Women in Tragedy
Having recorded over twenty releases in just a few short years, the insanely prolific Bob McCully has been having far too much fun scorching the minds of Torontoís noise-loving inhabitants. Never content to make the same record twice, McCully is constantly reinventing his sound, fusing elements of atmospheric psychedelia, horror movie tension and shredded noise damage. A persistent lover of the deepest of drones, McCully utilizes a wide array of instruments to construct massive clouds of abstract sound. Showing no signs of stopping, the Women in Tragedy juggernaut might some day take over this puny globe of ours. Are you ready for it??
This is the first section of a multi-part interview with the man in tragedy himself...
To be accurate, I started making music when I was in Grade 5. Writing songs on your guitar is making music, right? So technically, thatíd be when it was. I think I managed to record a couple songs on cassettes too Ė no vocals though. Thatís been an area that Iíve always been weary of diving into. You can even hear that in Women In Tragedy; I always do the vocal drones, and as loud as they are at times they are never concrete or confident which is something I want to work on.
I think I really started to make music on a level like WIT when I was in punk rock bands in high school. I had one band called Suburban Underdog: we were a mix of skate punk, ska, metal, and hardcore. We played together for 3 years, did a bit of touring within Ontario and recorded one album in a studio. It was one of the most amazing times of my life; Iíll never forget that band. I left the band in our third year though because I just couldnít stomach the music anymore and I wanted to move on from it. I canít seem to stay with one idea for more than a year or so. I can listen to the same bands for years and years, but I really canít play the same music for that long. Right now the drone/noise scene is really supportive and easy to move around in, but give it a few years and Iíll probably be doing something different. Iím hoping that I can evolve rather than just jump ship. Thatís pretty much what Iím trying to do right now: slowly slide my music into a new style. At the same time, I donít really care about genres.
Doing solo music is both hard and easy and for me, hard work is something that I got used to from being in that punk band in high school. We would practice from once a week to once a day, play exhaustingly energetic sets, and just work our asses off trying to write and tighten up intricate punk rock compositions. Itís corny, but punk rock is completely about having a good work ethic. Look at Black Flag for instance. In the documentary ďAmerican Hardcore,Ē they talk about renting out a rehearsal space on Christmas Day at 8 in the morning because they hadnít played a show in 3 days and needed to practice. Thatís dedication, and that definitely made an impact on me. However, I still think I am pretty lazy and want to work even harder at this project.
To answer your question though, Iím a solo artist because it validates the fact that I am a control freak. If I could, I would just clone myself three times and have a hardcore band. Iím really not that egotistical of a guy; Iím a fairly modest and unconfident person in most social settings. When it comes to creative affairs though, I just canít help myself: I need to take full control because I canít stop my brain from spitting out ideas. This project lets me place a bucket under that spit and collect it until I can just fucking bathe in it. Itís self-indulgent, but Iím confident in believing that itís leading to good things. I like where Iím going with it. Even if nobody listened or cared, I would still make music and be happy. Maybe not as happy, though.
Noise and drone is a great scene that thrives on operating within the underground. The most well-known noise band right now is probably Wolf Eyes, who the majority of my non-noise listening friends have still never heard of; the mention of the label Sub Pop brings to mind early Nirvana, or maybe Modest Mouse. The noise underground is a great platform for an artist to begin to work in. It says, ďeven in youíre not insanely technically talented, at least one person will listen.Ē That really gives you a lot of freedom to take risks, experiment, and find your own sound and/or ability without feeling like you need to be consistent or reach a certain level of technical proficiency. That being said, it almost becomes a burden in disguise because there are too many artists out there and if you donít manage to hook someone right away with your music, people will ask ďwhy you over the next guy?Ē I also find most artists become afraid of leaving the genre. It seems as if you can be a true harsh noise artist and have a small yet loyal circle of fans, or you can try to do something outside of that sound and be considered Ďironicí or not be taken seriously.
Iíve gone off on a bit of a tangent, but I think if you read my whole answer to the question youíll get an idea of where I am in terms of motivation to create music within the noise/drone tradition: I have none. I am merely just motivated to create music, and Iím moving further and further away from trying to fit within any tradition. As far as influences go from the noise scene, Iíd have to say Mouthus have really impacted me. I think itís because ultimately they are more concerned with creating new and original music than with fulfilling the expectations of the noise scene. They have a really good sense of tension and aesthetic. They take a simple set-up of guitar/vocals and drums, add some effects, and transport you to a different world. Itís still pop music though: behind it all you can hear riffs and song structures Ė chord progressions. Theyíre not like a pop band with effects, or a noise band trying to make pop music Ė theyíre something else. Theyíre simply Mouthus, and thatís what inspires me more than anything. Iíve always thought the most effective way to inspire someone is to push them to create something of their own: not to follow in someone elseís footsteps, but to follow your own path. With the inspiration of a prior artist, however, you can follow that path further.
I was born in Newmarket and have lived here all my life. When I was really little Ė like 7 or 8 years old Ė I used to tell people that I was born in the "Big H hospital" over on Davis Drive. Being a kid rules: you can be a moron and itíll eventually become something you can laugh at because you were ďjust a kid.Ē Thatís what the suburbs really let you do, be a stupid fucking idiot and totally unappreciative of your wealthy parents and the great life you have. You can simply focus on the fact that everyone makes fun of your blue hair, that you probably amount to nothing, and that no girls want to touch you. Thatís real self-indulgence there, and looking back at that, Iím almost proud of it because itís just so damn funny. I think all that empty angst really helped me become a good songwriter though: Iíd mope around high school then run to my bedroom with my electric guitar. I didnít really write about girls though, just about violence and being alienated. Thatís something that you definitely see a lot of in the suburbs: dumb violence and people feeling out of place. I never understood the mentality of most guys around here, picking fights and cutting down others. It made me feel alienated, and itís not that I could relate more to women, because I definitely couldnít Ė I just couldnít relate to anyone. I still canít in Newmarket. I think I enjoy that fact, though. When I move downtown Iím going to feel like everyone else and Iím not really looking forward to that. I donít even play shows in Newmarket because nobody would give a shit or Ďunderstand it.í Sorry if that sounds arrogant, but itís true; all of my friends around here do see what I mean, but urge me to surpass that. In the city, Iím challenged more because Iím not really doing anything all that groundbreaking or incredible and I like that I have to challenge myself.
Iím kind of a sick person, like an emotional sadist. Iím actually looking forward to when I move downtown in a year or so and then eventually come back to Newmarket to visit friends and family. I know that there will be that year or two later where Iíll decide to take a walk and go through the forest behind my public school. Just walk around the old neighbourhood; maybe go to whatever random punk show is going on (because they happen every damn weekend here), and when I go back home that night I will feel utterly bleak and nostalgic. Then Iíll record an album that night, which I will release as a CD-R called ďNostalgiaĒ and make 20 copies that Iíll spray-paint in black and beige, and Xerox pictures of Newmarket for the cover. Just kidding. Although that does sound like something I would do!
-- Bryon Hayes (14 August, 2007)