PROBLEMIST an interview with William Davenport
Q: When did Problemist begin?
A: In 1980 I started using the name as a title for a series of performances. The performances had music as an element, but for the most part they were 'psychotic improvisation', more in a theatrical vein than musical. After the series was completed I decided to continue using the name and to concentrate on music.
During the 70's I played in a few punk bands, and had worked with synthesizers and tape manipulation for making film soundtracks. The bands I played in were pretty traditional, and after a while I would get kicked out for being too strange with the way I wanted to play. So in 1980 I found myself very interested in creating punk music, but not melodic or linear like most punk.
Q: What were your goals and have they changed since?
A: At first I was purely interested in creating an intense sound for live performances. I found it very difficult because the sound I wanted to work with, in fact it took me about 8 months to find the first members of the group version of Problemist. During that period of looking for members I made my first tape, and distributed it to various places and local radio shows.
The first recordings were probably the most aggressive, and I really wanted to create a live sound that was comparable. Throughout the years my goals have become much more refined and focused to where the most important aspect now is the relationship of the materials. Now I'm thinking more in terms of creating varying moods, rather than one stream of intensity.
Q: Do you perform live?
A: I've done about 20 shows in the Bay Area, playing all types of venues, from hardcore to art events. Also I've produced shows for out-of-town groups such as Whitehouse, Culturcide, Hunting Lodge, Debt of Nature, etc... Now I'm interested in playing other cities.
Q: How do you view live shows, do you use visuals?
A: I've used all types of visuals, film/slides, and collaborated with a performance artist who did visuals for some of the shows. My background is that of an audio/visual artist, so obviously I would concentrate on both levels, although lately I've only been interested in the musical parts. It's extremely difficult to create effective multi-media performance and well thought out music.
Q: Do you improvise?
A: Only to create structures.
Q: What are you trying to get across to people?
A: I'm usually pretty obscure and sort of ambiguous when I deal with subject matter. I never make it easy for the audience to understand, and if you don't concentrate you'll never understand, and only continue your life in blind acceptance and confusion. I feel like the music makes statements because it is not typical, and in these days of generic forms, that's a statement.
Typed by Cheryl Vega 6-26-95