Locrian have been creating epic drones and soundscapes up in Chicago for a couple years now, and just recently have been getting the praise they deserve. Following a string of self-released and small-run CDRs and cassettes, they’ve just dropped their first release available on CD and LP both (huzzah!), “Drenched Lands.” It’s an epic, sloshing journey for all those who like their drones dark as night. Great band, great album. They’ve just headed out on tour and busted out this interview right before they left, so check them out if you can.
Terence: Thanks for doing this interview. André and I met through a mutual friend I was going to grad school with. He was one of the only guys really into metal and hardcore that wasn't an idiot or doing it ironically. André's wife started playing with my wife and I in Unlucky Atlas and André joined in. André and I would always talk about prog and good hardcore records and just out there guitar and synth stuff and one day his metal band came to an end and we decided to try something a bit more aggressive.
André: Yeah, thanks. Locrian is just Terence and I, but we’ve been collaborating with other artists lately.
Terence: My wife, Erica, and I had started Unlucky Atlas at the beginning of the millennium kind of bringing in different friends and trying to find this apocalyptic pseudo-folk sound. Before that I played in noisy hardcore acts and made solo recordings of feedback drones. A lot of my art dealt with music and audio so it all kind of fit together.
André: Before we started Locrian, I played in a couple technical hardcore bands, one in Chicago and one in western N.Y. For the few years before I started Locrian, I was pretty tied up in grad-school and too busy to concentrate on music much.
Terence: A few. I mean, it’s a very active scene all over. There are weeks where you have two shows on the same night you would like to see spanning genres from metal to noise to punk. The cup runneth over. However the city itself is kind of an influence in how it perfectly frames the failures of urban living, magnifies segregation and encourages gentrification. Entire sections rot like leprous sores while others get over developed. And the weather blows.
André: Chicago is a really supportive music scene, which is great. Also, there are just so many great musicians and bands here and there are always interesting people coming through. We’re lucky that we have a few venues that support creative music, like the Empty Bottle. There are also some great artist-run show spaces like Enemy. It definitely makes me excited to play with like-minded musicians and at supportive venues. I think in the noise scene you have a lot of musicians who are doing some really interesting things and that really makes us want to keep pushing our own boundaries.
Like Terence said, Chicago is really gentrified and there is a ton of urban decay here. Chicago flourished due to capitalism and there are entire sections of Chicago that have really been left out of the prosperity that other parts of Chicago have gained. Our artwork definitely deals with these forgotten spaces. For instance, Pullman was once a really flourishing part of Chicago since the Pullman railcar company was there. Just about everyone there used to work for the Pullman company and this part of Chicago had a very utopian image: people lived close to where they worked, the houses were comfortable, and everything in this part of the town was owned by Pullman. Later, business for the Pullman Company declined and went out of business in the early 1980s and parts of this part of town became relatively abandoned. So perhaps our music and artwork is a response to such phenomenon.
Terence: A hybrid. We jam a lot or allow the live settings to develop one of our ideas. We don't really write anything down. I maybe have a few synth settings written down or the key we're in or whatever but we know the texture we want. Then after kind of doing a few ideas we let time weed out what maybe was a 20 minute piece to a 5 minute piece or vice versa. We don't really harp on the whole improvisational aspect, it has a lot of bad jazz connotations but we do a lot of listening to each other.
André: Yeah, it’s always different. We just recorded a collaborative album with a bunch of people and Andréw Sherer from Velnias was a big part of this. So we had a few core themes that we worked with on this recording that we had played live before, but every time we approached this theme it came out really differently. Other times, we’ll just improvise and see what happens. The extra track that we put on our “Drenched Lands” LP is something that we completely improvised along with Mark Solotroff and Andréw Sherer. “Greyfield Shrines” was also completely improvised. But even if we do compose our music before hand, there’s a lot of room in our music for a piece to take on a life of its own each time that we play it.
André: We both play in Unlucky Atlas, but we’ve been on hiatus for a bit. We’re hoping to start playing soon.
Terence: Mark Solotroff has been a very good friend and an ardent supporter of our work since we pretty much began. I was always interested in what Bloodyminded was doing and kind of got into his label and Intrinsic Action from there. Mark would put us on shows and is just a very open-minded music listener, so we would have huge conversations about death metal and prog-rock and it just gelled. He got where we're coming from.
André: We’ve been working with Mark for a few years now. He’s released a few things of ours. I think that whenever we release something with a new label, we have to trust whoever we’re working with. We’re both good friends with Mark and we definitely trust him with our music. We like working with him a lot. Mark also has a great appreciation for a wide variety of music so he’s really easy for us to relate to. We know he’s going to continue putting out interesting music, which we like.
Terence: I think a lot of it is our particular view of things, I mean we like the leprous sores that fester at the edge of the city. We love failure and decay and find a certain beauty in it. So when we write, we like there to be the patina of erosion or wear and something mildly pretty beneath it. It is natural, but intentional. I am glad you like it.
André: I think that our music does turn out being pretty bleak a lot of time. I really think it’s natural sometimes and intentional others. We just collaborated with Jeremy Lemos from White/Light and we brought some elements into the recording that we didn’t think of as bleak, and it really turned out that way when we listened to our tracks later.
Terence: I think it is very important. I spend hours re-listening to different transitions when it is something long like "Drenched Lands" where we have essentially five components that need to fit together. "Epicedium" was something that had to go in a place to maybe give some light onto the wasteland.
André: We meant for “Drenched Lands” to be listened to as an album, and not so much as individual tracks. I guess the amount of time we spend on sequencing always differs. We sequenced “Drenched Lands” really quickly. Actually, we sequenced it as we wrote it really. With our new, yet-unreleased, collaborative album, it took us a while to sequence that because we recorded so much stuff. Just about every track on this album has it’s own kind of emotion and feeling, so it was a bit more difficult to sequence.
Terence: Al at AWWFN and I e-mailed, I always thought he was at least provocative and at best a great label. His stuff was always quality, he worked with our pals Death Factory and Winters in Osaka here in Chicago so we knew he was an ace. We met Joe when we played a show in Minneapolis and he was such a nice guy and we loved the stuff on his label. We had the new tracks and shared them with both Al and Joe, they had been talking about splitting a release for a while so it just all came together. We couldn't be happier; they really stand behind it and have supported us in so many ways. Plus their releases just keep getting better! From Expo 70 and Teeth Collection from Joe to Gnaw Their Tongues and the Culver tape set from Al. Great work!
André: We were both really excited to be working with Joe and Al on this record together. Both of those guys are really passionate about what they’re doing and they consistently put out great releases.
Terence: I think in the noise scene I was always drawn to cassette tapes because of their obsolescence. I always used cassettes to record with and make releases. So at my job we were moving buildings and in the trash were 40 or so 120 minute VHS tapes. It just hit me, why not put them to use. There was a great article about the last VHS tape made in like Florida. After that commercial production would end. The VCR is dead. So let's have a ceremony and remember it, the footage was like an hour of live sets and an hour of this dead mall on the south side of Chicago in Harvey called the Dixie Square Mall that I shot. I think in our culture we discard so much, there is this planned obsolescence that fills landfills and drives sales and makes everything cheap. Like all music can be downloaded with no object attached, no investment.
André: We like the VHS format because it gave us more control over our audience. With a DVD the viewer can easily fast forward through images and sounds really quickly, while with the VHS it’s not as simple; it takes longer. So with this video, Terence took really long shots of the Dixie Square Mall in Harvey, IL and cut them up with live videos of us performing. There are advantages and disadvantages to each form of media. VHS tapes are almost an anachronism at this time. Since it’s so weird for anyone to release VHS releases, specific to that format today, it enables us to utilize that format to amplify its interesting aspects.
André: We recorded a collaborative album that’s probably going to be the next thing we put out. We worked with Andrew Sherer from Velnias, Mark Solotroff from Bloodyminded, Bruce Lamont from Yakuza, and Blake Judd from Nachtmystium.
Then we are almost finished with another collaborative album that we did with Jeremy Lemos from White/Light.
After we get back from the tour we’re going to be remixing a track for the new Formication CD that will be out on Small Doses and then a Wilt track for a new Wilt release.
Terence: Most of the time we do think about how long each track is and if it would fit on certain medium. Kind of a problem we face now with a new release we're working on.
André: Thanks; we recorded that piece with no intention for its use in mind. If we specifically went into the studio and tried to record something to fit on a 7”, then I think we’d have a difficult time. It probably helped that we didn’t think about out format constraints when we recorded that track.
Terence: I think every show has bands we are excited to see, meet or catch up with. Each show we're just really excited about. Playing three shows with the Human Quena Orchestra is going to be great. Playing with Anal Cunt should be intense, but also Hive Mind, Teething Veils, Woe, Nocnitsa, Wrnlrd. I mean all of it is going to be great. We're really looking forward to it all.
André: Man! Honestly, I’m most excited about meeting up with old friends. It’s really cool that we’re playing two shows in NYC so that will give us a couple days to hang out there with friends. We worked hard to get musicians and bands that we like on all of the shows that we’re playing so we’re excited about just about every show. Of course, the end is going to be great because we’re playing the first show of Anatomy of Habit, a new Chicago band with a bunch of experimental music superstars.
Terence: A birthday party...André?
André: Ha! Our last show was really weird, but we’ll have to tell you the details in person sometime. We just dealt with a crazy promoter at a crazy show that we didn’t fit on at all; the promoter’s birthday party show. She paid us well, but some odd things happened. Like she got wasted and then wanted to introduce us. She picked up Terence’s mic and didn’t realize that Terence uses about 100 effects on his voice. So she introduced us and sounded totally crazy doing so. Then we almost got into a fight with some dude who kept trying to get Terence and I to mosh with him the entire night. Before we played he kept screaming for me to “just fucking rock.” I was like “dude, we’re not gonna rock; we’re gonna drone. Ok?” Then he picked up my guitar when I was in the bathroom and I almost got into a fight. When we looked at the crowd after we played, we had cleared the room! We liked our set, but I think the audience was looking for someone to rock them a bit more. Ha!
Terence: I think that is our music. It is tense, all about building tension. Getting in fights, repulsing and audience and then drawing them back in. To push them away again.
André: We’re tense dudes; so is our music. Even if we’re improvising, we’re always trying to take our music and the listener somewhere.
Terence: The best records that I have heard in 2009 have to be Absu's self-titled double LP, Wolf Eyes "Always Wrong" is leaps beyond what I expected, The Human Quena Orchestra's "The Politics of the Irredeemable" is so hopelessly bleak, Ashdautas "Where the Sun is Silent", Aun "Motorsleep" and Golden Sores "A Peaceable Kingdom". The Culver tape set on At War With false Noise is beautiful.
André: Oh man, there’s a ton of great stuff! Ditto to Terence on the Human Quena Orchestra, Aun, and the Golden Sores albums: those CDs have all been on repeat in my apartment. The Aluk Todolo record on Utech records is great. Keith Utech is doing some great releases. The Olivier Dumont “Living in Holes and Disused Shafts” on Utech is up there too. The Wereju stuff is all top notch. I’ve been jamming his album “Monument” on Basses Frequencies (this maybe was 2008, but I just got it) a lot. Also, the Haptic album “The Medium” is good stuff too. Besides that, the Dead Letters Spell Out Dead Words “Lost in Reflections” album is essential. That’s what’s coming to my mind. Of course, all the stuff that I’ve received from Small Doses this year has been amazing; the Harsh Noise Walls “brick by brick” 3” set is A+. Oh, and the Persistence in Mourning LP on At War With False Noise is great too.
André: Thanks a ton for talking with us. TOUR DATES
July 8th - Talking Head Club / Baltimore, MD w/ The New Flesh, Corporeal
July 9th - The Khyber / Philadelphia, PA w/ Woe, T.O.M.B., Panther
Modern & God Willing
July 10th - Garfield Artworks / Pittsburgh, PA w/ Requiem, D.O.T.S. &
July 11th - Skylab / Columbus, OH w/ The Human Quena Orchestra & Day Creeper
July 12th - Dayton Dirt Colelctive / Dayton, OH w/ The Human Quena
Orchestra, Envenomist, Teeth Collection & John Moloney
July 13th - The Empty Bottle / Chicago, IL w/ The Human Quena Orchestra,
Anatomy of Habit & Pharmakon
-- Brad Rose (8 July, 2009)