The legendary mind behind Lightning Bolt, Black Pus, and some of Rhode Island’s most artistic endeavors speaks about his new album, his comic Puke Force, and his belief that “Musicians don’t need to concern themselves with genres 95% of the time”.
For over a decade now, Brian Chippendale has been one of noise music’s most prolific names. His dual role as vocalist/percussionist in Rhode Island duo Lightning Bolt has made their ear-shattering shows things of legend. The last time I saw them play in 2007 was in the middle of a skateboard pit with the sadly-departed Silver Daggers, and the memory of that sweaty, violent moshpit still gives me ecstatic convulsions. Along with his work in the equally abrasive Mindflayer and his solo project Black Pus, Chippendale was one of the co-founders of the RI art and music collective space Fort Thunder, and continues to work as both a comic book and album artist. In a city with such a massive and passionate DIY zine, art, and comics scene, experimental graphic works like If ‘n’Oof and current project Puke Force are as equally strange as his music—and just as engaging for mutant eyes.
With Black Pus’ recently released album All My Relations, Chippendale shows us a cleaner, poppier and better produced side to his chaotic sonics than ever before, yet none of the magic is lost here. This isn’t an attempt at a mainstream move (whatever that word means in 2013); this is Chippendale now, with new perspectives on his work and new ways to present them. I got in touch with him right before he left for the United Arab Emirates for the Sharjah Biennial art festival.
In terms of recording quality, All My Relations feels more polished and poppy than some of your other work, especially in your use of vocals. What was the thought process that went into the record?
It was a conscious effort to step up the production value. I think much of my output has been offputting to people because of its low fidelity, so I decided to try something different. It seemed like fun to try out Machines with Magnets, a studio here in town, especially because it’s run by really friendly and talented people. Once I was in there, pathways opened up to me, like re-doing the vocals or just separating out the various speakers to protect from bleed through. It allowed me to make everything hit a little harder, sit in its own space. I’m into it.
Historically, I have prioritized the performance over the capture. Playing at home can often produce a better performance because of comfort in terms of understanding how sound works in your own room and having lots of time to work on it, but now I’m focusing in on capture—because it’s a recording, and recordings exist separately from a performance. They are their own thing. I’m still very focused on a making music routed in quality performances, but I’m not obsessed with it. Right now I want sonic control in the mixing.
Is this setting something you’d like to experiment with as Lighting Bolt as well?
Lightning Bolt went into the same studio this past fall to work on some recordings. One reason I went in there with Black Pus was to try out the room, see how it sounded and how I felt in there. It worked well so Lightning Bolt has begun working with them, we will go back in after my Black Pus tour to do some more work. I’m at a point where I think my catalogue, or LB’s catalogue, needs a sonic change. Again, people are disregarding some of the work because of fidelity issues, so we’ll change things up and see if it can reach out to more people.
It’s interesting that you say that. In a recent interview, Pete Swanson said something along the lines of, “noise is dead.” What’s your take on this?
My take on any sort of vague announcement about a certain state of music is that it’s a bit of a waste of breath. “Noise” as a music is so ill-defined that some may claim it never existed. Categories of music are games that writers play. As I might perceive noise I don’t think it is dead at all—it’s all around us. Noise will outlive everything and everyone. Anyone announcing that something is dead is probably feeling very self-important at the time of the announcement, and I guess it’s worthwhile to feel self-important on occasion. Either that or they’re making a joke. Jokes are great,”Why did the chicken cross the road? Because they were having a sale on limited edition noise CD-R’s across the street.” “Why did the chicken cross the road? Because some musician, one of a million, was making an announcement next to the chicken about something and it was giving the chicken a headache so he left.”
How do you feel about musical genres in general?
Genres are for marketing. Musicians don’t need to concern themselves with genres 95% of the time. Only when an album comes out and someone needs to qualify it or place it in the context of other things does a musician need to think about it. In fact, when music is being created, it’s the last thing a musician should be thinking about. If you focus in on a genre while you create you are closing way too many doors way too fast. Dead on arrival.
Tell me a bit about your current comic Puke Force.
Puke Force is about a team of heroes that live in a city called Grave. Well, not really. It’s about the relationships between the citizens of this town, from the heroes who can’t even seem to leave their headquarters to just gangs of folk on the street or people hanging at the cafe. There’s a bar fight. It’s sci-fi. Mutants. There is racism, classism, gun violence. Lots of jokes and some art conversation. Sounds horribly boring. It’s a slice of life pitted against a background of a complicated and dense city, pitted against a background of the struggle between technology and humanity. It’s lots of black lines and small square frames. Finishing that and a new Lightning Bolt record are my goals this summer. It’s about goals.