Friday, July 6, 2012

Excepter: Interview!

Excepter are making their first ever UK appearance later this month on July 24th at Cafe Oto, to find out what the Brooklyn 'tronic-twisters have in store for us I got a chance to ask Jeff (John Fell Ryan) what we can expect from their inaugral show in London.

Excepter! Through interspace! FOR REAL! How are things in your part of the world

Cybernet is reality in the world today. It keeps me holding on.

You're coming to the UK soon for your first show in Blighty - what have you got planned for your trip over

Well, we've got a string of shows from Paris to Czechoslovakia, then after that a week recording at Faust studios in Prague, then over to England for this trilogy of events, then off to Copenhagen for more recording and lastly we're playing the Sejero Festival on this small island off the coast of Denmark.

How did things fall into place to come over to Europe now?

It was a bit of a tumble as things in Excepter usually are. I guess we picked the worst time in the world to travel, with the Olympics and European Dog Days in full effect, plus Euro crash concepts on the rise. Blast First's Paul Smith made sure we at least landed the plane with everyone still alive.

I've been listening to one of your more recent releases 'Presidence' a lot lately, can you tell me a bit about track "Teleportal: Kal" I'm obsessed with it! It's sounds great in the car, walking around, at home - it adapts to all these different settings decoding daily humdrum and gives it a really creepy soundtrack...

That's very much what Excepter music is about. Teleportation. You misspelled it “Teleportal” but maybe that's even better .. just the double door, doubled. Being two places at the same time. The song has that longing in it, changing the structure from one thing to another. Traveling through the city can be like that. The video for the track was filmed both in my home and the area around where I used to work, so that daily life decoding element to it was on my mind as well. I guess it's Excepter's version of a love song.

What's been the highlight of being in Excepter so far?

Making records good enough to engage with the historical network flow of music itself is a thrill unequaled, and we've really only just started in that regard.

Do you revisit your work? If so, what's it like listening back to your records?

I listen to Excepter all the time. Especially when preparing a new record, Excepter will be in constant rotation. I've listening to our upcoming box set “STREAMS 2” for years now. Even if I don't make any edits in a monitoring pass, I think it strengthens a recording just to be listened to.

If you could be teleported to when you started the band and give yourself one piece of advice what would it be?

You don't want to get trapped in some sort of sound of distant thunder type time loop messing with teleportation, but maybe one small action a few years back could have put us all in a better place now, like maybe I should have put a 4X4 kick drum on the LP version of Rock Stepper. But really the only regret I have is getting too wasted after a show and leaving my favorite synthesizer behind on a street corner.

I read about your work on 'Room 237' and the mysteries surrounding the movie The Shinning - what did you discover that had the most impact on you? The double door knob is pretty amazing...

So much of The Shining phenomenon for me is sharing in the discovery with others, so I don't want to take personal credit for any “discoveries.” I mean the movie is there for everyone to look at, and whatever mysteries it contains, the physical real-world object of the film remains the ultimate authority. But when you start seeing a story of liberation from slavery encoded into astronomical patterns embedded in the camera movements in The Shining, that's when your spirit takes flight.

I've read how members of Excepter collaborate in an improvisational way, is this just live or in the studio as well?

It's hard to say when improvisation stops with us. Are we still improvising when overdubbing on top of ourselves or making an editing decision or performing a mix, or coming up with lyrics. Do thing stop being improvised when you write things down or record them? We act, react and and interact with the situations we find ourselves in, whether those environments are social, geographical, or technological.

With utilizing electronics -- are computers ever limiting in terms only being able to program something in so many ways - or can you create endless possibilities for yourself?

Well we don't use modern computers that much in the actual music creation. We use computers to record, edit, design and promote the records we make, but we mainly use hardware, synths, drum machines, sequencers, and live instruments (not to mention vocals) to produce the music itself.

Having endless possibilities isn't as interesting as bridging limitations. Like our gear tends to be late 70s early 80s vintage (or at least modern gear made to imitate the period), right on that cusp of MIDI, so we have to sync things in convoluted ways, with pulse triggers, conversion boxes, etc. One of the main drum machines I use in Excepter only does one measure of 16th notes, but that's all you really need for a funk track. Where the knobs hang, where the beat hits, that's what matters in rock n roll.

Coming up with these questions, it got me thinking about the electronic era…Excepter started in 2002 just as the internet was becoming a tool for bands and since then napster, megaupload get shutdown, myspace turns into bandcamp, soundcloud et al it's interesting how on the one hand possibilities on the internet for bands are being developed but on the other certain forces are scrambling to contain it. I was wondering through ten years in Excepter what’s your experience been with all this developing technology?

Remember while we may have started the band on the cusp of the internet and digital music our formative years were way before that, so I'm coming up through memories of flyers stapled to lamp posts and phone number lists. I didn't really have the internet until 1999, but I did get rid of my land line about that time and switched to a mobile phone only.

When we were making our first record, the label didn't want to do CD, just vinyl only. So we though we'd do a “bonus tracks” mp3 giveaway to go along with it. This quickly turned into a way for us to document our live shows and that's how the STREAMS series started. We're up to 72 or so now. How we've stored them has evolved. We first had the STREAMS embedded directly on our website, but getting a huge bandwidth bill nipped that in the bud and we switched to Podomatic, until that got too expensive, so then we had Multiupload links posted on a Blogspot site, but that all crashed and burned with the FBI shutdown. Now we've moved most of the STREAMS onto our Bandcamp account. Funny thing about digital, is that you have to rescue data every once in a while from being destroyed in the unstable internet world. Maybe that's why we copy and distribute our work so freely … to keep it alive.

Battle of man vs machine - who would win?

What's the difference? Man fights himself all the time. Why would machines be any different. More soldiers for the battlefield, more battlefields...

Is it true you do album art work for Excepter releases? I'm curious what some of your record sleeves are...

I did the design and layout for all the Excepter records, except for the RVNG 12” (and some of the comp type stuff.) Some other people did photography, but that's my handwriting on those releases. One of the many ingenious ways I've discovered to save and lose money at the same time. I've only designed one record I didn't play on, by the jazz artist William Parker. It was a concept record about the Olmec and South America, so I got to do some Mayan style drawings, which was a kick.

Percussion sounds like a crucial part of your songs - where do you draw ideas from when you're creating rhythms?

Percussion is one of those rock n roll secrets I put an ear to. Like Jerome Green's maracas with Bo Diddley or hand claps on Stooges records. I like small hand instruments because you can play while walking around, get that stalking beat. I use a contact mic under my thumb to put the sound through the PA. Turn up the bass and turn down the treble. That's the trick.

Which do you prefer playing or recording?

Playing for sure. With recording, the only reality that matters is what hits the medium, but live, there are so many more inputs and outputs. The stage, the lights, the crowd. They'll pay you to be on stage. It's where I'm most comfortable.

Do you have any other projects coming up you'd like to tell us about?

I've been working on an art series of Beat Boxes, like pushcarts and coffins on wheels that play Excepter rhythms and can be moved around for sound projection in gallery settings. The first one is on display at the Museu Colecção Berardo in Lisbon as part of their retrospective on sound art with other heavy cats like Duchamp, Russolo, and Yves Klien. Pretty exciting.

"I'm full of dust and guitars" - Syd Barrett, if you were sliced in half what would be inside?

Lots of smoke, mirrors, and a strange, pale green light ...


You can find tickets for July 24th show here

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