I had quite the weekend or the Friday I should say. I made it out to Gentleman's Techno 7 at Cell Space, but not before checking out the Tara Foley opening at the Fecal Face gallery, shlurping down a milk shake with buddy/house-mate Kyle Ranson and then catching the tail end of a game night going on at my friend Raquel's house. I was pretty baffled by the game Apples to Apples (a good arguer I am not) but was quite delighted when Pictionary made an appearance. By the time game night ended it was midnight and I arrived to the throbbing bass and dark moody lighting that had taken over Cell Space. I'm fairly certain (although it's only speculation at this point) that I did not get to sleep until 7 o'clock in the morning that day (three hours before work. Wooh!). Needless to say the rest of the weekend was spent taking it easy.
In any case, for this week I was asked by Mr. Trippe, almighty emperor of kingdom fecal face, to interview a band. I was entirely reluctant in that I had never interviewed anybody before and a large amount of interviews I read are either very utilitarian or just lame, or both (we'll see in a moment if I managed to dodge those bullets). Admittedly, if you are interested in a person, you will definitely glean something from an interview (or I would only hope), even if it is something basic as in "wow, this person's an idiot, but their paintings are awesome" or specifically in last night's case "Hmm...I never thought about the protein content of Brian Ferry's corpse".
With that said, I turned my sights on one of the previous week's briefly featured bands, Bronze. Bronze are a three piece outfit of electronics, drums and vocals from San Francisco. They bring pulsating hypnotizing synth grooves to the dance floor, but have more in common with German kraut heroes Can than any slew of disco-obsessed post-punk bands. Recently they opened up for other krautrock legends Cluster and admitted initially when forming they decided not to play in San Francisco at all but slowly began to do so turning their performances into not-to-be-missed special events. This interview was conducted on Monday (6/9/08) at the Knockout in two parts. With the firs part there was some pre-performance awkwardness and little to no drinking involved. The second part consisted of post-performance loosey goosey tomfoolery. At the end of part one Beaner (international dj and Gentleman's Techno resident) had a few informative ideas he brought to the table.
Gabriel: Names, and what you do please.
Joe: Ricky-John Wildstuff.
Rob: Jeremy Phillip Protest.
Muffin: I'm Bobby Democracy, I beat up sea lions.
G: Is this going to be a total silly-pants interview?
R: Not necessarily. We can do two parts, one silly, one serious.
J: Wanna do a serious one?
R: Yeah. Let's get serious.
G: Let's get down to brass tacks.
M: Bronze tacks.
G: Would you say that you guys have any aesthetics or themes that you try and portray when you perform?
M: It changes a lot, but we're going to start doing our duty.
R: Pretty soon...
G: You're going to start "doing your duty"?
R: Next show we're actually going to really...(couldn't hear Rob because of sudden loud noise)
G: Oh really, what's going to change?
M: It's kind of a surprise.
J: We can't really tell you.
G: Where's that show going to be?
R: Cell Space. But yeah I think there's an ongoing theatrical element going on, without the sets, hair design and make-up. Certain movements and parts of songs have a more theatrical feel.
What about your songwriting process?
J: We jam out on synthesizers, take a little bit of stuff that we like, crunch it into backing tracks and write stuff over it.
G: You all jam out on synthesizers?
M: We all kind of set up the synths, usually record into a computer, kind of pick out loops we like, chop it all up, and then dump it into the sampler...and then sort of write other parts on top of that after we arrange it.
Do you ever think about playing different instruments or adding more people?
R: Oh yeah, we talk about it all the time.
M: Not more people but there's talk of other instruments.
R: I think we kind of like sticking to the no guitar, bass.
J: There is the plan to do some other stuff. I don't think we're done with this yet.
What was the best show you've played so far?
R:. I think the show at the Tube (bar/space in Portland, OR).
J: Despite there being hardly anybody there it was probably our best performance.
M: Yeah I agree. They've all been very interesting, after our third show here, we just decided to do a European tour, so that was kind of interesting I thought. We opened for Erase Errata, three shows, but then we kind of went out on our own and through random contacts we ended up playing with a bunch of people we didn't know and that was pretty interesting.
How do you decide on what shows you're going to play?
R: Location for one.
M: Well we decided at first, when we started that we didn't want to play clubs in San Francisco. We'd all done it a little too much and it didn't sound very interesting but, I guess now that hasn't changed, but we do.
R: We gotta spread our wings somehow.
Do you want to mention any people who you think are doing really rad stuff right now?
J: Our buddies Flections in Seattle.
R: NRSZ from San Francisco (what a sweet guy!). I mean so many I guess, it's just really hard to...
M: Brad LeBrock.
J: Brad LeBRock.
M: Snare Bitch
R: Snare Bitch is a fine band.
R: Nuclear Dong.
J: Barf Bag.
R: Sleeping Bag.
J: Rob likes the Rolling Stones.
Are you guys going on tour?
R: No but there's a tour that's coming through town. It's Live, Collective Soul and Blues Traveler. It's a three...if you want to go with us you're more than welcome to go.
R: We'll tailgate, maybe shoot some Clorox or something...
J: Grilled salmon.
R: Grilled salmon and DMT in the parking lot.
Do you guys have anything coming out?
R: We do. We have a full length coming out, hopefully by the fall.
G: Do you know who's putting it out?
R: Not yet.
Alright, last question, if you had to be on an island with either the Davies brothers or Brian Eno and Brian Ferry, who would it be?
J: Wait you have to go with...
M: Who are the Davies brothers?
R: Ray and Dave from the Kinks. I'm totally down for kicking it with the two Brians, fucking like coconut synthesizers and shit...fuck the Davies brothers as much as I like the Kinks.
J: What are the Davies brothers...are they like party guys still or...
R: Splattered beer on sweat pants style.
J: Do you think that they like, rage still? I think the Davies brothers are a little more fun to hang out with than Brian Eno and Brian Ferry.
M: I don't know, are they armed with instruments or just like...
G: No, that's the thing you have decide who could pretty much survive from nothing.
M: I don't really know anything about Ray and Dave but...I don't know, I think Eno's a survivor. He would make some coconut bongos or something.
G: What about the whole spite between Brian Eno and Brian Ferry?
M: I guess maybe that would be entertaining.
R: It would be just a bowl of laughs.
Beaner: I mean Ferry drives around in a Rolls Royce and hasn't done anything for himself in thirty years.
R: Ferry on a desert island wouldn't have anything to do.
J: Yeah he'd die in like a week!
Beaner: You'd be dead pretty quickly. The Davies brothers know how to make clothes. They made a bunch of their own clothes...
J: He deifies Brian Ferry. (meaning Rob)
R: So you would most undoubtedly say Ray and Dave.
Beaner: Yeah I mean I'd like to have Eno there, but I don't feel like Eno and Ferry would help your survival on an island.
R: Why does it have to be the survival?
B: Do you wanna be alive for like a week with two guys dying of hunger and thirst?
J: Eno would make it poetic when you were going down but you would seriously die.
G: See if Brian Ferry died first that might be okay because...
B: Then you could eat him?
G: Yeah it would just be you and Eno eating Brian Ferry.
R: That would be kind of cool.
B: Eating Brian Ferry? He keeps fit and he does eat well so he probably has some tasty meat.
G: You think Brian Ferry has tasty meat?
B: Yeah I"m saying he goes to the gym and shit and he eats really expensive food so he probably would...out of all the people we've been talking about he probably would taste the best.
G: You don't think the Davies brothers would bicker all the time?
B: Yeah that's a good point.
R: I didn't know they made their own clothes...
One can never really come to the definitive answer that this question poses so we took a break and Bronze later took the stage. Afterwards we conducted part two where everyone seemed a little more relaxed (that is, a few more drinks under the belt), singer Rob Spector donned a nearby colorful sombrero which I was not able to photograph because my camera had died halfway through their set (so just use your imagination), and the men of Bronze turned the questions to me.
Muffin: How do you feel about Bronze?
Gabriel: I was just telling Pablo (aka Beaner) actually that you guys are my favorite band to see in the city right now. I was talking to you a little bit about how the San Francisco scene has fragmented. Not to say that there's not really good bands playing right now but there's no community or...
M: There's a little bit of it but it's not as tight. It's these people that are supposedly in a community right now but don't really hang out together so much.
Joe: That's just in the specific scene. There's plenty of other genres of people that are in plenty of tight spaces.
M: There's tight spaces for sure but within like a cohesive music scene probably not. Besides techno.
J: There's rock bands...there's a whole rock scene of people who are totally tight.
G: I feel like Bronze specifically for me is you guys linearly following a path of music that I've slowly gotten into and emulating the specific aesthetics of music I really enjoy. So that's why I like coming to see you guys...
Rob: It's a culmination of stuff that you like.
G: Yeah it's not derivative.
R: What do you think is the most derivative aspect of our band?
M: There has to be like...your mind does that.
G: If anything it's going to be the synth sounds...
(All start laughing)
M: You look a little bit intimidating in that sombrero.
R: I feel really good in this right now.
G: He's dominating this shit...
R: Yeah, I feel really confident. More so than ever.
G: But the synth is not even totally derivative but more like comforting familiarity and harnessed in a different way, to me that is.
J: How are the synth sounds derivative to you?
G: The best example I could give is when I saw that you guys were opening for Cluster and re-visited those early recordings of Cluster and early krautrock stuff I could see that more in your grooves and rhythms. I could see it more obviously but at the same time...
M: We do it a little different.
G: Yeah exactly. It wasn't like a derivative copycat.
M: We all love a lot of different music.
G: At the same time...
R: Do you think it forms a sound that is somewhat original?
(All start laughing)
G: Oh yeah. I was about to say I think it's really hard for me to tell you guys what's familiar and derivative because one of the reasons I like seeing you guys is because to me it seems original even though in my mind I can kind of surmise what maybe you were...
R: Trying to go for?
G: Trying to go for.
J: It just seeing that the backing track stuff isn't stuff that we're probably all talking about. It's not entirely ripping off of old shit...
M: We're all really into new shit too. There's good new music...
J: It's more based on modern stuff.
G: Yeah that's the thing, you might use rhythms that have obviously been used before but...
M: Well our aesthetic content is extremely modern too and that will be demonstrated on the "Born on the 4th of Ju-live".
R: We've been waiting for this moment for awhile for us to really do our duty as citizens...
J: It's an old tradition that's new to this...
R: ...citizens of the United States. Do you feel when you hear the music are you kind of "what the hell is going on?" or are you like "I understand what this is"? Where are you as a listener?
G: Not to blow smoke up your asses but...
R: My ass is shut.
G: When I watch you guys I view it more like when I listen to a Can record. It's more all about the rhythmic and hypnotic grooves of things. How they just locked into a specific repetitive part that was fucking awesome. That's how I view it. You have this really simple rhythmic pattern that...
M: Hypnosis in rhythm is good.
G: Yeah! Exactly.
R: We're definitely into that.
M: I've grown as a drummer. I'm not really interested in...well the rhythm of our music is predominantly the bass lines and the drums and to me a chopped up rhythm isn't interesting to me anymore and the part to part pop structure, I prefer to get into really drawn out parts with a lot of subtle dynamic change in it. And we all. That's how we riff. We love having songs where we can just really go into one trip for awhile.
G: I have to say that's why I really enjoy your band because I enjoy a lot of music that just takes a simple bass line or something and drives it into the ground until you just don't know what's going on anymore because you start tripping on like three notes.
R: You're lost.
M: No, hypnosis in rhythm is fucking great, and that's a talent too. That's the thing, you can't do that the whole time but if you have some shit that will throw someone off for a sec, like changing on really tight parts, but then really sink down into something for a long time that's just super repetitive and super basic as a rhythm.
G: That's like when I originally started listening to Can, that was why I was won over by them. Pretty much based on the tightness of the drums and bass together how it was so repetitive and so tight but they varied still. When I see your band that's I how I view it.
R: That's great.
G: But at the same time when you guys played at that Harrison street warehouse I invited someone to go see that. After you guys played they were like 'Man, that was so fucking boring...' and I apologized for bringing them out there and they said 'well it's not your fault a that a band would play a song for twelve minutes' and there's so many degrees of a band playing a song for twelve minutes...
M: It's not for everyone. It's certainly not.
R: We're not intending it to be catered to everyone.
G: Well I thought that was awesome. I totally understand why a person would not dig it but personally, I was so into it.
M: There's a lot of people who really don't explore music on a deeper level then what they get fed so if they don't like it it's kind of their fault y'know? It's their ignorance. I'm not saying that everyone should like us and most people probably wouldn't but if you only know music on a basic level you're going to be ignorant to a lot of things and if you can't understand how someone would go into a groove for twelve minutes then you're probably ignorant.
J: It ain't entirely pop.
R: No, they're gonna be horribly disappointed. It's not about us doing our take on the pop structure. Which anybody can and I enjoy everybody's little take on it but... not even like we're trying to be this anti-pop music. We all love pop music and I speak for all three of us...
M: We have a little bit of maturity on our side. This shit is probably not for a lot of people in their twenties, certainly not coked out kids in their twenties.
R: No, it's not a band that's gonna work at a go-get 'em club or something like that.
M: We don't work at go-get 'em clubs. We work in Trojan caverns.
R: Go-get 'em club actually, we sent them our demo and they didn't like it. I mean I'll speak for myself, I'm very much a fan of deconstructed pop music.
M: Yeah, there's nothing wrong with pop either but if you wanna lay it heavy for five minutes why the fuck not?
G: I just found it really refreshing inviting someone that wasn't into similar aesthetics, I mean I feel like you usually surround yourself with people that are into the same kinds of things. So inviting someone that was like "oh I thought that was boring" to me I thought that was awesome, even though I didn't agree...
R: Oh yeah...
M: I kind of like people to dislike us in a way. For some people it's not their sound and that's fine. You think we give a fuck?
R: We don't.
M: Do you think we give a fuck?
G: I don't know, do you guys give a fuck?
M: Joe gives a fuck. He actually cries when people don't like us. We have to console him. A sequin drops off every time he lays a tear.
J: Many sequins have dropped off.
M: He's not going to be sparkly for long.
(Muffin excuse himself)
R: That's the funny thing, I don't know if I could really pinpoint what a specific audience for Bronze would be, other than like people that are open-minded to a band doing something a little bit different, other than 'what is a little bit different", which is another question. If we're given a chance to play I think were given that one twenty to thirty minute period of just being completely ourselves and naked and "here you go". It's kind of like whether we can hear it or whether it's comfortable or whether anybody can hear it I mean we're just gonna do it. What're you gonna do, set up and just not care?
G: What I'm trying to get at is that in your song writing process, are you guys challenging yourself?
R: I feel like we are, in just the limitations that we've made for our band.
G: Are there specific things that challenge you?
J: There's many specific things that challenge us. There's total mechanical impediments in the way that we write the songs. We can't just do stuff that we can with guitars or playing a keyboard. There's things that are limiting in a lot ways which makes it unique to me. It's not possible to play, y'know if you hear a melody in your head it might not even be possible to do it.
The round table chat continued for quite some time but at a point Bronze had to load their equipment back up and get on home. I was very excited to have been able to interview these very sweet guys and I highly recommend catching their next show on the 4th of July at Cell Space with: Thee Oh Sees, Sic Alps, Death Sentence: Panda!, Tussle, Mystic Paradise, The Fresh and Onlys, and No Boss.
Gentleman's Techno 7 (6.09.08)
Beaner @ Gentleman's Techno
Muffin (aka C.L.A.W.S.) @ Gentleman's Techno
Ed Davenport @ The Knockout (6.09.08)
Bronze @ The Knockout (6.09.08)
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