baggy pants and everything, and Eric and I went out onstage and had our shot of absinth right before we went out there and we didn’t care what people where going to think at that point, but they fucking loved it and we were yodeling and they were yodeling back and
J: you had participation from the audience
M: yeah, they were totally into it, it was a refreshing thing, I was doing half naked noise stuff with Eric who was wearing pantyhose, and doing his guitar stuff and it was just really cool the response… so I really wasn’t sure what to think of Czech, it was cool the show we had in Brno was great. Petr was a fantastic organizer and host and still is to this day.
J: We played a show together in Tabor in …when?
M: 2009 because I was part of CESTA, I was doing CESTA at that time, I was there but I had toured Europe between those times…
J: but you didn’t play here?
M: No, and on that later tour I only played in Tabor, and after that, in 2011 I only had one Czech show, but it was in Brno, so today was only the second time I played in Prague, today..
J: Did you have any interesting adventures around here?
J: Somebody try to steal your teeth while you were sleeping, or did you like, get kidnapped by circus performers interested in strange forms of sexual decadence?
M: No nothing so dramatic as that, just some unbelievable constipation.
J: Are you a vegetarian?
J: So that’s why, because you ate meat with no vegetables.
M: The problem is the bread is so dense…
J: …but its so good…
M: …but everyone warned me they said “watch out for the bread”, even the Germans warned me.
J: Of course the Germans said it because they like that black bread, the ones that live close to the border, and there are a lot of stories about that..
M: …but the bread needless to say was quite dense, and CESTA was needless to say an adventure, making art with an international posse of people.
J: Did you get along with your collaborators?
M: Yes, pretty well, we had a few bumps here and there…
J: I had a lot of bumps.
M: Yeah, I think it felt like at the time that CESTA was more an experiment with interpersonal relationships than it was about, you know, making a production but nevertheless we made a pretty kickass production from really diverse fields…we had an opera singer from Belgium 2 video artists from Australia and me and it was definitely a big fucking clash, a mash up but we decided rather than trying to hone in on a theme we would just try to ple all of our ideas on top of each other and make it happen, it was pretty cool, definitely an experience, oh maybe I could do again…I could probably do it with a little more grace and less temper.
I went into it with no plan and my collaborators were not very sympathetic even though I tend to be quite giving, uh…but I can only give so much, so…
J: Yeah, me as well.
M: That’s how it sort of boiled down, but you know as far as adventures…
J: the other question is obviously like something something where do live where are you from how did you get involved in this music? I am interested in where you are from, but i am also interested where is Crank Sturgeon from, is it from the same place as you? Well, like you, whats your real name?
M: Crank Sturgeon
M: Matt Anderson
J: And does he live somewhere?
M: I live in the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts
J: Ah yeah close to the, there is that label there, what’s it called the tentacle that comes.. uh intestine that comes out of..
J: Well, there is something going on in the Berkshires…
M: Yeah the Berkshires and Pioneer Valley part of Massachusetts is really active, its a really vital scene in America and has been for the last 10 years.
J: Long time.
M: Its been really buoyant, because I don’t know why exactly but its held to its own, its almost uh its an entity unto itself, Massachusetts is quite interesting because it has of course Boston, and then the peripheral cities like Wooster has has has a scene, Lowell has in the last 20 years really come out of its being this like, crack town, to a really vital art scene and then you drive you know an hour and your in the Pioneer Valley.
J: So that’s where you live, have you been there a long time?
M: No, I’ve been there for two years, I am originally from Maine near Portland, Maine.
J: but you have a big connection with the Baltimore people…
N: No, I don’t.
J: Oh…I thought you did for some reason.
M: The connection is basically Nautical Almanac, Crank Sturgeon, Wolf Eyes, Fat Worm of Error, we are all basically the same age, we all started in the same time, in the 90s and we were all trading tapes and getting to know each other the 90s.
So that’s that reality…
J: …and so do you view Crank Sturgeon in a way where you want to keep that history separate from your history? I mean you are from new England, where is Crank Struegon from?
M: Crank Sturgeon came out of art school when I was Mass College of Art
M: So, I started in Boston in 1992 when I was in school, in college, and I lived in Boston for 7 years and through those experiences, through art school and being there and getting into the experimental music scene, I eventually met Ron Lessard who runs RR records and got to know Ron and after that it became, I was part of that world, that whole New England …it’s that and back then it was and to this day it is a really unique, very very diverse scene of experimental music whether its, you know, on one end really noisy experimental free jazz…
J: So you were there?
M: I am part of all that.
J: Bostons great, it”s a really strange and mystical place for me, its not the most popular place, but there are some great people…Angela from Wierdo records, for example…
M: Yeah, Angela is great!
J: So crank Sturgeon doesn’t really have a separate history…it’s just your project that continues with you and you don’t have some kind of 1800s mythology about it, you just started and it’s a performance project and that what you do, you don’t need to have a big back story…
M: I kind of created my own but I created my own in a way that was something that I felt was on the earth in the present time that I was living, and there is certainly a lot of playful mythology.
J: You been doing this for…
M: its over 20 years.
J:so here is a question, given this background, how much does a Crank Sturgeon set vary on a given night?
M: ummm they vary based on whether I want to do something audience per-formative…I can treat it in two categories…I can do a set that is not interactive or one that is not interactive. A set that is interactive really relies on a certain component from the audience to give back, and I appreciate that because it is a way of not ingratiating oneself to the audience but it is a way of breaking that barrier between audience and performer, and in the last 5 years I think its gotten to a point where, for instance, you know, the last tour I did, I did this whole set that was pretty regular nightly, I did amplified packing tape for instance, like I did tonight, tonight’s set was greatly reduced version of that, the set I did before was, like, drawing audience portraits and then stringing them up…
J: You were drawing the portraits of the people in the audience?
M: Yeah, I had a sharpie marker and I was drawing the audience and then taping them up on the tape.
J: Where the drawings sonified?
M: Yeah. it was sonic, with a contact mic and so that people realized they are suddenly on and I am drawing them and making eye contact…
J: How did they know they were being drawn?
M: Because I look them in the eye and let them know.
J: What happens when it doesn’t work?
M: That one always worked.
J: You must, I think you are more charismatic that I am.
M: To be blunt it always works because when people are on the spot they are, their wall breaks down, they are like “öh cool, he is drawing’.
J: So it never didn’t work?
M: No, if there was ever a problem it was a technical problem with a PA or something…in the instances where I was compelled to play on a big stage where the audience wasn’t there, I would use words instead, I would not have an interaction but I would still have…
J: …and the fact that it was text in a foreign country?
M: That is always in the back of my brain, “is it going to translate”? but like tonight, these are always really basic words where I have people repeat, and when I have people shout the words and sample it and play it back… that show is really new actually
J: but it’s working well…
M: Yeah, I can critique it, and uhh…
J: Well, can you imagine you are playing in, for example, some small place with a, well, I don’t want to say they were Nazis but they were a hate metal band, and I was set up with two metal bands, and their fans, and then local version of the same situation and then me…
M: That would be a really hard situation I would think.
J:Would you do it the same anyway?
M: I dont know.
J: Do you think you would be able to reach them?
M: I don’t know, what I have learned especially in terms of touring Europe…in the States I can arrange my shows without those unexpected variables.
J: Really, in the States?
M: Well, I have been hassled before in some fucking Tennessee kind of place but…
J: You know you are playing in some kind of club…
M: Yeah, and what I have learned over the years in touring Europe is that I can’t be playing those shows, I am not going to play a punk show, I am not going to play…well, frankly they suck, well not the punks or the grindcore… but its all that type of music, and its in a dogshit squat its gonna suck, they don’t care… it happened the last time in Barcelona…
J: It happens then that sometimes you end up in a situation you didn’t expect?
M: Yeah, that was one of those, but now I really try to vet it.
J: but don’t you think, well, the reason I ask is that I have the idea that your performance would work almost everywhere, and I would like to see how it works in these kinds of difficult spaces…
M: Well, it can work, but it is a risk that you have to take and you know I don’t want to work so hard uphill, honest to god its too much stress and to much of a let down to fucking try and do experiential show at a, or a performance show for a crowd that is not into it. You know, there is no winning them over and what’s the point?
J: I know what you mean.
M: I mean why preach to a bunch of drunk assholes, just because its a show opportunity doesn’t mean you have to take it. I’d rather not fill my calendar with a bunch of ifs.
J: With a bunch of bullshit, but you don’t always know…its impossible to know what the venues even look like, and I like to play in squats…
M: Not all squats are evil and I have played punk squats many times that are wonderful and I have found fortunately…well all squats are different as you know, but if its really this punk vibe where they, you know its so fucking ideological but i am not
J: well, its utopian…
M: No, it is not utopian.
J: It is because they all pretend they are never gonna die, its all about hardcore and there are a bunch of drunk fucks who are not really opening themselves, but this is something else for later…
M: Those shows are so fucking hard to do.
J: So how much do the performances vary then from night to night on a tour… you are improvising but you have a few planned things?
M: It varies a lot because I want it to vary a lot. I can do a different show every night and I can prescreen my brain, say I have three performance ideas that a re pretty different but consistent with what I am doing for a show, I will get a sense of what the venues like through my communications with the promoter or a friend and I will think ahead of time so, will this work or do I have to use the other plan…
J:…but if you are on tour, for example, and you are in Europe and for example in Tabor with the inflatable nutsack, you are touring with an inflatable scrotum, nonetheless you improvise every night.
M: Well if you want to talk about the man with the giant balls its …uhh that varied quite a lot actually, you know I knew how I wanted to finish it, I knew what sort of elements where appropriate to improvise within a specific space, the PA, the audience, and really regarding the environment, the setting, um, its totally different, its like you can’t do a super noise set, you have to do an electro-acoustic set, you have to tone it down, and I have a plan for that, you know, that this this and this is gonna work for an electro-acostic set and this other thing is gonna work for a really amplified set, and the great thing about being on tour is that you have many chances and you can really mix it up, this show that I am doing now is going to be completely different in a month.
J: Well, that is interesting to me, tonight in fact, this show…
M: I am going to get used to it, I am going to continue to address new ideas, because every time I finish the show I think about it, I write about it in my book I add an element I take a way an ingredient.
J: I have a similar perspective, I almost never play the same set twice.
M: Well, let’s think about what we are doing sonically and performatively and lets think about the pieces we are doing and then think about, “all right here is a piece here is this thing I can do – how can I mix it up, what can I pull from the hat what can I site for, you know, as a reference point?”Yeah, I’ll think about a John Cage approach or a Brian Eno approach and composition, and those guys are really powerful figures in both composition and visual art. Take especially Cage, he was the one he was the first one, the first time in modern art, that a composer influenced modern art with his ideas and not the other way around.
J: He also made visual art, like the prints from Crown Point press and so forth…
J: …in a completely aleaotoric way, and they same time Sol LeWitt and Mark Rothko were… it was almost immediately like its not so far off, they were using the same printing studio.
M: He was the father of Fluxus.
J: He was probably the best artist in Fluxus.
M: Be that as it may, he was the one who introduced the idea, let’s create an absurd score and lets perform it visually or formally….I refer to his practice because it is really really important to rethink your stuff and you have to introduce chance…
J: You have to do it…
M: You have to not only introduce chance, but you have to have the balls to do it.
J: That is what people misunderstand about Cage, they read about him but they don’t actually do the works, to be in them, to play them. All this birthday stuff is well funded, but it’s just an art world sausage party.
M: It’s the same in the States. He’s been canonized and lionized, and when quite frankly all the celebration of his 100th year, you know, I am sorry, but it bores the piss out of me.
J: Yeah its absolute crap, they mostly make shit these people…
M: It’s mostly people from a very conservative musical background, it’s probably not everybody, but from what I saw from the arrangements of the groups in the festivals it is the same old doddering classical schools of music faking it, I mean fucking-A, man!
J: They should have taken the hint from the SYR recordings when they were releasing all those contemporary compositions on those disks…to break the boundary between high and low… and any way we are completely off the shit now…
So what are you looking for when you are performing?
M: I am looking to advance an idea that hopefully will, like, challenge myself – a way of lifting an idea off of a journal entry that will be new to me and challenging myself -so I am looking to incorporate that into the arc of a show that still will satisfy my need to create sound and also interact with the space. So, what I see in a show, a good show, is…its interesting because I have toured Europe where I did the same set over and over and over and each show I walk away like “wow”.
It’s different in different venues but like the sound might be thunderous, the audience interaction I am in their face they are in my face…
J: But are you looking for a specific reaction from the audience or are you more looking for something like a specific state of consciousness as a performer…do you know what I mean?
M: Yeah, I totally know what you mean and some people call it the high, the performer’s zone, the comedians call it “the zone”, where they are improvising they are riffing they can do no wrong.
J: It’s flowing.
M: Yeah, it’s flowing and they are on that ride and it…whatever they put into it its coming back out and that is very interesting because well…like when I first started performing it was a huge adrenalin rush but that goes away when you are touring sure I still get nervous before a show, no problem, I understand that, but you want to get to a place where …
J:…but you are dealing with a quasi participatory situation with people, and even if like tonight was very participatory… but often you are involving the people in the performance…
M: Well, when you involve the people there is a reward there, if they get it if they respond to it, and you can take those things and mix them into that arc I was talking about earlier, and that arc is that high you get and you can take what they are doing and giving back to you and give it back to them even more and you’ve got this tumble of sound happening like to night what was happening when I was remixing everybody and it was sounding so good and you just through a pinch of something in and it grows and becomes even heavier and it becomes something more and then I am out from behind the table and i am in the audience and I am playing with it and I am playing with it and with electronics or electro-acoustic stuff too when you can take the electronics and transcend them in a way, because electronics sometimes don’t want to be as fluid as an instrument because they are fixed, they are circuits, or whatever it is, if its digital its digital but what I want them to do is that I want those things to be as lively as like whoa I am jamming on it I am fucking playing guitar and its like ping pong spling splanf and the sounds are coming in a way that is so unexpected and I can add this now and now I can add this and that is the improvisation that can happen and I know what I have done I have controlled this part of it and the sound is happening in a loop or whatever and then I start to affect it and then then take the loop away and its like the skeet has been launched, and you are riding at it and shooting at it and its blowing up and the minute particles are flying and you are shooting at them and blowing them up but they are flying and its really fucking…
J: …you want to go on that skeet, but not just with yourself but with everybody…
M: You want to be on it and you want everyone to be there too and its great when the PA will let you do that.
When I haven’t had a good PA but I still have an idea I’ve walked away from the PA and performed acoustic with my body in the audience, there was a very interesting show I did in Brooklyn one time where I had this really preset show, with I think, the inflatable balls guy, and I did the set, and it was good, and suddenly 50 people showed up.
J: You have to keep going.
But you already gave the inflatable balls they are already done,they are deflated…
M: Yeah, I fucking did the set already, I lost it, and you know it was over and they were like “no, you are not done” and that was a really interesting situation, because I was like “all right I am going to play with a contact mic and I want to see where I am going to launch this”, and suddenly you are testing yourself and you have no plan and you have to make shit up on the spot and it is gnarly.
…or I had a show last year and I had this really confident setup because I had just come off tour and I was going to, I had two weeks two weeks or three weeks where I was wasn’t playing and then I had a show and I figured I would just do my tour show but when I started it just didn’t sound good for some reason.
J: Yeah its because when you show up again the electronics don’t behave the same way…
M: Well, it didn’t sound right but I brought enough props and but some weren’t good but then something happened and I am sort of going through the and I had this long piece of tape and for some reason I had a goddamn spoon and I for some reason I put the spoon up on the tape and I had a free floating input output pedal or something and I was testing it with a naked jack and I realized oh shit I am breaking the membrane here, because I was like a glider that had been launched out, I was really the skeet again…
J:You found it.
M: I was floating I was tapping this thing and its making a little noise and then I tapped it and its doing another thing and its doing another thing and everything was broken but I was like “Well, I still have sound”, and I will do this and then I will do this and suddenly it was like major pleasure because they audience knew what was going on and suddenly it was like whoa and I was like “whoa!” to the audience and it was like “yeah!” back, and you know you had this really cool…
M:…really fun understanding, “he is going out on a limb here,lets ride with him”, the audience was attentive attuned, and supportive and that’s what you want, a supportive audience in whatever direction you go, and it was so cool because I was like, ok are you guys in here with me, i am going to play with this, and I was like dee dee dee blloop bloop bloop dee dee dee blloop bloop bloop dee dee dee blloop bloop bloop, and suddenly this whole other piece came out of it that was so unexpected but you have to just…it was a leap of faith, I know I can do it because I have experience with doing live performance but I didnt know where it was going to go. iIt was the same thing with that Brooklyn show, I was done, and then they were like “no no no no no we want you to do something”, and so ok, the chair was creaking in a great way, and I was amplifying my heartbeat and there is that wonderful thing that can happen where you are out on a limb and the audience is on the same limb with you and the limb just keeps growing and getting further out there into the aether.
Part of my performance persona, if you will, is that Crank has no problem letting the audience know that this is entering a new territory, basically acknowledging that. not acknowledging that me personally, like “shit, I am fucked”, but Crank is like “ok we are going to do this”.
J: Well, so I wanted to ask you about recording, and the relationship to your performance?
M: Well that’s a really good question because -how does it fit into music?- because is it just on account that I use sound that end up in a musical context, maybe…and that’s actually a really…
J: …but you are playing are playing your shows as a musician as a music structure, with tours and so forth…
M: …but thats right, I mean ever try to book a tour as a performance artist? Its impossible!
M: No seriously.
J: …but its interesting because here in Czech its a bit different because of the relationship of the theatre….but that would take a long time to discuss…but why not to it as a musician?
M: Well, but I mean, well yeah of course because it is music if we want to look at it in a Cagian way is organizing sound and I make recordings and I release them.
J:…but you work with sound live and as a performer, you are not a person who has never touched an instrument…
M: Well, I do have pieces and I do compose them in some way and I improvise.
J: Well, for example, is it possible to have a Crank Sturgeon recording that is not a that doesn’t have the visual aspect?
M: Well, of course, because recording is recording, you don’t record to create visuals you record to record.
J: Recording is a way…
M: Recording is for me its the, its a really splendid personal experience where…when I am back home in my studio if I don’t give myself at least an hour and a half of puttering around in the studio and working with sounds then I don’t feel complete with the day because its a way of organizing your thoughts sonically and creatively and sound is so fluid to work with its the marrow. sound, when I was in art school, discovering that sound art can be sound art it doesn’t have to be Music music but essentially they are the same things.
J: But what you are doing is really visual, there are a huge amount of visuals in your performances. there is a heavy emphasis on the performance.
M: Well, of course.
J: What is weird a bit is that you are considered to be, whatever it means, you are kind of a musician in the normal parlance, well nobody says “music-artist” but you are a musician, that’s what they would call you but you are not just that obviously, you are doing something else, no?
M: Maybe its just because we don’t have, we haven’t created the vocabulary for it. You are not doing this sort of “Institutional” Sound Art, but you do make installations sometimes
of course, sound art and performance and installations, when you are interdisciplinary artist…
M: You work with various media and what I think is interesting about this question is that it just what I found is that it was easier do Crank sturgeon under the umbrella of, like, noise and that whole scene which you know I am not going to go into their own paradoxes, about being anti-music…
J: But some of the noise dogma claims often that it is not music, which is quite interesting…
M: Well, because it is music.
J: For me it is too, I would include that as well.
M: …but my point is that I found that it was easier to, its always been community of people no matter where I went that accepted what did -more so than the established art context- I mean the established…I am not talking about institutional art I am talking about basically…there is no, there is not really a, if, a touring world of performance artists unless there, I mean, even Laurie Anderson is more, shes a music-artist!
But the way its constructed right now is that all right if you are on tour as a performer you are doing comedy or theatre or you are musician.
J: So where do you sit yourself?
M: …or you are musician, so we don’t have the vocabulary yet for the grey area, so as a grey area genre experimental music and noise and all the weird stuff that is happening musically, sonically, has always been more welcoming for what I do, and so, but what is also really interesting is that when I book a tour, well, you are booking a tour and that’s what musicians do.
J: Yeah, but you are not going to show up a play a Grateful Dead set.
M: Yeah, but still that’s what musicians do, I am not booking theatre gigs.
J: You are booking music gigs.
J: But this is fantastic that such an openness exists.
M: Of course it is because i don’t know if I could, I where to try to do this in a theatrical context, if i would have the same response, I really I honestly don’t know. I’ve never tried. I have played in theatres, sure, but I , uhhhhhhhhhh, thinking about that, its a little murkier because it seems like its a little more insular, whereas music world-land which well it feels like you can do a lot more.
J: Well the standup comics, like in the Edinburgh festival…well, you have played in Edinburgh..
M: Not in the festival.
J: Well obviously none of us weirdo artists play on these festivals, maybe on the outskirts of these things…but have you been there during the festival..the thing is, these comedians, these guys, its basically the same thing these guys have these big publicists, and they are getting ahead, the same as in music and it doesn’t mater if its in music or standup comedy or theatre, in fact you can have a huge talent and you will have some gigs but do you pay? if you pay you can get ahead, there might be ahead but you have to stay alive for that and you have to manage that and some people can and some people can’t. I dont know for whatever reason I have a sort of nausea when I even think about this kind of situation, the whole idea of entering that world. fuck that. well, even though you don’t want to do that, I could imagine what you are doing working here in a theatrical context, there is something here in Czech republic that has a punk and underground energy but its tied to theatre rather than just music like it is in the US…but you cant imagine touring in a theatrical construction?
M: No, it happens in a musical construction or in an art gallery construction.
J: Sometimes I feel ripped off…
M: In a musical construction?
J: In an art gallery construction. The organizers often have no idea what we need to make the shows and don’t seem to want to provide even basic support for the things we need to make the shows work, to get the instruments there, and be able to not have them stepped on and all that.
M: Well, the art gallery thing can be all right, because in a good one they are looking for something to bring to bring the painting off the wall.
J: They are looking for something to bring people into the place as well.
M: Well, I don’t mind being that person, and I have had some splendid art gallery shows. Being invited to be part of a visual show of 2d, or plastic art and I am there and I am doing my thing and its fine, and its like any other gig. but its another space and another audience its got a, its not necessarily the musical context though usually they’ll put the PA and everything for me that I need and its cool so you know, its totally cool. I guess the theatre gigs, the theatre the bracketed word “theatre”.
J: Theatre is interesting because you have to repeat the…
M: You have to repeat the show, well, lets face it its not, its just the… its not really I guess like a theatre would be maybe perhaps a bt sanitized and safe, like you are performing in a auditorium and everything has its space.
J: But you violate that space all the time.
M: I know but a theatrical production operates in its own set rules, and I cant tour within a set…well, I have my set rules, but I just, you know a production means like what you are saying, something you repeat every night, and I don’t know if I want to do that.
J: Well, the question from before…
M:Yeah, and I think it operates a lot more in terms of how much it varies in terms of a musical sensibility where its more normal for these things to vary more, in an improvisational music set up. maybe in improv comedy, but I avoid comedy as any sort of affinity.
J: Maybe its too obvious?
M: Its too obvious.
J: People expect to laugh.
M: It’s too topical.
J: I was smiling the whole time during your set, but I also smile during harsh noise nets because they make me really happy but comedy would seem to be a bit of perversion for you.
M: You have to pander for humor and I don\’t want to do that and its not…well there are fucking brilliant comedians out there….
J:You could also be a brilliant comedian.
M:There are some comedians that are actually pushing the avant-garde thing but it’s, you know, when you look at Kaufman, its like “whoa, you did that, wow, you did that!”
J: Well, its incredible, but its not really comedy, at that point it’s something else.
M: It really does cross the line into performance.
J: It really does cross the line into experience.
M: …and that is what we are talking about and you have those unique artists those comedians who cross over into being pretty amazing artists instead of just some guy up there talking topical humour, blah, you know its like whatever. That’s not my schtick. I like the experiential thing and I love the way you can test yourself, give yourself a little list of ingredients for what you are going to – I think for this show I am gonna try fill a cup full of spit and then drink it- and then you are like really? but you did that already, so then I am going to pour a cup of beer over my genitals and dip them in there and drink that, and whoa, but that’s a nod to the Viennese Actionists, but you bring it into a show context, like a noise show, and its like what?! Its suddenly really vital because the shows are kind of still like a potent energy that theatre and comedy aren’t touching, there is something that is a little more raw.
J: Everything’s possible.
M: Everythng’s possible because you don’t necessarily have to communicate an idea you just, you don’t even have to communicate, you can be up there just making sound.
J: That’s interesting, you don’t have to communicate…
M:You can be really really really abstract. you can see this abstract weirdo performance in a music context and its really kind of refreshing versus that which is a “Performance Piece” in an art museum for an opening…
J:…because people expect something there.
M: If a performance artist did the same thing at a punk show or an experimental noise show would it have the same thing? Well, it might because suddenly the performer would have license to be loud, louder and crazier you know and so…
J: Sure, or we could get rid of the expectations…
M: Its almost like you can push it in a way where you can make it hurt.
J: Maybe I should ask you one more question while we are still, haha, while we are still rolling…how do you…oh shit, I had a good question….
M: Hahaha…well..what was it?
J: It was, umm…when you are working, ummm,
hahahaha, maybe I lost it
maybe its the end of the interview…