My guess? Very little.
First thing's first: exactly how many music/sound projects do you have going, right now?
Including full bands with rehearsed songs, nine. And, then there is another band that broke up, but we are still finishing our album. Lastly, there is a band in Baltimore I fill in for here and there when they are down a member.
Tell us about the them.
Pregnant Spore is my main project at this time. It is mostly electronically-based, abstract and experimental sound. Tape manipulation, homemade instruments, vocals with lyrics… There are really no rules with this one. It's almost always produced organically and performed all at once for the recordings, with no computer editing or processing besides light mastering if needed. I try to keep my approach creative, exploring new territory with every new piece. It has been a challenge and a joy to try and just strip from myself from any conventional means of expressing myself that I've been conditioned to know, and to just let loose completely. This has resulted in a lot of interesting discoveries and meaningful recordings/performances with this project.
Ghost Volcano is a three-piece between the guys in Mold Omen and I. It's a pretty weird and sparse-sounding group in which I perform a little more minimally since Andy and Mike have their own thing going on with violin, vocals, guitar, warped records, etc.
Lessons is my project with Andy that is sort of along the lines of Ghost Volcano but a little more dense. We have only recorded by swapping short files back and forth which creates an interesting energy in the pieces. We have performed live once, though.
Dementia and Hope Trails is a guitar-based, psychedelic, drone/ambient solo project. Lots of reverb, delay, modulation and looping. It is mostly melodic, but some of my longer pieces dabble in more cacophonous territory. It is a very emotive project for me and is mostly focused around loss or nostalgia.
False Flag is a power electronics/harsh noise/industrial project centered on false flag terror and government tyranny. It is actually all assembled and processed using computers, but the source material and sound-generating processes vary. I often collaborate with others and it has become sort of a collective.
Inappropriate King LIve is all computer-assembled as well, but it is mostly field recordings I have made myself, and then (sometimes) manipulated using software. It's very diverse as far as vibe and aesthetic because compositions vary in style somewhat heavily.
The Human Excuse is a solo acoustic endeavor, but post-production usually results in a lot of manipulation, processing and layering, resulting occasionally in very noisy or ethereal and ambient pieces. Live, I perform with just a guitar. Folk songs, sappy melodic acoustic shit mostly. I've been doing that since high school.
Widow's Bath is a collaboration between Matt Boettke (Scant, Sex Complex) and I. It has turned out to be a harsh noise collaboration but pretty psychedelic, kind of Government Alpha-style.
OK Putrid is an electronic noise project between my good friend Kait and I. We have nothing recorded yet, and are still finding our niche.
Sea Breezes is a contemporary screamo-meets-space rock group I do with some friends. I play guitar and do most of the vocals. Not too out of the ordinary but we use lots of effects on our guitars. It is a way for me to dip into my punk/screamo roots with a huge pedalboard while screaming my head off about ex-girlfriends and shit.
Boat Water is a sort of Baltimore super-group I am in with a bunch of friends and my sister. We do songs anywhere from acoustic folk/country jams to Codeine or Mineral-influenced slow, electric, ambient songs. We all play multiple instruments.
How long have you been involved with music? Did you start out doing more experimental-based sounds, or was there a point of introduction into this world?
I'd say my introduction in music was prog rock/metal in my earliest years. I was very into Rush, Dream Theater, and also into a lot of death and black metal (the not so crust kind). I still like all that stuff, but as I played more and more guitar, I started getting into more and more experimental styles with the use of processing and effects. It was really a heavy progression from buying a few pedals up until now where I'm actually purposely busting equipment and altering it to create new sounds void of all structure and rhythm. I still enjoy playing in more punk or rock-oriented bands.
You run Rainbow Bridge Recordings aside from your many projects. Things seem to be going well from what I can tell. You have a steady stream of releases flowing from your well, it seems. What separates RBR from other labels/imprints? Why start one, at all?
It started as just a name I could put behind all of the releases my various projects or bands would self-release. It was actually just a web store at first. I also acquired an interest in helping out other projects I really loved, so it grew. Now, several years later, it's blown up into something that keeps me very busy and requires a lot of money to fund. My next batch is going to be mostly smaller names because there is too much good stuff out there that isn't getting heard.
If I were to try to think of reasons why my label could be set apart from others, it could be that the art style is really colorful, sometimes silly and sometimes bizarre; sometimes even obnoxious. In a way that pleases me, though. A lot of labels focused on harsh noise are bigger fans of darker and more gritty artwork, but I prefer the brighter aesthetic, I think. I like combining even the harshest of releases with bright colors. The Boar tape I put out not too long ago, which, at the time, was an unmoving HNW project, was plagued with rainbow colors across the front cover. I just really fucking love color.
Aside from being creative, sonically...you also seem to enjoy the visual aspect of art as well as sound; even down to your personal appearance. Do you find that people tend to judge you more based on your colorful appearance in a scene where a majority of the visual aesthetic seems focused on the darker side of life?
Well, I don't necessarily think that people are focused on the darker side of life so much as the idea that they are not concerned with their appearance in a creative mindset. A lot of people I know, in the noise community and otherwise, especially when it comes to the "less weird, more harsh" stuff, just jeans and t-shirts tend to be the limit. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that at all. Some people express themselves with fashion, some don't.
I was dressing the way I dress now in elementary school. I've been shit on for it my entire life. But it is who I am and I don't do it to fit in OR rebel. I just do it because it's what I'm attracted to, how I feel comfortable and true, and how I feel honest. I am negatively judged, but that's anyone's life who does anything that at all sticks out. People will always be judged based on appearance, especially in communities where a person's style isn't common. It is a shame, but I am not saying I don't judge people habitually myself. I think it's something we all do.
But I like to focus my energy on the idea that it's counter-productive in so many facets of life. It does hurt sometimes, but not necessarily due to how people will insult or judge me personally. I moreso just get so bummed out about humanity's tendency to categorize and form opinions on people based on the silliest of things. The male jocks are expected to wear baggier clothes with short, masculine hair and a macho attitude. The gay dudes are expected to talk with a lisp and behave flamboyantly. The crust punks are expected to be shitty, dirty, lazy people with wear patched up clothes and a few dreadlocks. Straight dudes are expected NOT to wear make-up or a dress. All of that is total bullshit. All of those thought-processes should be magically eradicated.
You definitely seem to have a love for a lot of harsher style noise. What attracts you to this particular style/approach?
It's odd that you say that! I think people perceive Pregnant Spore as harsh noise because of it's energy or textures, and even aggression is sometimes perceived. But rarely is there anger or darkness in my sounds, in my opinion. I don't go crazy with distortion. I don't really fit into the harsh noise style. I like playing loud, because I like to fill a room and overwhelm it. Music is more effective that way.
I know a lot of the frequencies I may produce with my equipment can be grating or harsh to the ears, but to me, harsh noise as a genre title seems to be more focused on things that I'm not too interested in creating.
Who are some other artists, or things, in general, that inspire you in your creative output?
Weather is a huge factor. Weather changes always fill my tank and make me want to record and perform relentlessly. I am also inspired by traveling and experiencing different cultures, surroundings and experiences despite my irritating agoraphobic tendencies. Lately, I have been heavily inspired by searching and researching new scientific and spiritual aspects of life… meditation, eastern philosophy (the Daodijeng especially), energy, psychotherapy and self-improvement techniques. Of course, personal experiences are emotional experiences and a lot of my Pregnant Spore and Dementia And Hope Trails material is very much based around trauma and drama experienced in the romantic, spiritual, mental or social parts of my life.
Last year, you put on the first Rainbow Bridge Fest in Baltimore, MD which was fucking GREAT! I remember you saying that you weren't going to do it this year. Now, you are. Why the change of heart, and what can we expect this year? Details?
To be honest, Matt Boettke has been bugging me. We were recording Widow's Bath material at my house and he turned and looked at me and said "Look dude… can we do Rainbow Bridge fest this year if you just let me handle most of the booking and organizing? I already have a plan." How could I say no to that?
What are you trying to achieve, personally, through all of these different modes of expression?
I am obsessed with creation and expression. I am not saying I am the most interesting being and that I have a ton of introspect and innovative ideas to offer the world, but I feel like there is so much in my brain piling up at all times. Pouring it out there is like taking out the trash. It's a purging. Of course it is more than just that... it's not just unleashing build-up, because I obviously try to thoughtfully compose and concentrate on themes, and care about how it's presented. (I can't say that about my early material, however.)
I get shit for dabbling in so many different styles. I know a lot of people think that playing acoustic singer-songwriter tunes, harsh noise and powerviolence in different bands at the same time in your life makes you some sort of fake or poser trying desperately to get attention or acceptance from everyone. I always thought a main point of being any sort of artist was to be passionate, honest and selfish. If you feel so inclined to create in different mediums and in different styles because it all makes up who you are, then by all means, do it.
So, there is really nothing I am trying to accomplish, per se. That isn't the question. The question is "are you being honest and passionate about what you're doing, even though you're doing ten thousand different things?" And I would have to say yes, at least to the best of my ability. I am not a perfectly enlightened and pure being, and there are always distractions from honesty and passion that can show up in my art, but I suppose that gives it it's personality. When I do what I do, from what clothes I put on to what kinds of bands I'm playing in and with what people, I am trying to do it with no inhibitions and in the most pure way I can, stripped down, raw, as if I was wearing my heart and my brain on the outside of myself for anyone to see or hear if they were so inclined.
If you could change one thing about the noise/sound scene, in general, what would it be?
Community, and the stimulation thereof by means of merely flat-out politeness, respect and acceptance. Just like any scene, there are too many cliques and too much prejudice. Too many promoters who only invite their friend's bands to play and disregard hidden gems who can't get anyone to take them seriously because what they do might be a little different. Too many stuck-up assholes who act so much better than you when you try to talk to them, whether you are giving them a compliment, asking if they'd like to help with a show, or what have you. I wish that naming names wasn't a shitty thing to do, and I know that I am not perfect about all of this either, but there are at least ten people I could name off the top of my head that are pretty accomplished and experienced in the noise scene but at the same time, give the noise scene a bad reputation for being so nauseatingly pretentious.
Sometimes I feel like the nicer and more genuine you are, the less "cool" you are and the less your art is respected or admired. It's sad, and it would be ideal if that changed. However, the only thing I can change is me, and my disgust for the scene is a downfall of my own, because I think I spend too much time worrying about it and being upset about it. I should be more positive but I'm so damn jaded already! I'm too young to be jaded! I haven't been doing noise long enough to be jaded.