Saturday, April 20, 2013

Counter Intuits : Interview

Counter Intuits is a new project by Ron House (PSandwich, Great Plains, Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments) and Jared Phillips (Times New Viking). Based in Ohio the duo utilizes House's distinct vocal musings, ramshackle beats and crooked guitars to create 13 songs that bring new blood to wrong-footed alternative music.  'Counter Intuits' is their self-titled debut which is fundamentally as DIY as it gets - and with a phrases like 'DIY' and 'Lo-Fi' that get thrown around often these days , it's bands like Counter Intuits that give real credence to the terms.  Converting basements, houses and living rooms into experimental music laboratories, House and Phillips deliver all the panache of 70's period The Fall with traces of indie and scrambled Lo-Fi.  'Counter Intuits' came out of left field by a band playing in left field - excellent debut, grab a copy now or experience buyers remorse later when they're all gone...enough of me though, here's the band in their own words...

So let’s start with how did you and Jared came to work together on Counter Intuits?

Ron :  Psandwich's guitarist's wife decided to move them to Austin. Our drummer Zach asked Jared to replace him and to my shock he said yeah. He gave me a demo cassette and I only listened to it for a few songs before thinking that all it needed was some whiney vocals to make it complete.

Jared :  I gave Ronald House a cassette of random music that I always liked and thought had potential but had never really had an outlet for, partly since I don’t do vocals.  Not yet at least.  Lo and behold he really liked it! (proof that you really CAN polish a turd) These were a crop of tracks I had recorded over a period of about 6 years, some of which I can’t even remember doing.  Diligently, Ronald drove the pyramid scheme records inc., LLC station wagon all around Ohio, day and night, scouring basements, barns and backrooms for medium-rare vinyl, etching out lyrics over top of the crude tape deck blaring from the even cruder speakers. 

Next thing I know, he’s coming round to my flat with a sixer of budweiser yelling into a microphone while I’m sat there in me socks operating a squeamish 4track.  That’s the backstory.  Glorified. 

Was there something you wanted to achieve with Counter Intuits – any sort of message you want to get out there that maybe you haven't a chance to say yet?

Ron : This is one of my least message filled records ever. Despite that I can elaborate on the songs :

"Time Was Update" - first song we did. Trying to justify lo-fi in the face of high tech. 
"Girl From Eaton" and "Lather and the Din" - I took Jared's viewpoint for two songs just to torture him. 
"Anarchy On Your Face" - Woke up singing the title. Looking for Van Vliet fronting nerdy hardcore.
"Sticking Pins"- Song for Al Green to sing to that woman who tossed hot grits on him.
"Sense Of Urgency" - About crazy bad weather while recording this record. Inverted punk.
"Oxycontin Martyrs" - I was driving through Portsmouth Ohio a while back and they had these huge blown up posters of all these O.D.ed teenagers in the windows of  abandoned downtown stores. Reminded me of Baghdad.
"No Computer Blues" - In Ohio there are many stale, forsaken indoor flea markets occupying former groceries and the like. And naturally I am drawn to them looking for old records. I heard a dude ask his buddy "Do you know anyone with a computer?" at one of those. I changed the narrative because I wanted to sing "Bike path on the ground" as the first line.  
"Stolen Souls"- Junkie Thieves and casual evil.
"Non-Essential Personnel" - About not being needed.
"Rarefied Air" - Kinda Psych like the Psandwich LP. A shout to my buds. 
"Study Hall Art" - We were gonna call the LP that until I wrote the song. What you see on the cover of 70's private presses.
"Neo-Confederate Cred" - I heard an analyst on Public Radio call our current Supreme Court not  "Neo-Conservative but Neo-Confederate" and I thought that hilariously acute about a few people.

What was the set up for the record?  

Jared : Like I said, I just did a bunch of tracks of music in the style that I would want to hear and thought would make a good song.  It’s rooted in lofi I guess because it was done on a tape deck.  So, I suppose it is lofi.  I dunno.  No studio or anything like that.  Did them in several houses, basements, living rooms.  I may or may not have used an iphone drum app at some point, but I’m not telling.  All I know is I do not own more than three microphones, but really only use one.  Lofi lofi lofi.  Lee harvey oswald.  John wilkes booth. blah blah blah.  Three dog night.  c c r. ted theodore logan. lofi lofi lofi. 

Then Ronald House polished them off with a pinch hit homer at the bottom of the 9th(baseball reference).  Oh, but I do remember both of us saying we really liked 'Dragnet' by the fall.  That was always a record I wanted to emulate in a way.  There’s some 'Dragnet' things on there I think...then again that’s impossible.

There are definitely some very repetitive tracks on the record that people may not be used to hearing paired up with Ronald C House's voice.  But that’s a big part of why I’m happy with it, its something familiar but a little different than what Ronn Howse has done in the past. 

Are you into the engineering side of things at all?  I saw Adam Smith did mixing and mastering – do you or Jared get involved at all with this part of the process?

Jared : Oh I did all the recording and mixing! mixing!!  Over - all I'm very happy with the record, to me, one of my best achievements thus far.

You got Kevin Failure for art production – how involved were you and Jared on in picking images and design? Was is a collaborative thing or did Kevin work solo on it?

Jared : I designed all the artwork.  I got Kevin Failure involved cause he’s a good guy, understands the aesthetic, and lives a few blocks away from Ronald Q House.  He printed them up, and was good to collaborate with. if there was ever guy to make covers for a private press record with, it’s him. 

Tell me a bit about your label – what made you start up Pyramid Scheme Records?

Ron : I didn't start Pyramid Scheme Records.  It was started by the late Donny Self in 1963He and his son lived on the farm next to me near Wooster, OH.  On a trip back to the farm in the late 90's Donny Jr expressed a desire to own the donkey I used to ride into Wooster on on high holidays.  He traded me the label name and catalogue for the donkey, whose name was America, or Sport. I can't remember which.  

What do you find the hardest thing about putting records out independently these days?

Ron : Shipping. 

Is there anything coming up on Pyramid Scheme we should watch out for?

Ron :  I would like to do a Tommy Jay LP, and I would like to do comp of the Columbus prog punk scene from 1981 or so, but I dont think Tommy needs me to put out a record and I may be too interested in my own stuff to do anybody else's. Sad but true.

Jared :  Look out for future pyramid scheme releases.  We're always finding lost treasures in Ronnie P Haus's station wagon.

You've had a few projects over the years PSandwich, Great Plains, Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments – self-titled stuff and now Counter Intuits, I was wondering do you write songs on your own and then decide which band they fit in best?  Or has songwriting been collaborative with the bands as you've progressed through different albums?

Ron : I have done shows over the years with old bands but I have never written anything (post- 1st breakup) with any of my old bands. That said I wish I could do another Psandwich lp. Jared is so prolific I would have no room to write music on another Counter Intuits lp, which will hopefully happen too. Songwriting has been collaborative with all bands to varying degrees. 

You’ve worked with a lot of other musicians in Ohio, how important to you is it to keep things local?

Ron : My identity is more American than Ohioan, but there is more love and pride and less bullshit in the Ohio part. I've never been famous enough that anybody out of state wanted to work with me, that I can remember at least, although I'm friends with a lot of people.

What do you do to sustain being in a band?

Jared : I just got promoted to bartender at my work! I get to wear a tie.  Sadly, I'm a little excited about that. 
Since you started writing and performing what do you think the biggest change in Ohio’s music scene has been?

Ron :  Well you know. Indy Rock is an industry now to varying degrees. Just being in a punk band in 1979 made you a part of a group of misfits, crazy people, gays (I never met people who said they were gay until punk), junkies, etc. There were more visual artists in bands than record geeks like myself. Now it seems kind of a rite of passage to be in a band. Nothing wrong with that.

For those who haven't been what can you tell us about Ohio's music scene now?  

Ron :  Jeez Jared should have answered this one. I'm usually in bed before the bands start playing. Roll call : Connections, Obnox, United Snakes, Cheater Slicks, Pink Reason, and Tommy Jay and Mike Rep.  Horseshit and TNV still around?

Record Store Day is today – I wanted to ask about where you first used to go to buy records?  What did you buy there?

Ron : There was place called the Wooster Music Store in my hometown. When I was 11 my Mom took me in there to rent a cornet and I ran out in tears, certain I could never be a musician. But they sold records in the basement. The first lp I bought there was Golden Grass by the Grassroots. The last was Loaded by the Velvet Underground.  

Do you have any other shows or records planned for the rest of 2013?

Ron :  Thomas Jefferson will play if something special pops up. A reissue of the Ego Summit is out now and hopefully TJSA's Straight To Video will come out on vinyl. New stuff who knows?

It's become a ritual to end interviews on this question, "I'm full of dust and guitars" - Syd Barrett, if you were sliced in half what would be inside?

Ron Obscure records, Budweiser, and a pic of me with my family that I will try to send to you...

(and here it is, Photograph by Angelo Signorino, our brewmeister.) 

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