A Lesser Evil: an interview with Doldrums
Airick Woodhead has had a pretty busy year. In the guise of avant-pop beast Doldrums, the 22-year-old has been touring with Grimes and Purity Ring, and is now set to release his latest album Lesser Evil in February via Arbutus/Souterrain Transmissions. He’s came a long way from his early tape loop experiments and the leftfield DIY scene that spawned him. We spoke about the Montreal scene and its similarities to the things going on in my home of Berlin… And parties, of course.
How is the scene in Montreal? There are so many things coming from there right now.
I feel like in the last couple of years there’s been a big migration of Canadian artists to Montreal. I’m happy to be there. It’s something akin to the summer of 1989 rave scene. Every weekend there’s big all-night parties, crazy kinds of noise shows.
I heard about riots going on in Montreal, though in Europe the media doesn’t cover that much, if at all.
I was on tour in May last year in Europe when the student riots were going on. Montreal’s got a long history of volatile politics, terrible brutal cops and also reactionary factions who want to separate from the rest of Canada. They blow up mailboxes and stuff like that. Last year was all about that, everyone wanted to come riot and pitch their own ideology in there. In a similar way the 99% movement is fuelled by confusion and misplaced anger. It’s just in the air in Montreal too, because there are the French and the English and the students and the people who live there.
We had an interview with D’eon on the website and he also talked about this combination of rioting and heavy partying. Fights on the street…
D’eon is a softy, man! [laughs]. The last party I had in my house people were on PCP and throwing bricks through my window. But I would say beyond us there is not a lot of crime. It’s a very safe place to live in terms of crime.
Is there a strong DIY, house party scene?
You don’t go to a bar in Montreal, you go to a friend’s house and drink.
You do a lot of shows there?
There’s this old industrial district where everyone in the art and music world lives, and you can make a living by throwing a couple of parties a month.
It’s the same here in Berlin in the Neukölln area. Everyone seems to live here now and a lot of stuff is happening.
It’s so funny, I come to Berlin and I know what’s going on, but there is no way to getting in if you are from the outside. And that’s why these scenes breed an actual conversation between musicians and the venues they are playing, because it’s so contained. Today the biggest problem with music is that there is not enough time for artists to develop what they are doing before they’re cast out into the spotlight or the global scene. It’s rare when you can find a real community where music grows inside of it. What are some good Berlin bands?
Not sure where to start here. I’ve worked together with so many amazing bands, I’d recommend checking out Ill Winds and Sun Worship for a start. I was also doing shows for bands from Montreal, for Tops or Sean Nicholas Savage…
Yeah, you got it man, those are the people I know. It’s not like some scene where everyone is like, “we’re cool, we all do garage rock”. Everyone is just really dedicated.
It’s more like a geographic coincidence?
Everyone was looking for somewhere where they can do what they wanted to do.
How would you describe your music?
Psychedelic! I started music because I wanted to make something as easy as possible, that was as good as possible. I discovered this whole community of people interested in sampling. I listened to a lot of early 90s noise stuff, political stuff like Negativland, this one tape I got by a guy called Purist. I responded with an album called Live at Silent Barn: Re-heckled Slogans for the 21st Century Wunderkid, it’s on the internet for free somewhere. That’s as leftfield as I got. But then I can’t help it and think of pop songs in my head too. I’ve come a long way since the tape-loop stuff, I see myself as a more conventional musician now.
The tracks on your new album go in so many different directions, what do you think about the album format?
Once you are thinking “album”, you are thinking these big thoughts. It’s a phenomenal feeling; just to conceive of making something so huge. Making one sound, making a drone is enough for me sometimes.
I listen to a lot of drones.
There is a song on the album called “Lost in Everyone” that I spent, like, twelve hours on, all day inside of that sound to get it right. Then I put it into this pop song. My favorite record when I was a kid was Music for Airports, it’s just so good! We had a big party, like 300 people on drugs and then we just turned out all the lights and played some drones. Everyone just started to lie down. It was beautiful. ~
Published December 05, 2012. Words by Michael Aniser.