Today we are excited to sync Electronic Beats with Weird Magic and present you pictures from the special Berlin edition of Erez Avissar’s NYC-based party Weird Terrain, presented in cooperation with Noisekölln. That night Pictureplane, Aids-3d, Teengirl Fantasy, M.E.S.H., Lotic and more played sets on two floors in a hidden basement in Neukölln. The party lasted well into the morning hours.
Photos: Erez Avissar
Sarah Lipstate is a sound artist from Brooklyn who is known for her expansive drone soundscapes produced under the name Noveller.
Last week I organized a concert for her in Berlin’s Loophole venue, which turned out to be her last show of an 18-date European Tour alongside Nadja‘s Aidan Baker. Fair to say that everyone was reeling from tour fatigue but thankfully there was enough final show adrenalin to have a discussion with Sarah, alongside dancer Elle Erdman and German Journalist Bianca Heuser, on how she got started, double neck guitars and why most music takes up too much space in the room. Photo: Elle Erdman
Michael Aniser: You’ve just finished touring, is it your first time in Europe?
Sarah Lipstate: No, I’ve played in Europe several times, I’ve done some festival shows or just flown over. I toured with Aidan Baker in 2010.
MA: What’s your connection to Aidan and the band Nadja?
SL: When I was in college I had an experimental music radio show. Aidan used to send me the Nadja records to play on my show, so I knew him initially through emails and receiving his records to play them on the radio. In 2009, I was in touch with this Canadian label called Divorce Records who were talking about doing a split LP. The label guy had the idea that Aidan would do the split with me, however, we didn’t actually meet until Aidan and I toured in the US.
Bianca Heuser: How did you get into making music?
SL: When I was 17 I saved up enough money from my summer job to buy my first electric guitar. I grew up playing piano and then I played the Trombone in High School but what I really wanted to play was the electric guitar! However, because my parents weren’t really into it I had to buy my first electric myself—I just wanted to kind of do my own thing. Initially I started out playing more rock stuff, then, when I was 19 I went to college in Austin and started meeting other musicians. I was dating this guy who played synthesizer and we started doing these improvised recordings, just me and my guitar, a delay pedal, and him playing synth. That’s how I got into making abstract music.
MA: How long have you been doing this project, then?
SL: The earliest recordings from Noveller are probably from 2005 when I was still living in Austin. I moved to Brooklyn right after I graduated in January 2007. It wasn’t until I moved to New York that I started playing live shows. Making the leap from bedroom recordings to playing live was when a lot of the development happened, and since then I started to play the guitar a lot more. The very first show I played I had this double neck guitar! I didn’t really play it though, I just used it as kind of sound source. Since then I’ve incorporated more melody and more structure, but without making it too focused on the technical ability. I don”t want to create anything too song-like but concentrate on actually using the guitar in multiple ways.
MA: Do you have a special relationship to your guitar?
SL: When I was 18 or 19 I got really obsessed with constantly trading in gear and getting new stuff. I was going to pawn shops every other week. I grew out of that and realized that it’s much more important to spend time with what you have and get to know it inside and out and actually develop a relationship with your instrument. In August I played a show in Manhattan and afterwards someone broke into my car and all my pedals and one of my amps got stolen. I had to totally rebuild my collection—I had a lot of people donate pedals to me and offer to send me money or gift cards to music stores. These pedals I’m using now are brand new to me, and they sound completely different to what I had. It’s devastating and it’s completely changed my sound. It’s hard to play my older songs with this new gear but I feel like it’s a creative inspiration to write new material, in a way.
MA: Working with what you got, that brings us straight to Elle, who is a contemporary dancer. You know each other from where?
Elle Erdman: Our mutual friend Nancy Garcia, who is a Noise-musician and dancer—she was dancing at the Merce Cunningham studios—had a premiere at the “Kitchen” in 2009 and she wanted to do a dance, yet she was directly involved in doing music on the stage and invited four dancers and musicians. One of them was Sarah.
MA: Contemporary dance is so divorced from words, from the world of lyrics and verbal communication, but how does it fit with your abstract sound?
SL: I feel like sound is so incredible, I had some people do really amazing things with my music: I had this photographer play my music through a speaker that had a bowl of water on top of it. He was then able to photograph these amazing patterns, like mathematical patterns, that would emerge from the vibrations of my music. It’s amazing what kind of visualizations can come about either directly influenced from the sound or just interpreted by a dancer or a filmmaker—there are so many different potential collaborative projects that could be done. In fact, I’m told very often that my music is very visual and people can see these cinematic scenes when listening to it. I think that my soundscapes encourage people to add other kinds of media to it.
EE: I think it happens because what you’re playing is so expansive so there’s a lot of space to be filled. You are playing really clear and rhythmic music but the space creates this opportunity or invitation for a dancer or photographer to come in and fill the gaps with their vision.
MA: Is that some kind of generosity on your part? You don’t want to take up all the room, that you leave space?
BH: Typical songs take up all the space and leave very little space for interpretation—is that the reason you are doing this kind of abstract music?
SL: Not directly, but yes I think it’s also something I have grown into. Sometimes, as a musician, your first inclination is to take up all the space. It takes some refinement and time to strip away and allow something to breathe. ~
Silver Apples were something like a constant hum in the background of my music collection. I never really got deep; the tracks were just there. Little did I know about all the stories that go along with the electronic pioneers. Earlier this year that I organized a Noisekölln showcase for the Austrian band UMA (in the now-defunct Raum) that the name Silver Apples came up again, because they are featured on UMA’s debut track ‘Drop your Soul’. So we met up with Simeon Coxe, the only remaining member of the band in the basement of Berlin’s Festsaal Kreuzberg, a stop on his The Edge Of Wonder Tour. We brought along Nicholas Houde, who goes by SFTSTPS and a conversation, or rather monologue unfolded. We where listening and nodding our heads to all the wise things this man had to tell us about DIY culture, not giving a fuck about anything and oscillators. We talked a lot about oscillations. Photo: Barry Bryant (1968)
Simeon Coxe: What are we talking about?
Nicholas Houde: Actually let’s talk about this silver plate with apples on it. Is this in your rider?
Michael Aniser: The name Silver Apples is from this poem…
SC: By Yeats.
MA: How did you come up with this poem?
SC: I’ve had this period of poetry, sort of romantic, everything from Shelly, Lord Byron, all up to Yeats has always fascinated me. Even when I was a little kid I could recite Keats ‘Ode to Beauty’ before I could do my ABC’s. I’ve just always thought that expressed what I was seeing and feeling. I’ve had poems like ‘The Wandering Angus’ on my wall in my studios all my life. When time came to name the new band that was just me and Danny and not the Overland Stage Band that we had before, we just sort of where looking around and I just read of the bottom of that ‘Wandering Angus’ poem I said ‘How about Silver Apples, Golden Apples?’ I think if we’d lived in California it would be the Golden Apples. Because we where in New York it felt more like we are Silver.
MA: Is this urban space also how you got into electronic music?
SC: I have no electronic background whatsoever, I was just strictly a singer, I didn’t even play an instrument, I played the tambourine badly… A friend of mine who was a serious musician had an oscillator and he used to drink vodka and play this oscillator along his Beethoven collection and I thought that was kind of interesting and so one time when he passed out on the couch I put on a rock record that I had and played it along with that and I was hooked, I never heard anything like this before. This could really be a hoot, and so I brought it to this stage where we where playing, we played five sets a night so I started playing with it. Danny loved it, everybody else in the band hated it.
MA: When was this?
SC: In ’66 maybe…
MA: Where there other electronic projects around?
SC: None of us had ever heard about any, but I’m sure there where. For me it was just like totally brand new, that wasn’t really what was so appealing. What was so appealing, was that I was actually playing an instrument, never mind that nobody knew what it was. But I was playing something, and I could just jam with it and felt so free. I was used to stand there for half an hour with my thumbs in my pockets waiting for the band to finish their long jams, because if you play five sets a night you just have to improvise. They would do this long blues 3/4 improvisations that where just boring. I’m just standing there. But now I’m not, now I’m doing something. Who cares if it’s weird and shit, to me it wasn’t, to me it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. One night the manager of the club came over and says wanted to let you guys go, but that’s really interesting you should keep doing that. And then some guy came in and said if you like to develop material let’s involve the poet scene in New York and you guys can practice in my loft, so we moved everything up his loft and just lived there for six month and that’s pretty much how Silver Apples started, just putting together music that is kind of organized and using poems by other people because I didn’t have time to write anything, I had to develop what I was doing. That’s the way we did the first record, basically it’s poems by other people. The second record also was mostly songs by other people, it wasn’t until the third record that it was totally me. I was just so hung up in trying to make this damn equipment work that I couldn’t be bothered to write songs.
MA: I can totally not imagine that right now, I grew up with all that technology, music equipment on hand every time. But you just developed your own thing.
NH: I was wondering if you are almost more free to use electronics at that point.
SC: Nothing was there for me to draw from that was right or wrong. Anything that I did was ok, because there was no president. So that’s why we have songs that have banjos in it, Blue Grass…
NH: …that was my first access point into your band, when a friend of mine, who is a huge tastemaker in my life, gave me a mix tape and it had one of this early songs with the banjo on it. I was like “What the fuck is this?!” I came from Colorado and was hearing a lot of Blue Grass, to see that transit into this really mechanized formation… at this point I was just starting getting more into experimental music and started dealing with electronics. It was very mind-blowing to see that fusion happening.
SC: I didn’t have a blues background so I wasn’t even trapped that way, I just was doing anything that felt like music, put a drum beat to it and had fun with it. It was freedom, there was nothing there saying “Don’t go there, that’s opera, that’s Blue Grass, you’re not supposed to do that”
NH: How did you even get involved with this Band in the first place if you weren’t really a musician?
SC: I was a dishwasher in a camp in Connecticut and the waiters and one of the cooks where Blue Grass musicians, I was from the south and had a long understanding of Blue Grass music. In between meals we used to sit on a porch, they where some fine musicians and I started to mucking around with the washboard, I played the jug and i’d sing harmonies and the next thing I know one of the shows up with a Fender electric guitar and that was like “Oh my god, listen to this shit!” and in about two weeks we transitioned into a rock’n’roll band and I named them ‘The Random Concept’ and off we went, no more dishwashing, no more waiting on tables, we where musicians. We where living in my station wagon, but who’d given a shit. We eventually got gigs in New York and we took the place by storm, we where good. Then they broke up, they wanted to go home to their girlfriends and the drummer went on to play with Lionel Ritchie and The Commodores and then he got busted for armed robbery and went to jail. And I ended up with Danny, the booking agent had me as a lose singer sleeping in his office and The Overland Stage Band had four good musicians and none of them could sing a lick, so he got us together and we started to play music straight away. The drummer was Danny.
NH: It seems like you where not much linked to subculture at the time?
SC: Not really, if you are thinking about the New York hippie type of subculture or the Andy Warhol thing.
NH: In history you get associated that way, but it sounds like you had no prior connection…
SC: I lived in my van in New York, in this old Volkswagen bus, I don’t know if you call that a van even…until I ran up so many tickets that I had to get it out of the city, I had to drive it up to a friends house in Connecticut and give it to him and said “Don’t ever drive this into New York city you will be fucking arrested.” I ran up like 120 parking tickets, it was my house, don’t you put a ticket on my house! I was not a hippie, I was a New York street kid and that’s how I knew about all this oscillators down at Canal Street. So when people where asking what do you need? I’d say, well, I can hit two notes, so I need three more oscillators to change chord. Let’s go get some down on Canal Street! They showed up with five bucks and we came back with some oscillators.
NH: If I think of Canal Street it’s one of the last areas like that surviving…
SC: There is one electronic supply store left I think, there used to be like 10…
NH: Are you still living in New York?
SC: No, I love New York but I got really tired of the winters, it’s just not in my system. I grew up with a tropical environment, so I moved back to Alabama. I’m done with winters. I tell my booking people ‘Don’t book me in the winter, I don’t go out in the snow, if we do winter-stuff at least do it in South America’.
NH: Do you think it had changed the way of your life being outside of the circles in New York?
SC: Not really, when I put Silver Apples back together in the 90s I did go back to New York to do that, because that’s where the roots of the band where and also that was where I was hoping Danny would be. So I started bruising the bars and leaving the word out to try and find Danny. I was living in a friends house down in Tribecca and was playing at the Knitting Factory. I had all this offers to play, people where curios as hell. I was trying to get it good enough, so I wouldn’t go out and embarrass myself and Steve Albini offered to do some recordings. We spent a couple of weeks in Chicago, living in a van outside his studio, he wouldn’t even let us sleep on his floor this schmuck.
NH: That man has never been known for his politeness.
SC: Steve is a wonder, he is amazing. He was the first one to say he is not a producer. He says “All I do is record people, I’m a good recording engineer. I don’t make artistic selections.” He has always been very separate.
NH: It’s interesting to think about all this terms, and how you pioneered electronic music. You hear so often this idea of the producer, of the matriculation of the sound palette, this idea of constant tinkering of perfection seems really present in current electronic music. I wonder how you are feeling of this ideas and where you fit in to that.
SC: When we first started off with Kapp Records they didn’t have a clue what to do with us. They knew they had something different, now here is the chance to do something, but what? They had a couple of people that they assigned to produce us. Those people didn’t know what to do with us either. None of us had any recording studio experience, not me, not Danny nor Barry who was almost the third member of the band, he was the guy who was sort of our manager and spokes person, the guy who was out there trying to get us jobs. But Kapp said: “You produce yourself!”
NH: Had you ever run a mixing board before?
SC: Never! Never even seen one. But there was an engineer assigned to us to cut the tape. It was only a four track board, they where used to just do a singer and a piano, so they didn’t need more. So we developed the idea of recording all our four tracks and then boiling three off ’em down to one and kept building songs that way. I’ve always produced my own stuff, as awkwardly it may be it was always me. So now when I sit down with my Mac and Ableton Live and produce my own stuff it’s normal, I can’t imagine any one else doing it. I think they are one and the same: The act of producing and the act of creating are all one big pile of dough.
NH: It’s so great to hear you articulate it that way, I feel like in the last fifteen years especially there is this big idea of DIY culture, put out your own record, book your own shows. Almost without even thinking about it, that’s almost exactly what you where doing in the 60s, but just out of total necessity.
SC: Everyday was a challenge, it was wonderful and it was a growth thing, it was huge. You know, six month later we had a record, it was odd. People coming in and where saying add some guitar and things to it. They wanted it to be more commercial, something they could understand and we resisted, thank god. We just said no. No guitars. Maybe it was because all the guitar players in the Overland Stage Band hated my music so much, so I was resistant to let guitars in my face. They threw me out, now I throw them out.
NH: So the band was build on obstinates?
SC: Yeah, totally something like that, not some deep musicology academic bullshit. It was just like some kid saying “Go fuck yourself and no guitars in here!”
MA: And now you still doing it and touring. You got a new record out?
SH: There is a brand new song sitting up there on the table on a single. I have punches of songs that i have in various stages and I just happen to get this one ready on time for the tour on a 7 inch, so they named the tour after that song and calling it “The Age Of Wonder Tour”. So i gave them a hook. I haven’t even had a chance to proper record it, I did it live in New York at the Brooklyn Academy Of Music and they have a great board and recorded it off there. You can hear the audience and everything in it. I’m always doing new music, it’s always out there and I have record labels keep telling me if, I put ten songs together I should come see them. One of this days I guess I will, but I just love to go out and play once a song is recorded I’m almost done with it, it’s a totally different thing, that’s the craft part. To sit down and learn how to do it live is a whole other art form. And you practice and you will do that song right, every time, no matter if you are sick or if you don’t have a soundcheck it’s still gonna be good. And never do it boring, hit those notes perfectly. I just never get tired of playing out. I don’t get any joy of sitting in front of a computer or multitrack board, that doesn’t do shit for me.
NH: Hey man, I’m right there with you.
SC: I know it’s necessary, but thats not what drives me. What drives me is getting out there and seeing if I can amaze myself at being good at something I thought i wasn’t good at. You know that feeling? Show yourself something tonight. It’s a thrill to go out there and do oscillation for the 500th time and do something different that works.~
Silver Apples’ new Single The Edge Of Wonder is out now as a 7″ on Enraptured Records and digital as mp3 files on iTunes.
The first time I saw Anklepants play live, I didn’t really know what to expect. My friend dane//close had invited me to a party at Berlin’s Sameheads art-bar to experience a ‘true dickhead’ playing a totally weird set. I thought someone might tear down the DJ booth or beat up the audience, taking the word ‘dickhead’ quite literarily. I’m always up for something like that. Little did I know that I was to experience a life-changing moment of animatronic mayhem.
Reecard Farchè disassembles blurbs of glitchy Facecore with subverted dubstep mechanics and transforms his facehead – what he calls his mask – into an Über-being of multilayered beats. Farchès’ mask consists of an animatronic dildo that acts as his nose, controlled according to the music. It’s a thoroughly constructed work of genuine talent.
Since my first exposure, Ankelpants has played my own Noisekölln party, and we’ve spoken quite a lot on Facebook. His new album Social?-?Patching? ?and The Pixel Pageant Facéd Boy has been in the making for almost three years. In our conversation we dissect Farchès’ animatronic filmworks, which have been in pictures such as Prometheus and Star Wars III, as well as his humble beginnings playing for a distinctly bro-heavy audience, and fighting his way out of Australia and into Europe.
Electronic Beats: Where did Anklepants come from?
The first gig was, I think, 2008, but some of the music that is now associated with it is probably from 2005 or earlier. Anklepants was originally two heads, as I was playing together with a close friend of mine.
You started out with two masks?
Yeah, they where synchronized, doing all kind of things. He’s a really good friend of mine. I still don’t know why he doesn’t do it any more.
How did you come up with the idea for the head?
Originally it was this stupid idea for some kind of strange porn movie we wanted to make. I was working at Gold Coast in Australia, a seriously horrible place. We just had these ideas for a bunch of strange characters and Anklepants was one of them. I just decided that animatronics and stuff would be pretty strange to use on stage. Since then it’s totally evolved and the character is something completely different now.
You wanted to make a porn movie?
The first pictures I drew of the character where based on ideas we had for this sexual comedy thing. It was gonna be me and this weird pig character in an inflatable suit, doing all this strange stuff. The set would be able to turn upside down because we wanted all all these anti-gravity sex scenes. But of course gravity is all over the place and things would be falling from the ceiling and from the side.
Were you working in movies back then as well?
Yeah, that was when I was working on a film for kids called Aquamarine. We built prosthetic and animatronic mermaid tails. It was after I’d lived at Gold Coast for probably a year and a half. It’s quite a strange place.
My friends Strange Forces told me about a pub they visited at Gold Coast, owned by Paul Hogan from the Crocodile Dundee movies.
I don’t really know about that, but it’s the most overly commercial place I’ve ever been in my life. I don’t know if I’ll ever go anywhere more commercial. Every nightclub is exactly the same, bar one.You can literally walk into a club and then walk into the next one and you just keep hearing the same song over and over. There’s not really any live venues and people don’t really like new things. I had been working on films already for five years or more before I went there.
You initially started with animatronics?
When I first started in this kind of job (creature effects) I was working in the foam latex lab and most of my experience is actually with prosthetic makeup. First I did some stop-motion animation. Then I got my first job on Star Wars: Episode III.
What did you build in Star Wars?
I produced all the foam/latex makeup appliances. I was just learning a lot, sort of watching everyone.
What other movies did you work on?
There was Where The Wild Things Are, the Spike Jonez Movie. More recently I did something on Prometheus for a company that was working on the space ship, control panels and monitors and all that stuff. The last job I did was for the next Universal Wolf Man film, my first film as the Creature Effects supervisor. I also built most of the animatronics. I worked on the korean film The Host, which has this big prawn kind of creature in it.
The mask you are using for performing is kind of uneasy on the eye. What where the first reactions you got on that?
That’s the thing with Anklepants, people look at it and get sort of scared. I don’t know what I would do if I walked into a place and saw that head. It gets a total different response in Berlin or anywhere in Europe than in Australia. In Sydney people usually just stand there, they don’t really participate in gigs. So the response you get is like ‘awkward’, but that’s for any gig there. People are sort of “That’s a dickhead, so what?”. The good thing about Berlin is that people are open to a much wider range of electronic music, and tend to listen to the music and not just look at the cockface…they dance go crazy and do whatever they want.
I remember reading some serious disturbed criticism from a religious person on your Facebook page.
I think a friend of mine took some pictures and posted them and then this girl made a comment about the penisface, and how obviously the person who made the mask is really disturbed and all kinds of things. Not many people say horrible stuff though, and I haven’t had any other religious people complain before.
The funniest thing that ever happened, was when I played at this psych-trance parties in Australia. I was watching this guy chewing his face off, no idea what he was on, then he just comes up and was looking at the case with all my gear and I realized he was looking where the master power is and pulled the plug. Then he ran, and I just took off the mask and all the gear and just tackled him. Thats probably the worst reaction I had: pulling out my power. I had an argument with a university crowd once, I had people just screaming at me to stop playing. They where like ‘play R&B, play R&B, Beyoncé.’ I don’t know exactly what their idea of R&B was, but they where totally trilling me. It was like playing at McDonalds. And this guy just decided he was the leader of the pack and started to tear me apart. Then he waited for me and tried to bash me after the gig. It’s usually guys that come up and grab the dick, not girls. That’s weird.
So you don’t get any sexual inquiries to try out the mask or something?
From time to time, but it’s not the most sanitary kind of material and its really soft, so there’s not gonna be much penetration going on. It’s just like a prop-dildo. Like a Nerf dildo. I want to make a silicone one one day because it looks better.
It’s a pretty Freudian thing.
Yeah you could definitely say that! The original idea was just this porn thing, but now this character is starting to represent a lot of different prominent figures in political and social movements.
You’re playing with social gender norms a lot, like on your press pictures when you’re in this dresses and such.
I don’t really think about that that often; I suppose I do it subconsciously. My last girlfriend used to dance with the cock-face on, that was pretty intense. She did it once at a show. In Australia there is not many gay people around, just a lot of rednecks, and it just fucks them up so bad. But I think it works better with the male body, because it just doubles.
Is there a lot of social commentary in your music?
I look at a lot of things, American politics, economics, history. The way currency works is pretty important and a lot of people don’t really think about it enough – I think it all relates to music directly. Everyone’s part of it somehow and we can’t really get out of it. It’s pretty important for people who are producing some kind of visual sound to be aware of it. At least a bit aware of things that Freud and these kind of guys did. Advertisement, propaganda and all those things. Music is a massive part of that. Even if it’s commercial or underground, it’s using the same tools that were designed by those guys at some point. I don’t know if it shows in what I do. Economics and music go hand-in-hand for me.
A lot of the apparent underground is also using the same tactics. I’m not saying there isn’t any sort of ‘underground’ music; music is mainly spread around for free, it’s all online. Everyone seems to be on the same level right now. A lot of the underground music is marketed in the exact same way as the mainstream music now. Which I know is obvious, but I think it’s very important for people to realize that. People use the term ‘underground’ or ‘experimental’, but most of the time it’s really just not. I don’t know if it comes out in my music. There are some lyrics about that kind of thing, not very direct, sort of jokes and silly things.
I agree, there is no such thing as ‘underground’ anymore. Everything is totally arbitrary and scattered in small scenes. Mainstream music has become an in-joke and the big record companies seem to go down steadily.
I’ve never been involved in those kind of things. To me it’s coming more towards the performance. I thought that for a long time, the whole live thing… it used to seem like it was all secret and different, but maybe that’s just what happens when you are young and you don’t realize that it actually wasn’t at all?
Now music is universally available to almost everyone, but before you bought one record a month and it was totally special to you. Now a lot of half-ass stuff has become a lot more acceptable.
I totally agree, it’s becoming easier to make genre-music. Before that you needed all these things, it was just not possible for the average person to make, for example, classical music in the 1920s. But now if you want to make dubstep you can just get a soft-synth that makes that sound and a sequencer and click on a few spots on a screen: presto, you made a thing. Not to discredit people; I just think it’s an overflow and there is not much sincerity going on. I don’t know how many people mean it anymore. When you’re at a gig, and someone is not into what they’re doing it’s pretty obvious. That’s why you go to gigs anyway, to see this extra kind of energy and people doing this crazy shit.
Michael Aniser’s Noisekölln party takes over Berlin’s RAUM club tonight, together with the Czech label AMDISCS, fellow EB Editor Daniel’s ghetto-goth #gHashtag party, and local filthstep purveryors HELLDROP. RSVP here.
Photo: © Marina Dellamore and Reecard Farché